Climate Change

The Arctic climate is changing rapidly, and this change will have profound effects on the Arctic landscape, its people and wildlife. Perhaps most importantly, Arctic Ocean sea ice is melting, and changing its nature, from a thicker multi-year ice pack, to an ice cover that is characterized mostly by first-year ice, that is thinner, and much smaller in areal extent in summer.  Here scientists and Arctic dwellers talk about climate change in the Arctic.

Polar Bear expert, Research Wildlife Biologist, US Geological Survey, Anchorage, AK

Dr. Len Barrie is an atmospheric chemist

Atmospheric Chemistry, Environment Canada

Former President of the Barrow Whaling Captains Association, Whaling Captain, and Iñupiaq Elder

Yves Brower is the chief of operations at the BUECI and manages wastewater collection, distribution, and treatment.

Areas Wildlife Biologist, Alaska’s Department of Fish & Game

Seabird Biologist studying in Arctic Alaska since 1970.

Florent Domine is currently a “Directeur de Recherche”, a CNRS position at Takuvik Joint International Laboratory

Formerly a polar bear expert with the US Geological Survey (USGS) in Anchorage, Alaska

Glaciologist, Professor of Geophysics at University of Alaska, Fairbanks

Jose D. Fuentes is a Professor of Meteorology at Penn State University

Senior Wildlife Biologist (Bowhead Whales), Department of Wildlife Management, North Slope Borough, Utqiagvik, Alaska

Professor of Chemistry, Vice Provost for Research and Chief Research Officer at Villanova University, Villanova, PA

Associate Professor, Purdue University’s Earth and Atmospheric Sciences and co-founder of the Purdue Climate Change Research Center

Anne Jensen is an archaeologist with the Science Division of the Ukpeaġvik Iñupiat Corporation in Barrow (now Utqiagvik), Alaska

Senior Research Scientist Emerita at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, Boothbay Harbor, Maine.

Research biologist for the US Geological Survey, Anchorage, AK

Senior Director of Conservation and Staff Scientist At Polar Bears International

Adjunct Associate Professor of Engineering, Dartmouth College

Professor of Chemistry, University of Michigan

Founding Executive Director of BASC (Barrow Arctic Science Consortium)

Dr. Bill Simpson, an environmental chemist at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks

Research Physical Scientist conducting wide-ranging geophysical studies on snow in high latitudes, Fairbanks, AK

Senior Director of Conservation and Staff Scientist at Polar Bears International

Dr. Steve Amstrup

Polar Bear expert, Research Wildlife Biologist, US Geological Survey, Anchorage, AK

Steve Amstrup is chief scientist emeritus for Polar Bears International.

He also is an adjunct professor at the University of Wyoming in Laramie. He earned a B.S. in Forestry from the University of Washington (1972), a M.S. in Wildlife Management from the University of Idaho (1975), and a Ph.D. in Wildlife Management from the University of Alaska Fairbanks (1995). Prior to joining PBI, he led research on all aspects of polar bear ecology in the Alaskan Beaufort Sea between 1980 and 2010. He is a past chair of the IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group and has been an active member of the group since 1980. He has authored or co-authored over 150 peer-reviewed articles on movements, distribution and population dynamics of large mammals, and is the senior editor of a recent text on population estimation methods. In 2007, he led a USGS research team in production of nine reports that became the basis for the 2008 decision by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior to list polar bears as a threatened species because of the threats they face from global warming. More recently Dr. Amstrup led an effort showing polar bears are not inevitably doomed. In the December 2010 issue of Nature, he and his coauthors showed that preserving polar bears is all about controlling human-caused temperature rise. In 2012, Dr. Amstrup was selected as recipient of the Indianapolis Prize and a Bambi Award for his efforts in animal conservation. In July 2020, Dr. Amstrup and his coauthors published a study in Nature Climate Change, following up on his 2010 study, this time using new understandings of polar bear energetics with projected sea ice loss to forecast when and where polar bear reproductive ability and survival would decline across individual subpopulations. This marked the first time that scientists answered the critical question of when the persistence of polar bear populations across the Arctic will be threatened due to sea ice loss from global warming.

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2009

Dr. Amstrup shares his personal journey as a wildlife biologist specializing in bear research, including his involvement in the international efforts to conserve polar bears. He explains the importance of studying polar bears through techniques like capture and recapture, as well as aerial surveys, to gather essential data for population management. Dr. Steve Amstrup also discusses the impact of global warming on polar bears. As the world warms due to human influences, there is less sea ice available, which is crucial habitat for polar bears and their primary prey, such as ring seals and bearded seals. The decline in sea ice reduces the carrying capacity for polar bears. In the past, hunting was the main concern, but now the focus is on global warming and its effects on polar bear habitats.

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Polar Bear expert Dr. Steve Amstrup warns about the severe impact of global warming on polar bears. Due to melting sea ice, bears are forced to inhabit unproductive, deep waters, resulting in food scarcity. Or when the ice retreats far from land, bears remain on land, further depriving them of the natural food sources in the shallow waters of the continental shelf. Amstrup emphasizes that the current rate of warming is unprecedented, posing a significant threat to polar bears. He urges individuals to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to preserve polar bear habitats and ensure their survival. Managing climate change is crucial for the long-term preservation of these magnificent creatures.

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Dr. Steve Amstrup is one of the approximately 25-30 polar bear specialists worldwide who dedicate 100 percent of their efforts to studying these remarkable creatures. He has been a full-time polar bear biologist since 1980, focusing mainly on the southern Beaufort Sea population. This area was chosen due to logistical convenience and the presence of Canadian colleagues studying the same population. The shared jurisdiction between Alaska and Canada allowed for effective monitoring and collaboration. Dr. Amstrup emphasizes the importance of understanding specific populations in order to extrapolate knowledge to regions where data is limited. He values the insights of local native communities who live in polar bear habitats year-round and acknowledges their crucial role in polar bear management. Additionally, he highlights the significance of traditional lore and legends in shaping the relationship between native people and wildlife resources, particularly polar bears, in their respective areas.

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Dr. Steve Amstrup, a polar bear specialist, emphasizes that global warming is the single biggest threat to polar bears. The decline in their habitat is directly linked to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations. Dr. Amstrup describes the process of global warming and talks about the relationship between climate and weather. Despite some uncertainties, scientific consensus supports the understanding that a warmer world will lead to less sea ice, posing dire consequences for polar bears.

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Dr. Steve Amstrup highlights the importance of applied research in polar bear management. Initially basic research can later become crucial in understanding and conserving polar bear populations. Collaboration and sharing of information among nations are essential, particularly for shared populations. By exchanging research findings and resources, scientists avoid duplicating efforts and gain a comprehensive understanding of polar bear behavior and habitat. Focusing on specific populations, such as the southern Beaufort Sea and Western Hudson Bay, allows for in-depth knowledge that can be shared across jurisdictions, promoting effective conservation measures throughout.

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Dr. Steve Amstrup explains the diverse types of radio tags used in polar bear research, tailored to specific study objectives. Researchers employ various collar designs depending on the desired data frequency and duration. Detailed movement patterns and foraging behaviors require high-frequency transmissions, while long-term habitat usage analysis may rely on infrequent but long-lasting transmissions. Trade-offs exist, as more information depletes battery life more quickly. However, across the global polar bear range, similar radio tagging methods are employed to collect data. Fieldwork spans a few months, followed by extensive data analysis and report writing. Initial objectives guide data collection, but unexpected insights often arise during subsequent analysis. The advent of advanced GPS radio collars provides a wealth of information, including location, activity, water presence, temperature, and more. These technological advancements require robust data storage and management systems, facilitated by advancements in computer technology.

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2022

Steve Amstrup highlights the importance of sea ice for polar bears’ survival and explains that despite increasing primary productivity in some areas of the Arctic Ocean, it doesn’t necessarily benefit polar bears. While the productivity increase might be suitable for other species, polar bears primarily rely on catching seals from the surface of the ice. Seals, in turn, depend on the productivity that starts on the underside of the sea ice. If the sea ice diminishes or disappears, polar bears lose their essential hunting platform, and seals lose the nourishment they need. Steve refutes the idea that polar bears could simply adapt to land-based hunting, citing evidence from the past when polar bears disappeared from regions where the sea ice retreated. He emphasizes that the Arctic’s unique ecosystem supports large polar bear populations, while adjacent terrestrial environments, home to grizzly bears, can only sustain small numbers of smaller bears. Steve concludes that maintaining healthy populations of the world’s largest bears requires preserving the sea ice and the nutritious food source it provides for them.

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Steve Amstrup, Chief Scientist for Polar Bears International, works to raise awareness about the impact of global warming on polar bears and their Arctic habitat. He believes polar bears’ iconic status draws public attention to climate change. While more people are concerned about global warming, translating it into action and policy changes remains a challenge. Steve connects the polar bear’s plight to the changing climate worldwide, emphasizing the far-reaching consequences of climate change. He hopes to inspire action by keeping climate change in the public eye. Steve envisions a future where the world embraces cleaner energy options to mitigate climate change and reduce conflicts over fossil fuels. Ultimately, he remains hopeful for a sustainable and climate-resilient future.

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Steve Amstrup reflects on his thrilling years conducting polar bear research, capturing (darting and collecting data and samples) and studying these majestic creatures in the Arctic. Despite missing the excitement of fieldwork with the US Geological Survey, he made a conscious decision to focus on polar bear conservation with Polar Bears International. Witnessing the profound changes in the bears’ habitat due to global warming, he emphasizes the importance of understanding and preserving these ecosystems. Steve believes their work at Polar Bears International contributes to the cause of polar bear conservation, aiming to safeguard these iconic creatures and their Arctic environment from the increasing human impacts.

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Dr. Steve Amstrup and his colleagues published a groundbreaking paper in 2020, shedding light on the future plight of polar bears in different regions. By analyzing the energetics of polar bears and their ability to fast during ice-free periods, they predicted when different sub-populations will face challenges due to climate change. The study, involving 13 of the world’s 19 sub-populations of bears, provided valuable insights into the impending risks polar bears are likely to encounter. For example, in Hudson Bay and the Beaufort Sea of Alaska, polar bears are already facing significant challenges. This information is crucial not only for scientific understanding but also for policymakers and conservation managers.

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Dr. Steve Amstrup, former Polar Bear Chief Scientist for the USGS (US Geological Survey), transitioned to working with Polar Bears International in 2010 to address the main threat to polar bears: global warming and habitat loss. As a small non-profit, the focus of PBI is on outreach and education to raise awareness about the challenges polar bears face due to climate change. Through research projects and supporting other scientists, they aim to disseminate current science and emphasize the importance of collective action to combat global warming. Their mission is not only about polar bear conservation but also about safeguarding the planet as a whole. Through media engagement and website stories, they strive to keep the plight of polar bears in the public eye, inspiring action to protect these iconic creatures and the environment.

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Dr Leonard Barrie

Dr. Len Barrie is an atmospheric chemist

Dr. Len Barrie is an atmospheric chemist, currently an Adjunct Professor at McGill University, who has spent much of his professional career studying various aspects of chemistry of and long-range transport of chemical species to the Arctic.  He obtained his BS degree in engineering physics from Queens University in Ontario, an MS in cloud physics and meteorology from the U. of Toronto, and a PhD in atmospheric chemistry and meteorology from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe University, Institute of Meteorology and Geophysics, in Frankfurt, Germany.  Len’s accomplishments include many years of study of the transport of organic contaminants such as PCBs, pesticides and PAHS to the Arctic, and the use of analysis of the chemical composition in Arctic aerosols to determine the origin of the precursors of “Arctic Haze”.  He and collaborators Jan Bottenheim, Russ Schnell, Paul Crutzen, and Rei Rasmussen discovered the remarkable inverse correlation between ozone and aerosol phase bromine in the Arctic.

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2024

Dr. Leonard Barrie reflects on the observable impacts of climate change both at home and in the Arctic. He notes significant changes in the timing of the sugaring season in southern Quebec, with maple tapping starting earlier due to warmer temperatures. Barrie also highlights the drastic reduction in multi-year ice fraction in the Arctic Ocean, leading to the projection that the Arctic Ocean will become a seasonal lake by the middle of this century, with implications for atmospheric chemistry and ocean dynamics. He discusses the turbulence over open water, sea salt deposition into the snowpack, and the profound effects of diminishing sea ice on Arctic communities and subsistence hunting practices.

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Dr. Leonard Barrie discusses his perspective on the future and climate change. While he expresses skepticism about meeting the targets set by international accords due to the time required for implementing new technologies and infrastructures, he remains optimistic about the gradual “Greening” of societies. Barrie acknowledges the challenges in transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources, highlighting the complexities of updating electric grids and the slow pace of change. He emphasizes the importance of economics in driving the adoption of renewable energy, noting the declining costs of solar panels. However, Barrie also expresses concern about the environmental impacts of climate change, particularly in the Arctic, where he fears future generations may not experience the same environment as the present one.

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Dr. Jan Willem Bottenheim

Atmospheric Chemistry, Environment Canada

Atmospheric Chemistry, Environment Canada

Dr. Bottenheim’s research interests are in the area of atmospheric gas phase chemistry. One area of particular interest to Jan is the chemistry of the Arctic boundary layer air. Several decades ago Jan and colleague Len Barrie discovered that during the Arctic spring ozone in the surface boundary layer air can be almost totally absent. This lower tropospheric ozone hole has been one of the topics Jan has studied in detail in collaboration with several colleagues from all over the world.  More recently, this has led to the discovery of surprisingly active photochemistry of the snow pack.

Jan was the lead scientist for several large field studies in recent years such as the OASIS-CANADA, Polar Sunrise Experiment 1992, PACIFIC93, ATLANTIC96 and ALERT2000, and the results of these studies have been published in special issues of key scientific journals such as the Journal of Geophysical Research and Atmospheric Environment.

Born in the Netherlands, Jan received his education from the University of Amsterdam, and after post doctoral work in Japan and the US came to Canada in 1975. After a stint in Alberta he came to Toronto in 1980 where he was employed by Environment and Climate Change Canada.  He is now retired and lives with his wonderful wife Annelies, sometimes in Aurora, Ontario, and sometimes in Catus, France.

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2009

Dr. Jan Willem Bottenheim discusses the significance of snow chemistry and the transport of toxic chemicals in the Arctic. He emphasizes the presence of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) such as pesticides that are toxic and resistant to degradation. These pollutants can vaporize and travel through the air, eventually reaching the Arctic region. Dr. Bottenheim highlights the improvements in technology that allow for better measurements and monitoring of these pollutants. He also mentions the direct impact of banning certain chemicals, such as the decline in DDT levels after China and India implemented bans. The “grasshopper effect” is described, where pollutants cycle between the air and the ground, leading to their accumulation in Arctic ecosystems. Dr. Bottenheim notes the concerning levels of pollutants found in the blood of Inuit communities, which exceed acceptable limits set by organizations like the World Health Organization (WHO). He emphasizes the importance of scientific data to support efforts in international agreements, like the Stockholm Convention, which aim to ban the use of toxic substances that pose a threat to the Arctic.

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Dr. Paul Shepson and Dr. Jan Willem Bottenheim discuss the untouched natural beauty of the Arctic and express concern about the potential loss of this environment for future generations. They acknowledge the need to address climate change and the excitement of rising to the challenge of finding solutions. They caution, however, against relying solely on engineering and technological fixes, highlighting the potential dangers and unintended consequences of quick fixes. They criticize proposals such as injecting sulfur into the stratosphere to block out the sun, emphasizing the immense scale and long-term commitment required. They stress the importance of global cooperation, international agreements, and informed decision-making when allocating resources to tackle climate change effectively. They advocate for responsible use of limited resources and considerate choices that prioritize human well-being and sustainable practices.

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Eugene Brower

Former President of the Barrow Whaling Captains Association, Whaling Captain, and Iñupiaq Elder

Inupiaq Eskimo elder and whaling captain Eugene Brower knows the ice in the Chukchi Sea off Utqiagvik (Barrow), Alaska, through many thousands of hours hunting the bowhead whale. Out there, he has seen some amazing things. Eugene was born in 1948 to Annie (Qaġġun) and Harry (Kupaaq) Brower, Sr., and his growing up was focused on living off the land. Some of his earliest memories are of living in a small sod house at Iviksuk on the tundra inland from Utqiagvik. He learned to hunt, fish, trap, run a dog team, and be a whaler from his father, who was an accomplished subsistence provider for his family. Eugene started whaling at age eight under the mentorship of Luther Leavitt, Sr., and became a harpooner at age twenty-seven in his father’s whaling crew (Kupaaq Crew). In the early 1990s, when his father became ill and was no longer able to go whaling, Eugene was put in charge of their crew. He started his own Aalaak Crew around 1992, after his father passed away. Eugene was mayor of the North Slope Borough from 1981-1984, and in 2005 retired as Fire Chief from the North Slope Borough Fire Department. Currently, he is on the Board of Directors of Arctic Slope Regional Corporation (ASRC), and President of the Barrow Whaling Captains Association.

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2022

In a conversation with Peter Lourie, Paul Shepson, Iñupiaq elder from Utqiaġvik, Alaska, Eugene Brower discusses changes in whaling due to climate change. Eugene shares how whaling methods have remained the same, but melting ice makes finding suitable spots to harvest whales challenging. He notes that younger generations are taking over as older whalers retire. The discussion turns to how whales can detect scents and the overall conversation highlights the importance of indigenous wisdom and its contribution to understanding the natural world.

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Eugene discusses changes in working safely on the ice over the years. He and Craig mention the disappearance of multi-year ice, the presence of jumbled first-year ice, and the extended periods of open water due to climate change. They also mention the dangers of ice collisions and the responsibility of ensuring safety.

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Yves Brower

Yves Brower is the chief of operations at the BUECI and manages wastewater collection, distribution, and treatment.

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2022

Yves Brower, Chief of Operations at Barrow Utilities And Electric Cooperative, oversees water distribution, wastewater collections, and wastewater treatment. In his job, he witnesses significant changes in the climate. Over the years, Yves has observed the worsening conditions for utilities due to factors such as thawing ground, increased precipitation, and changing permafrost. These changes have led to challenges in maintaining water and sewer systems. The utility company employs different methods like utilidors (underground tunnels) and direct burial pipes, but the shifting permafrost has caused houses to move and pipes to break, resulting in frequent repairs and water main breaks. Yves, although not formally trained as an engineer, has learned everything on the job and through interactions with knowledgeable individuals, including local elders, scientists, and fellow employees. He emphasizes the importance of incorporating local knowledge into scientific studies and appreciates the open-mindedness of local residents and scientists like Geoff Carroll and Dr. Craig George. Yves also shares a story about a seal-catching technique devised by a local hunter that baffled the scientists studying seals.

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Prior to this job as chief of operations at Barrow Utilities and Electric, Yves Brower had various offshore and dredging jobs while engaging in arts and crafts and hunting to support his family. Though his hunting activities have been reduced since obtaining a permanent job, he still manages to get out quite a bit. Yves loves living in the Utqiaġvik area, remarking on the beauty of the land and the changing seasons, particularly the mesmerizing winter Northern Lights. Yves acknowledges that hunting has faced challenges due to the warming climate, with less stable ice for hunting seals and whales. There is a new need for increased caution during hunting expeditions. He notes changes in animal behavior, such as caribou getting skinnier and the migration of lynx farther north.

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Yves Brower reflects on the changing rainfall patterns in Barrow, Alaska, now called Utqiaġvik, and its impact on the local environment. Yves grew up in Massachusetts but moved to Utqiaġvik in 1995. He describes how precipitation has increased over the years, with heavier rainstorms replacing the light misty rain and foggy conditions of the past. Yves notes that these changes have affected the wastewater treatment plant, causing significant increases in water flow. He mentions the rise in snowfall and subsequent snowmelt during the spring, resulting in marshier tundra and more water on the landscape. Despite these transformations, Yves, like the indigenous Iñupiaq community, maintains a healthy perspective of adaptation. He emphasizes the need to embrace change and find new ways of living harmoniously with nature. Yves reminisces about the traditional whale hunting practices and expresses a sense of loss as the culture evolves.

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Geoff Carroll

Areas Wildlife Biologist, Alaska’s Department of Fish & Game

He lives in Utqiagvik, Alaska.  In 1986 he was one of the six-member team led by Will Steger to reach the North Pole by dogsled without re-supply.  

Remembering the North Pole trek of 1986, by Paul Schurke (MinnPost)

 Will Steger (Wikipedia)

Whales, Polar Bears and Muskox, Geoff Carroll: Biologist in Barrow by Candice Bressler (Alaska Department of Fish & Game)

NPR: Retired Wildlife Biologist Recounts His Face-to-face Meeting with a Polar Bear, January 9, 2022

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2022

Geoff Carroll, a biologist with 30 years of experience in northern Alaska, discusses the notable changes in the region. He mentions the diminishing ice cover, flakier ice formations, and the shift from traditional to modern methods in whale hunting. Despite the changes, Geoff acknowledges the resilience of local hunters and their determination to preserve their cultural practices.

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Geoff Carroll discusses his love for traveling on the ice with his dog team, but notes that the ice conditions have changed significantly. In the past, the ice was more stable, allowing for enjoyable expeditions, but now it has become rough and less safe. He reminisces about his record-breaking sled-dog trek to the North Pole in 1986 with Will Steger and observes that modern North Pole expeditions have adapted their styles due to the less stable ice conditions, with more emphasis on manhauling and the use of dry suits to navigate open waters.

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Geoff Carroll reflects on the fascinating whale counting program that began in 1974. Over the years, the count has improved and provided valuable insights into the whale population’s growth and health. The population has significantly increased, but due to changing ice conditions, the census has become more challenging. The whales are now staying farther from the shore, making it harder to observe them closely. As a result, local whalers are sometimes foregoing the traditional sealskin umiaq and using outboard motors to intercept the whales in their new habitats.

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Geoff Carroll reflects on the changes in the Arctic and how they have and have not impacted the sense of freedom and open spaces he once cherished. While the ice conditions have become less stable, leading to some frustrations and adaptations, he notes that people in the region are generally adaptable and find new ways to navigate the changing environment. While there is a sense of nostalgia for the past, people continue to move forward, embracing new challenges. Geoff also points out that the changes in ice conditions can sometimes show exceptions, with variations occurring in different years, making it a complex and dynamic situation in the Arctic.

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Geoff Carroll discusses the significant decline in caribou herds in the Arctic over the past 15 years, with some populations experiencing at least a 50 percent decrease. This decline is likely linked to warmer winters, leading to icing events that make it difficult for the caribou to access their food. As the population declines, the predator-to-prey ratio changes, resulting in more caribou being preyed upon by wolves and bears. Although there have been signs of recovery, the Western Arctic Caribou herd experienced another decline recently. Despite this, there have been reports of caribou coming close to Utqiaġvik in the last two years, leading to local perceptions that the caribou population is increasing.

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Geoff Carroll discusses the status of Musk Oxen populations on the North Slope, highlighting a positive trend of growth in the southwestern region. He reminisces about his time conducting aerial surveys, covering a vast area of 56,000 square miles, but also acknowledges the inherent dangers in so many flights in small planes and recalls some close calls, leading to mixed feelings of missing the work while being grateful to have come through it all. Despite the challenges, Geoff remains passionate about the Arctic and its wildlife, sharing valuable insights into the changing conditions and the adaptability of both animals and people in the face of shifting environmental dynamics.

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Dr. George Divoky

Seabird Biologist studying in Arctic Alaska since 1970.

He lives in Utqiagvik, Alaska.  In 1986 he was one of the six-member team led by Will Steger to reach the North Pole by dogsled without re-supply.  

Remembering the North Pole trek of 1986, by Paul Schurke (MinnPost)

 Will Steger (Wikipedia)

Whales, Polar Bears and Muskox, Geoff Carroll: Biologist in Barrow by Candice Bressler (Alaska Department of Fish & Game)

NPR: Retired Wildlife Biologist Recounts His Face-to-face Meeting with a Polar Bear, January 9, 2022

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2009

Dr. George Devoky is a biologist who has been studying black guillemots on Cooper Island, 20 miles east of Point Barrow, for the past 40 years. He first went to the island in 1970 while studying birds in the Beaufort Sea, and then returned in 1975 to study the black guillemot colony he found on Cooper Island which is ideal for black guillemots as they feed at the edge of the pack ice. Divoki built boxes for the birds to occupy and studied their demographics over time, including egg-laying, adult survival, hatching success, and fledging success. Guillemots have an 80-day nesting period, which is long for any species anywhere but in the Arctic. Divoki has been studying the guillemots annually and has records of their demographics for around 35 years, making him one of the few people to any animal for that long. He has named individual birds based on the color bands he places on them and has recognized them over the years. Guillemots are excellent monitors of conditions because they are active all summer long, so any changes that happen during that time can affect their breeding success.

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George Divoky discusses the changing dates for egg laying in a colony of Arctic birds–black guillemots. He relates the changes in temperature in Northern Alaska and Cooper Island over the past 30 years. He describes the challenges of setting up support systems on the island and dealing with the new thermal regime, but also talks about his love for working in such a bright Arctic environment.

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Dr. George Divoky recounts his experience with bears invading his campsite in 2002, where one bear backed him and his team out of their campsite and destroyed two of their tents. After realizing the potential danger of bears ripping up tents and being unable to see anything the windowless tents, in 2003 Dr. Divoky built an 8 by 12 cabin. But the cabin was broken into and trashed by bears in his absence. To avoid such incidents, he now takes great pains to board up the cabin as much as possible before leaving. Dr. Divoky visits the cabin every early April to check on it and board it up as necessary. He also uses this opportunity to reconnect with the Utqiaġvik community and check on the nest sites on the island. Since the ice has been pulling farther and farther offshore, polar bears have been visiting annually since 2002, looking for food. Dr. Divoky expresses mixed emotions about seeing the bears; his first concern is his own safety, but he also feels upset seeing the bears eating the chicks or eggs.

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2022

Dr. George Divoky explains that he uses geolocators to track bird movements, specifically how they migrate north after breeding and occupy the Bering Sea. He mentions a significant ice reduction in 2017, which led to birds wintering for the first time in the Chukchi Sea. This shift in wintering distribution and the availability of fish in the Bering Sea had an impact on bird survival. Dr. Divoky notes that annual adult survival rates remained stable, but breeding success was affected, resulting in fewer pairs laying and incubating eggs. Experienced birds had better reproductive outcomes, indicating a potential selective process. The changes in wintering grounds present challenges for bird adaptation.

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Dr. George Divoky discusses the state of Guillemots and whether there is any hope for their future in the Arctic. He mentions that certain “more experienced” birds are successfully raising their young, reminiscent of the past, which is a positive sign. He acknowledges, however, that rapid changes in the Arctic pose challenges for their adaptation. Dr. Divoky refers to the situation as a “train wreck” and is curious about the current population of birds. Recently he has been collaborating with French researchers and computer modelers and their analysis of egg sizes, which have shown a decrease over time. This suggests potential changes in prey availability or the condition of female birds upon their return. They plan to further investigate these findings and their implications for climate change.

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Bird biologist, George Divoky has been visiting Cooper Island every year to study the Guillemot colony for nearly half a century. Despite challenges and setbacks, he continues his work because he feels a strong connection to the island and its inhabitants. Over the years, he has witnessed changes in the bird population due to climate change. The recent decline in breeding pairs has taken an emotional toll on him, but he remains committed to monitoring and documenting the colony’s demographics. Dr. Divoky hopes to inspire others to carry on his work and is actively involving researchers and students in his study. He believes that as long as there is support and interest, he will continue his lifelong research.

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Dr. George Divoky, a researcher with a 48-year-long study on Cooper Island, shares his remarkable journey. He highlights the changes he has witnessed in both the physical world and himself. From the support of the now defunct Naval Arctic Research Lab to the challenges of being alone on the island, he reflects on the risks and transformations. The arrival of bears due to shifting ice patterns was a paradigm shift for him. Bear encounters have become more frequent. He also mentions the scarcity of fresh water on the island, forcing him to adapt his methods. Overall, his story offers insight into the evolving environment and his personal growth during this extended research endeavor.

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Dr. George Divoky had already been studying Black Guillemots on Cooper Island just off Point Barrow, Alaska, for 28 years, in relative obscurity, until a New York Times article in 2002 brought attention to his work on the melting Arctic. His research on one bird population on one island was already revealing the devastating impact of climate change and declining sea ice. By monitoring nesting cycles and observing migration patterns, he discovered that the decline in Arctic bird populations was primarily due to decreasing migration rates from source colonies in other parts of the Arctic. Dr. Divoky’s findings highlighted the collapse of an important ecosystem and emphasized the need for long-term monitoring of the cryopelagic system. Dr. Divoky’s work on Black Guillemots continues after 48 years and serves as one of the most detailed long-term research projects highlighting how global warming is affecting the planet’s climate.

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Dr. Florent Domine

Florent Domine is currently a “Directeur de Recherche”, a CNRS position at Takuvik Joint International Laboratory

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2022

Dr. Florent Domine explains that many people do not understand the Arctic. He clarifies that the North Pole is in the Arctic and penguins are not found there, only polar bears. He stresses the importance of the Arctic in regulating the Earth’s temperature and how the melting of the polar ice pack could lead to catastrophic global consequences such as the absorption of solar radiation by the ocean and accelerated warming. He explains that these effects are not well understood and could have serious consequences in the next 10-20 years.

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Domine describes his experiences in Norway’s Svalbard region, an archipelago located a thousand miles north of Norway’s North Cape in the European Arctic. Svalbard is one of the most beautiful and scenic places on Earth, but also dangerous due to the presence of polar bears. Dr. Domine shares that he always travels with an experienced guide. And he has stopped counting the number of polar bears he has encountered, there are so many bear encounters. He jokes about how to evaluate the danger level when meeting a polar bear by looking at the color of its butt – if it’s white, he quips, it’s dangerous; if it’s brown, it’s safe. (Brown because it has just eaten a seal!) Dr. Domine also mentions that Svalbard is warmer than its latitude might indicate due to the Gulf Stream and seldom drops below -35 degrees Celsius. Finally, he notes that polar bears are rare on the west coast of Svalbard due to the lack of sea ice.

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Matt Druckenmiller

Sea Ice Scientist

University of Colorado Boulder

matt Druckenmiller: https://nna-co.org/about/team/matthew-druckenmiller

Dr. Matthew Druckenmiller (PI) is serving as the NNA-CO Director, overseeing the overall coordination and daily operations of the office and its team. He is also responsible for the office’s cooperation with NSF’s NNA Working Group to ensure alignment with NSF strategies and programming. He brings over 15 years of transdisciplinary research experience in Arctic and sub-Arctic regions, often in close collaboration with Arctic communities. He also brings experience in participating with a host of national and international Arctic research and policy institutions, including the Polar Research Board (PRB), the Interagency Arctic Research Policy Committee (IARPC), the Study of Environmental Arctic Change (SEARCH), and the International Arctic Science Committee (IASC).

Matthew Druckenmiller is a sea ice scientist, who is originally from northern Pennsylvania. He grew up hunting and fishing with his father and grandfather, and became sensitive to observing human influences on natural systems. After studying geo-environmental engineering at Penn State University he moved to Alaska in 2004 with an interest in glaciers and Arctic environments. In 2011, he received his doctoral degree in geophysics from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, where he studied the physics of coastal sea ice. He had the opportunity to base much of his work near coastal communities, such as Utqiagvik, which enabled him to learn the importance of the sea ice and ocean to indigenous peoples and to appreciate the richness of their local environmental knowledge. 

Matthew Druckenmiller is a research scientist at NSIDC. Since 2006, he has worked within the coastal regions of Arctic Alaska, investigating the connections between changing sea ice conditions and marine mammal habitat, and local Indigenous community use of sea ice for hunting and travel. Currently, he serves as director of the Navigating the New Arctic Community Office (NNA-CO) and co-leads the Exchange for Local Observations and Knowledge of the Arctic (ELOKA). Druckenmiller also serves as the Lead US Delegate to the International Arctic Science Committee (IASC), an editor for the Arctic Report Card, and an editor for the Arctic Chapter within the annual Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society (BAMS) State of the Climate Report. Previously, he has served as a Science Policy Fellow at the National Academies’ Polar Research Board (2005), a project manager at the Arctic Research Consortium of the United States (2006), and a AAAS Science Policy Fellow at the U.S. Agency for International Development (2013 to 2015).

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2009

Research scientist Matt Druckenmiller spends a few months each year in Barrow (now called Utqiaġvik), Alaska, measuring sea ice thickness. He is also involved in a scientific study on the changing dynamics of sea ice. Matt studies the trails created by the Iñupiaq whalers as they hunt whales, examining the relationship between trail depth and ice conditions. His measurements are conducted precisely where the hunters operate, enabling meaningful communication with them. Originally from Pennsylvania, Matt obtained his undergraduate and master’s degrees at Penn State University before joining the University of Alaska at Fairbanks. Utqiaġvik is the largest Native whaling community in Alaska, with an annual quota of around 22 whales. The population of bowhead whales, which migrate through the area, has shown signs of growth, now estimated to be around 13,000 individuals. These whales spend summers in the Arctic Ocean and return to the Bering Sea in the fall.

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2022

Matthew Drukenmiller, a research scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center, has taken on a new role as the Director of Navigating the New Arctic Community Office. This office is part of a five-year agreement with the National Science Foundation to coordinate and support the Navigating the New Arctic program, which focuses on research addressing the challenges posed by environmental changes in the Arctic. The initiative aims to collaborate with indigenous communities, incorporate their knowledge alongside Western research, and produce actionable solutions for Arctic societal issues.

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Matt Druckenmiller emphasizes the significant shift in how indigenous knowledge is perceived in the research landscape. In the past, traditional knowledge was often seen by scientists as fragmented observations of the environment. But this perspective has evolved, and now indigenous knowledge is viewed as a way of thinking, deeply rooted in stewardship, honoring the land, animals, and ancestors. In today’s world, facing the immediate challenges of the climate crisis, researchers are recognizing the limitations of Western research and technology in caring for the natural world. Indigenous wisdom challenges the scientific community to embrace diverse ways of thinking and consider alternative approaches to stewarding and understanding the environment.

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Matt Druckenmiller discusses the challenge of fragmentation in Arctic research, which hinders collaboration among scientists. While there’s a turn toward interdisciplinary work, competition for research funding remains a barrier. Matt emphasizes the need for more thoughtful engagement with Arctic indigenous communities to address issues effectively. Slowing down and gaining perspective can enhance collaborative efforts despite the rapid changes in the Arctic. The COVID-19 pandemic also provided opportunities for reflection and improvement.

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Matt Druckenmiller shares how he stays positive and motivated in his work. He attributes his positivity to having amazing mentors who possess a long-term perspective on addressing climate challenges and fostering collaboration. Matt emphasizes the importance of thinking beyond short-term wins and leaving a legacy for future generations. He finds inspiration from the entrepreneurial spirit and collaborative nature of the people he works with, especially in the Arctic community. Despite facing difficulties on many levels, the optimistic and cooperative approach of Arctic communities keeps him positive about the future.

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Matt Druckenmiller discusses a his 17-year-long project on the North Slope surveying the ice trails of Iñupiaq whalers. They have observed substantial changes in the thickness of the shorefast ice. Matt notes that the ways in which people hunt and assess risk on the ice have adapted in response to the changing ice conditions. The project has been a valuable endeavor, offering unique insights into how the shorefast ice during whaling has evolved over generations. Despite missing a couple of years due to other commitments and the pandemic, Matt remains passionate about going up to the Arctic every spring for fieldwork, envisioning his ice-trail project as a long-term monitoring effort in the future.

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Dr George Durner

Formerly a polar bear expert with the US Geological Survey (USGS) in Anchorage, Alaska

https://www.usgs.gov/staff-profiles/george-durner

George Durner is a research zoologist with the US Geological Survey, Alaska Science Center polar bear research program.  He entered this position in 1991 and currently works with a team of USGS scientists to identify and describe the mechanisms that drive the response of polar bears to a changing Arctic ecosystem. He has a BS in biology from East Stroudsburg University, an MS in wildlife biology from Frostburg State University, and a PhD in zoology and physiology from the University of Wyoming. His research focus is in polar bear habitat relationships, particularly on how polar bears have and will respond to declines in sea ice. Hence, his research has been reliant on a 29 year history of polar bear location data gained through the Argos Data Collection and Location System. Much of his research results were used to inform the United States Secretary of the Interior’s decision in 2008 to list polar bears as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. George is a member of the IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group, and serves as a scientific advisor to the Joint Commissions of the Inuvialuit Game Council and the North Slope Borough for polar bear management, the US Fish and Wildlife Service Polar Bear Recovery team, and the Canadian Polar Bear Technical Committee. George has authored or co-authored more than 25 scientific papers on polar bears and other wildlife.

https://www.clsamerica.com/george-durner

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2022

Dr. George Durner, a research zoologist at the US Geological Survey Alaska Science Center, has extensively studied polar bears’ response to changing sea ice conditions. His team found that polar bears are fasting more due to reduced access to Ringed seals, their primary food source, leading to negative effects on their survival and reproduction. Additionally, cortisol levels in polar bear fur has indicated nutritional stress during periods of low survival. These findings underscore the challenges polar bears face in a changing Arctic environment.

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Over the past 30 years, the Arctic has undergone significant changes, especially in the region where polar bears are studied, the Southern Beaufort Sea. The loss of sea ice has increased in duration and extent, causing polar bears to be displaced from their optimal habitat on the continental shelf to deep waters of the Polar Basin during summer months. As a result of finding less to eat in these deeper waters, polar bears experience reduced body condition, muscle mass loss, decreased activity, and challenges in reproducing and raising cubs. Dr. George Durner, a research zoologist, highlights the complexity of these changes and acknowledges the substantial amount of research conducted by his team and collaborators to understand the impacts on polar bear populations.

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Dr. Hajo Eicken

Glaciologist, Professor of Geophysics at the Geophysical Institute and the Department of Geology and Geophysics at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks

Dr. Hajo Eicken is Professor at the Geophysical Institute and the Department of Geology and Geophysics at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. Before joining the University of Alaska, Dr. Eicken was a senior scientist at the Alfred Wegener Institute where he was the head of a research group for sea ice physics and remote sensing. Dr. Eicken’s research interests include studies of the growth, evolution, and properties of sea ice in the Arctic and Antarctic. He is particularly interested in determining how microscopic and macroscopic properties affect larger-scale sea-ice processes and its role in the climate system. In Alaska, Dr. Eicken has spent time on the ice to learn more about the different uses of the sea ice environment and its role in polar ecosystems. Dr. Eicken has participated in several icebreaker expeditions in both hemispheres.




https://seaice.alaska.edu/gi/people/eicken/

 

My main research interests are in the field of sea-ice geophysics. In particular, I am interested in how small-scale properties and (micro)structure of sea ice impact processes on a larger scale as well as the role of sea ice in the climate system. As part of the International Polar Year (IPY) 2007-2009 I am part of an international group that is studying the seasonal Arctic ice zone through an observing network (SIZONet). You can learn more about this project by visiting the SIZONet site or one of the following web pages: Arctic Observing Network Data site, Alaska Ocean Observing System, Barrow Sea Ice Observatory.

One of the main interests of our group here at the University of Alaska Fairbanks is to study in more depth the multiple uses of sea ice as well as its important role in coastal environments. This work ties in with a broader range of activities at the University of Alaska that aim to examine how we as scientists can improve access to the vast amount of data collected during the IPY and beyond in order to help different users of the sea ice (local communities, indigenous populations, industry, government and others) make better planning decisions.

In a rapidly changing Arctic, where sea ice plays an important role not just in the physical environment but also in the context of ecosystems, geopolitics, indigenous knowledge and use as well as economic development, it takes communication and collaboration between different disciplines and interest groups to help us address the challenges and take advantage of the opportunities that come with change in a responsible and sustainable fashion. I invite you to visit the web pages describing the sea ice research, look at publications by our group or visit the UA IPY North by 2020 Forum‘s web site. If you are a student interested in working on these topics, please get in touch, visit the Department of Geology and Geophysics‘ web pages or have a look at the Resilience and Adaptation Program (RAP) here at UAF which provides opportunities for research and education on these issues in a broader, interdisciplinary context.

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2009

Dr. Hajo Eicken, a glaciologist and professor of geophysics at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, discusses his research focus on sea ice and its interactions with ecosystems and the climate system. Dr. Eicken describes his fieldwork and laboratory work, including studying ice behavior on both small and large scales. He emphasizes the importance of understanding how liquids and organisms move through sea ice. He also mentions his interest in working in areas where people have a deep knowledge of the ice cover, such as Alaska with its Iñupiaq Eskimo communities. Dr. Eicken acknowledges the value of combining traditional knowledge with geophysical and glaciological perspectives to gain a more comprehensive understanding of ice. He highlights the collaborative approach of working with local communities and incorporating their expertise into research design and question formulation. The interview concludes with Dr. Eicken discussing the significance of studying ice stability and how detailed local knowledge contributes to understanding factors like currents, wind, and topography at specific locations.

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Dr. Hajo Eicken discusses research conducted at the ice observatory in Barrow, now Utqiaġvik, Alaska, focusing on understanding changes in Arctic sea ice. The interview highlights the importance of studying ice cover changes, such as thinning and reflectivity, from both a climate perspective and the perspective of local communities. Dr. Eicken emphasizes the need to combine scientific questions with the practical implications for people and animals relying on the ice. The research involves mapping ice trails, determining ice thickness, and studying the interaction between coastal and offshore ice. They aim to improve climate models and forecast seasonal sea ice while investigating observed changes in the ice cover. The multidisciplinary approach seeks to bridge scientific understanding with real-world applications in the Arctic.

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Dr. Hajo Eicken discusses the unique characteristics of sea ice and its significance in the Arctic. He explains that sea ice forms a landscape that undergoes rapid changes within a short time frame, similar to the long-term evolution of natural landscapes on Earth. Dr. Eicken highlights the scientific interest in studying sea ice due to its high temperature relative to its melting point, allowing for insights into the evolution of rocks and other materials at high temperatures. He shares his personal journey into Arctic research, influenced by his experiences on an icebreaker cruise in the AntArctic and the interdisciplinary collaboration among scientists in that setting. Dr. Eicken emphasizes the importance of studying sea ice from multiple perspectives and fostering collaboration between different groups, such as indigenous communities, industry experts, and researchers, to better understand sea ice behavior and its implications for various interests in the Arctic, including climate, resource exploration, and local communities. He also discusses the evolving nature of scientific research, which now recognizes the value of integrating different perspectives, such as data analysis, modeling, and local expertise, to enhance understanding and inform measurements and experiments in the field.

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This is sea ice animation video

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2022

Dr. Hajo Eicken, director of the International Arctic Research Center at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, discusses the changes in the Arctic. He notes the decline of sea ice, leading to open waters and coastal erosion. There has also been a surprising loss of winter sea ice, impacting fish stocks and prompting international discussions on managing fisheries. These changes highlight the urgent need for action in the face of a rapidly changing Arctic ecosystem.

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Dr. Hajo Eicken discusses the career progress of former student Matt Druckenmiller and the importance of involving indigenous communities in their work. He also highlights the advancements made by PhD student Oliver Damon in understanding sea ice landscapes using state-of-the-art models and satellite technology. These developments contribute to safer navigation in the ice environment and enhance our understanding of the changing Arctic.

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Dr. Hajo Eicken highlights the proactive role of indigenous peoples in dealing with environmental challenges for centuries. As the director of a research institute, he emphasizes their collaboration with the Alaska Climate Adaptation Science Center and the Alaska Arctic Observatory Knowledge Hub. These efforts involve developing plans, tools, and resilience strategies in partnership with various tribes and communities to adapt to climate change. Dr. Eicken also commends the leadership of Donna Hauser in the Alaska Arctic Observatory Knowledge Hub, which engages communities and indigenous graduate students in observing and studying the impacts of sea ice changes, coastal erosion, and fisheries-related transformations.

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Dr. Hajo Eicken shares his experience with the U.S. Navy’s search for suitable ice flows for their high-stakes experiments. He explains the challenges they face in finding specific types of ice, such as stable multi-year ice, thin ice for submarines, and level ice for landing planes. Dr. Eicken reflects on how the changing Arctic conditions have made this task increasingly difficult, with fewer suitable ice flows available. The process of identifying and locating these ice flows involves satellite imagery and aerial reconnaissance, highlighting the complexity and limited options in today’s Arctic environment.

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Dr. Hajo Eicken at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, discusses the impact of changing sea ice conditions on the migration patterns and cultural activities of bowhead whales in North Slope communities. Collaborating with wildlife management departments, researchers have observed that bowhead whales benefit from less summer ice, enabling them to feed more effectively. The presence of open water and ice leads also allows bowheads to be present throughout the winter, facilitating hunting and whale observations. However, the timing of the fall hunt has shifted significantly, with the fall freeze-up occurring later by two to three weeks every decade. This change presents challenges for communities as they navigate wavy conditions and adapt to the absence of ice in the water.

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Dr. Hajo Eicken is a renowned expert in the study of ice, particularly sea ice in the Arctic. His extensive research has yielded significant insights and advancements in understanding the behavior and evolution of sea ice at both the micro and macro scales. Dr. Eicken’s work has focused on the microstructural composition of ice, its stability, formation, and decay, as well as its impact on various applications such as nutrient fluxes and oil spill management. Additionally, he has contributed to the coordination and management of Arctic coastal ice, providing valuable knowledge on its seasonality and implications for different users. Furthermore, Dr. Eicken is actively involved in the global effort to recognize the crucial role of sea ice as a climate regulator, ecosystem supporter, and habitat for biodiversity. His work aims to improve observations and predictions of sea ice, ensuring better access to information for decision-making, particularly for indigenous communities. With ongoing research and collaborations, Dr. Eicken continues to make significant contributions to the field while recognizing the challenges that lie ahead in understanding and managing sea ice in a changing climate.

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Dr. Hajo Eicken, a researcher and advocate for climate change solutions, emphasizes the importance of human behavior and decision-making in addressing this global issue. He believes that bringing together different knowledge systems is crucial for finding effective solutions. While progress may seem slow, Dr. Eicken remains optimistic, seeing a shift towards more progressive thinking, especially among young scientists. He highlights the need to support and empower early-career researchers who are working towards innovative solutions. Based at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Dr. Eicken is cautiously optimistic about the ongoing efforts to tackle climate change challenges, particularly in relation to climate justice, energy justice, and sustainability. He also acknowledges the resilience of indigenous communities in the face of climate change and their ability to adapt to new challenges. However, Dr. Eicken emphasizes that collective responsibility is necessary to prevent further harm and underscores the importance of proactive measures in addressing climate change.

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Dr. Hajo Eicken discusses various aspects of Arctic research, focusing on the stable isotope composition of sea ice and snow. He notes a significant shift in the local sources of moisture, indicating increased humidity in the Arctic. This change in moisture sources has implications for cloudiness, which Dr. Eicken is interested in studying. Dr. Eicken expresses excitement about upcoming research flights to examine pollution impacts on clouds and the effects of oil and gas development on Arctic processes. He highlights the transformation of the ice pack due to the loss of multi-year ice, resulting in more open water and changes in the ice pack’s composition and structure.

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Dr. Jose D. Fuentes

Jose D. Fuentes is a Professor of Meteorology at Penn State University

(http://www.met.psu.edu/people/juf15).  He has a Ph.D. in micrometeorology from the University of Guelph.  His research interests are in boundary layer meteorology, turbulence in stable atmosphere, biosphere-atmosphere interactions, and Arctic chemistry and boundary layer dynamics.  He is a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union, the American Meteorological Society, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

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2024

Dr. Jose Fuentes reflects on his efforts to promote diversity and inclusion in science, particularly among underrepresented groups. He discusses his personal journey, emphasizing the importance of determination and mentorship in overcoming obstacles. Fuentes highlights the need for diverse perspectives in scientific research, encouraging young students to pursue their goals with confidence and seek out mentors who can offer guidance and support. He shares anecdotes from his own experiences, underscoring the resilience needed to navigate challenges and the importance of believing in oneself despite skepticism or negativity from others. Ultimately, Fuentes emphasizes the transformative power of determination, mentorship, and a commitment to inclusion in shaping the future of scientific discovery and innovation.

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Dr. Jose Fuentes discusses his research experiences during expeditions to the Arctic, highlighting various projects aimed at understanding the atmosphere’s dynamics and pollutant interactions. He describes setting up flux towers to study pollutant absorption by snowpacks, conducting balloon measurements to assess ozone depletion, and investigating the impact of water channels on atmospheric thermodynamics. These studies reveal crucial insights into feedback mechanisms and climate processes not yet fully accounted for in climate models, emphasizing the ongoing need for scientific exploration in the rapidly changing Arctic environment.

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Dr. John C. "Craig" George

Senior Wildlife Biologist (Bowhead Whales), Department of Wildlife Management, North Slope Borough, Utqiagvik, Alaska

Craig George worked as a Wildlife Biologist with the North Slope Department of Wildlife Management in Utqiagvik, Alaska for 25 years.  Craig earned a B.S. in Wildlife Biology from the Utah State University in 1976 and recently completed his Ph.D. in bowhead whale energetics, age estimation and morphology (comprehensive exams 2001).  Beginning in 1982, Craig worked on and later coordinated the bowhead whale ice-based population assessment project on the sea ice near Point Barrow for nearly two decades.   He also has conducted many postmortem exams on bowheads harvested by Alaskan Eskimos (since 1980) and published a number of papers on this work ranging from evidence of killer whale predation to structural anatomy to population biology. Craig has attended IWC meetings since 1987 focusing mainly on aboriginal whaling management procedures and assessments and population estimation. He has also participated in Eskimo traditional knowledge studies on the North Slope. Craig has lived in Utqiagvik since 1977 and is married to Cyd Hanns, a wildlife technician. Together they enjoy community and outdoor activities with their two sons Luke and Sam.

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2009

Dr. Craig George discusses his experiences living and working on the ice and learning from the Iñupiaq about the complexity of ice dynamics and ice safety. The preparations for his study of whales start in winter. He and his crew typically begin moving out onto the ice around mid-April, setting up a 24-hour watch. Due to the changing conditions, they now have to end their work in late May as the ice becomes too soft to remain on the ice pack. Challenges he faces include dealing with polar bears and the risk of ice breaking off and stranding the scientists. Craig talks about when their camp drifted in 1987 and when the ice shattered in 1985, he narrowly escaped onto safer ice. Craig relates stories of his encounters with bears and the need for safety measures and training. His scientific crew consists of scientists and local Iñupiat, and the work is intense and unpredictable, with each year presenting different circumstances. The location of their work along the coast is uncertain, as ice conditions and pressure ridges vary annually. Despite the uncertainties, he acknowledges the success of bowhead whale conservation, with the population rebounding to approximately 13,000 or more after facing the brink of extinction due to commercial hunting early in the 20th century.

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2022

Dr. Craig George and Peter Lourie discuss the remarkable adaptability of bowhead whales in the face of climate change. Despite the retreat of sea ice, the whale population has thrived, surprising researchers. Yet Dr. George highlights the emergence of new challenges, such as infections in adult bowhead whales and changes in Arctic biodiversity. Overall, the conversation offers valuable insights into the resilience of the Arctic species amid a changing climate.

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Dr. George reflects on raising a family in the Arctic. Despite suggestions from family and friends in the lower 48 states to leave for better educational opportunities, Craig loved the small Utqiaġvik community, which offers good schools, a supportive community, dog mushing, fishing, hunting, Eskimo dances, and a vibrant whaling culture. He and his wife have had experiences unmatched elsewhere. The region is filled with beautiful rivers, a vast roadless region with few people and abundant wildlife. Utqiaġvik, Alaska, formerly Barrow, provides a sense of safety, allowing its children to freely explore and engage in activities that may not be possible in urban areas.

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Dr. Craig George talks about local impacts of global warming and changes in the traditional whaling practices of the Iñupiat . The migration of bowhead whales seems to be happening earlier, and there are adjustments in hunting due to weaker ice. The opening of the Arctic has allowed for a more extended fall hunting season, and there are speculations about the potential reasons behind the variations in whale presence, including food availability and the influence of killer whales and vessel traffic. Despite changes, some communities still use skin boats, preserving this traditional method of whaling. However, the impacts of climate change and the ice retreat continue to affect whaling practices and the bowhead whale population.

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Dr. Craig George discusses the attitude of residents on the North Slope towards climate change. Unlike the climate-change hysteria found in some regions, the Iñupiat have a more adaptive approach to the changing conditions. They have been dealing with change and adverse conditions for a long time and are pragmatic about finding workarounds. While they acknowledge the impacts of climate change and potential sea level rise, they remain focused on practical solutions. Their resilience and sense of humor, exemplified by individuals like elder Billy Adams, help them navigate the challenges posed by the changing environment and maintain a positive outlook.

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Dr. Amanda Grannas

Professor of Chemistry, Vice Provost for Research and Chief Research Officer at Villanova University, Villanova, PA

Dr. Grannas completed her BS in Chemistry and Math at Juniata College in 1998 and obtained a PhD in Analytical Chemistry from Purdue University in 2002. Following her graduate work, she was a postdoctoral scholar at The Ohio State University with a joint appointment in the Department of Chemistry and the Department of Geological Sciences. Since joining the Villanova faculty in 2005, Dr. Grannas has established a thriving research group focused on environmental and atmospheric chemistry and has mentored over 50 research students. She has a diverse range of expertise, and her recent projects include the study of snow and ice photochemistry, the fate of pharmaceutical and personal care products in local watersheds, and the development of advanced analytical techniques used to study ice cores. A prominent and internationally known expert in snow chemistry, she has participated in a number of field studies in both the Canadian and Alaskan Arctic and has included a number of Villanova students in her fieldwork. Her research has been supported by the EPA, NSF, NOAA, and the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation. Dr. Grannas’ previous honors include being awarded a prestigious Faculty Early Career Development Award from the National Science Foundation (Villanova’s first recipient of this award), and being one of seven faculty nationwide recognized in 2013 as a Henry Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar by the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation.

 

research website: https://agrannas.clasit.org/

 

interview for a Philly news radio station I did on the topic of Antarctic ice sheet melt when news of the Thwaites Glacier melting was hitting the news in December 2021

https://www.audacy.com/kywnewsradio/news/local/doomsday-antarctica-thwaites-glacier-collapse-sea-levels

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2022

In this conversation, Villanova’s Dr. Grannas, Dr. Shepson and Pete Lourie discuss the issue of climate change and how it is affecting the world. They acknowledge that there has been a dramatic change in the climate, even in a short period of time, and that it is an issue that needs to be addressed and not kicked down the road. They also note that many people feel helpless and that there are too many “doomsdayers” who make people feel like there is nothing they can do to make a difference. The discussion emphasizes choices individuals can make that will have a positive impact for change and the economy. They also discuss the importance of communication and not demonizing those who work in the fossil fuel industry but finding ways to work together towards a solution. Finally, they stress the need to work together and not take immutable positions in order to solve the problem of climate change.

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Dr. Matt Huber

Dr. Matt Huber

Polar Bear expert, Research Wildlife Biologist, US Geological Survey, Anchorage, AK

Matthew Huber is an Associate Professor in Purdue University’s Earth and Atmospheric Sciences Department and co-founding member of the Purdue Climate Change Research Center. He has been Associate Editor of Paleoceanography and G-Cubed, and co-Chair of the Paleoclimate Working Group of the National Center for Atmospheric Research Community Climate System Modeling initiative. Huber attempts to solve fundamental climate questions, such as: When global warming occurs, how much is the warming amplified near the poles? What are the impacts of climate change on the hydrological cycle and severe weather events? What sets the equilibrium equator-to-pole temperature gradient and how is this key parameter related to global mean temperature? Are there mechanisms that generate increased heat transport in warm time intervals? What are the negative feedbacks in the climate system that prevent a positive feedback loop, i.e. a ‘runaway greenhouse effect?’

Attempting to answer these fundamental climate questions has led Huber from the present to the deep past (Eocene–50 million years ago) and back again. Huber’s work covers many subjects and methodologies including: climate modelling , paleobiogeographic reconstructions, Lagrangian tracer modelling, compound-specific isotope record synthesis, and satellite observation investigation. One of his most exciting research opportunities was collaborating with other scientists who collected deep sea cores from the Arctic Ocean on Integrated Ocean Drilling Program Cruise 302. The paleoclimate proxy records indicated Florida-like temperatures in the Arctic 55 million years ago, whereas the climate models produced only tepid temperatures.

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2009

Dr. Matt Huber from Purdue University warns about the rapid increase in greenhouse gas emissions, which is occurring at a rate ten times faster than in previous major climate change events. He emphasizes that human reliance on burning carbon-based resources for energy is a significant contributor to this problem. Dr. Huber discusses the potential consequences of continued carbon burning, including a warming trend similar to the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum. He also highlights the alarming rate of present-day Arctic sea ice melting, predicting the possibility of it disappearing seasonally within the next few decades and eventually becoming ice-free year-round. Furthermore, he discusses the potential increase in precipitation in regions historically receiving more rain and the likelihood of intense convection events occurring over the Arctic Ocean during polar winters. Lastly, Dr. Huber mentions the vulnerability of ice sheets, particularly the Greenland ice sheet, and the uncertainties surrounding their stability in a warming world. Overall, his insights underscore the need for urgent action to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and address the potential impacts on global climate and polar regions.

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Dr. Matt Huber, a paleoclimate modeler at Purdue University, focuses on studying past periods of global warming to better understand and test models for predicting future climate change. He explains the importance of reconstructing past climates and greenhouse gas concentrations. Dr. Huber emphasizes the amplified warming effect near the poles and discusses how the geological record reveals periods without ice sheets in AntArctica and Greenland, suggesting a significantly warmer planet in the past. But he highlights the rarity of our current climate compared to the period he studies, where the Arctic Ocean was mostly ice-free, and tropical conditions allowed for the presence of crocodiles and palm trees near Greenland. Dr. Huber also touches on the migration of early primates across the Bering land bridge during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, a warm period around 55 million years ago. He explains that long-term variations in greenhouse gas concentrations occur naturally, with factors like volcanic activity and carbon cycle feedbacks influencing CO2 levels over tens of millions of years. He discusses the rapid warming event during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, possibly triggered by the release of methane hydrates and positive carbon cycle feedbacks. This warming persisted for approximately 100,000 years. Overall, Dr. Huber’s work sheds light on past climate dynamics and provides valuable insights into the potential future trajectory of our climate system.

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Dr. Matt Huber, interviewed by Arcticstories’ Dr. Paul Shepson, discusses his views on the future climate and the potential impacts of global warming. Dr. Huber expresses a pessimistic outlook–he believes the next couple hundred years will not be favorable for most people. While the ice sheets in AntArctica and Greenland are expected to remain, the rest of the world will experience significant warming. This scenario deviates from the paleoclimate record, where warm periods were followed by the formation of ice sheets. Dr. Huber explains that the future will be characterized by anomalous conditions, including warm temperatures over ice sheets and the retreat of sea ice and land ice. Winter as we know it may disappear, and there will likely be a delay of 50 to 150 years before these changes fully manifest. Dr. Huber emphasizes that unless fossil fuel consumption is curbed, substantial warming is inevitable. He argues that climate sensitivity is likely higher than previously estimated, making it crucial to reduce emissions as early as possible. He acknowledges, however, that we are already committed to significant warming due to past emissions. Dr. Shepson adds that the future will bring more extreme weather events, such as extremely hot and humid days and nights, which have lethal consequences for vulnerable populations. He emphasizes the difficulties in preparing for such events, particularly in regions where people have little experience with extreme heat. Both scientists agreed that drastic and immediate action, such as transitioning to extremely low or zero emissions, is necessary to mitigate the worst effects of climate change. However, they also highlight the challenges of implementing such measures on a global scale with such a limited time available to make a substantial difference. Without significant changes, they conclude that we are already committed to a future with severe climate impacts.

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Anne Jensen

Anne Jensen is an archaeologist with the Science Division of the Ukpeaġvik Iñupiat Corporation in Barrow (now Utqiagvik), Alaska

Anne Jensen is an archaeologist with the Science Division of the Ukpeaġvik Iñupiat Corporation in Barrow (now Utqiagvik), Alaska. She has worked on archaeological projects in northern Alaska since the early 1980s, and she and her family have lived on the North Slope since the mid-1990s.

Nuvuk Archaeology Project: https://www.facebook.com/nuvukarchaeology/

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2009

Today polar archeologist Dr. Anne Jensen, though she no longer lives and works in Utqiaġvik, Alaska, remains just as fascinated with the Arctic’s history and culture, and how people have adapted and continue adapt to changes in their environment over time. Dr. Jensen xplores the impact of climate change on cultural change and the consequences of not adapting to new circumstances. Understanding how and why people make these changes can be useful in adapting to future challenges.

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2022

Anne Jensen is an active participant in climate change strategies and archaeological responses. She has served as the immediate past chair of the Climate Change Strategies and Archaeological Responses Committee of SAA (Society for American Archaeology). She emphasizes that people are becoming more aware of the impact of climate change, even those not residing on the North Slope. She highlights the importance of promptly excavating sites in the Arctic due to the vulnerability of these sites to erosion, fire, and other environmental changes. Anne recognizes the cultural significance of archaeological sites and acknowledges the need to prioritize the preservation of communities’ houses and schools. Anne argues that certain regions, like the Arctic, require continued and rapid excavation. She criticizes the inadequate funding allocated to Arctic research compared to other areas.

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Dr. Jensen collaborates with geologists, engineers, and other experts to understand permafrost degradation and its implications for ongoing engineering projects. She emphasizes that the engineering community in Alaska often underestimates the challenges posed by permafrost degradation. The effects of changes in the permafrost on infrastructure are significant and not well understood. In recent years, the COVID-19 pandemic has posed challenges to her work, particularly in conducting interviews in remote villages. The pandemic also restricted travel, and some institutions prevented fieldwork in inhabited areas. However, Anne expresses that they are now beginning to regain momentum in Arctic research and fieldwork activities.

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Coastal erosion makes Arctic archeology difficult. Also changes in sea level, and permafrost thawing. Many sites are disappearing as a result of these environmental factors. However, there is still a need for archaeologists to be present when new discoveries are made. Projects in areas with known archaeological sites often require monitoring, although it may not always allow for immediate action. Anne mentions that erosion is not only a problem in the coastal areas but also affects sites located along rivers and creeks. Additionally, with the warming of permafrost, sites in Greenland have experienced decay and loss of organic preservation. Bacteria that become active as the permafrost thaws can degrade the organic materials, leading to further deterioration. She shares her experience working with hunter-gatherer artifacts and the need for accurate interpretations based on firsthand knowledge.

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Dr. Paty Matrai

Senior Research Scientist Emerita at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, Boothbay Harbor, Maine.

Interim Technology Transfer Officer

Air-Sea Exchange Laboratory

Biological Oceanographer Paty Matrai from Bigelow Lab, Boothbay Harbor, Maine. Dr. Paty Matrai is a Senior Research Scientist at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences in beautiful mid-coast Maine. Trained as a biological oceanographer, she became interested in biological-chemical interactions at the air-sea interface and, in polar regions, at the seawater-ice-snow-air interface. Her group focuses on biological production of gases and aerosols that are exchanged with the overlying atmosphere, both in the lab and in the field. The hardship of frequent sampling in and over the Arctic Ocean has led to build and/or deploy automated and autonomous systems that can sample the atmosphere and the ocean for chemical and/or biological processes; this is essential in a changing Arctic.  Dr. Matrai is now retired.

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2009

According to Dr. Patty Matrai, there are noticeable changes occurring in the Arctic due to climate change. The growth season for phytoplankton and ice algae is extending in both the spring and fall. The snow is melting earlier and faster, allowing light to penetrate through the ice and promoting growth. Additionally, freeze-up is happening later in the fall, providing an extended period of activity. However, the availability of nutrients plays a crucial role in controlling this growth. The controversy lies in determining whether to focus solely on areas of open water that receive illumination or to consider nutrient inputs through winter mixing. Researchers are working on modeling and understanding these dynamics since sampling becomes challenging when there is ice present. To overcome this, automated systems such as the Ice Tethered Profiler (ITP) and underwater floats have been developed to measure meteorology, CO2 concentrations, bromine oxide, ozone, and other variables. These advancements are crucial to gaining a comprehensive understanding of the Arctic ecosystem throughout the year, rather than just during the accessible summer months.

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Dr. Paty Matrai, a Chilean-born biological oceanographer specializing in Arctic research, studies phytoplankton and ice algae, their impact on climate and atmospheric processes, and the effects of climate change in the Arctic. Dr. Matrai has conducted multiple Arctic expeditions and highlights the challenges posed by the changing Arctic environment, including extended growth seasons, thinner ice cover, and shifts in fish species. She also emphasizes the importance of sustainable tourism practices in the region. Overall, Dr. Matrai’s work sheds light on the intricate connections between the atmosphere, ocean, and ecosystems in the Arctic.

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Dr. Paty Matrai emphasizes the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration in Arctic research. She shares her experiences as a biologist in atmospheric chemistry and Arctic sciences, often being the only female in the field. Dr. Matrai discusses her collaborative projects with atmospheric chemists, glaciologists, oceanographers, and geologists, highlighting the diverse expertise needed to understand the Arctic ecosystem. She acknowledges the challenges of integrating molecular biology with biogeochemistry and the need to consider the heterogeneity of the Arctic region. Despite the complexities, Dr. Matrai finds the Arctic a fascinating and opportune environment to study.

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Dr. Paty Matrai emphasizes the vital role of the atmosphere in sustaining life and its interconnectedness with the ocean and ice. She explains that air-sea interactions are tightly coupled, with nutrients transferring from the air to the water and sea spray containing organic compounds affecting atmospheric chemistry. In the high Arctic, aerosols, which are particles in the air, have predominantly organic compositions derived from the ocean’s surface. These aerosols play a significant role in cloud formation, as cloud droplets require particles on which to condense. Changes in the organic composition can impact the number, size, and chemistry of aerosol particles, influencing cloud properties and sunlight reflection. This, in turn, affects the ocean’s temperature, ice melting, and broader climate dynamics. Dr. Matrai’s research focuses on connecting the biology of the ocean surface to cloud formation, radiation, and the global climate system, highlighting the significance of her work in a broader context.

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2022

Dr. Paty Matrai’s research continues despite disappearing Arctic ice. She is involved in a project studying the interactions between fresh and salt water around Greenland. Microorganisms, especially mixotrophs, play a crucial role in the Arctic’s ecology, switching between autotrophic and heterotrophic modes depending on conditions. Understanding these processes is essential for comprehending the region’s changing dynamics.

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Dr. Lily Peacock

Research biologist for the US Geological Survey, Anchorage, AK

Research biologist for the US Geological Survey, Anchorage, AK. Lily has studied Polar Bears in Canada where they are still harvested by native peoples.

Lily Peacock is a Research Wildlife Biologist with the United States Geological Survey at the Alaska Science Center, Anchorage, AK. She specializes in population ecology, harvest management, ecological genetics, polar bear conservation.

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2009

Polar bear biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, Dr. Lily Peacock discusses the effects of climate change on polar bear populations and emphasizes the importance of monitoring polar bear harvests. While climate change is likely the primary factor impacting polar bears, monitoring harvests (in Canada native people still hunt the polar bear for food) is crucial for several reasons. Firstly, continuing to harvest polar bears adds to the overall decline caused by climate change. Secondly, climate change is expected to increase polar bears’ interactions with humans, leading to a potential increase in harvest rates. Additionally, due to the heightened international scrutiny surrounding polar bears and their conservation, understanding the impacts of a harvest on bear populations is essential.

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Dr. Lily Peacock provides insights into the population dynamics and behavior of polar bears across the Arctic. Based on professional knowledge and scientific data, she estimates that there are between 20,000 and 25,000 polar bears divided into 19 subpopulations. These subpopulations exhibit varying levels of interconnectivity and are managed and researched accordingly. Alaska is home to two subpopulations, those in the Southern Beaufort Sea and others in the Chukchi Sea, while Canada has 13 subpopulations, including the South Baffin, Kane Basin, and Davis Strait. Dr. Peacock highlights the distinction between seasonal ice populations–some bears spend several months on land during the ice-free period. Other populations have ice cover year-round, such as those in the Canadian archipelago. She mentions ongoing research focusing on understanding the changes occurring in the polar bears’ behavior, specifically regarding their choice to stay on the ice or come ashore in the fall.

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Don

Dr. Don Perovich

Senior Director of Conservation and Staff Scientist At Polar Bears International

He worked for many decades at the Cold Regions Research Engineering Laboratory of the U.S. Army, in Hanover N.H.  He is an expert in sea ice dynamics, and observations of change in Arctic sea ice over, often using sea ice mass balance techniques.  His group has been studying changes in albedo, and the sea ice albedo feedback as an important component of climate change impacts in the Arctic.  His interests have expanded to understanding how these changes impact the Arctic ecosystem, including the impact of increases sunlight penetration on Arctic Ocean phytoplankton.

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2009

Sea ice geophysicist Dr. Don Perovich discusses the changing conditions of the Arctic Ocean and the impact it is having on human activities. Dr. Perovich highlights the evolution of predictions around the Arctic becoming ice-free in the summer, with some projections indicating it could happen as early as 2013 or never. However, he notes that the more relevant question is when the reduction of sea ice in September will be large enough to impact human activity, as this is already happening. The conversation then turns to the potential impacts of these changes on weather and climate in other parts of the world, with Dr. Perovich noting that while there are some potential effects, it is a complex topic that requires further study and exploration through models.

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chris

Chris Polashenski

Adjunct Associate Professor of Engineering, Dartmouth College

Research Geophysicist, US Army Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory CRREL

Chris Polashenski grew up in eastern Pennsylvania, and studied at Dartmouth College, where he began to study snow and ice.  He received a BA in Environmental Engineering, and a PhD in Materials Engineering, also at Dartmouth.

His research interests are in sea ice geophysics; the interaction of sunlight with ice and snow; the Arctic system and climate change

He is the author of ~70 publications (as of 11/2023) on sea-ice properties and processes, snow deposition and redistribution, and the albedo of sea ice and ice sheets. His research interests involve both remote sensing and detailed in situ field study of cryospheric processes.,Dr. Polashenski is a member of the American Geophysical Union, the International Glaciological Society, and the Association of Polar Early Career Scientists.

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2023

Chris Polashenski shares his journey into Arctic research, which began with a childhood love for snow and led to his involvement in the Arctic studies program at Dartmouth College. Influenced by Ross Virginia, he initially worked as a technician in Barrow (now Utqiaġvik) for a field program related to the Arctic tundra. His interest in the Arctic was further nurtured by mentors like Matthew Sturm and Don Perovich, leading to a long-term career in the field. Polashenski holds a complex professional role, dividing his time between Vermont and Fairbanks to stay close to his research area. He is involved with Dartmouth for graduate student supervision and teaching, while also conducting field work in the Arctic every winter and spring. Despite his academic focus, Polashenski emphasizes the deep personal connections he has formed within the Arctic community, mentioning close relationships with various Arctic researchers and residents. His story underscores the interconnectedness of personal passion, academic research, and community ties in the pursuit of Arctic studies.

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Chris Polashenski, a researcher specializing in the structure of sea ice, was found a couple of miles out on the sea ice, deeply engaged in his work. He studies how the physical characteristics of sea ice influence its melting patterns. Polashenski explains the significance of sea ice in the Earth’s climate system, highlighting its role as a reflective surface. The ice, being predominantly white, reflects most of the sunlight hitting it back into space, helping to keep the planet cooler. He contrasts this with the dark open water, which absorbs sunlight and heats up. This absorption of heat by the ocean exacerbates the melting of the remaining sea ice, leading to more exposure of the ocean surface. This feedback loop accelerates climate change by reducing the amount of energy reflected back into space. Polashenski’s research underscores the critical role of sea ice in regulating the Earth’s temperature and the profound implications of its melting due to climate change.

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Chris Polashenski, an expert on sea ice, discusses the complexities of understanding and measuring the Arctic’s changing ice landscape. His focus is on the structure and melting patterns of sea ice, particularly the contrast between the reflective white ice and dark open water, which significantly impacts the planet’s energy balance. Polashenski explains that the loss of sea ice exposes more ocean, absorbing additional sunlight, which in turn melts more ice – a cycle that accelerates climate change. He is involved in a campaign to better understand snow accumulation on sea ice, expanding the Ice Mass Balance Buoy program to include numerous measurements of snow depth. This research is crucial for understanding the reflective and insulating properties of snow on sea ice and for accurately measuring ice thickness, which is essential for climate modeling. Polashenski’s work involves ground-truthing satellite data to improve remote sensing techniques for snow and ice. His journey into Arctic research began with a simple love for snow and has evolved into tackling some of the most pressing environmental challenges in the Arctic.

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Chris Polashenski, expressing pessimism about global efforts to address climate change, shares his personal and professional experiences related to climate mitigation. Despite his efforts in public talks and educating people about the urgency of climate action, he has been disappointed by the limited response. Shifting his focus, Polashenski is actively engaged in climate mitigation activities, particularly on his wife’s farm in Vermont. They have committed to eliminating fossil fuel emissions from the farm within ten years, a project started in 2018. So far, they have significantly reduced emissions by implementing various initiatives like solar panels, heat pumps, and hybrid vehicles. Polashenski finds this approach of leading by example both achievable and impactful. However, he acknowledges the challenges in motivating broader societal change, highlighting the need for a deeper understanding of human behavior and motivation to drive effective climate action. His advice to those uncertain about their future is to consistently choose paths that are fun and involve good people, a principle that has guided his own career.

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Chris Polashenski, a physicist with observational experience in Arctic biology, discusses the ecological impacts of diminishing sea ice on Arctic wildlife and primary production. He notes a significant increase in phytoplankton growth beneath the ice, attributed to greater sunlight penetration through thinner ice and melt ponds. This change is leading to larger phytoplankton blooms and shifts in species composition, potentially impacting the entire Arctic food chain. Polashenski also observes a marked decrease in encounters with polar bears and Arctic foxes, suggesting a decline in their populations. He links these changes to the substantial reduction in sea ice over the past 15 years, which has altered the natural habitat of ice-dependent species, affecting their hunting and survival patterns. Polashenski’s insights underscore the profound and rapid ecological transformations occurring in the Arctic due to climate change.

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Chris Polashenski discusses the Mosaic expedition, an extensive Arctic research campaign that he was set to join but was unable due to the pandemic. Instead, he supported his graduate students who continued the work in his absence. Polashenski highlights the logistical challenges and the success of the expedition in gathering a comprehensive data set across an entire year. He points out a significant finding: the expedition’s ship drifted from one side of the Arctic to the other in less than a year, a journey that previously took three years, illustrating the rapid changes in Arctic sea ice. The ice’s increased thinness and dynamism were so pronounced that traditional measurement methods, like ice mass balance stakes, were rendered ineffective—none survived the entire year. This drastic change in ice behavior not only underscores the accelerated pace of Arctic transformation but also challenges scientists to develop new methods for studying and understanding these rapid environmental shifts.

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Chris Polashenski, in his discussion, reflects on the dramatic changes he has observed in the Arctic over his career. Starting in 2005 in Kaktovik, he recalls seeing multi-year sea ice blocks several meters thick. In contrast, in recent years, he hasn’t seen any such ice formations, with the ice often not even grounding offshore. Polashenski notes the significant reduction in stable ice platforms, making operations like ice camps increasingly challenging and risky. He compares his experiences to those in the 1970s when ice camps like T3 could be occupied for decades, highlighting the drastic shift in ice stability and thickness. Polashenski also discusses his participation in Navy ice camps, noting their adaptation to the changing conditions by shortening camp durations and using more mobile and quick-setup structures. The changing ice dynamics have led to a shift from a permanent settlement approach to a more expeditionary one, with a growing focus on risk management due to the unpredictable and dynamic nature of the ice. This transformation, he observes, is a stark indicator of the rapid environmental changes occurring in the Arctic.

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Kerri Pratt

Professor of Chemistry, University of Michigan

https://lsa.umich.edu/chem/people/faculty/prattka.html

Kerri Pratt is a Professor of Chemistry and Earth & Environmental Sciences at University of Michigan. She is an environmental chemist who studies the interactions between gases, atmospheric particles, clouds, and snow in the Arctic and wintertime environments to inform understanding of climate change and air quality. Her focus is on field-based measurements using single-particle mass spectrometry and chemical ionization mass spectrometry. Dr. Pratt is a leading researcher in the study of halogen chemistry in the Arctic, including chemical mechanisms involving both aerosol particles (e.g., sea spray aerosol) and the snowpack that are key components of pollutant fate and natural chemical cycles in polar ice and snow-covered environments.

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2012

2022

Arctic atmospheric chemistry expert Kerri Pratt from the University of Michigan shares insights from her research on sea spray and its effects on the Arctic environment. She discusses the role of sea spray in cloud formation, the impact of local pollution from oil fields, and the importance of engaging with local communities for scientific understanding. Her work highlights the significance of studying atmospheric chemistry in remote and unexplored regions.

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Chemist Kerri Pratt from the University of Michigan shares her firsthand observations of significant climate change over the past 10 years. She describes how coastal erosion has caused roads to disappear and how the presence of sea ice near the shore in summer has dramatically decreased. Kerri discusses the changing weather patterns, such as waves crashing at the shore in early February and freeze-up happening later in the year. She emphasizes the impact of these changes on the local environment, including the reduction of sea ice and the importance of studying sea spray aerosol production. Despite these concerning transformations, Kerri finds joy in sharing the Arctic experience with others, especially witnessing her students’ excitement when encountering for the first time phenomena like the Northern Lights and polar bears.

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Professor of Chemistry Kerri Pratt discusses her ongoing research on snowpack photochemistry and aerosol composition, building on the work of her mentor, Dr. Paul Shepson. She explains how her team connects sea spray with snowpack halogen chemistry and Arctic Haze, studying the interactions between gasses and particles in a comprehensive system. Kerri highlights the importance of sea spray throughout the year, including a surprising discovery of sea spray with thick organic coatings, resembling algal blooms. Through years of analysis, she has found that these coatings are exopolymeric substances produced by sea ice algae and bacteria. This revelation has connected seawater microbiology to sea spray, leading to collaborations with experts in the field. Kerri and her collaborators are currently working on a project to investigate sea spray aerosol production in the high Arctic during summertime pack ice conditions, stemming from an Icebreaker campaign conducted several years ago.

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Kerri Pratt reflects on the disconnect between scientific knowledge and personal experiences of rapid climate change in the Arctic. Despite writing about it in research proposals and papers, witnessing the tremendous impact of sea ice loss within just 10 years is a startling realization. Kerri emphasizes the need to stay emotionally detached to cope with the frightening implications. But she acknowledges the resilience of Arctic communities who remain positive amidst ongoing changes, envisioning more water and increased fishing opportunities. The magnitude of change in the Arctic, such as open water in winter, is both awe-inspiring and alarming.

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Dr. Glenn Sheehan

Founding Executive Director of BASC (Barrow Arctic Science Consortium)

Dr. Sheehan is the founding Executive Director of the Barrow Arctic Science Consortium (BASC), which started in 1996. BASC provides scientists with field logistical support, including serving as the ashore contact for U.S. and foreign science icebreaker missions. In a recent year over 626 visiting researchers were assisted. Prior to BASC’s creation, Dr. Sheehan was principal investigator for the three-year NSF-funded Point Franklin Archaeology project on the North Slope.

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2009

Dr. Glenn Sheehan speaks about the Arctic, highlighting how the people make it a great place to live. He mentions that there are over 60% native Eskimo in Utqiaġvik, formerly Barrow, Alaska. And in the surrounding villages, it’s around 98%. Dr. Sheehan, with an anthropology and science background, finds it interesting that people today have social relationships on the North Slope similar to the social relationships they’ve had for a few thousand years. He thinks that understanding the cultural and historical underpinnings of the way people interact today makes you more comfortable with everyday life in the Arctic. Dr. Sheehan also discusses the permafrost in the Arctic, noting that it is not melting in most of the Arctic, but the annual thaw at the top of it can get deeper on an annual basis. He explains that most buildings in town are on pilings, and if the active layer gets much deeper, the pilings will start moving, which is not a good thing.

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Dr. Glenn Sheehan has been a resident of Barrow, Alaska, now called Utqiaġvik, since 1996, but started conducting research in the area in 1981, initially as an archaeologist. He noticed that everything that people had discarded or lost in the area was preserved, and the community members were very knowledgeable about the history of the area and the tools that were used in the past. Later, he became involved with the Barrow Arctic Science Consortium, a community-based organization that works to bring more science to the North Slope. The organization aims to help scientists collaborate with local people and students. Some scientists were initially resistant to this collaborative approach, but over time, they realized the value of learning from locals’ deep knowledge and experience.

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2022

This is a conversation between Dr. Paul Shepson and Dr. Glenn Sheehan about life in the North Slope and the Arctic. Dr. Sheehan shares his experience working at BASC, the Barrow Arctic Science Consortium, a community-based organization that works to bring more science, and he describes his work at the local Health Department and school district during the pandemic. He also talks about the borough’s declining budget and how it was unfortunate that people didn’t know how to negotiate contracts or deal with huge amounts of money. Additionally, he discusses how the Army Corps of Engineers proposed solutions that don’t make sense because they can only go with the solutions permitted by Congress.

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Dr. Glenn Sheehan has left the North Slope, where he lived for decades, but has fond memories of the resilience and adaptability of the whaling communities in Utqiaġvik, Alaska. Dr. Sheehan emphasizes the strong organizational skills and attention to detail among the whaling captains, who work closely with the community to address challenges such as food distribution. He believes that despite climate and environmental changes, the cultural lives of the people remain intact, with a continued focus on successful whaling and sharing. Dr. Sheehan also touches on the potential impact of external decisions on the community and highlights the hidden concerns and day-to-day living of the community members in a subsistence culture. Dr. Sheehan sheds light on the strength and unity of the whaling communities in the face of ongoing changes.

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Glenn Sheehan reflects on the value of gaining perspective by moving away from Utqiaġvik and experiencing life in different places. He describes the power and simplicity of living on the North Slope, and in the Arctic in general, where gradual changes in climate and the environment are observed. Glenn discusses the importance of scientists consulting with local communities and the positive impact this dialogue can have on research outcomes. He recounts a story of a researcher who embraced community input, leading to a successful and respectful research project.

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Glenn Sheehan discusses the impact of changes in the Arctic, particularly on the native communities engaged in whaling. Glenn emphasizes that despite the changes in climate and the environment, Iñupiaq cultural traditions and practices remain intact, and the whaling captains continue to be organized and attentive to community needs. He highlights the resilience of the whaling communities and their ability to adapt to changing circumstances. While there may be a sense of calamity hidden beneath the surface, the people primarily focus on living day-to-day and season-to-season in their subsistence culture.

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Dr. Paul Shepson

Dean of Stony Brook University School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences (SoMAS) & Cofounder of ArcticStories.net 

Paul Shepson was born and raised in Elmira, N.Y., a child of the Finger Lakes.  He is an atmospheric chemist, and SUNY Distinguished Professor and Dean of the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences (SoMAS), at Stony Brook University.  From 2014 – 2018 he served as Director of the Division of Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences at the National Science Foundation, as a “rotator”, on leave from Purdue University, where he was a member of the faculty from 1994 – 2018.  He obtained a B.S. in Chemistry from State University of New York College at Cortland, and a Ph.D. in analytical/atmospheric chemistry from Penn State.  He worked for Mobil Oil Corp. (Paulsboro refinery) in 1982, before moving to a research position in the Atmospheric Sciences Research Laboratory at the U.S. EPA in Research Triangle Park, N.C., from 1983-1987.  From 1987 – 1994 he was a Professor in the Chemistry Department at York University in Toronto, where he was also Director of the York Centre for Atmospheric Chemistry.  Most recently at Purdue he held an appointment as Distinguished Professor of Chemistry, and Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences.  From 2008 – 2013 he was Head of the Department of Chemistry, and was also the founding Director of the Purdue Climate Change Research Center (PCCRC) in 2004. He is an avid pilot with instrument, commercial, and multi-engine ratings, and has done experiments with his airplane flying over 49 of the 50 states.  Professor Shepson is keenly interested in understanding and communicating about the impacts of anthropogenic activities on the composition of the atmosphere, and how that relates to climate change and ecological impacts.  With Peter Lourie, he is co-creator of the website arcticstories.net.  He is a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union, and has ~250 peer-reviewed publications on various issues related to atmospheric and analytical chemistry, and climate change impacts and mitigation.

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2009

Dr. Paul Shepson discusses the “Ozone Buoy,” an instrument deployed in the Arctic to study atmospheric chemistry and the ocean’s carbon dioxide absorption. The buoy collects data on halogen chemistry, pollutants, and the impact of climate change. It operates on solar power and transmits data back to California via satellite. The buoy’s successful performance will inform the deployment of additional buoys across the Arctic Ocean.

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Dr. Paul Shepson along with his colleague Dr. Jan Bottenheim express concern about the impact of engineering solutions on the environment. They emphasize the importance of addressing the root causes of problems rather than relying solely on technological fixes. The risks and unintended consequences of large-scale engineering interventions are highlighted, using examples such as sulfur injection into the stratosphere. Dr. Shepson advocates for responsible resource allocation and prioritizing investments in sustainable practices, such as clean energy and food production.

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2022

Dr. Paul Shepson, “Shep,” talks about his fascination with the remoteness of the Arctic. His first Arctic adventure in 1990 sparked a love for the untouched beauty of the region. And as a chemist, (he admits “it was my pathway, my excuse, to get to a place that was very exotic”), he delved into the Arctic’s chemical world, uncovering the impact of human activities on its atmosphere, including Arctic Haze. He discovered pollutants like sulfur dioxide and coal emissions and their effects on ozone depletion and mercury transformation. Dr. Shepson’s passion extends to meeting and learning from indigenous peoples of the region who are “much more in touch with the natural world.” Shep hopes his work has contributed to protecting the Arctic and inspiring the next generation to make a positive impact. Despite concerns for the future, he remains optimistic about humanity’s ability to implement sustainable practices and restore the Earth’s balance.

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Paul Shepson reflects on his love for the Arctic and his fascination with its untouched beauty. As a chemist, he shares his journey of studying the Arctic’s atmosphere and the impact of human activities on this pristine region. His research focuses on understanding the chemistry involved, particularly the role of sea salt particles and pollutants from burning fossil fuels, which can affect ozone levels and lead to Mercury deposition. Despite the challenges, he finds fulfillment in exploring this exotic and remote environment while pursuing important scientific questions that can benefit humanity.

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Paul Shepson reflects on his profound fascination with the Arctic, which he considers an exotic and incredibly beautiful place. As an atmospheric chemist studying the human impacts of climate change, he acknowledges the enriching experience of meeting indigenous Arctic citizens who have a deep connection with the natural world. These individuals view themselves as part of nature and have the ingenuity to thrive in a challenging environment, such as during whaling expeditions where safety is a paramount concern. For Paul, interacting with people from vastly different backgrounds and witnessing the unspoiled beauty of the Arctic has been an incredible gift and opportunity. He embraces life’s preciousness and the importance of having fun while making a positive impact on humanity.

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Paul Shepson reflects on his profound fascination with the Arctic, which he considers an exotic and incredibly beautiful place. As an atmospheric chemist studying the human impacts of climate change, he acknowledges the enriching experience of meeting indigenous Arctic citizens who have a deep connection with the natural world. These individuals view themselves as part of nature and have the ingenuity to thrive in a challenging environment, such as during whaling expeditions where safety is a paramount concern. For Paul, interacting with people from vastly different backgrounds and witnessing the unspoiled beauty of the Arctic has been an incredible gift and opportunity. He embraces life’s preciousness and the importance of having fun while making a positive impact on humanity.

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Paul Shepson finds optimism in two contrasting time horizons when considering the dramatic changes in the Arctic. In the long run, he believes life’s resilience and adaptability will lead to solutions for climate change, allowing the Earth to recover. However, in the next 200 to 300 years, he is concerned about the challenges posed by the world’s commitments to unsustainable practices, which might impact the quality of life for future generations. Despite this, he remains hopeful that humanity will learn and evolve to overcome these obstacles.

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Dr. Bill Simpson

Dr. Bill Simpson, an environmental chemist at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks

He worked for many decades at the Cold Regions Research Engineering Laboratory of the U.S. Army, in Hanover N.H.  He is an expert in sea ice dynamics, and observations of change in Arctic sea ice over, often using sea ice mass balance techniques.  His group has been studying changes in albedo, and the sea ice albedo feedback as an important component of climate change impacts in the Arctic.  His interests have expanded to understanding how these changes impact the Arctic ecosystem, including the impact of increases sunlight penetration on Arctic Ocean phytoplankton.

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2009

In this interview, Bill Simpson, professor of chemistry at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, discusses his research on Arctic atmospheric chemistry. He is particularly interested in understanding how the snow, ice, and unique environmental conditions of the Arctic impact chemical reactions in the atmosphere. His research involves measuring the chemicals in the atmosphere and relating them to what is in the snow and ice. By understanding the chemical transformations in the Arctic, he hopes to predict how changes in the environment will affect the Arctic atmosphere. Simpson notes that the Arctic has not been studied chemically for very long, and it is challenging to understand the interactions between chemicals without measuring multiple species. Furthermore, the ongoing sea ice change is creating frustration as it is impossible to know what the Arctic atmosphere looked like several decades ago.

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Atmospheric chemist from Fairbanks, Alaska, Bill Simpson discusses how multi-year sea ice is becoming increasingly difficult to find in Barrow (Utqiaġvik), a location where Native people have been relying on it for a long time. Multi-year sea ice is prized because it has survived the summer and the salts in it have melted away, making it drinkable. He describes how he traveled with Iñupiaq whalers, who look for pieces of multi-year sea ice to melt and drink for water when they hunt. He notes that finding multi-year sea ice is getting harder and harder, and that locating an ice camp that satisfies all the criteria for scientific research is becoming increasingly challenging.

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2022

Bill Simpson explores themes of optimism and pessimism about the future, especially regarding environmental changes in the Arctic. Interviewing North Slope natives, he delves into the impact of climate change on traditional subsistence hunting and local culture. One native elder’s perspective on adaptability and resilience in the face of environmental changes stands out, highlighting a response of practicality over anger. Bill reflects on his commitment to environmental stewardship, like installing solar panels and building energy-efficient homes, despite recognizing the enormity of global ecological challenges. He shares his personal connection to skiing as a metaphor for adaptability to changing conditions, pondering its future as both a sport and a symbol of his connection to nature. His contemplation reveals a nuanced view, balancing concern for the environment with a passion for outdoor activities.

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Bill Simpson discusses his experiences teaching Earth System Science, focusing on the Arctic and its changing environment. Simpson highlights the program’s interdisciplinary approach and its emphasis on building a community of students interested in Arctic change, including aspects like hydrology and atmospheric changes. He notes the enthusiasm and insightful questions from students during a seminar talk. Simpson also mentions the program’s efforts to engage with local communities, indigenous peoples, and Elders, reflecting a positive shift towards inclusive and collaborative research. He observes that students show a strong interest and motivation in studying Arctic changes, bringing a fresh and positive perspective compared to the more pessimistic outlook of older generations. Simpson concludes by mentioning the excitement and energy young students bring to their studies in the Arctic, captivated by the novelty and uniqueness of the environment.

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Bill Simpson discusses the crucial role of scientists in deeply engaging with communities, particularly in environmental matters. He stresses the importance of starting early in understanding community concerns, using the example of conflicts between heating needs and air quality in Fairbanks. Simpson acknowledges the challenge of integrating community engagement within the grant-funded research framework, noting his advantage as a local resident in establishing connections. He cites an example from New York City, where town hall meetings on decarbonization reveal public fear and anger, underscoring the need for better communication and engagement to facilitate the transition in addressing climate change. This highlights the significance of not just scientific research, but also the human and community aspects in environmental issues.

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In this video, Bill Simpson reflects on changes he’s observed over the past 13 years, particularly focusing on the Arctic environment and his experiences with remote sensing and fieldwork. He discusses the shift in his work towards more remote sensing and less fieldwork, noting a reduction in his visits to the North Slope and the impact of COVID-19 restrictions on his ability to connect deeply with people in the Arctic. Simpson expresses his continued love for winter and the Arctic landscape but is struck by the noticeable environmental changes in Fairbanks, such as the development of sinkholes and the increasing prevalence of rain-on-snow events. He describes a significant rain-on-snow event around Christmas 2021, highlighting its unusual timing and the profound impact on local infrastructure, travel safety, and wildlife. This event created challenges like impassable roads and difficulties for animals, underscoring the tangible effects of climate change. Simpson emphasizes the importance of adapting to these changes while maintaining a connection to the natural world, even as the conditions evolve.

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Bill Simpson discusses the extensive data analysis and research writing he plans to do, focusing on two major field studies: CHACHA on the North Slope and ALPACA in Fairbanks. He highlights the significant collaboration involved, with nearly 20 institutions, around four dozen people participating in the Fairbanks field study, and approximately 100 people involved in the analysis or fieldwork. The ALPACA study, aimed at understanding atmospheric chemistry under cold and dark conditions, had three main facets. One was indoor chemistry research, investigating pollution infiltration into homes from outdoor sources and emissions from indoor activities like cooking and heating. They discovered that while houses can reduce outdoor pollution levels, indoor activities can significantly contribute to indoor air pollution. The study also revealed limitations of popular but not scientifically precise instruments like the Purple Air sensors, which inaccurately measured fine particle concentrations due to their design limitations. Simpson’s reflections demonstrate the complexity and importance of understanding environmental chemistry in Arctic conditions and the challenges of accurately measuring and interpreting data in this unique context.

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Dr. Matthew Sturm

Research Physical Scientist conducting wide-ranging geophysical studies on snow in high latitudes, Fairbanks, AK

Dr. Sturm is responsible for conducting wide-ranging geophysical studies on snow in high latitudes. His work has taken him from the Antarctic to the Arctic, and he has been the leader of more than 30 expeditions in winter in pursuit of his science. He is based at the Alaska Office in Fairbanks but collaborates with a wide range of scientists both at CRREL and elsewhere. His most recent work focuses on the role of snow cover on climate, with particular attention to snow ecology, and climate change resulting from snow-vegetation interactions.

University page: https://www.uaf.edu/experts/matthew-sturm.php

Profile: https://www.uaf.edu/nanooknation/sturm.php

https://asr.science.energy.gov/news/program-news/post/13183

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2009

Dr. Matthew Sturm, professor of geophysics at the Geophysical Institute, University of Alaska Fairbanks, has dedicated over four decades to studying the Arctic. With a primary focus on snow cover and the cryosphere, he investigates how the region responds to climate change. Dr. Sturm’s initial fascination with the Arctic was driven by a love for mountaineering and a desire to explore its romance. However, his scientific studies led him to the forefront of one of the world’s most pressing issues– climate change. He recognizes the Arctic as a critical location for understanding global change due to its sensitivity to environmental shifts. By conducting extensive research expeditions across the region, Dr. Sturm strives to collect comprehensive data sets that shed light on the changing Arctic landscape. Through his work, he hopes to unravel the mysteries of the Arctic’s snow cover and contribute valuable insights to the field of glaciology.

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2022

Matthew Sturm has had a lifelong fascination with snow, its beauty and complexity. Through exhibits and outreach, he promotes public appreciation for snow. While day-to-day changes in snow can be challenging to observe, his work provides valuable insights. Notable climate events, like once-in-a-century rain on snow, have impacts, but overall, snow’s deviations from the norm remain within expected bounds.