Witness the Arctic

Volume 19
Number 2
12 June 2015

ARCUS Member Highlight

Smithsonian and Arctic Studies Center
Witness the Arctic regularly features the research and related programs of ARCUS member institutions. This article spotlights the Smithsonian's Arctic Studies Center, which is part of the Department of Anthropology in the National Museum of Natural History, a section of the Smithsonian Institution.

Study of Environmental Arctic Change (SEARCH)

Details are shared on recent SEARCH activities including the final Arctic Observing position paper, plans for the Arctic Observing Open Science Meeting 2015, an update on the Sea Ice for Walrus Outlook (SIWO) season, recent Sea Ice Prediction Network (SIPN) activities, and information related to the new SEARCH governance structure.
Figure 1: Mean Arctic sea ice area in September 1979 to 2014 (Cryosphere Today data; graph adapted from Hamilton 2015a). Image courtesy of L. Hamilton.
The U.S. public knows that something is happening in the Arctic. It involves melting ice, because that has been mentioned in so many news accounts and scientific reports. But where exactly is that ice? Is it still melting? What might that mean for people who live far away? On such points public awareness becomes fuzzy, with some people's perceptions shaped by their ideology instead of geographic or science knowledge. What people believe about polar regions, who believes what, and how those beliefs take shape are topics of ongoing research.

Arctic Natural Sciences Program

Figure 1: The U.S. Arctic GEOTRACES cruise track. Image courtesy of GEOTRACES.
A team of 50 scientists, students and technicians will embark on the U.S. Arctic GEOTRACES expedition this year, 9 August -15 October 2015, aboard the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy . Established by the U.S. GEOTRACES Science Steering Committee, the U.S. Arctic GEOTRACES initiative will be part of an international, multiple icebreaker effort—provided by the United States, Canada and Germany—and will include scientists from several nations who will conduct geochemical sampling of the Arctic Ocean.

Data Management

The Advanced Cooperative Arctic Data and Information Service (ACADIS) team continues to support data management needs of projects funded by NSF's Division of Polar Programs (PLR) Arctic Sciences Section (ARC) with data submission, preservation, search and sharing services.

Science News

Local hunter looking at drift ice near the edge of the shorefast ice at Barrow, Alaska. Photo courtesy of Matthew Druckenmiller.
A new website, the Northern Alaska Sea Ice Project Jukebox, oral history recordings that offer a rich understanding of sea ice and changing conditions in north Alaska The goals of this jukebox project are to offer long-term observations about sea to inform the scientific community’s understanding of sea ice over a longer timeframe and through a broader lens than may otherwise be available, and to help the Iñupiaq community share traditional knowledge between generations.

Science Education News

Teacher Tina Ciarametaro fills up her water bottle with freshly melted glacial water. Sukkertoppen Ice Cap, Greenland. Photo by Tina Ciarametaro (PolarTREC 2014), courtesy of ARCUS.
From 2010-2014 four cohorts of PolarTREC teachers were selected through a nationwide search to participate in polar research, working closely with scientists as a pathway to improving science education. A range of online resources produced during and after their expeditions is available online.
Figure 1: Detail from "The Resolution beating through the Ice, with the Discovery in the most eminent danger in the distance." Etching by John Webber, published 1792. Image courtesy of the Arctic Ambitions exhibit.
A new exhibit at the Anchorage Museum, entitled "Arctic Ambitions," examines the log of Captain James Cook, the preeminent navigator of his age, as he sailed north through Bering Strait into the Arctic Ocean in search of the Northwest Passage. The exhibit considers whether Cook would have discovered the passage if sea-ice conditions in 1778 were similar to those of today.

National Science Foundation News

Recent Appointments in NSF’s Division of Polar Programs include a new Arctic Observing Network (AON) Program Director, new Director in the Arctic Systems Science (ARCSS) Program, and a New Section Head for the Polar Environment, Safety and Health Section.

Interagency News

The Navy's Arctic Submarine Laboratory continues to facilitate the Submarine Arctic Science Program (SCICEX) program in its new phase of collecting unique data on Arctic Ocean bathymetry; sea ice draft; ocean nutrients; and ocean hydrography.

U.S. Arctic Research Commission

On May 21st, the U.S. Arctic Research Commission released its newly updated goals report. Under the Arctic Research and Policy Act, the Commission biennially recommends key goals and objectives for the U.S. Arctic Research Program Plan.

Polar Research Board

Arctic Matters: New Educational Booklet and Interactive Website from the Polar Research Board
A new Arctic Matters booklet and interactive website from the U.S. National Academies' Polar Research Board (PRB), A introduces the threats and opportunities of the Arctic's rapidly changing environment and provides a reader-friendly primer explaining why the Arctic matters to all of us.

International News

By: Members of the ICARP III Steering Group The Arctic Science Summit Week (ASSW) 2015 held in Toyama, Japan from 23-30 April brought together over 700 international scientists, students, policy makers, research managers, indigenous peoples and others interested in developing, prioritizing and coordinating plans for future Arctic research. The Conference was organized by the International Arctic Science Committee and the Science Council of Japan, with the support of many other international partners. ICARP III Partners include all of the major organizations conducting or facilitating Arctic...
Preparations Underway for the 2016 Arctic Science Summit Week and Arctic Observing Summit
Planning for the 2016 Arctic Science Summit Week and Arctic Observing Summit is well underway. Scheduled for 12-18 March 2016 in Fairbanks, Alaska, the week includes several separate but related activities to strengthen international coordination in Arctic science and policy. The new website for the 2016 Arctic Science Summit Week is the hub for news, travel information, program updates, side meetings and more. Information is currently available for organizations scheduling side meetings and a sign up form for requesting meeting space during the Summit is available online.

A Note From the ARCUS Executive Director

Robert H. Rich, PhD, CAE
The new ARCUS Executive Director, Robert H. Rich, PhD, CAE, introduces himself and offers his observations about challenges and opportunities to facilitate and support connections within and beyond the Arctic research community.

A Note from the ARCUS President

Michael Retelle
ARCUS Board President welcomes new Executive Director, Robert H. Rich, PhD, CAE, who will be based in the Washington, D.C. area allowing ARCUS to increase its presence and strengthen its ability to establish new collaborations within the national and international science community

From the ARCUS Board

Craig Dorman
New to the ARCUS Board of Directors, Craig Dorman has been intimately involved with polar research for over 40 years. He shares observations on the current interests in Arctic research and the challenges and opportunities for ARCUS as the nation's key resource for building a common purpose toward addressing today's pressing Arctic issues.


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, Kristina Creek, and Helen Wiggins

Contributors: K. Andersen, S. Bartholow, K. Brewster, A. Crowell, C. Dorman, H. Eicken, L. Everett, W. Fitzhugh, L. Hamilton, D. Kadko, J. Moore, M. Retelle, R. Rich, J. Richter-Menge, C. Rosa, H. Stern, K. Timm, B. Turner-Bogren, J. Warburton, H. Wiggins, A. Windnagel, and Members of the ICAARP III Steering Group

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.