Witness the Arctic

Volume 19
Number 3
30 October 2015


Announcing New Membership Opportunities with ARCUS!

The Arctic Research Consortium of the U.S. (ARCUS) implemented a new membership structure in October 2015, opening membership up to anyone interested in promoting discovery and understanding of the Arctic. There are options for a variety of types of organizations, and individuals are also now eligible for membership. The benefits to membership are expanded, and all members are invited to attend the December Annual Meeting.

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Interagency News

Challenges and Opportunities of Interdisciplinary Teamwork for Early Career Arctic Scientists

Three early career researchers—Mallory Ladd (Oak Ridge National Laboratory), Lydia Smith (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory), and Ethan Coon (Los Alamos National Laboratory)—are involved in the major Next-Generation Ecosystem Experiments (NGEE Arctic) project. Sponsored by the Department of Energy's Biological and Environmental Research (BER) program, NGEE examines high-latitude regions of the world. Ladd, Smith, and Coon are members of interdisciplinary research teams using different methodologies to study these areas, which have experienced the greatest warming in recent decades and are projected to warm at a rate twice that of the global average in the coming century.

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A Recent Conversation with Martin Jeffries about IARPC Collaboration Team Efforts

Sara Bowden, Executive Secretary of the Interagency Arctic Research Policy Committee (IARPC), interviewed Dr. Martin Jeffries, Arctic Science Advisor and Program Officer for Arctic and Global Prediction at the Office of Naval Research, to get his perspectives on the IARPC collaboration teams. Jeffries discusses how the collaboration teams work, what they can and cannot do, and how the research community can get involved and stay informed.

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ARCUS Member Highlight

ARCUS Member Highlight: The Arctic Centre

Witness the Arctic regularly features the research and related programs of ARCUS member institutions. This article spotlights the Arctic Centre at the University of Lapland, located in Rovaniemi, Finland. A facility built exclusively for Arctic research and outreach, the Arctic Centre hosts an international staff of about 80 whose work includes social sciences, anthropology, natural sciences, and law studies. It consists of three multidisciplinary research groups: global change, sustainable development, and the Northern Institute for environmental and minority law.

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International News

Spoon-billed Sandpiper Conservation Project in Chukotka and Kamchatka Russia

The Spoon-billed sandpiper, not bigger than a sparrow and weighing just 30-45 grams, has recently raised a great deal of global attention. The tiny shorebird with the charismatic spoon-shaped bill is breeding entirely in the Russian Arctic. Fifteen years ago, researchers discovered that the population of the Spoon-billed sandpiper was in dire condition, on the verge of extinction. Since that time, two organizations (Birds Russia and the Spoon-billed Sandpiper Task Force) have been working to save this tiny species.

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Arctic Adaptation Exchange: Where Arctic Communities Explore, Share, Connect, and Innovate

Arctic communities possess a wealth of knowledge, an incredible resource that needs to be shared across the circumpolar North and beyond, to non-Arctic research and policy-making centers. The Arctic Adaptation Exchange (AAE) portal is positioned to support the flow of knowledge between Arctic communities for adaptive and resilient capacity building in the face of much change. AAE is expanding its existing platform to allow them to share innovations, problems, and solutions for resilient response to climate change.

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Ambitious Program Developing for 2016 Arctic Science Summit Week & Arctic Observing Summit

An exciting range of meetings and events will take place in Fairbanks, Alaska on 9-20 March 2016. Nearly 1,000 scientists, policy makers, technical experts, educators, and other Arctic authorities from around the world will gather to attend the Arctic Science Summit Week 2016, the Arctic Observing Summit, and related side meetings and events. Attendees will work to develop a better understanding of the Arctic environment and its role in global policy, and look for opportunities to coordinate and collaborate. As Larry Hinzman, Interim Vice Chancellor for Research at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, said, "The people of Alaska look forward to welcoming conference participants to Fairbanks."

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Science News

Early Stage Biome Shift for Alaskan White Spruce Related to Warmer Climate

University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) scientist Glenn Juday noticed something curious while studying the growth of white spruce in Alaska—spruce in the Interior grew least in warm summers and most in cool summers. A research project was started in search of an explanation, and 167,000 tree ring width measurements later, researchers believe that that an early stage boreal biome shift is already underway as a result of higher temperatures. Even with modest additional warming, widespread white spruce death is unavoidable in lowland Interior sites. Meanwhile, the species is thriving in Western Alaska.

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Sensitivity of Tundra Carbon Balance to Warming and Permafrost Thaw

Climate change will be felt most strongly in high latitude regions of Earth, with Arctic temperature increases expected to be about two times higher than the global average. As the climate warms, thawing of perennially frozen ground (permafrost) is likely to be an important mechanism for moving significant quantities of stored carbon into the atmosphere. The Eight Mile Lake (EML) research watershed combines observations and experimental manipulation to understand how warming and permafrost thaw impact ecosystem carbon exchange in an Arctic ecosystem undergoing rapid change.

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Arctic Natural Sciences Program

Petermann-2015 Expedition Launches International Collaboration in Arctic Science

The Petermann-2015 Expedition involved 58 scientists from six countries on a Swedish icebreaker. For just over one month, researchers explored and sampled the Petermann Fjord and Ice Shelf system in Greenland. With its deep canyon extending 750 km inland and serving as a drain for the Greenland Ice Sheet, this region plays an outsized role in the changing global climate and offers insights into ice shelf-ocean interactions. The research team focused on past variations of the ocean-ice-climate-sea level system to assess how the coupled system has responded to changing climate.

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Study of Environmental Arctic Change (SEARCH)

SEARCH Brings Essential Coordination to Interdisciplinary Arctic Science: Observations from the SEARCH Executive Director

Arctic residents, industries, government agencies, and other decision-makers seek to understand the Arctic as a complex, interacting system. New SEARCH Executive Director Brendan P. Kelly explains his perspectives on how SEARCH facilitates this process as well as how the system can be improved: "We are rich in scientific talent making significant progress. Too often, however, we lack sufficient resources to support the significant additional time required to engage in vital cross-disciplinary and cross-cultural discussions."

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Study of Environmental Arctic Change (SEARCH) Update

See what’s new with the Study of Environmental Arctic Change (SEARCH). The article includes announcements about new SEARCH leadership, with the hiring of the first SEARCH Executive Director, Brendan P. Kelly, and changes to the Science Steering Committee (SSC); the upcoming Arctic Observing Open Science Meeting scheduled for 17-19 November and the SSC planning meeting immediately after; highlights from three SEARCH Action Teams; and the SEARCH activities planned for the AGU Fall Meeting.

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U.S. Arctic Research Commission

Commissioners Hear From Local Experts During 104th USARC Meeting in Anchorage and Nome

The 104th meeting of the U.S. Arctic Research Commission (USARC) was held in August 2015. The commissioners and staff heard directly from subject matter experts on a wide range of Arctic research topics, including human health (specifically mental and behavioral health including suicidality), local science, federal agency research, renewable energy, and local research. Additionally, the commission shared the contents of its biennial Report on the Goals and Objectives for Arctic Research 2015-2016, which was released earlier in the year.

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Polar Research Board

Why it Matters to Discuss Why the Arctic Matters

The environmental changes affecting the Arctic region—warming temperatures, shrinking sea ice cover, coastal erosion from melting permafrost, expanding wildfire seasons, shifting ranges of plant and animal species—provide plenty of motivating concern for people living within the Arctic region. However, for the majority of the world’s population changes in the Arctic are see only as news reports that stoke a few moments of interest and are then forgotten. The Conference on Global Leadership in the Arctic: Cooperation, Innovation, Engagement and Resilience (GLACIER) was part of an effort by the U.S. government to build the public’s awareness of why “what happens in the Arctic does not stay in the Arctic.”

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Data Management

ACADIS Data Management Service to the Community

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. NSF has extended the ACADIS team's support to the community through current ACADIS grants until 15 January 2016 in anticipation of a new support agreement for ACADIS being in place in late 2015. The team's intention is to provide uninterrupted ACADIS support to the NSF/PLR/ARC community if possible.

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The PolarHub: Service-Oriented Cyberinfrastructure for the Polar Sciences

Substantial research attention has been directed to the polar regions in recent years because they are key drivers of the Earth's climate, a source of rich mineral resources, and home to a variety of marine life. To advance our understanding of the polar climate system and its impacts on the environment, economy, and people at local, regional, and global scales, there is a pressing need for a new cyberinfrastructure to improve the accessibility, usability, and visibility of polar scientific data. A two-year research project funded by the National Science Foundation in 2014-2015 aims at developing a cutting-edge cyberinfrastructure portal to help polar scientists effectively and efficiently collect polar data, integrate knowledge, and analyze scientific phenomena to support effective decision making.

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A Note From the ARCUS Executive Director

A Newcomer's Guide to the Complex System of U.S. Arctic Research

the Arctic is a complex, interdependent system and there are many boundaries that must be crossed to successfully advance our understanding. There are multiple disciplines, stakeholders, governments, organizations, researcher, and issues involved. ARCUS Executive Director, Robert H. Rich, PhD, CAE, has spent the six months since he started at ARCUS focused on developing an understanding of the key participants and relationships that make up the Arctic research system. He has visited key Arctic research sites, some of the leading researchers, Arctic resident community groups, and other stakeholders, and plans to continue these visits in the future. Here, he shares a high-level overview of some of what he's learned.

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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

Editors: Betsy Turner-Bogren, Kristina Creek, Liz Bowman, and Helen Wiggins

Contributors: J. Brigham-Grette, S. Bowden, D. Carter, K. Creek, J. Farrell, L. Geller, M. Heikkila, M. Jeffries, G. Juday, B. P. Kelly, M. Ladd, W. Li, M. Mauritz, A. Mix, J. Moore, B. Myers, V. Raymond, R. Rich, T. Schuur, K. Timm, H. Wiggins, S. Wullschleger, C. Zockler

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.