Witness the Arctic

Volume 18
Number 3
12 December 2014

Study of Environmental Arctic Change (SEARCH)

Study of Environmental Arctic Change (SEARCH) Update
The major news for SEARCH since the Witness issue earlier this year is that the proposal to the NSF Division of Polar Programs’ Arctic Sciences Section to develop a new SEARCH structure and activities has been funded. The new structure and activities have several departures from SEARCH’s focus in the past.

Arctic Natural Sciences Program

Figure 1. An areal view of loose Arctic pack ice in summer (August 2004) with open water patches, floe edges and ridges. Image courtesy of Torge Martin.
By Torge Martin, Polar Science Center, Applied Physics Laboratory, University of Washington, now at GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel, Kiel, Germany; Michael Steele, Polar Science Center, Applied Physics Laboratory, University of Washington; and Jinlun Zhang, Polar Science Center, Applied Physics Laboratory, University of Washington Over the past decades arctic sea ice thickness and extent shrank dramatically, which has gained major scientific and public attention. Sea ice inhibits the exchange of heat, moisture, and gases between the atmosphere and the ocean. Our NSF funded...

Arctic Social Sciences Program

The ranges of the Porcupine and Central Arctic caribou herd are outlined in white on this map of northern Alaska and western Canada. Gwich'in villages are also identified.  Map courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
As the buffalo is to the Plains Indians and the bowhead whale is to the Inuit, so too is the caribou (vadzaih) to the Gwich'in people of northeast Alaska and northwest Canada. In 2011 a team of Gwich'in linguists affiliated with the Alaska Native Language Center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks began to document traditional knowledge of caribou anatomy under a grant from the National Science Foundation Arctic Social Sciences Program. The project coordinator is Craig Mishler, and the lead research associate and elder is Kenneth Frank, of Venetie and Arctic Village, now residing in Fairbanks. Between 2011 and 2014 Mishler and Frank conducted field interviews in Arctic Village, Venetie, Fort Yukon, and Fairbanks, Alaska, and Old Crow, Yukon.

Data Management

Advanced Cooperative Arctic Data and Information Service
The Advanced Cooperative Arctic Data and Information Service (ACADIS) team requested input from NSF funded principal investigators (PIs) to help create a list of research that utilized data housed in ACADIS. Thus far, the ACADIS staff has complied over 300 publications in this effort. Further contributions from the community are welcome. To contribute a list of publications, please the ACADIS Publication Reference Submission website .
Figure 1. The NSF DataViz Hackathon for Polar CyberInfrastructure website. Image courtesy of NSF.
The National Science Foundation (NSF) recently sponsored the "DataViz Hackathon for Polar CyberInsfrastructure," a workshop designed to build bridges between the polar research community and the cyberinfrastructure (CI) and data visualization communities. The workshop convened on 3-4 November 2014 at the Parsons New School for Design in New York City.

Science Education News

Colloquium participants share ideas for communicating with policy makers. Photo courtesy of Julia Bradley-Cook.
Science and policy are inextricably linked: science informs decisions we make at local to international levels, and policy determines the budgets and priorities that drive research. As an ecology PhD student interested in societal issues, I am compelled to complement my scientific graduate training with an understanding of science policy. The American Meteorological Society (AMS) Summer Policy Colloquium offers one such opportunity--an introduction to science policy in Washington D.C. The colloquium is an immersive ten-day experience that gives participants an understanding of the policy process and arms them with tools to engage with decision makers.

U.S. Arctic Research Commission

Aerial views during an Army search and rescue mission show damage from Hurricane Sandy to the New Jersey coast, Oct. 30, 2012. Photo courtesy of U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Mark C. Olsen.
By Laura Raines, U.S. Arctic Research Commission staff member To a greater extent than ever before, scientists and researchers, politicians and policy makers, captains of industry and conservationists are recognizing the significance of the Arctic. However, in the minds of many people living south of the Arctic Circle, the region is often perceived as remote and disconnected from their lives. To address this cognitive gap, the U.S. Arctic Research Commission (USARC) and The Arctic Institute have launched an initiative entitled "Why the Arctic Matters" with production of a brochure...

International News

A major oil spill in ice filled Arctic waters would be harmful to species such as these beluga whales. Photo courtesy of ARCUS.
The Arctic Council's working group on Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna [CAFF)published it's hitherto largest analysis of "Status and trends in Arctic biodiversity" in the Arctic Biodiversity Assessment (ABA) in 2013. In this 674 page book, 253 Arctic scientists evaluate the current situation for species and ecosystems in the Arctic and give a multitude of recommendations on better management and conservation in the Arctic as well as abroad—the latter regarding anything from climate change and contaminants to the living conditions for migratory species when spending the wintertime spread over almost all parts of the globe.

A Note from the ARCUS President

ARCUS Board of Directors Welcomes New Members
I am pleased to welcome five new members to the ARCUS Board of Directors. Our new members were elected by the ARCUS membership earlier this fall along with Jay Gulledge, who was elected for a second three-year term. Carolina Behe, Craig Dorman, Gunnar Knapp, Maribeth Murray, and Audrey Taylor bring a wide range of experience and perspective to the board as we work to implement our new vision and mission statements. Below are brief biographical sketches of the new ARCUS board members. Carolina Behe is the Traditional Knowledge/Science expert for the Inuit Circumpolar Council-Alaska (ICC-AK) ...

From the ARCUS Board

Howard Epstein
Howie is a Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Environmental Sciences , as well as a co-Director of the College Science Scholars Program , at the University of Virginia . He received his PhD in Ecology from Colorado State University in 1997 and conducted postdoctoral research at the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR) at the University of Colorado Boulder . He took his current position at the University of Virginia in 1998.
Timo Koivurova. Photo courtesy of Arto Liiti.
Timo is a Research Professor and the Director of the Northern Institute for Environmental and Minority Law for the Arctic Centre at the University of Lapland . He is also a Docent of International Law for the Faculty of Law, Economics and Business Administration at the University of Eastern Finland , and for the Faculty of Law at the University of Turku .


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 [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 8,700 subscribers.

Witness Community Highlights

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Editors: Betsy Turner-Bogren, Judy Fahnestock, Helen Wiggins

Contributors: K. Andersen, S. Arms, L. Booker, J. Bradley-Cook, M. Cutler, H. Eicken, H. Epstein, T. Koivurova, T. Martin, C. Mattmann, H. Meltofte, C. Mishler, E. Nienhouse, L. Raines, M. Retelle, T. Rosati, J. Scannell, M. Steele, D. Stott, H. Wiggins, L. Yarmey, J. Zhang

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.