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Navigating the New Arctic (NNA) is one of NSF's 10 Big Ideas. NNA projects address convergence scientific challenges in the rapidly changing Arctic. The Arctic research is needed to inform the economy, security and resilience of the Nation, the larger region and the globe. NNA empowers new research partnerships from local to international scales, diversifies the next generation of Arctic researchers, and integrates the co-production of knowledge. This award fulfills part of that aim.

The Arctic is warming on average twice as rapidly as the rest of the planet, which is leading to significant changes in sea ice to which local communities must respond. Beringia, a region of the Arctic encompassing US and Russian territory, is expected to experience some of the highest variability in sea ice conditions in the coming century. This project focuses on the question: how do we design better and more flexible governance and infrastructure to adapt to changing Arctic conditions? To answer this question, the team is taking a convergence approach to forecast potential changes in the Arctic sea ice environment and the impacts on social and ecological systems resulting from those changes and identify adaptive strategies to enhance resilience to those impacts. The project fully engages local and Indigenous communities and decision makers in the Arctic throughout the research process to generate information and models about critical hot spots of sea ice change relevant to local communities. This will help build local and regional governance capacity and allow the researchers to model and predict the robustness of communities to forecast changes.

Coproduction of knowledge between local and Indigenous communities and scientists, and collaborative research across disciplinary and national boundaries, will be used to address four key research questions: 1) How do people understand and perceive changing sea ice, and how do they adapt to variability in ice conditions? 2) Where are the current critical hot spots of variability in sea ice, and where will they be in the future as the environment and communities change? 3) How will governmental and non-governmental organizations in the region navigate changing sea ice conditions and interact with communities to respond to their changing needs? and 4) What features of the existing, and potential, social-ecological systems are robust/fragile to forecast changes in sea ice? This project will document diverse narratives and critical policy challenges around biogeophysical changes and associated livelihood and economic opportunities/costs between and within communities through grounded ethnography and cultural consensus analysis. Satellite data will be used to highlight "hot spots" of sea ice variability and provide a starting point for community and stakeholders' discussions of "change". Interviews with governance actors will identify priorities and responses and generate spatially explicit policy networks. A multi-agent model will link these analyses and be utilized to explore the diversity of issues, projections of change, and fragility or robustness of communities and the infrastructure systems they rely on. Through this research, the project will derive new understandings of community and institutional responses to change, the impacts of spatial and temporal variability within a trend, and robustness-fragility trade-offs that can be applied to other regions as they navigate transitions around the globe in the Anthropocene.



National Science Foundation


September 2019 — August 2024