Witness the Arctic

Volume 15
Number 2
3 June 2011

Feature Article

Photo courtesy: Shari Gearheard
Climate scientists and others investigating changes in the Arctic have increasingly incorporated indigenous knowledge and observations in their research. Valuable insights are gained by linking indigenous knowledge with scientific research, however, finding formal methods to connect culturally divergent observations can be a complicated task.

Study of Environmental Arctic Change (SEARCH)

Study of Environmental Arctic Change
SEARCH Strategic Planning The SEARCH Science Steering Committee (SSC) is continuing its strategic planning activities that began at the fall 2010 SSC meeting. As SEARCH is transitioning from a planning phase to an implementation phase, the SSC is developing a guiding vision, five-year goals, and an implementation plan to develop priorities and a clear path forward for SEARCH.

Arctic System Science Program

Study of the Northern Alaskan Coastal Systems (SNACS)
A compilation of products from the National Science Foundation-funded Study of the Northern Alaskan Coastal System (SNACS) research projects is now available online. SNACS projects focused on the arctic coastal zone of Alaska and addressed one or more aspects of two coupled themes: * How vulnerable are the natural, human, and living systems of the coastal zone to current and future environmental changes in the Arctic? * How do biogeochemical and biogeophysical feedbacks in the coastal zone amplify or dampen change locally and at the pan-arctic and global levels?

Arctic Natural Sciences Program

Changes in permafrost temperature at different depths.
Introduction and Project Objectives Permafrost has received much attention recently because surface temperatures are rising in most permafrost areas of the earth, bringing permafrost to the edge of widespread thawing and degradation. The thawing of permafrost already occurring at the southern limits of the permafrost zone can generate dramatic changes in ecosystems and infrastructure.

Arctic Research Support and Logistics

Photo courtesy: Mike Castellini
Vera Alexander, President of the ARCUS Board of Directors, participated in the keel-laying ceremony for Research Vessel (R/V) Sikuliaq, an icebreaker specifically designed for scientific research in arctic waters. On 11 April 2011 at the site of the ship’s construction in Marinette, Wisconsin, Alexander initialed a steel plate that was then traced over by a welder. The plate, also initialed by cosponsor Bob Elsner, will be attached to the Sikuliaq’s keel. Alexander and Elsner were both honored for their involvement in the long-term planning for the vessel, which started in 1973. A series of images and more information on the keel-laying ceremony and honorees are available at: http://www.sfos.uaf.edu/arrv/keel-laying/ .

Science Education News

Image courtesy: C. Hiemstra.
The four of us left Fairbanks, Alaska on 26 March 2010, headed for Barrow and Prudhoe Bay on four snowmobiles pulling eight sleds. Our route was historic; it retraced the 1924 U.S. Geological Survey expedition led by Philip Smith and J. B. Mertie, Jr. Theirs was the first scientific expedition to do geologic work north of the Brooks Range and south of the coastal plain. The route took us through the communities of Nenana, Manley, Tanana, Allakaket, Anaktuvuk Pass, Atqasuk, Barrow, and Nuiksut. Our plan was to trace the historic route as closely as possible and to work with students in each of the villages we passed through, using snow as a mechanism to show the kids that science was fun and that they lived in a fascinating place we had come miles to visit. Our path through the Brooks Range had even older historic significance: for thousands of years it has been a corridor of trade between the Inuit of the North Slope and the Koyukon people of the Koyukuk and Yukon rivers.

National Science Foundation News

Photo courtesy: Melanie Duchin
Earlier this spring Witness the Arctic (WTA) had the opportunity to visit with Dr. Brendan P. Kelly (BPK). We asked a few questions about his new role as Deputy Director at NSF's Division of Arctic Sciences. Here are excerpts from that conversation.

Interagency News

IARPC Principal Members met 26 April 2011. This was their first meeting since IARPC became a subcommittee of the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) in July 2010. Key issues IARPC members were briefed on and discussed include:
Arctic Landscape Conservation Cooperative
Facilitated by the Department of the Interior, Landscape Conservation Cooperatives (LCCs) were established to provide a collaborative approach to conservation management. An initial federal investment of $25 million in 2010 funded the first nine LCCs of the 21 planned across North America. The LCCs will collectively form a network of resource managers, scientists, and public and private organizations with common interests in conservation. By leveraging existing resources and developing science-based tools, the network of LCCs will inform resource management decisions regarding the sustainability of natural systems and landscapes under stressors such as rapidly changing climatic conditions.
Scientists installing an ice mass balance buoy (IMB)
The Office of Naval Research (ONR) has launched a new program in the Ocean, Atmosphere, and Space Research Division of the Ocean Battlespace Sensing Department entitled "Arctic and Global Prediction." This program, a combination of new and realigned efforts, responds to the fifth focus area of the U.S. Navy Arctic Roadmap for "Environmental Assessment and Prediction." The objective of this focus area is to "provide Navy leadership and decision makers a comprehensive understanding of the current and predicted arctic physical environment on tactical, operational, and strategic scales in time...
Arctic Vision and Strategy
In February, NOAA released its final Arctic Vision and Strategy, which provides a high-level framework and strategic goals to address NOAA's highest priorities in the Arctic. Arctic Vision and Strategy According to the vision document, NOAA will focus its efforts on the following six priority goals: Forecast Sea Ice Strengthen Foundational Science to Understand and Detect Arctic Climate and Ecosystem Changes

U.S. Arctic Research Commission

Fran Ulmer
Fran Ulmer Appointed Chair of the U.S. Arctic Research Commission President Barack Obama appointed Fran Ulmer to a four-year term as the Chair of the U.S. Arctic Research Commission (USARC) on 10 March 2011. Ulmer is Chancellor of the University of Alaska Anchorage.

International News

International Study of Arctic Change (ISAC)
The International Study of Arctic Change (ISAC) convened a workshop on international cooperation in the Arctic 30 May–1 June in Fairbanks, Alaska. About 30 participants representing international arctic programs attended the workshop from countries including Japan, China, Korea, Norway, Denmark, Canada, Russia, and the United States.


Witness the Arctic provides information on current Arctic research efforts and findings, significant research initiatives, national policy affecting Arctic research, international activities, and profiles of institutions with major Arctic research efforts. Witness serves an audience of Arctic scientists, educators, agency personnel, and policy makers. Witness was published biannually in hardcopy from 1995-2008 (archives are available below); starting in early 2009 the issues have been published online. Witness has over 8,800 subscribers.



With the Spring 2009 issue, ARCUS changed the format of Witness the Arctic. To provide more frequent updates and reduce printing and mailing costs and associated environmental impacts, the newsletter is now distributed online in three or four shorter issues per year, depending on newsworthy events.


If you have a question or an idea for a Witness article, contact Betsy Turner-Bogren at betsy [at] arcus.org.

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Witness Community Highlights

Witness Community Highlights is an online publication launched in May 2017 to complement the regular publications of Witness the Arctic. It was developed in response to community feedback identifying the need for a monthly publication to highlight 1–2 Arctic research efforts and other timely items of interest to our readers. Community Highlights is distributed monthly via our Witness the Arctic mailing list of over 8,800 subscribers.

Witness Community Highlights


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Executive Director: Susan E. Fox

Editors: Betsy Turner-Bogren, Kristina Creek, Helen Wiggins

Contributors: G. Balogh, K. Creek, H. Eiken, S. Gearheard, M. Jeffries, B.P. Kelly, P. Martin, M. Murray, V. Romanovsky, M. Sturm, B. Turner-Bogren, H. Wiggins

ARCUS is a nonprofit organization consisting of institutions organized and operated for educational, professional, or scientific purposes. Established by its member institutions in 1988 with the primary mission of strengthening arctic research, ARCUS activities are funded through cooperative agreements with NSF and the National Park Service, grants from NSF, a contract with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and membership dues.

Witness the Arctic is published periodically by ARCUS. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views of NSF.