Husker scientists aim to boost Arctic's resilience

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Husker scientists aim to boost Arctic’s resilience

NSF-funded project focuses on effects of rapid environmental change
Craig Allen
Craig Allen

With one of the first grants from a new collaboration-intensive National Science Foundation program, University of Nebraska-Lincoln scientists will lead efforts to develop a highly interdisciplinary approach for managing rapid change in the Arctic.

The Arctic’s stability is increasingly threatened by factors such as climate change, ocean acidification and ozone depletion. With the award, the Nebraska team will gather scientists, practitioners and stakeholders for workshops that build a framework to enhance the Arctic’s resilience – a key to the livelihoods of its 4 million residents and to food production at mid-latitude locations like our state.

Using a “convergence” approach – a deep integration of techniques and expertise from broad-ranging disciplines – these sessions will unite experts from the natural, physical, social and informational sciences with indigenous scholars and communities from the Arctic and the mid-latitudes.

Increasing the Arctic’s ability to withstand environmental stresses and shocks will help mitigate the harmful effects of rapid change, the researchers said. Locally, these effects could include decreased food and economic security. On a global level, Arctic warming affects air circulation and weather patterns at North American mid-latitudes that are home to large-scale food production.

Participants will develop research networks, test new ideas and envision pathways to Arctic stability, communicating their findings both to indigenous Arctic populations and Native American and other local stakeholders in Nebraska and the Midwest.

The project, led by Nebraska researcher Craig Allen, is among the initial 23 awards funded by the NSF’s Growing Convergence Research program, which will focus on merging knowledge from disparate areas to solve major challenges. Though NSF has long supported cross-disciplinary collaboration, convergence goes a step further.

“Convergence is a deeper, more intentional approach to the integration of knowledge, techniques and expertise from multiple disciplines in order to address the most compelling scientific and social challenges,” said NSF Director France Córdova.

The first set of convergence awards will support workshops, summer institutes and Research Coordination Networks in five areas of cutting-edge research.

Allen, a research professor and director of the Nebraska Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, will chair a series of three workshops: two in Alaska and one at Nebraska Innovation Campus. The workshops will position participants to launch high-impact research, influence policymaking and obtain external funding for further work.

Allen’s research collaborators will include Martha Shulski, state climatologist and director of the state climate office, and Hannah Birge, a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Agronomy and Horticulture at Nebraska.

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