Effective communication of scientific & place-based knowledge of Arctic change: understanding interactions between indigenous & local knowledge, and natural & social science perspectives

World-wide an increasing number of research projects focus on the challenges associated with changes in the Arctic regions. Whereas these often have a natural and physical science focus, this session focuses on trans-disciplinary approaches to study the multiple phenomena associated with global warming, especially but not exclusively in Arctic regions. Another focus is to understand better how to tackle these in large, trans-disciplinary research projects, initiatives and programs (e.g. HORIZON2020 Nunataryuk, INTAROS and the T-MOSAIC program of the International Arctic Research Council, NSF Navigating the New Arctic), as well as communicating results effectively to the public in terms of outreach and education. Contributions are invited, but are not limited, to the following themes:
• science communication, education and outreach tools, and co-production of knowledge
• integration of social and natural science approaches
• indigenous and collaborative approaches to adaptation and mitigation, equitable mitigation, and risk perception
• socio-economic modelling in relation to Arctic environmental change,
• examining the impacts of permafrost thaw and other phenomena on health and pollution as well as infrastructure (and consequences of the built environment).

One of the aims of this session is to bring together researchers from both social and natural sciences who are involved or interested in reaching out to stakeholders and the general public, and share successful experiences. Examples from past, ongoing and future initiatives that include traditional indigenous knowledge and scientific tools and techniques are welcome.

We are also excited to let you know that our ERL special issue called 'Focus on Arctic Change: Transdisciplinary Research and Communication’ is now open for submission. See the webpage: https://iopscience.iop.org/journal/1748-9326/page/Focus_on_Arctic_Change_Transdisciplinary_Research_and_Communication Please consider submitting your manuscript until or preferably before the 31st of May 2021.

Public information:

We are happy to announce that we will be distributing two prizes after our session next week: The best presenter(s) will get 500 US$ and the second best will receive 250 US$ (priority will be given to Early Career Scientists). The public audience will get one vote, while the session organizers each have one as well. Criteria will be 1. the quality of your slide, 2. the quality of your presentation (including time-management) and 3. your answers to questions that arise after the presentations. The winners will be contacted by us several days after our session takes place.

We slightly changed the schedule and will have a 15 minute plenary discussion after all presentations took place. During this time the audience will have the possibility to vote for the presentation they liked best. After this, there is the chance to speak to the presenters in individual break-out chats for ten minutes in order to answer any other questions that may arise.

Co-organized by CL3.2/CR8
Convener: Susanna GartlerECSECS | Co-conveners: Annett Bartsch, Peter Schweitzer, Donatella Zona
vPICO presentations
| Wed, 28 Apr, 13:30–14:15 (CEST)
Public information:

We are happy to announce that we will be distributing two prizes after our session next week: The best presenter(s) will get 500 US$ and the second best will receive 250 US$ (priority will be given to Early Career Scientists). The public audience will get one vote, while the session organizers each have one as well. Criteria will be 1. the quality of your slide, 2. the quality of your presentation (including time-management) and 3. your answers to questions that arise after the presentations. The winners will be contacted by us several days after our session takes place.

We slightly changed the schedule and will have a 15 minute plenary discussion after all presentations took place. During this time the audience will have the possibility to vote for the presentation they liked best. After this, there is the chance to speak to the presenters in individual break-out chats for ten minutes in order to answer any other questions that may arise.

vPICO presentations: Wed, 28 Apr

Peter Schweitzer and Olga Povoroznyuk

The town of Tiksi and the nearby indigenous village of Bykovskiy are located in northern Yakutia, where the Lena River meets the Arctic Ocean. Both owe their existence to Soviet policies and development plans, one tied to the Northern Sea Route, and the other to a fishing enterprise based on the labor of political prisoners. Post-Soviet transformations since the 1990s have severely altered the economic base of these communities, typically resulting in social, cultural and economic shocks and hardships. At the same time, both communities are affected by environmental change, most visibly in Bykovskiy, where coastal erosion caused by permafrost thaw has been destructing the local graveyard and endangers the housing infrastructure.

Interestingly, when we conducted fieldwork there in 2019, our interlocutors seemed to pay very little attention to these environmental problems in the narratives they shared with us. While it might be tempting to accuse local residents of ignoring permafrost thaw and other environmental changes, the situation, we argue, is more complex. In fact, indigenous residents, especially, those making a living by practicing “traditional” activities, such as fishing and reindeer herding, have been observing extreme weather events, shifts in seasonal patterns, and changes in the behavior of land animals and fish for a long time. Similarly, to other parts of the Arctic, this accumulated traditional ecological knowledge has been helpful for adapting to the dramatically changing environment. At the same time, on the discursive and political level, this knowledge has been devalued or, at best, rated as a secondary source of information in relation to a more “advanced” institutionalized expert knowledge. Moreover, the Soviet modernization ideologies and discourses about human-environmental relations have impacted local knowledge, ethics and perceptions of the changing environment. This presentation calls for attention to historical and regional contexts and explores how hierarchical relations between different knowledge systems and how state modernization ideologies inform the ways in which indigenous communities in northern Russia relate to the effects of climate change today.

How to cite: Schweitzer, P. and Povoroznyuk, O.: Ignoring Environmental Change in Bykovskiy, Yakutia? Thawing Permafrost, Indigenous Knowledge and Modernization Ideologies in Northern Russia, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-6765, https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-egu21-6765, 2021.

Grace E. Shephard, Carmen Gaina, Alla Pozdnakova, Elana Wilson Rowe, Nita Kapoor, Siri Jønnum, Svein Harald Kleivane, Turi Lindalen, Karoline Niklasson, Audun Bjerknes, Trine Merete Kvernmo, Kristine Aall Knudsen, Lars Lomell, Sissel Drevsjø, and Brit Lisa Skjelkvåle

The Arctic, Nordic, Scandinavian and “global north” regions have, individually and collectively, gained increased public, political, commercial, and academic interest over the last decade. For example, regarding issues ranging from climate change to polar ecosystems, and from shipping routes to indigenous knowledge. As such, there is an increasing demand for state-of-the-art knowledge about the region from truly interdisciplinary viewpoints and multi-scale perspectives (e.g. past, present and future changes, as well as feedbacks between and within the environment and society).

To address such issues, members of the University of Oslo (UiO) and the UiO International Summer School (ISS) developed an interdisciplinary MSc-level course, titled "A Changing Arctic" [1] worth 15 ECTS. The course was structured around three major modules with the opportunity for cross-thematic discussions and knowledge transfer;  Natural Sciences and Technology, Law and Legal Regimes, and Governance and Society. From 2014-2018, for 6-weeks over the northern hemisphere summer, this in-person course welcomed between 15-25 enrolled students annually. It was coordinated by representatives from the Faculties of Law, Natural Sciences (PI from the Department of Geosciences), and Humanities, and also involved a number of guest lecturers from Norway, Europe, and internationally.

Since 2018, we have been in discussions to develop an additional digital, or hybrid (in-person and online), version of the course to alleviate financial and summertime availability constraints. In 2020, the pandemic further brought to light the need for more flexible, wide-reaching teaching options. A “MOOC” - Massive Open Online Course - offers a framework for a formal, high quality, free and widely accessible educational resource. This particularly exciting avenue for reaching people in remote Arctic areas, those who do not fit the traditional university-admissions profiles, as well as people in the global south who may not be familiar with northern processes.

In 2020, we secured funding from UArctic, and other partners, to begin this process, and as of Jan 2021 have begun with digital course preparations for a interdisciplinary Arctic MOOC to be released in late 2021 (in addition to an ISS enrolled-student stream in summer 2021). We aim to share some of the opportunities and challenges associated with this transition, including coordinating a very large thematic project and many international lecturers/contributers, switching from in-person lectures to "flipped-classroom" and video-style lectures, interdisciplinary pedagogical considerations, Nordic educational frameworks, financial challenges and funding opportunities, typical student profiles, as well as more practical filming and digital elements.

[1] https://www.uio.no/studier/emner/iss/sommerskolen/ISSMN4030/index.html 

How to cite: Shephard, G. E., Gaina, C., Pozdnakova, A., Wilson Rowe, E., Kapoor, N., Jønnum, S., Kleivane, S. H., Lindalen, T., Niklasson, K., Bjerknes, A., Kvernmo, T. M., Knudsen, K. A., Lomell, L., Drevsjø, S., and Skjelkvåle, B. L.: An Arctic transformation; from an in-person international summer school to a digital MOOC , EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-12584, https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-egu21-12584, 2021.

Kjetil Lygre, Bjørnar Hallaråker Røsvik, Espen Storheim, David Forcucci, Ignatius Rigor, Helene R. Langehaug, Hanne Sagen, and Lasse H. Pettersson

This communication project aims to increase our understanding of climate processes, the Arctic and the importance of research through the active involvement of primary to junior high school students. The project is based on NERSC's ongoing activity in the Arctic Sea, collaborating with several projects and utilizing a concept introduced by the US Coast Guard. Students of four primary schools in western Norway produced a total of 230 small wooden boats.  Together with a comparable number of boats produced by US students they were subsequently launched on the ice in the Arctic Ocean by the coast guard ship KV Svalbard in August and November 2020 as part of scientific cruises. Scientific buoys were also launched, transmitting their position and surface temperature. Through a dedicated web-site students and teachers could follow the drift in near real time. Boats are uniquely branded with a web address, so they may be reported if found after drifting ashore.

The project website serves both as a communication hub between scientists and students and teachers and to reach out to a wider audience. Several films were produced in this regard. Webinars were held by NERSC scientists on climate and ocean science topics and crew members from K/V Svalbard on work and life onboard a coast guard vessel. Feedback from the teachers will also be presented.

How to cite: Lygre, K., Hallaråker Røsvik, B., Storheim, E., Forcucci, D., Rigor, I., Langehaug, H. R., Sagen, H., and Pettersson, L. H.: Float Your Boat - Norway. School students, small wooden boats and marine research in the Arctic, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-16269, https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-egu21-16269, 2021.

Levi Westerveld

Maps have always played a central role in the analysis, visualization, and communication of environmental scientific data. In recent years, a growing number of social scientists have turned to mapping and Geographic Information Science (GIS) tools, to visualize and map human experiences, including in the Arctic. At the same time, social and theoretical critiques of GIS as a tool wielded chiefly by and for those in power have increased awareness of its limitations, particularly for studying human perceptions, experiences, and the meanings of place. Indeed, many places tied to human experience, such as emotions, sounds, or memories, cannot be mapped in a conventional GIS: they do not fit the rigidity of the Cartesian grid. They may lack coordinates, or simply have ambiguous boundaries. In this presentation, I discuss how a new mapping methodology – topological mapping – developed in the context of Holocaust research, can be applied for integrating traditional knowledge, or human experience, in Arctic geographical research. This new method pushes the field of GIScience in new directions, providing new opportunities for trans-disciplinary research, which better integrates humanistic data in mapping for analysis and communication. Using examples from using topological mapping whilst working with Saami reindeer herders youth, I demonstrate the potential for this new mapping method in the Arctic.  

How to cite: Westerveld, L.: Topological mapping: new method to map, analyze, and visualize humanistic data in the Arctic, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-16365, https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-egu21-16365, 2021.

David Lipson, Kim Reasor, and Kååre Sikuaq Erickson

In this project we analyze artwork and recorded statements of 5th grade students from the community of Utqiaġvik, Alaska, who participated in a science-art outreach activity. The team consisted of a scientist (Lipson), an artist (Reasor) and an outreach specialist (Erickson) of Inupiat heritage from a village in Alaska. We worked with four 5th grade classes of about 25 students each at Fred Ipalook Elementary. The predominantly Inupiat people of Utqiaġvik are among those who will be most impacted by climate change and the loss of Arctic sea ice in the near future. Subsistence hunting of marine mammals associated with sea ice is central to the Inupiat way of life. Furthermore, their coastal homes and infrastructure are increasingly subject to damage from increased wave action on ice-free Beaufort and Chukchi Seas. While the people of this region are among the most directly vulnerable to climate change, the teachers reported that the subject is not generally covered in the elementary school curriculum.

The scientist and the local outreach specialist gave a short presentation about sea ice and climate change in the Arctic, with emphasis on local impacts to hunting and infrastructure. We then showed the students a large poster of historical and projected sea ice decline, and asked the students to help us fill in the white space beneath the lines. The artist led the children in making small paintings that represent things that are important to their lives in Utqiaġvik (they were encouraged to paint animals, but they were free to do whatever they wanted). We returned to the class later that week and had each student briefly introduce themselves and their painting, and place it on the large graph of sea ice decline, which included the dire predictions of the RCP8.5 scenario. Then we added the more hopeful RCP2.6 scenario to end on a positive note.

Common themes expressed in the students’ artwork included subsistence hunting, other aspects of traditional Inupiat culture, nature and family. Modern themes such as sports and Pokémon were also common. The students reacted to the topic of climate change with pictures of whales, polar bears and other animals, and captions such as “Save the world/ice/animals.” There were several paintings showing unsuccessful hunts for whales or seals. Some students displayed an understanding of ecosystem science in their recorded statements. For example, a student who painted the sun and another who painted a krill both succinctly described energy flow in food webs that support the production of whales (for example, “I drew krill because without krill there wouldn’t be whales”). Some of the students described the consequences of sea ice loss to local wildlife with devastating succinctness (sea ice is disappearing and polar bears will go extinct). The overall sense was that the children had a strong grasp of the potential consequences of climate change to their region and way of life.

How to cite: Lipson, D., Reasor, K., and Erickson, K. S.: Using art to explore children’s perceptions of their Arctic community in a changing climate , EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-16449, https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-egu21-16449, 2021.

Nicole Herman-Mercer, Karen Cozzetto, and Keith Musselman

The Arctic Rivers Project is a National Science Foundation – Navigating the New Arctic funded project aimed at increasing our understanding of the impacts of climate change on rivers, fish, and Indigenous communities across the Northern Alaska and the Yukon River Watershed in Alaska and Canada.  This will be accomplished through water-quality monitoring, a variety of modeling activities, and the development of narratives of change from community members themselves.  Combined these methods will create storylines of climate change in the arctic.  Storylines combine experiential narrative information with model outputs to make the predicated future more tangible regarding potential impacts.  The project team is comprised of researchers from the natural and social sciences as well as the modeling community and two Indigenous organizations focused on science, outreach, and engagement.  To increase the research team’s ability to co-produce knowledge with Indigenous communities across a large study domain we are working with an Indigenous Advisory Council (IAC).  The IAC is comprised of 11 Indigenous community members, leaders, elders and students representing diverse communities across our study domain. The IAC meets via online video conferencing monthly to tackle tasks such as developing knowledge co-production and inclusion and protection of Indigenous Knowledge protocols to guide the project.  Additionally, the IAC is working with a subset of the research team to create the goals, objectives, and agenda for an Arctic Rivers Summit that will bring together Tribal and First Nation resource managers, Arctic and Boreal community members, and academic, Indigenous, federal, state, and provincial researchers to unify the state of knowledge on Arctic Rivers as a community of observers, investigators, knowledge holders, and stewards.  This presentation will discuss the steps taken to form the IAC, the role of the IAC in guiding project implementation, providing advice, and facilitating connections with Indigenous communities.  It is our hope that we may provide an example of successful implementation and design to communicate and co-produce knowledge with communities across a large study domain from which other projects may learn.

How to cite: Herman-Mercer, N., Cozzetto, K., and Musselman, K.: Working with an Indigenous Advisory Council to facilitate effective communication and collaboration between researchers and Arctic communities , EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-16368, https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-egu21-16368, 2021.

Jan Rene Larsen and Sandy Starkweather

Sustaining Arctic Observing Networks (SAON) and its committees have emerged as a vital regional facilitator for advancing sustained investments in Arctic observing and data management across a partnership of Arctic and non-Arctic countries, regional and global organizations, including those of Arctic Indigenous Peoples. The lack of a consistent, equitable and holistic planning mechanism has hampered efforts to strategically improve these systems. In response, SAON set forth a vision in its 2018-2028 strategic plan to develop a Roadmap for Arctic Observing and Data Systems (ROADS) to address this systemic shortcoming and improve linkages across independently funded efforts. ROADS will address this short-coming through generating a systems-level view of observing and data system impacts, requirements and implementation strategies under its Roadmap and engaging a diverse and inclusive group of actors to deliver it. A critical success factor for ROADS is the equitable inclusion of Indigenous Peoples in the design and development process, which presents specific challenges. These challenges include differing world views of knowledge systems and historical and current inequities that have limited the degree to which Indigenous communities and organizations can make their voices heard or support the human capacity required to engage in planning. ROADS is embedding strategies to address these challenges, particularly focused on funding Indigenous expertise.


ROADS is both a holistic concept, building from the societal benefit-based approach of the International Arctic Observing Assessment Framework, and one that can proceed step-wise so that the most imperative Arctic observing elements can be rapidly improved and accessed through interoperable data systems. The concept of Shared Arctic Variables (SAVs) occupies a central place in the ROADS planning process (Fig. 1). SAVs are linked to the essential variable strategies of broader global networks (e.g. Global Ocean Observing System, Global Atmospheric Watch), and through an emphasis on broadly shared societal benefit, extend their definitions in support of Indigenous-led benefit and regionally identified science and decision-making needs. Guided by a principle of benefit sharing, the ROADS process is designed to engage diverse partnerships of experts across sectors in support of integrated Arctic observing and data system development

How to cite: Larsen, J. R. and Starkweather, S.: An integrated system of observations driven by societal benefit, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-16516, https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-egu21-16516, 2021.