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

News subtitle

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 NameHomeHostDisciplineGroupProject description
Tom Arnbom
Sr. Conservation Officer, WWF Sweden
SwedenDartmouth & University of Alaska Fairbanks, USABiological ScienceWaterInternational frameworks for the protection of walrus
Linda Chamberlain Founding Director and Public Health Scientist, Alaska Family Violence Prevention Project; Adjunct Professor,
University of Alaska
USAUniversity of Oulu & University of Jyväskylä, FinlandPublic HealthHealth & InfrastructureTrauma-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
CanadaUniversity of California,
Los Angeles, USA
Public HealthHealth & InfrastructureHealth systems performance in Arctic regions
Asli Tepecik Diş
Research Fellow,
Royal Institute of Technology
SwedenMassachusetts Institute of Technology, USA  Spatial PlanHealth & InfrastructureArctic 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)
NorwayUniversity of Washington, USAPolitical ScienceEnergyTensions 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
DenmarkUniversity of Alaska Fairbanks, USAEnvironmental (Env) ScienceHealth & InfrastructureImpact assessment and offshore oil development in the Arctic
Tamara K. Harms
Assistant Professor, College of Natural Science and Math;
University of Alaska, Fairbanks
USAUniversity of Umeå, SwedenEnv ScienceWaterFlow regimes of Arctic rivers
Gwen Holdmann
Director, Alaska Center for Energy and Power (ACEP)
USANational Energy Association of IcelandEngineeringEnergyRenewable energy systems for remote Arctic communities
Noor Johnson
Senior Advisor, Office of International Relations at the Smithsonian; Adjunct Professor
Brown University
USAUniversity of Alberta, CanadaAnthropologyEnergyKnowledge and consultation practices in offshore and gas decision-making in the Canadian Arctic
Trevor Lantz
Assistant Professor, School of Environmental Studies,
University of Victoria
CanadaUniversity of Hawaii, Manoa, USAEnv ScienceHealth & InfrastructureImpacts of sea level rise and storm surge on community infrastructure
Bjarni Magnússon
Assistant Professor,
Reykjavik University School of Law
IcelandDuke University, USALawEnergyCan 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
USAMemorial University of Newfoundland, CanadaVisual ArtWaterLifecycle of an iceberg, in a series of multimedia installations
Gregory Poelzer
Associate Professor, Department of Political Studies,
University of Saskatchewan
CanadaUniversity of Alaska Anchorage, USAPolitical ScienceEnergyArctic energy policy and governance from a First Nations perspective
Laura Sokka
Senior Scientist, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, Ltd.
FinlandStanford University, USAEnv ScienceEnergySustainable use of forest bioenergy in the Arctic
Maria Tysiachniouk
Researcher and Chair,
Center for Independent Social Research
RussiaUniversity of Washington, USASociologyEnergy 
Øystein Varpe
Associate Professor, Department of Arctic Biology,
University Centre in Svalbard;
Adjunct Researcher,
Akvaplan-niva (Tromsø, Norway)
NorwayWoods Hole Oceanographic Institution, USABiological ScienceWaterSeasonal 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
DenmarkUniversity of California, Santa Barbara, USAEconomicsWaterBioeconomics of Arctic fisheries
Michael Sfraga
Vice Chancellor and
Professor of Arctic Policy, School of Natural Resources and Extension, University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF)
USAUniversity of Alaska Fairbanks, USAGeography-Co-Lead Scholar
Ross A. Virginia
Director, Institute of Arctic Studies and Myers Family Professor of Environmental Science, Dartmouth College
USADartmouth College, USAEnv Science-Co-Lead Scholar