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Fulbright Arctic Initiative Establishes Innovative Research Model for a Sustainable Arctic Future

Scholars From Arctic Nations Focus on Communities and Policy Relevant Research 

Dec. 15, 2016 – As the Arctic continues to experience climate change, resource development and globalization, the policy challenges that Arctic peoples face are many and extend beyond environmental protection and energy to issues of indigenous rights, health and wellness, governance and infrastructure. Seventeen inaugural Fulbright Arctic Initiative researchers and two co-lead scholars from all eight Arctic nations (Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and the United States) tackled these Arctic issues through 18 months of research on energy, water, and health and infrastructure, and recently concluded their work with a week of public events in Washington, D.C.

The Fulbright Arctic Initiative was established by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs in October 2014, as part of an effort to support applied research towards a more sustainable Arctic and to coincide with the U.S. chairmanship of the Arctic Council.  The inclusion of all Arctic nations and focus on policy relevance across a range of disciplines represents an innovative research model for Fulbright. Based on the success of the first round of the Fulbright Arctic Initiative, plans are underway to continue the program through a second cohort of scholars.

Michael Sfraga, vice chancellor of University of Alaska Fairbanks and Ross A. Virginia, Myers Family Professor of Environmental Science and director of the Institute of Arctic Studies at Dartmouth College, served as co-lead scholars of the program.

“The Fulbright Arctic Initiative is innovative, international and interdisciplinary. Whether it be looking at: how health systems perform in the Arctic, including the vitality of indigenous languages; how remote Arctic communities use renewable energy systems; or examining how climate change is affecting Arctic freshwater ecosystems; the scholars looked at real issues affecting the North today and worked with the people living there, to ensure that their research respected the communities’ rights and aspirations,” explains Virginia. “This type of collaboration is imperative to addressing the future of the Arctic, and I hope that other researchers will look to do the same,” he adds.

“To navigate the rapid and unpredictable change we are experiencing in our home, Inuit and others require our indigenous knowledge of Inuit hunters sharing and documenting the environmental changes and adapting accordingly as well as the efforts of researchers such as the Fulbright scholars.  These scholars are committed to meaningful partnerships with Arctic peoples and are engaged in studies that will help all of us understand this change, how to adapt and what policies and programs are required to make certain the Arctic remains for Inuit and the global commons,” says Okalik Eegeesiak, chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Council.

The first round of Fulbright Arctic Initiative scholars convened in Washington, D.C., from October 24 to 28, for Fulbright Arctic Week, to share their research and recommendations with policymakers and the public. Below is a list of projects by the 2015-2016 Fulbright Arctic Initiative scholars. Each scholar was a member of a working group on either energy, water, or health and infrastructure, which outlined policy recommendations that can be used by Arctic communities, policymakers and researchers.

Additional information about the individual research projects and working group recommendations is available upon request.

Highlights from Fulbright Arctic Week can be found on this storify board created by University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Follow the Fulbright Arctic Initiative on Twitter at: @FulbrightArctic.

Fulbright Arctic Initiative Co-Lead Scholars Michael Sfraga at mike.sfraga@alaska.edu, and Ross A. Virginia at ross.a.virginia@dartmouth.edu and @RVirginiaPolar, and are available for comment. The 17 scholars are also available.


2015-2016 Fulbright Arctic Initiative
Scholar’s Name Home Host Discipline Group Project description
Tom Arnbom
Sr. Conservation Officer, WWF Sweden
Sweden Dartmouth & University of Alaska Fairbanks, USA Biological Science Water International frameworks for the protection of walrus
Linda Chamberlain Founding Director and Public Health Scientist, Alaska Family Violence Prevention Project; Adjunct Professor,
University of Alaska
USA University of Oulu & University of Jyväskylä, Finland Public Health Health & Infrastructure Trauma-informed framework for health and wellness in the Arctic
Susan Chatwood
Executive and Scientific Director, Institute for Circumpolar Health; Research Assistant Professor, Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto
Canada University of California,
Los Angeles, USA
Public Health Health & Infrastructure Health systems performance in Arctic regions
Asli Tepecik Diş
Research Fellow,
Royal Institute of Technology
Sweden Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA   Spatial Plan Health & Infrastructure Arctic as a test site for new spatial planning practices
Gunhild Hoogensen Gjørv
Professor, University of Tromsø- The Arctic University of Norway; Research Associate, Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI)
Norway University of Washington, USA Political Science Energy Tensions between energy and environmental security in the Arctic
Anne Hansen
Associate Professor,
The Danish Center for Environmental Assessment,
Aalborg University;
Research Associate, Centre for Innovation and Research
Denmark University of Alaska Fairbanks, USA Environmental (Env) Science Health & Infrastructure Impact assessment and offshore oil development in the Arctic
Tamara K. Harms
Assistant Professor, College of Natural Science and Math;
University of Alaska, Fairbanks
USA University of Umeå, Sweden Env Science Water Flow regimes of Arctic rivers
Gwen Holdmann
Director, Alaska Center for Energy and Power (ACEP)
USA National Energy Association of Iceland Engineering Energy Renewable energy systems for remote Arctic communities
Noor Johnson
Senior Advisor, Office of International Relations at the Smithsonian; Adjunct Professor
Brown University
USA University of Alberta, Canada Anthropology Energy Knowledge and consultation practices in offshore and gas decision-making in the Canadian Arctic
Trevor Lantz
Assistant Professor, School of Environmental Studies,
University of Victoria
Canada University of Hawaii, Manoa, USA Env Science Health & Infrastructure Impacts of sea level rise and storm surge on community infrastructure
Bjarni Magnússon
Assistant Professor,
Reykjavik University School of Law
Iceland Duke University, USA Law Energy Can the United States establish the outer limits of its extended continental shelf under international law?
Itty S. Neuhaus-Schuck
Associate Professor, School of Fine and Performing Arts,
State University of New York at New Paltz
USA Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada Visual Art Water Lifecycle of an iceberg, in a series of multimedia installations
Gregory Poelzer
Associate Professor, Department of Political Studies,
University of Saskatchewan
Canada University of Alaska Anchorage, USA Political Science Energy Arctic energy policy and governance from a First Nations perspective
Laura Sokka
Senior Scientist, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, Ltd.
Finland Stanford University, USA Env Science Energy Sustainable use of forest bioenergy in the Arctic
Maria Tysiachniouk
Researcher and Chair,
Center for Independent Social Research
Russia University of Washington, USA Sociology Energy  
Øystein Varpe
Associate Professor, Department of Arctic Biology,
University Centre in Svalbard;
Adjunct Researcher,
Akvaplan-niva (Tromsø, Norway)
Norway Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, USA Biological Science Water Seasonal ecology of Arctic marine ecosystems: Fundamentals, multidisciplinary approaches, and relevance to society
Niels Vestergaard
Professor and Chair, Department of Environmental and Business Economics,
University of Southern Denmark
Denmark University of California, Santa Barbara, USA Economics Water Bioeconomics of Arctic fisheries
Michael Sfraga
Vice Chancellor and
Professor of Arctic Policy, School of Natural Resources and Extension, University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF)
USA University of Alaska Fairbanks, USA Geography - Co-Lead Scholar
Ross A. Virginia
Director, Institute of Arctic Studies and Myers Family Professor of Environmental Science, Dartmouth College
USA Dartmouth College, USA Env Science - Co-Lead Scholar