The National Science Foundation’s Office of Polar Programs recently funded the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) and six other institutions to synthesize what is known about the changing arctic environment and its implications for the population as part of a five-year project. The Arctic environment is reacting to and accelerating global warming with social, economic and cultural consequences inside and outside the Arctic.
The Arctic Environmental Change Study (SEARCH) will spend the next five years bringing together scientific, indigenous and policy experts to better understand environmental change in the Arctic. The SEARCH team will make the results available to decision makers in local communities, multiple levels of government and the private sector. Global design firm Stantec, which earlier this year was named the fifth most sustainable company in the world by Corporate Knights, will co-lead the entire project.
SEARCH will use co-production, a method seen for decades as a more inclusive and equitable way to create new knowledge, better understandings, and more meaningful sharing of that new knowledge. A sustainable environment is a value widely shared by those who live, study and do business in the Arctic. This shared value is the basis for a complex collaboration that will make knowledge of a changing environment more accessible to decision makers. The collaboration will provide the information necessary for policy and business decisions while building the capacities of indigenous communities and advancing modes of co-production of knowledge.
“We proposed a new approach to co-design this study and co-generate the knowledge and understanding needed to address the impacts and consequences of climate change in the Arctic,” said Dr Francis Wiese, Technical Director of Stantec for marine sciences in the United States and co-principal investigator of this study. “The study goes beyond a discipline, a geography and a system of learning and knowledge. Together with my colleagues from the United States, as well as Canada, Norway and Russia, we hope to bring meaningful understanding to decision-making at the local level. , regional, national and international. ”
“The Arctic is undergoing rapid and sudden changes,” said Brendan Kelly, chief scientist for the project and professor at the UAF International Arctic Research Center. “And understanding the impacts of those who are accelerating change – on people, businesses and the Arctic ecosystem – requires expertise from various disciplines and knowledge systems, as well as those who use understanding in decision-making. ”
SEARCH will form three co-production teams, each comprising scientific, indigenous and decision-making experts, dedicated to understanding the multifaceted nature of change in the Arctic. A team will focus on the ecological processes and consequences of changes in the Arctic. Another will focus on understanding human well-being in the changing Arctic. The third, co-chaired by Wiese, will examine the consequences of environmental changes for the geopolitical and economic stability of the region. The combined results will be shared in plain language and in technical publications.
The project was designed and co-produced by Stantec, the International Arctic Research Center, the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, the Eskimo Walrus Commission, the National Center for Atmospheric Research, the Oregon State University, the University of Michigan and the Wilson Center’s Polar Institut. It will build a new synthesis covering multiple knowledge systems and disciplines based on the in-depth knowledge of scientific and indigenous experts.
“This collaboration is about equity and evidence-informed decision-making, recognizing the value of different knowledge systems that are integral to the resilience of people and communities in the Arctic,” said Renee Crain, program director in the Arctic Research Support and Logistics of the National Science Foundation. program.
SEARCH is looking for nominations from scientific, indigenous and decision-making experts to be part of the various co-production teams. More information on the call for applications and the overall project is available here.
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