Witness the Arctic

Volume 21
Number 1
19 June 2017

ARCUS Member Highlight

ABR, Inc.—Environmental Research & Services is a professional environmental consulting group in Fairbanks, Alaska. Their team of over 50 scientists and support staff in office in Fairbanks and Anchorage, Alaska serves an array of clients, including the oil, gas, mining and timber sectors of private industry; resources management agencies; the military; Native entities; and utilities. ABR, Inc. services include: wildlife sciences; fisheries and aquatic sciences; marine science; wetland, vegetation, and landscape ecology; statistics, GIS, and database management; and National Environmental Policy Act and permitting.

Study of Environmental Arctic Change (SEARCH)

An open lead in the sea ice near Shishmaref, Alaska on 19 May 2017. Photo courtesy of Curtis Nayokpuk.
The Sea Ice for Walrus Outlook (SIWO) combines sea ice, weather, and wind forecasting information from the National Weather Service (NWS) with local observations from indigenous subsistence hunters and sea ice experts in five Bering Strait communities. The 2017 season began early, on 31 March. The first outlook provided a summary of the state of the ice at the season’s start, detailing the sea ice conditions over winter. Throughout the 11-week SIWO season, dedicated local observers from Wales, Shishmaref, Nome, Gambell, and Savoonga provided photographs and detailed descriptions of ice, weather conditions, and subsistence activities.
SEARCH Program
Decision makers, Arctic residents, students, scientists, and others have questions about the rapidly changing Arctic, and—for many—the questions are not academic. Questions framed in immediate and policy-relevant terms call for answers in concise and accessible formats. The Study of Environmental Arctic Change (SEARCH) commissions Arctic experts in diverse disciplines to answer policy-relevant questions in briefs for policy-makers who have limited time to integrate input from diverse sources, including science. The expert answers are assembled in a web interface comprising what we refer to as knowledge pyramids. A one- to two-page jargon-free brief at the apex of each pyramid answers a specific policy question.
Map of defined regions in the Arctic Ocean. Image courtesy of the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC).
The Sea Ice Prediction Network (SIPN) co-organized the 4th Polar Prediction Workshop held at the Alfred Wegener Institute in Germany in March 2017. The workshop focused on environmental prediction in the polar regions on subseasonal to interannual timescales. Sea ice prediction was a main focus of the workshop, which produced recommendations for the 2017 Sea Ice Outlook season. During the remainder of 2017, SIPN will focus on core Sea Ice Outlook (SIO) activities during the summer and fall, including a post-season report at the end of the Arctic sea ice melt season.

Science News

Community drinking water source in Alaska (2015). Photo courtesy of H. Penn.
This study explored the nature of water security challenges in rural Alaska, using a framework for environmental security that entails four interrelated concepts: availability, access, utility, and stability of water resources. The goal was to tease apart the divergent narratives regarding the state of water security in rural Alaska, and diagnose existing challenges such that effective and sustainable solutions can be identified. Water security is generally defined as involving stable and affordable access to clean water in sufficient quality and quantities for maintaining health and enacting livelihoods. In rural Alaska, water security at the household and community level has emerged as an important societal problem, though there's growing debate about both the nature and the relative scale of the issue, and these disagreements have led to different perspectives on the most appropriate solutions.

Interagency News

Fran Ulmer, USARC Chair (left) and Diane Hirshberg, UAA Advisor to the Chancellor (right). Photo courtesy of Kirstin Olmstead.
The first ever Anchorage Arctic Research Day, held on 24 March 2017 at the University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA), brought together Arctic researchers from the university, indigenous, federal, state, local, and non-profit entities to share descriptions of the work they are doing and to foster new collaborations.
Coastal erosion reveals the extent of ice-rich permafrost underlying active layer on the Arctic Coastal Plain in the Teshekpuk Lake Special Area of the National Petroleum Reserve - Alaska. Photo courtesy of Brandt Meixell, USGS.
The second comprehensive Arctic Research Plan was released December 2016 by the Interagency Arctic Research Policy Committee (IARPC) at a Town Hall meeting at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting in San Francisco. The Arctic Research Plan 2017-2021 will advance Arctic research over the next five years and will be implemented in collaboration with Federal and non-Federal stakeholders through IARPC Collaborations. The United States is an Arctic nation, and America's Arctic—Alaska—is at the forefront of rapid climate, environmental, and socio-economic changes that are testing the resilience and sustainability of communities and ecosystems. The changes that are occurring in the Arctic also have global consequences.

U.S. Arctic Research Commission

Cover of the USARC 2017-2018 Goals Report. Image courtesy of USARC.
The U.S. Arctic Research Commission (USARC) released its "Report on the Goals and Objectives for Arctic Research 2017-2018 for the U.S. Arctic Research Program," (Goals Report) in December 2016. Emphasizing the need for continued scientific research in all of its six major goals, the report includes new recommendations for these goals. In addition, the Commission also calls attention to progress made on these goals over the past two years.

Polar Research Board

The Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate (BASC), of the U.S. National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine released the Review of the Draft Climate Science Special Report in March 2017. This report, conducted at the request of the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), provides a review of the draft Climate Science Special Report (CSSR). The draft CSSR is a technical document intended to provide an updated, detailed analysis of how climate is changing across the U.S., and to serve as a technical input to the Fourth National Climate Assessment.

International News

Sunrise over Anchorage; Photo by Beverly Pringle
Under the 2015–2017 U.S. Arctic Council Chairmanship, the Reducing the Incidence of Suicide in Indigenous Groups – Strengths United through Networks (RISING SUN) initiative used a community-based and consensus-building process to identify common outcomes and their measures for evaluating suicide prevention efforts across the circumpolar North. Specifically, RISING SUN was designed to develop a web-based toolkit comprising the key correlates associated with successful suicide prevention interventions across Arctic states.

A Note From the ARCUS Executive Director

Robert H. Rich, Ph.D., CAE
Since the last issue of Witness the Arctic, Arctic research has seen much change. There were the changes in sea ice, changes in glaciers and the Greenland Ice Sheet, and changes in permafrost. There were also changes in the policy context for Arctic research, with a new U.S. Administration, new leadership, and new priorities. During this time, ARCUS has been both actively making a difference in supporting Arctic research and planning to be even more supportive in the months and years to come.

A Note from the ARCUS President

John Payne
Today, for many, the Arctic is a cold, distant place that is captured in photographs and movies as beautiful, remote, and having an abundance of wildlife, but far from their everyday lives. But the scientific quest to gain a better understanding of the Arctic, its Peoples, and the rapid changes taking place in its ice, seas, water, coasts, and terrestrial environments is more important than ever. The increased knowledge of the Arctic gained through research and monitoring is helping us understand the influence the Arctic has on lower latitudes and offers insights in how we must adapt to the challenges compounded by environmental, social, and economic changes.

From the ARCUS Board

Meet Audrey Taylor
Audrey Taylor serves as the Treasurer for ARCUS. She is also the Chair of the Education Committee and a member of the Membership Committee. Audrey was originally drawn to working in the Arctic through her interest in shorebirds, which breed in vast numbers on the tundra of northern Alaska. Over time she has recognized the need for a greater understanding of the complex linkages between manifestations of physical climate change and the biological responses that affect wildlife populations and the humans that depend on them.
Meet Olivia Lee
Olivia Lee is an Assistant Professor in the International Arctic Research Center (IARC) at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Her research focuses on the integration of community observations and remote sensing imagery of sea ice to assess walrus and ice seal habitat in northern Alaska. She also works on participatory scenarios projects that aim to broaden our understanding of the socio-economic and biophysical drivers affecting the future of the Arctic. Olivia has served on the ARCUS Board of Directors since 2015.


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: Dr. Robert Rich

Editors: Betsy Turner-Bogren and Helen Wiggins

Contributors : R. A. Delgado, M. Druckenmiller, D. Hirshberg, B. P. Kelly, O. Lee, P. Loring, D. McGuire, A. Melvin, B. Myers, J. Payne, H. J. F. Penn, C. Rosa, R. Rich, L. Sheffield Guy, W. Schnabel, S. Starkweather, S. Stephenson, A. Taylor, A. Turner, B. Turner-Bogren, H. Wiggins

Witness the Arctic is published by the Arctic Research Consortium of the U.S. (ARCUS), a nonprofit organization that advances Arctic research and education. Witness the Arctic is funded through a Cooperative Agreement with the National Science Foundation (PLR-1304316). Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views of NSF.