Witness the Arctic

Volume 17
Number 2
05 June 2013

International News

Summit Gathers an International Audience to Discuss Sustained Arctic Observing Systems

The first Arctic Observing Summit (AOS2013), held 30 April–2 May 2013 in Vancouver, BC, Canada, brought together a cross-section of the arctic community to deliberate on the design, implementation, coordination, and sustained long-term (decades) operation of an international network of arctic observing systems. The AOS is a task of the Sustaining Arctic Observing Networks (SAON) process, which is led jointly by the Arctic Council and the International Arctic Science Committee (IASC). The International Study of Arctic Change (ISAC) is responsible for leading the AOS task.

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Arctic Council Leadership Transition at Eighth Ministerial Meeting

The Eighth Ministerial Meeting of the Arctic Council was held 15 May 2013 in Kiruna, Sweden. Ministerial meetings are held every two years, marking the culmination of the Council's work under the current Chair and transition to new leadership. At the 2013 meeting the chair passed from Sweden to Canada, which will lead the Council through May 2015.

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A Note from the ARCUS President

Evolution of the Arctic Forum in Times of Change

"Times they are a-changing" would make a good theme song for the Arctic during the mid-twenty-first century. Changes, driven by global physical processes, have enormous political, social, and economic consequences within the arctic region. Until quite recently there was little interest in the Arctic. It was out there, perhaps exotic, perhaps worth studying for its own sake, but apart from strategic cold war considerations, not too important. One example of attitudes towards Alaskan studies was a review comment on a proposal submitted under NSF's Research for National Needs program

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A Note From the ARCUS Executive Director

A Tribute to Vera Alexander

ARCUS reaches a milestone this year with the retirement of Vera Alexander as President of the Board of Directors, a position she's held with distinction for the past ten years. A founding member of the organization, Vera's vision for and dedication to ARCUS and its mission in support of arctic research is unsurpassed.

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Data Management

Chukchi Sea Industry Data Now Available to the Public

A data-sharing agreement signed in August 2011 between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and three oil companies (Shell, ConocoPhillips, and Statoil) has laid the groundwork for the Alaska Ocean Observing System (AOOS) to provide public access to a wealth of oceanographic and environmental data collected between 2008 and 2012 in the Chukchi Sea.

By: Molly McCammon, Excutive Director, Alaska Ocean Observing System

AOOS Exec Director, Molly McCammon
Molly McCammon, Executive Director, AOOS. Image Courtesy of M. McCammon.

A data-sharing agreement signed in August 2011 between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and

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ACADIS Data Management Services Expanded

The Advanced Cooperative Arctic Data and Information Service (ACADIS) team continued to expand data management planning, sharing, and preservation support for all projects funded by the Arctic Sciences Section in NSF's Division of Polar Programs (POL). ACADIS, a joint effort by the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) and the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), is entering the third year of a four-year continuing grant awarded by NSF in July 2011.

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Arctic Social Sciences Program

Understanding Arctic Indigenous Youth Resilience

The international and multidisciplinary project "Negotiating Pathways to Adulthood" explored the indigenous adolescent experience at the critical time of transition from adolescence to young adulthood among Alaskan Yup'ik, Alaskan Inupiat, Canadian Inuit, Norwegian Sami, and Siberian Eveny. Funded by NSF, this collaborative and multi-sited study examined the challenges these adolescents face and the resources and strategies they use to cope with hardship and adversity.

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Climate Change and Human Mobility in Indigenous Communities of the Russian North

Mobility is central to the livelihoods of the diverse reindeer-herding, hunting/gathering, and pastoralist peoples inhabiting the circumpolar north. Like their circumpolar neighbors, today the livelihoods of Russia's indigenous peoples are challenged by the local effects of climate change and by other changes including industrial contamination, economic transformations, globalization and modernity, and alienation of their youth.

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Arctic Generations

Perspectives on Exploring the Greenland Ice Sheet

A Conversation between Carl Benson, Professor Emeritus at University Alaska Fairbanks, and Gifford Wong, PhD Candidate at Dartmouth College

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U.S. Arctic Research Commission

USARC Sets Goals and Objectives for Arctic Research 2013-14

Fran Ulmer, appointed Chair of the Commission by President Obama, released the report on 21 March 2013 at USARC's 100th meeting held in Bethel, Alaska, the hometown of fellow Commissioner Mary Ciuniq Pete, who was recently reappointed to another four-year term on the USARC. The meeting included presentations by University of Alaska researchers and by arctic residents from the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta region of Alaska.

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Arctic Research Support and Logistics

Workshop on Needs in Arctic Research Support and Logistics

The NSF Arctic Research Support and Logistics (RSL) program is hosting a workshop on strategies and recommendations for arctic research support and logistics. The workshop is planned for 2.5 days, 7-9 October 2013 in the Washington, D.C. area and will be organized by the Arctic Research Consortium of the U.S. (ARCUS).

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Arctic System Science Program

A Perspective on NSF's Arctic System Science Program

Having transitioned in January 2013 from being a scientist at the Woods Hole Research Center to a Program Director for NSF's Arctic System Science program (ARCSS), I thought it might be useful to share my initial impressions while they are still fresh on my mind. My dominant impression is one of respect for my new colleagues at NSF. They are all smart, hard working, and dedicated to funding the best science. They are also all scientists and they care deeply about scientific progress.

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Arctic System Science Program Update

Change. This is perhaps the key word that describes the trajectory of the arctic system. It also applies to the Arctic System Science program (ARCSS), as it continually adapts to the changing conditions in the Arctic, in the research community, and at NSF. One recent change is that ARCSS has welcomed a new Program Director, Robert 'Max' Holmes from the Woods Hole Research Center, who will work alongside Neil Swanberg in managing ARCSS over the coming year or so (see accompanying article). Max has a long history studying the rivers in the U.S., Canadian, and Russian Arctic, as well as other large rivers globally. He is particularly interested in how climate change is impacting the discharge and chemistry of arctic rivers, what these changes tell us about their watersheds, and how these changes impact the receiving ocean waters. He is excited to be part of the NSF arctic team and looks forward to working with the research community to help shape and achieve ARCSS research priorities.

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Science Policy News

White House Announces National Strategy for the Arctic Region

National Strategy for the Arctic Region logo
National Strategy for the Arctic Region

On 10 May 2013 the Obama Administration released the National Strategy for the Arctic Region. Priorities identified in the strategy include: advancing U.S. security interests, pursuing responsible arctic region stewardship, and strengthening U.S. international cooperation.

According to the strategy, the Administration intends to advance these priorities in a manner that safeguards peace and stability in the region, utilizes the best available information for decisions, emphasizes the use of innovative

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Science News

Arctic Nearly Free of Summer Sea Ice by Mid Century

Prediction of when the Arctic Ocean will be nearly ice-free in summer is of interest to arctic and non-arctic science and resource management communities, since large shifts in the arctic environment represent indicators of global climate change. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) scientist James Overland, of NOAA's Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, and Muyin Wang, of the NOAA Joint Institute for the Study of Atmosphere and Ocean at the University of Washington, recently investigated a range of methods for

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National Science Foundation News

Suspension of the Postdoctoral Fellowships in NSF'S Polar Regions Research Programs

On 18 April the Division of Polar Programs issued a Dear Colleague Letter (NSF 13-086) to announce the suspension of postdoctoral fellowships in the Polar Regions research program.

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Study of Environmental Arctic Change (SEARCH)

Local and Traditional Knowledge Stewardship: Managing Data and Information from the Arctic

The Arctic has been home to Indigenous peoples for many generations. Out of the frozen landscape in which they dwell, Indigenous peoples have carved a productive, vital culture. From the learned experience and skills it is their local observations and knowledge that tell the story of drastic changes to the arctic climate—changes that have a global impact. Until recently, Indigenous local observations, knowledge, and involvement have been largely overlooked by science. Today, Indigenous peoples are acknowledged as investigators, partners, and collaborators. Their local knowledge and observations are being documented, collected, and preserved for use in arctic research, but this is not without its challenges, such as the preservation and transfer of knowledge.

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Study of Environmental Arctic Change (SEARCH) News

After gathering additional input from meetings and a Town Hall at the 2012 AGU Fall meeting, the SEARCH Science Steering Committee and the Arctic Research Consortium of the U.S. (ARCUS) submitted a proposal to NSF and other SEARCH Interagency Program Management Committee agencies in support of a new organizational structure and framework to translate the SEARCH vision into concrete tasks.

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Science Education News

Polar Science Weekend at Pacific Science Center: Eight Years of Outreach and Partnership

Public outreach is an important part of the mission of scientific agencies such as NSF and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). While scientists are usually enthusiastic about their research they typically don't think about how to present it to general audiences and they may lack the time or confidence to seek out such opportunities. Partnerships with informal science education institutions offer scientists the chance to reach large public audiences and to develop the skills to communicate with them. The institutions benefit from the new content presented by the scientists that engages their visitors in face-to-face interactions. One such model is the Polar Science Weekend at Pacific Science Center.

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NSF Selects Five U.S. Students for 2013 Joint Science Education Program

NSF selected five high-school students from as many states nationwide to deploy to the Arctic this summer as part of a science-education and cultural-exchange program with their peers from Denmark and Greenland.

The students will participate in a three-week field experience in Greenland as part of the multinational Joint Science Education Project (JSEP). The U.S. students were selected in a competitive process that drew 375 applications from all 50 states as well as Department of Defense schools abroad.

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Interagency News

Community-Based Water-Quality Monitoring in the Yukon River Basin and the Kuskokwim Watershed

The unique partnership between the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the Yukon River Inter-Tribal Watershed Council (YRITWC) yields critical data for the assessment of climate change effects in the Yukon River Basin (YRB). The YRITWC is an international, Indigenous, nonprofit organization, created in 1997 with the mission of monitoring, preserving, and protecting the YRB. Today, the YRITWC is guided by an Inter-Tribal accord, which has been signed by seventy of the Indigenous governments of the YRB in Canada and Alaska.

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Next-Generation Ecosystem Experiment Examines Arctic Landscape's Response to Climate Change

The Department of Energy (DOE) has developed a new accelerated approach to climate change research called Next-Generation Ecosystem Experiments (NGEE). This strategy seeks to provide Earth System Models (ESMs) with improved representation of climatically sensitive and globally important ecosystem processes. Supported by the Terrestrial Ecosystem Science program within DOE's Office of Biological and Environmental Research, NGEEs connect modeling and field studies in an iterative approach so that model needs are considered in

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New Tool for First Responders in the Arctic: Arctic ERMA


The Arctic Environmental Response Management Application (ERMA®) is a web-based Geographic Information System (GIS) tool that assists emergency responders and environmental resource managers in dealing with incidents that may adversely impact the arctic environment. Arctic ERMA integrates various real-time and static datasets into a single interactive map to provide a visualization of the situation and improve communication and coordination among responders and stakeholders.

Image courtesy: Amy Merten, NOAA
The map shows layers in ERMA depicting the daily ice edge, locations of walrus areas of occupancy, oil lease locations with active sites, with high-resolution bathymetry. Users can choose their own background and layers of interest. Image courtesy of Amy Merten, NOAA.

The Arctic ERMA was officially launched in July 2012 and is one of [eight regional ERMA

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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 8,700 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@arcus.org.

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 8,700 subscribers.

Witness Community Highlights

  • Arctic Research Consortium of the United States
  • 3535 College Road
  • Suite 101
  • Fairbanks, AK 99709 USA
  • Phone: 907-474-1600
  • Fax: 907-474-1604
  • info [at] arcus.org
  • www.arcus.org

Executive Director: Susan E. Fox

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

Contributors: V. Alexander, C. Benson, R. Crain, S. A. Crate, K. Creek, H. Eicken, J. Fahnestock, J. Farrell, S. E. Fox, P. Haggerty, N. Herman-Mercer, L. Hinzman, R. M. Holmes, M. McCammon, H. McCann. A. Merten, J. Moore, M. Murray, J. Overland, S. M. Rasmus, C. Rea, T. Rosati, L. Schlagel, M. Serreze, H. Stern, N. R. Swanberg, B. Turner-Bogren, F. Ulmer,
O. Ulturgasheva, P. West, H. Wiggins, G. Wong, S. D. Wullschleger, L. Yarmey

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.