Witness the Arctic

Volume 23
Number 1
3 June 2019

ARCUS Member Highlight

Sitka Sound Science Center
The Sitka Sound Science Center (SSSC), located in Sitka, Alaska, is highlighted here as an ARCUS member institution. The SSSC is a non-profit organization dedicated to increasing understanding and awareness of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems of Alaska through education and research. Since its inception in 2007, SSSC has developed strong community, state, and national partnerships.

Study of Environmental Arctic Change (SEARCH)

Figure 1. Sea ice extent in the Bering Sea in millions of square kilometers for the last two winters (2017/18 and 2018/19) compared to the long-term (1979-2016) average and range. Data through 16 May 2019. Image data source: Nimbus-7 SMMR and DMSP SSM/I-SSMIS Passive Microwave Data & Near-Real-Time DMSP SSM/I-SSMIS Daily Polar Gridded Sea Ice Concentrations; Data at 25 x 25 km resolution; Accessed from the National Snow and Ice Data Center.
The unprecedented low winter sea ice in the Bering Sea during 2018 quickly raised broad concerns regarding whether the Bering Sea had entered a new regime with potential impacts on the ecosystem, Indigenous communities, and fisheries. The role of the Sea Ice for Walrus Outlook (SIWO) program in sharing information is becoming increasingly valuable in assisting to understand how rapid environmental change and variability are experienced within communities as they pursue the abundant walrus, whales, seals, fish, crabs, and other marine life from the Bering Sea.
Responding to rapid environmental change in the Arctic requires the combined efforts of Arctic scientists from many disciplines, diverse Indigenous perspectives, and policy makers from all levels of government. The Arctic Futures 2050 Conference—convened 4-6 September 2019 at the National Academies of Sciences in Washington, D.C. by the Study of Environmental Arctic Change (SEARCH)—will be an international conference designed to enhance collaboration between those groups.

Arctic System Science Program

Figure 1. Example of a lake that drained on the North Slope of Alaska in early July 2014. Photo courtesy of Benjamin M. Jones.
Lake-rich Arctic landscapes are particularly dynamic as the lakes located here are susceptible to catastrophic drainage. Taken together, lakes and drained lake basins cover up to 80% of Arctic lowland regions, making understanding their response to ongoing climate and land use change essential for providing insights into how Arctic lowland landscapes may change and evolve in the coming decades to centuries.
Recent activities of the Sea Ice Prediction Network–Phase 2 (SIPN2) include publications of the 2018 Sea Ice Outlook Interim and Full Post-Season Reports and a call for contributions to the 2019 June Sea Ice Outlook Report. Outreach activities included an open community meeting during the 2018 Fall Geophysical Union Meetings and an open webinar featuring Ron Kwok, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory and ICESat-2 Team.

Data Management

Figure 1. AOOS' Ocean Data Explorer's data visualizations include real time data visualizations and time sliders that allow portal users to view data over time. Captured here is a view of real time sensor data and historical data from the same sensor, part of the International Arctic Buoy Programme Air Temperature dataset. Image courtesy of the AOOA Ocean Data Explorer
What might a highly desirable Arctic data portal look like? More often than not, portal design reflects the desires multiple stakeholders have for open access and open data, the preservation and sharing of Indigenous knowledge and traditional knowledge from Arctic Indigenous communities, and to the sustainability of the data portals themselves.

Science Education News

The 2019 PolarTREC Cohort and project management team pose for a photo outside the Syun-Ichi Akasofu Building on the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus during program orientation that was held in March 2019. The orientation is the only time the educators meet one another face to face. During the orientation, they learn about the program, discuss how to communicate their experience and the science to the public, and learn more about the polar regions. Photo courtesy of Joed Polly, ARCUS.
Beginning in June 2019, U.S. educators will be embedded as research team members in scientific expeditions in the Arctic and Antarctica as part of the NSF-funded project, STEM at the Poles. Through these unique research experiences, participants will connect to the polar focused research community and develop resources with the goal to change how they teach STEM in both informal and formal learning environments.

Interagency News

IARPC Collaboration team provide opportunity for members of the Arctic research community to participate in implementation of federal research policy. Image courtesy of IARPC Collaborations.
The Interagency Arctic Research Policy Committee (IARPC), through the open online platform on the IARPC Collaborations website, is changing the way Arctic researchers communicate and collaborate. This platform brings together over 2000 members from the research community in the United States and internationally to share resources, form connections, and team up to address new and emerging science questions.
Sea Ice Break at Diomede, 26 January 2017. Photo courtesy of Opik Ahkinga, Native Village of Diomede, Alaska.
The Local Environmental Observer (LEO) Network is an online platform for documenting the symptoms of environmental change as described by Arctic residents who are experiencing the impacts first hand. The purpose is two-fold: first, to raise awareness about climate and environmental change through description of specific events; and second, to connect people who can explore these events and develop specific adaptation strategies.

U.S. Arctic Research Commission

 Illustrated cover of the 2019-2020 Report on the Goals and Objectives for Arctic Research. Image courtesy of USARC.
The U.S. Arctic Research Commission (USARC) has released their 2019-2020 Report on the Goals and Objectives for Arctic Research. Dedicated to USARC's late Commissioner, Mary Pete, the "Goals Report" outlines recommendations for research in a rapidly changing Arctic and outlines five priority research areas and lists recommendations and examples for each.

Polar Research Board

The Proceedings from a workshop, "Understanding Northern Latitude Vegetation Greening and Browning," was published by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Image courtesy of the National Academies.
Studies have often documented shifts between greening and browning over varying spatial extents and time periods in northern latitudes. The potential implications of vegetation change and related greening and browning patterns extend from local to global scales. During a recent Polar Research Board workshop, participants discussed drivers of those shifts, included climate change and a variety of disturbance types, including many that are commonly linked to warming.


Rosemary Ahtuangaruak comments, "This map shows how much work there is to do each red little box is a lease sale already for developing." Image courtesy of Rosemary Ahtuanguarak.
Arctic Indigenous Scholar, Rosemary Ahtuangaruak, is a community health aide from Nuiqsut, Alaska. She shares here her motivation in light of the oil development occurring in close proximity to her village and her advocacy efforts in communicating across dividing lines to those who sit on both sides of the table and educate others on the issues and concerns of her people.
In small groups, community members discussed priority needs for Arctic research support and coordination during the 2018 ARCUS Annual Meeting. Photo courtesy of Joed Polly, ARCUS.
Arctic Research Consortium of the U.S. (ARCUS) members are individuals and organizations that want to join with a larger community to tackle Arctic research challenges, respond collaboratively to emerging opportunities, and explore both the frontiers and intricate interconnections of the Arctic system in an interdisciplinary way. We invite all interested parties to join us and take advantage of ARCUS’ many communication channels.

A Note From the ARCUS Executive Director

Helen Wiggins highlights several ARCUS program activities and notes that none would be possible without our many collaborators, contributors, participants, and funders.

A Note from the ARCUS President

Audrey Taylor
Board President, Audrey Taylor, reflects on recent ARCUS activities that support our members and facilitate Arctic research.

From the ARCUS Board

Craig Fleener
Craig Fleener, elected to the ARCUS Board in 2018, is the Executive Director of the Alaska Ocean Cluster. His goal is to create value in Alaska’s Blue Economy and discover new opportunities by connecting entrepreneurs, businesses, governments, universities, and knowledge in ocean and inland waters industries.
Jasper (Joe) Hardesty
Jasper (Joe) Hardesty, elected to the ARCUS Board in 2018, works at Sandia National Labs, out of Albuquerque, New Mexico. He is the Assistant Manager of the Alaska Arctic facilities for the Department of Energy Atmospheric Radiation Measurements (ARM) program with sites at Utqiaġvik/Barrow, Atqasuk, and Oliktok Point, Alaska. These sites and systems support instrumentation and field campaigns to provide Arctic atmospheric measurements and data used by climate modelers around the world.
Victoria Herrmann
Victoria Herrmann was elected to the ARCUS Board in 2018. She is is the President and Managing Director of The Arctic Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated to Arctic security research. In her day-to-day work, she leads a team of 30 young scholars across North America, Europe, and Asia in research and capacity building projects on energy, climate, maritime, economic, and societal security 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.


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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.

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Executive Director: Helen 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.