Witness the Arctic

Volume 24
Number 2
25 November 2020

ARCUS Member Highlight

Figure 1. Fall Colors: CCHRC's Research and Testing Facility in Fairbanks, Alaska is considered the farthest-north LEED Platinum building in the world, demonstrating innovations such as geothermal, solar, and cold-climate building science. Photo Courtesy of CCHRC.
The Cold Climate Housing Research Center (CCHRC), an ARCUS member organization, was formed in 1999 by Alaska homebuilders who identified the need for applied research and testing to create better buildings for the north. Its mission is to promote and advance healthy, affordable, sustainable shelter for Alaskans and circumpolar people. In 2020, CCHRC joined the Department of Energy (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), a world leader in energy efficiency, clean energy, and systems integration. This partnership brings together NREL's decades-long history working with clean energy technologies and CCHRC's deep experience developing sustainable, culturally appropriate housing with people of the north.

Arctic System Science Program

SIPN2 Logo
The Sea Ice Prediction Network–Phase 2 (SIPN2), a network of international members working to advance research on the processes driving sea ice predictability, has published several Sea Ice Outlook (SIO) reports in 2020. Monthly reports in June, July, and August contain a variety of perspectives during the sea-ice retreat season and post-season provide in-depth analyses of factors driving sea ice. 2020 SIO monthly reports and the Interim Post-Season report, are available online.

Arctic Social Sciences Program

Figure 1. North Pole question responses from the nationwide POLES surveys (2016) and a series of statewide New Hampshire surveys (2016–2019). Figure from Hamilton (2020).
How much does the US public know about polar regions? Researchers exploring this topic have occasionally mixed factual questions in among the more typical opinion queries on general-public surveys. Here Hamilton summarizes a recently published article describes a key finding from these surveys: there are "two kinds" of polar knowledge—many people give answers contrary to science, but reflecting instead their beliefs or political identity. Although these questions involve important and well-established facts, survey responses defy simple interpretation as indicators of knowledge.

Arctic Research Support and Logistics

Figure 1. Polar Technology Community graphic created by Zeb Polly, ARCUS.
Polar Technology Conferences are meetings of experts sharing experiences and challenges related to the applications of technology in the polar regions for the advancement of science goals. The Polar Technology Conferences originated out of informal gatherings at Stanford University in the early 2000s, focused on small autonomous power, weather, and communications systems. During the 2020 Polar Technology Conference, held at the University of Colorado Boulder from 10–12 March 2020, participants representing a broad range of stakeholders in the polar regions addressed six themes: (1) science drivers, (2) instrumentation, (3) power systems, (4) communications, (5) data access and sharing, and (6) overarching and integrative technologies.
Figure 1. Gina Carani, Sous Chef, dressed in protective gear receiving a food delivery. Once the food (or any kind of delivery) was unloaded TFS staff in protective gear would move it to a quarantine location for three days prior to distribution. Photo courtesy of Joe Franich.
The Toolik Field Station, operated and managed by the Institute of Arctic Biology at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, is supported by the NSF Division of Polar Programs, Directorate for Geosciences. The station provides housing, meals, laboratory facilities, and support services to the Arctic research community. The 2020 field season was not spared by the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, but teamwork and collaboration between the NSF, the Arctic logistics contractor, station staff, researchers, and a strict approach to COVID-19 management, have allowed the station to function at a limited capacity while providing remote access support to researchers who were not able to travel to the station.

Data Management

Figure 1. Screenshots of the register citation feature. Image courtesy of the Arctic Data Center.
Recommendations from the larger data citation research community are that the role of data repositories should be to generate usage and citation metrics for the datasets they host, and share them via community "hubs." The Arctic Data Center has taken multiple steps towards producing data citation information for all datasets in our collection, including a new feature enabling dataset owners to directly register citations to their datasets.

Science News

Figure 1. The importance of winter fruits. (A) Two ripe and one rotten fruits of Viburnum edule (highbush cranberry) in fall. (B) Highbush cranberry plant in early November. (C) Highbush cranberry fruits in May, after snowmelt. (D) A highbush cranberry cache made by an unidentified animal (possibly a vole). (E) Bear feces full of highbush cranberry seeds. (F) The contents of the crop of a ptarmigan in mid-winter filled with Vaccinium vitis-idaea (lingonberry) fruits. Photo courtesy credits: (A) A. Ruggles.
The Alaska-wide citizen science Winterberry network explores the cultural and nutritional importance of plant species that retain their fruits into the fall and throughout the winter to communities across the Arctic. Community volunteers help collect data to support the investigation of questions related to how earlier spring flowering and longer falls might impact harvest and consumption.

National Science Foundation News

NSF Logo
NSF Arctic Sciences Section news includes information on the updated solicitation for Navigating the New Arctic (NNA); the recently released solicitation for Arctic Natural Sciences, Arctic Social Sciences, Arctic System Science, Arctic Observing Network, Polar Cyberinfrastructure, Arctic Research Coordination, and Policy Support; and staffing news.

Interagency News

DOE Arctic Energy Office
The US Department of Energy has reestablished its Arctic Energy Office, headquartered at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. The Office will have three primary areas of focus: Energy, Science, and National Security. While it will not provide funding opportunity announcements, it will coordinate and streamline existing research, development and deployment activities in the Arctic.
Figure 1. This graphic shows the policy drivers, priority areas, and foundational activities of the next Arctic Research Plan (2022–2026).
The Interagency Arctic Research Policy Committee (IARPC) brings together researchers from all over the US and around the world to work together on pressing issues facing the Arctic. Though the research world looked different this year amidst a global pandemic, IARPC collaboration teams came together to further the goals of the Arctic Research Plan (2017–2021), several team activities are highlighted in this article. A summary of IARPC's accomplishments are available in the 2020 Annual Report.

Polar Research Board

Figure 1. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in collaboration with the InterAcademy Partnership and the European Academies Science Advisory Committee organized a workshop on Understanding and Responding to Global Health Security Risks from Microbial Threats in the Arctic, and released the workshop proceedings in September 2020. This is the workshop report cover image.
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, in collaboration with the InterAcademy Partnership and the European Academies Science Advisory Committee (EASAC) held a workshop in November 2019 that brought together international researchers and public health officials to explore what is known—and what critical knowledge gaps remain—regarding existing and possible future risks of harmful infectious agents emerging from thawing permafrost and melting ice in the Arctic region. The workshop report is now available.

International News

TABLE 1: Intertwined Projects Involving Holistic Integration for Arctic Coastal-Marine Sustainability
PAN-ARCTIC OPTIONS: Holistic Integration for Arctic Coastal-Marine Sustainability supports co-production of knowledge with natural sciences and social sciences as well as Indigenous knowledge, all of which reveal patterns, trends, and processes (albeit with different methods) that become the bases for informed security to sustainability decision-making affecting all on Earth.


In preparation for the 2020 ARCUS Annual Meeting, held on 29 October, ARCUS members shared updates with us on their latest activities, products, and events. Full reports are available on the 2020 ARCUS Annual Meeting webpage under the Member Reports tab. Here are some of the highlights from our members!

A Note From the ARCUS Executive Director

Executive Director, Helen Wiggins, highlights some of the programs and activities that support ARCUS staff, Board, and members efforts to foster networking and collaborations in the Arctic research and education communities.

From the ARCUS Board

David M. Cairns
Board President, David Cairns, reflects on the success of first exclusively virtual Annual ARCUS Membership Meeting, held on 29 October 2020. With 128 people in attendance, he observes, "We are a community ... we value the insight that each of us bring to the understanding of the truly important issues that we work on."


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.

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 8,800 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 and Lisa Sheffield Guy

Contributors: D.Cairns, T. Edillon, N. French, L. Hamilton, Interagency Arctic Research Policy Committee Staff, E. McLean, C. P.H. Mulder, National Academies Staff, M. Rettig, M. Samet, M. Seefeldt, L. Sheffield Guy, E. Sparrow, K. V. Spellman, B.Turner-Bogren, H. V. 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 (OPP-1927894). Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views of NSF.