Witness the Arctic

Volume 23
Number 2
2 December 2019

ARCUS Member Highlight

The Alaska Ocean Observing System (AOOS), an ARCUS member institution was established in 2004 as the Alaska regional component of the Integrated Ocean Observing System of the U.S. and housed within NOAA. AOOS is tasked with supporting ocean observations throughout Alaska's waters, including the Arctic Ocean/Chukchi and Beaufort Seas, the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands, and the northern Gulf of Alaska, to meet stakeholder needs. Details about the major services AOOA provides as well as several collaborative efforts are highlighted here.

Study of Environmental Arctic Change (SEARCH)

Recent activities of the Study of Environmental Arctic Change (SEARCH) program are reported here, including the convening of Arctic scientists, Indigenous Peoples, and policymakers at the Arctic Futures 2050 conference to collaboratively envision the information that will be needed to inform Arctic policy in the coming decades. SEARCH also plans several events at the 2019 Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) in San Francisco, California.

Arctic System Science Program

Figure 1. Circumpolar map of northern hemisphere permafrost region (purple area) and existing permafrost coastal system observation sites, permafrost coastal communities, and coastal CALM/TSP/GTN-P sites that will contribute to PerCS-Net. A range of other networks and research sites are also partnered to PerCS-NET but are not shown at this scale. Image courtesy of PerCS-Net.
Future permafrost coastal system dynamics will challenge conventional wisdom as the system enters a new state, impacting human decision-making and adaptation planning, cultural heritage resources, and likely resulting in unforeseen national security challenges. The recently funded Permafrost Coastal Systems Network (PerCS-Net) focuses on leveraging resources from existing national and international networks that have a common vision of better understanding permafrost coastal system dynamics and emerging transdisciplinary science, engineering, and societal issues.
Recent Sea Ice Prediction Network–Phase 2 (SIPN2) activities are highlighted here, including the 2019 Sea Ice Outlook Reports, a recent webinar on the European-Union-funded project APPLICATE, and plans to convene an open meeting on sea-ice research efforts during the 2019 American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting in San Francisco, California.

Arctic Social Sciences Program

Collaborators Sophie "Eqeelana Tungwenuk" Nothstine (left) and Jean E. Balestrery (right). Photo courtesy of Jean Balestrery.
Health organizations in Canada and the United States are responding to the urgent need for guidance on how to address memory loss in Indigenous communities. Eliminating associated health disparities in Alaska's Indigenous populations is a related priority. These disparities, typically addressed through conventional social service and health care delivery system can create gaps between the rhetoric of care service provided and Alaska Native cultural communication practices. Collaborating across cultural differences is key to eliminating these disparities.
Figure 1. Bending the wood (from the left: Gr 7 pupils Ajaattoq Kristiansen, Sivert Kristiansen and teacher Max Audibert). Photo courtesy of Kamilla Oliver.
Greenland has a globally unique sled dog culture that is more than 4,000 years old. There is concern in Greenland about the decline in the number of dogs recorded in the past decades and how to pass on the cultural skills and knowledge of traditional dog sledging. Educators in the traditional Inuit settlement of Tiilerilaaq created an educational project to build sledges the traditional way. Students participated in all stages of the project including the final phase: an overnight trip mushing dogs on their new sledges.

Arctic Research Support and Logistics

Polar Technology Conference returns in March 2020
Plans are underway to resume the The Polar Technology Conference ( as a biennial meeting, with funding from NSF's Office of Polar Programs. The 2020 meeting, to be held in Boulder, Colorado during 10–12 March, intends to provide an opportunity for technical and theoretical exchange on challenges impeding polar research and field operations.

Data Management

Figure 1. An image of the Arctic Data Center's new annotation search feature.
The Arctic Data Center, a repository for all National Science Foundation-funded Arctic research data, released a refined semantic search interface in September 2019 as part of their data discovery platform. This new search interface, using semantic annotation to data files, offers a way to standardize the descriptions of data from a range of disciplines and diverse formats. This enables researchers to better search archived data and to better understand the contents and implications of the data from other efforts.

Science Education News

McMurdo Station, Antarctica - 2019 PolarTREC Teachers Denise Hardoy, Bridgette Ward, and Amy Osborne. Photo courtesy of Denise Hardoy, ARCUS.
It's been a busy season for the NSF-funded program, STEM at the Poles! Research Experiences for Formal and Informal Educators in the Polar Regions . The program has supported three educators at the on the McMurdo Field Station in Antarctica and another to work with the IceCube research team. Another educator is on the Multidisciplinary drifting Observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate (MOSAiC) expedition. Their experiences are shared in this article
Figure 1. Left and middle: The first boat, recovered in October 2018, showing the effects of three years of weathering. Right: the boat in its original condition. Photos left and middle courtesy of Bolli Thor, photo right courtesy of the GEOTRACES Project.
In 2015 a team of environmental scientists sailed into the Arctic Ocean as part of the international GEOTRACES program and participated in a novel project: "Float Your Boat" a happy marriage of science outreach and investigation, that allowed researchers to simultaneously generate excitement for their work and study the Arctic using unorthodox tools. The project transcended international boundaries with its success relying ultimately upon actions of interested citizens of Iceland.

Science Policy News

Figure 1. Map of streams near Iliamna with and without salmon. Image courtesy of The Nature Conservancy.
For years, the Qayassiq Walrus Commission (QWC) and the Bristol Bay Marine Mammal Council have worked with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service in establishing long-term marine mammal corridor boundaries of the shared marine subsistence food resources shared in Togiak Bay by all other Bristol Bay tribes. But, there are still gaps in research and management that need to be addressed.

National Science Foundation News

NSF's Navigating the New Arctic (NNA)
The FY 2020 solicitation for the National Science Foundation's Big Idea, Navigating the New Arctic (NNA), informed by the FY 2019 competition and other feedback from the research community, has several significant revisions that are detailed in this article. The deadline for proposal submission is Tuesday, 11 February 2020.

Interagency News

IARPC Launches Development of the next 5-Year Arctic Research Plan
The Interagency Arctic Research Policy Committee (IARPC) has begun development of the next Arctic Research Plan. The Plan will identify those areas where research in the Arctic can be improved by interagency collaboration. IARPC is looking for broad input on the goals and objectives of the Plan, ideas on how it should be structured, and suggestions on ways to ensure all interested parties have opportunities to contribute.


Image 1: Left to right, Tonia Osborne, Beth Leonard, and Mark Miklahook visit the National Science Foundation office during May 2019. Photo by Joed Polly, ARCUS.
The Arctic Indigenous Scholars Program aims to create a space for Indigenous scholars to educate and inform policy- and decision-makers engaged in Arctic issues in Washington, D.C. The program defines a scholar as an expert within their own knowledge system. During 2019 a volunteer selection committee composed of Arctic Indigenous leaders selected four scholars for the opportunity. Here, three of the scholars share their experiences.

A Note From the ARCUS Executive Director

ARCUS Interim Executive Director, Director of Programs, Helen Wiggins, highlights recent news, including the National Science Foundation award of a three-year cooperative agreement for "Building Community in Arctic Research: Communication, Research Support, and Multi-Knowledge System Integration" and updates activities and programs such as Engaging Rural and Alaska Native Youth in Arctic STEM, the SEARCH Arctic Futures 2050 Conference, and ARCUS events planned during the 2019 Fall AGU Meetings.

From the ARCUS Board

Peter Webley
ARCUS board member Peter Webley works at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute, is the Associate Director of Research at the Alaska Center for Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration, an Associate Research Professor of Remote Sensing, and a Faculty Ambassador to UAF's Office of Intellectual Property and Commercialization. Peter sees that remote sensing data provides an ideal tool to map the Arctic landscape to detect and track natural hazards that can affect local infrastructure and population centers.
Kaare Erickson
ARCUS board member Kaare Sikuaq Erickson is the North Slope Science Liaison for the Ukpeaġvik Inupiat Corporation in Utqiagvik (formerly Barrow), Alaska. As liaison, he provides advice to Arctic research projects during all phases of their projects and facilitating outreach and engagement initiatives in communities in the Arctic. Kaare sees that both Arctic residents and Arctic researchers are alarmed by the extreme climatic and seasonal changes the Arctic is facing. The value of Arctic research has never been greater as the world needs to know the threats we are currently facing.


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.

Subscribe to the Witness the Arctic RSS Feed RSS Feed

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@arcus.org
  • www.arcus.org

Executive Director: Helen Wiggins

Editors: Betsy Turner-Bogren, Lisa Sheffield Guy, and Helen Wiggins

Contributors: H. Aderman, M. Audibert, J. E. Balestrery, S. Bowden, S. Chong, R. Delgado, K.S. Erickson, W. Ermold, J. Fahnestock, L. Farquharson, D. Forcucci, A. Jensen, B.M. Jones, D. Kadko, B. P. Kelly, H. Kent, W. Landing, M. LaValley, B. Leonard, C. Maio, B. Myers, K. Oliver, T. Osborne, A. Petrov, I. Rigor, J. Rohde, V. Romanovsky, B. Schmoker, C. Semnacher, L. Sheffield Guy, B. Turner-Bogren, C. Tweedie. P. Webley, H.V. Wiggins, and M. Xiao

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 (OPP-1927894). Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views of NSF.