Planning Grants Awarded by NSF's Navigating the New Arctic Program

Editors: ARCUS Staff

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Navigating the New Arctic (NNA) is one of NSF's 10 Big Ideas that has supported fundamental convergence research across the social, natural, environmental, engineering, and computing and information sciences since 2017. The NNA program, with its focus on convergence research across the social, natural, and built environment, supports projects with the potential for meaningful engagement with Arctic communities. The major goals of NSF's NNA Big Idea include:

  • Improved understanding of Arctic change, and its local and global effects, that capitalizes on innovative and optimized observation infrastructure, advances in understanding of fundamental processes, and new approaches to modeling interactions among the natural environment, built environment, and social systems.
  • New enhanced research communities that are diverse, integrative, and well-positioned to carry out productive research on the interactions or connections between natural and built environments and social systems and how these connections inform our understanding of Arctic change and its local and global effects.
  • Research outcomes that inform national security, economic development, and societal well-being, and enable resilient, sustainable Arctic communities.
  • Enhanced efforts in formal and informal education that focus on the social, built, and/or natural impacts of Arctic change on multiple scales and broadly disseminate research outcomes.

As part of its Fiscal Year 2021, the NNA Program Solicitation, NSF 21-524, invited proposals for NNA Planning Grants with focus on developing convergence teams from disparate disciplines and communities to tackle projects of larger scope in the future. The maximum budget for the planning grants was increased to $300,000 with a maximum duration of 24 months.

Summaries of recently awarded NNA Planning Grants, highlighted below, include information excerpted from the project abstracts and the names of Principal Investigators in each project.

NNA Planning: Community-based Mitigation and Adaptive Strategies for River Flooding and Erosion in Alaska Native Communities
Award Abstract #2127333
This project is led by Principal Investigator Cassandra Rutherford, Iowa State University

Many Alaska Native villages located in the Yukon-Kuskokwim (Y-K) Delta in Alaska have been affected by a large number of flooding events due to torrential rains, melting snow packs, and river ice jams causing erosion along riverbanks. Communities have begun developing hazard and adaptation plans; however, many communities lack accurate models that are needed to predict flooding and erosion risk. Currently, models required to forecast flooding and erosion in the Y-K Delta are limited, due in part to the minimal data in the region, the large number of rivers, and the lack of monitoring equipment in rural areas. Furthermore, too often climate mitigation strategies do not incorporate local cultures or community priorities; in fact, they often reflect technical decisions only. The need is urgent to identify solutions at the convergence of local knowledge, and engineering and scientific approaches. Convergence of field measurements and data with Indigenous Knowledge can guide better responses to immediate threats, such as relocating imminently threatened homes away from an eroding shoreline or elevating buildings above flood lines.

NNA Planning: Co-Designing Civic Education for the Circumpolar North
Award Abstract #2127156
This project is led by Principal Investigator Jason Young, University of Washington.

This project launches collaborative research to produce a model for teaching civic education for the circumpolar North. The Arctic is emerging as a distinct world region facing unique issues, including unprecedented environmental and social change. Education is an important tool in supporting Arctic-centered responses to new challenges and opportunities.

The project asks the following questions: (1) What key elements should define Arctic civic education to prepare Arctic and non-Arctic students to collectively address the complex challenges that define the region? (2) How can these educational programs be designed and implemented in Arctic-centered ways? and (3) What opportunities and challenges exist for leveraging travel and distance learning to bring Arctic and non-Arctic students together? The project answers these questions by carrying out a series of workshops that engage a broad range of Arctic researchers and practitioners.

NNA Planning: Collaborative Research: A Holistic Approach to Monitoring Abrupt Environmental Shifts in the Kluane Lake Region
Award Abstract #2127220 and Award Abstract #2127221
These projects are led by Principal Investigators Emily Huff, Michigan State University; and Salli Dymond, University of Minnesota Duluth.

Rapidly changing Arctic conditions necessitate multi-perspective approaches to creating new knowledge and engaging communities that are most affected by these changes. The Kluane Lake Region in the Yukon Territory has recently experienced many abrupt environmental shifts. In 2016, the retreating Kaskawulsh Glacier cut off flow from Lhù'ààn Mân (Kluane Lake), effectively removing one of the largest water inputs to the lake. Additionally, recent insect outbreaks have harmed nearby forests, and warming climate regimes have shifted winter ice formation and snowpack development. While these compounding environmental changes will have drastic impacts to the ecosystem for decades to come, their impacts on the local communities will be more rapid.

These convergence research teams are co-creating research questions, seeking questions that are relevant and generalizable to the Kluane Lake region specifically, the Yukon generally, and broadly at a pan-Arctic scale. Research questions are being identified by incorporating the experiences and local knowledge of communities.

NNA Planning: Collaborative Research: Electric Vehicles in the Arctic (EVITA) - Interactions with Cold Weather, Microgrids, People, and Policy
Award Abstract #2127172 and Award Abstract #2127171
These projects are led by Principal Investigators Jennifer Schmidt, University of Alaska; and Erin Whitney, University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Electric vehicles (EVs) are a growing mode of transportation across the globe, and the Arctic is seeing increased interest in EV adoption. However, several fundamental gaps in knowledge must be filled to evaluate where, how, and for whom EVs can provide widespread benefits, and what might need to change to realize these benefits. For example, little data exist on the performance of EVs in cold Arctic temperatures and how EVs affect isolated rural power systems. It is also not clear how electric rates and public policies will affect EV adoption and use. These planning project bring together researchers and community members from three Alaska communities to identify perceived barriers to adoption, mechanisms for facilitating adoption, perceived usefulness, and use of EVs among different potential user groups (i.e., subsistence users, youth, elders, etc.). They also examine potential trade-offs between conventional and electric vehicles for rural users across specific use cases, such as subsistence activities.

NNA Planning: Developing Community Frameworks for Improving Food Security in Greenland through Fermented Foods
Award Abstract #2127438
This project is led by Principal Investigator Maria Marco, University of California Davis.

Inuit communities have sustained themselves in the Arctic for millennia through systematic knowledge about the ecosystem of which they are a part. There is a growing lack of access to affordable, culturally significant, and nutritious food in these Arctic communities. This food insecurity stems from multiple factors, including an increasing reliance on global industrial food systems and the loss of Inuit knowledge regarding traditional food production. The latter has resulted in part due to negative stereotypes that label traditional foods as unsafe or unappetizing. Fermented foods are among those traditional foods that have been the most criticized, despite the fact that they provide a valuable source of nutrition and health benefits. The goal of this project is to support the resurgence of Inuit fermented foods by generating positive, factual outreach that recognizes and values the knowledge of Indigenous fermenters. This research will develop an Inuit-led, self-sustaining, and collaborative network in Greenland to promote Inuit fermented foods and food safety. Successful completion of these efforts will lead to improved scientific understanding of food security in Arctic communities from an Indigenous perspective.

Further information can be found on NFS's Navigating the New Arctic (NNA) webpage

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