Witness the Arctic

Volume 21
Number 2
1 December 2017

Study of Environmental Arctic Change (SEARCH)

By: Brendan P. Kelly, SEARCH Executive Director The Study of Environmental Arctic Change (SEARCH) facilitates synthesis of Arctic science and communicates our current understanding to help society respond to a rapidly changing Arctic. We focus our syntheses on the changing cryosphere (permafrost, land ice, and sea ice) and the consequences for ecosystems and society. We communicate our understanding to multiple audiences but with an emphasis on policymakers. Synthesizing and communicating to non-scientists both are acts of translation—across disciplinary languages in the case of synthesis and...
By: Brendan P. Kelly, SEARCH Executive Director What understanding is needed to inform Arctic decision-making through 2050? How can scientists better understand and contribute to Arctic policy conversations? How might unexpected events or trends in the Arctic substantially alter policy needs by 2050? What research is needed to avoid unmanageable change in the Arctic? Arctic Futures 2050 will address these questions through a scenarios workshop in 2018 and a larger, open meeting of Arctic scientists and policymakers in 2019. The immediate products will include descriptions of research—jointly...

Arctic System Science Program

Distribution of June, July, and August 2017 Outlook contributions as a series of box plots, broken down by general type of method. The box color depicts contribution method and the number above indicates number of contributions for each type of method. The individual boxes for each method represent, from left to right, June, July and August.
By: Betsy Turner-Bogren and Helen Wiggins, ARCUS SIPN 2017 During the final months of funding for the initial Sea Ice Prediction Network (SIPN) project, efforts were focused on the core Sea Ice Outlook (SIO) activities in the summer and fall of 2017. Activities included development of the June, July, and August monthly reports, and a post-season report to synthesize results from the 2017 melt season. Additionally, SIPN Leadership Team members contributed several peer-reviewed papers for publication and made presentations to the Marine Environmental Observations, Predictions and Response...

Arctic Social Sciences Program

Participants, special guests, observers, and facilitators for the August 2016 Nome Workshop.  Photo courtesy of the Kawerak, Inc. Social Science Program.
By: Brenden Raymond-Yakoubian, Sandhill.Culture.Craft Principal and Julie Raymond-Yakoubian, Kawerak, Inc., Social Science Program Director Kawerak, Inc. , the Alaska Native non-profit tribal consortium for the Bering Strait region, and Sandhill.Culture.Craft , a social science research and consulting firm based in Girdwood, Alaska, partnered to hold a two-day workshop in August 2016 to discuss key Indigenous perspectives on a variety of issues regarding the relationships between Indigenous communities and research processes. Nine workshop participants from western and northern Alaska...
Figure 1. Aerial view of Native Village of Unalakleet, Alaska in the Norton Sound southern sub-region in 2017. Photo courtesy of Jordan P. Lewis.
By: Jordan P. Lewis, Associate Professor (WWAMI) School of Medical Education ; Director, National Resource Center for Alaska Native Elders; University of Alaska Anchorage, College of Health Alaska Native communities have a strong sense of respect for their older residents. In many Alaskan rural communities, whose primary population is Alaska Native people, the elderly are still relied upon for their deep knowledge and understanding of the natural environment, heritage languages, and cultural practices that are important not only for economic survival but social cohesion and community...

Science Education News

JSEP students look west toward the Kangerlussuaq fjord from the top of Black Ridge. Photo courtesy of Erica Wallstrom.
By: Lauren Culler, Research Assistant Professor in the Environmental Studies Program at Dartmouth College and JSEP co-Principal Investigator, and Lee McDavid, Program Manager of the Institute of Arctic Studies, Dartmouth College Twenty high school students from Greenland, Denmark, and the U.S. learned about polar science this past summer as they gained first-hand experience of how international research teams work together and some of the challenges they face, especially when speaking different languages. The Joint Science Education Project (JSEP) is co-sponsored by the U.S. National Science...

National Science Foundation News

A new mobile garage (on left) has been constructed at Summit Station. The garage sits on a mobile sled-like base that allows the garage to be periodically towed into a new position to combat surrounding snow accumulation and drift. The old garage (on right) sits below the horizon and will be deconstructed and removed from station beginning in 2018. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Mercer.
NSF Arctic Sciences Town Hall to Convene During 2017 AGU Fall Meetings Program Directors from NSF's Office of Polar Programs Arctic Sciences Programs will provide an overview of recent and upcoming news of interest to the research community at a town hall meeting during the 2017 AGU Fall Meetings. Topics will include staffing changes in the Arctic Section, proposal pressure in 2017 versus 2016 without proposal deadlines, and upcoming opportunities at NSF of interest to Arctic researchers (including mid-scale research infrastructure, partnerships in geosciences-cyberinfrastructure, Navigating...

Interagency News

Mr. Michael Emerson, Director, Maritime Transportation Systems, (center) and RADM Michael McAllister, Coast Guard District 17 Commander, (right) recognized by the Russian Ministry of Transport, Andrey Viktorovich Khaustov, General Director of the State Marine Pollution Control, Salvage and Rescue Administration of the Russian Federation (left). Photo courtesy of Rachel Perron.
By: Cara Condit, Director for Arctic Study and Policy, U.S. Coast Guard Academy The U.S. Coast Guard Center for Arctic Study and Policy (CASP) organized the recent "Governing Across the Waves Workshop: Global Insights for Transboundary Waterways Management in Sensitive and Congested Maritime Spaces," which aimed to support the ongoing efforts by the U.S. and Russian governments to achieve the shared objectives in the Bering Strait region of safe, secure, and environmentally responsible maritime traffic. Established in September 2014, CASP serves as the Coast Guard's leading Arctic policy...
By: IARPC Staff The Interagency Arctic Research Policy Committee (IARPC) is seeking comments on how best to revise and strengthen the NSF Principles for the Conduct of Research in the Arctic . A Federal Register Notice has been published to solicit community input. Comments can be submitted to the Principles Revision Working Group of IARPC by email ( iarpcprinciples [at] nsf.gov ) or to the Principles Revision Working Group co-chairs, Roberto Delgado of National Institutes of Health ( roberto.delgado [at] nih.gov ) and Renee Crain of NSF ( rcrain [at] nsf.gov ). Comments can be submitted by...

U.S. Arctic Research Commission

Figure 1: Map of the Agreement on Enhancing International Arctic Scientific Cooperation. U.S. Department of State, OES/OPA. October 2017.
By: John Farrell, Executive Director, U.S. Arctic Research Commission Editor's Note: This article, originally published in the October 2017 issue of Witness Community Highlights , has been updated with new information and the newly-released map of "Identified Geographic Areas" related to the Agreement on Enhancing International Arctic Scientific Cooperation. The eight member states of the Arctic Council vowed to improve cooperation on Arctic science via a legally binding agreement, entitled "Agreement on Enhancing International Arctic Scientific Cooperation" signed on 11 May 2017 at the...

Polar Research Board

The U.S. Coast Guard awarded five firm fixed price contracts for heavy polar icebreaker design studies and analysis 22 February 2017.  The studies will inform the Coast Guard's acquisition of heavy polar icebreakers to replace the current operational fleet that includes one heavy polar icebreaker, USCGC POLAR STAR (foreground, shown cutting a channel in the Ross Sea as part of Operation Deep Freeze 2017).  U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer David Mosley.
By: The National Academies Staff The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine Committee on Polar Icebreaker Cost Assessment released a report in July that advises the U.S. Congress on strategies to minimize life-cycle costs of polar icebreaker acquisition and operations. A U.S. presence in the high-latitude regions requires reliable year-round access in order to support economic interests, search-and-rescue needs, defense and security readiness, environmental protection, maritime mobility, and scientific research. In the Antarctic, the U.S. maintains three year-round research...

International News

 IASC facilitates international and interdisciplinary connections for Arctic science. Students pictured above are  moored to an ice-flow next to the Norwegian Polar Institute's RV Lance. Photo courtesy of Lawrence Hislop, Norwegian Polar Institute.
By: Gunnar Gunnarsson, International Arctic Science Executive Officer and Allen Pope, International Arctic Science Committee Executive Secretary The Arctic is a huge natural laboratory offering a surprising diversity of research possibilities in every branch of science. The International Arctic Science Committee's (IASC) mission is to encourage and facilitate cooperation in all aspects of Arctic research, in all countries engaged in Arctic research, and all areas of the Arctic region. For nearly three decades, IASC has worked to transform the conditions for cooperation in Arctic science by...
Figure 1: Key activities of the Year of Polar Prediction include three Special Observing Periods (SOPs) dedicated to enhance routine measurements and investigations of physical phenomena in polar regions, feeding into the development and improvement of numerical forecasting models, and the verification and improvement of forecasting services. Image courtesy of the International Coordination Office for Polar Prediction.
By Kirstin Werner, Year of Polar Prediction International Coordination Office, Project Officer Environmental and climate changes in the Arctic have significant impact on maritime traffic related to fisheries, scientific efforts, and tourism, and create potential risks to both humans and the natural environment. Precise weather and sea-ice predictions will play an increasingly important role in managing related safety issues in polar regions. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) under the auspices of its World Weather Research Programme (WWRP) and the Polar Prediction Project (PPP) has...
Marine biologist Mikael Sejr from Aarhus University measures temperature and salinity in Young Sound, Northeast Greenland, for the GEM database. Photo courtesy of Mikael Sejr.
By: Catherine Jex, Journalist for ScienceNordic.com Editor's Note: This article is based on one published online by ScienceNordic on 15 November 2017, "Treasure trove" of Arctic research data now publicly available , also written by Catherine Jex. The Greenland Ecosystem Monitoring program (GEM) was established in 1994 by research institutions throughout Denmark and Greenland to conduct long-term inter-disciplinary data collection. As part of the program, scientists have been collecting data on snow cover, wind, rain, temperatures, fjord water chemistry, glaciers, and populations of musk oxen...


ARCUS staff manage a diverse portfolio of projects to connect Arctic research across disciplines, organizations, knowledge systems, and geography. A few recent highlights include: American Geophysical Union (AGU) 2017 Fall Meeting We have been busy preparing for the upcoming AGU Fall Meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana : ARCUS Annual Meeting - ARCUS' annual meeting will take place on Wednesday, December 13 from 6:00–7:00 p.m. Central Time in the Riverside I Room at the Hampton Inn & Suites New Orleans Convention Center. There will be a simultaneous videoconference for those who can't travel...

A Note From the ARCUS Executive Director

Robert Rich
By: Robert H. Rich, Ph.D., CAE Joseph Chamberlain (the father of the late British prime minister) said "I think that you will all agree that we are living in most interesting times. I never remember myself a time in which our history was so full, in which day by day brought us new objects of interest, and, let me say also, new objects for anxiety." Chamberlain could easily have been talking about today's Arctic research, with its amazing discoveries, the worrying attacks on research funding, and the emergence of new objects of interest and anxiety every day. Your Arctic Research Consortium (...


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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Executive Director: Dr. Robert Rich

Editors: Betsy Turner-Bogren and Helen Wiggins

Contributors : C. Condit, L. Culler, J. Farrell, G. Gunnarsson, C. Jex, B. P. Kelly, J. P. Lewis, L. McDavid, J. L. Mercer, A. Pope, B. Raymond-Yakoubian, J. Raymond-Yakoubian, R. Rich, C. Suchman, B. Turner-Bogren, K. Werner, H. Wiggins, the IARPC Staff, and the National Academies Staff.

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.