From demographics to diseases, economies to ecosystems, ships to species, the Arctic is on the move. Maritime traffic is flooding port cities, rural villages face displacement, and species are shifting their ranges north. But without coordination of research communities, researchers know little about the drivers and consequences of the Arctic’s newfound mobility.
This month, the National Science Foundation awarded a $500,000 grant to Georgetown University, in partnership with the University of Alaska Anchorage and the Arctic Institute, to establish a Research Coordination Network on Arctic Migrations. University of Colorado Denver’s Brian Buma, PHD, assistant professor in the department of Integrative Biology, serves as a steering committee member for the network.
“The Arctic is warming faster than just about anywhere else in the world,” says Buma. “It’s no longer realistic to stay in place because the transitions they’re going through are more fundamental than just being slightly warmer or slightly drier in the summer. The ocean is inundating rural villages. Without the ice, big winter storms erode the shoreline and wash things out to sea. In terms of chronology, grasses and flowers coming out earlier, which is changing the migration plans of birds. Permafrost is melting, damaging critical infrastructure.”
Migration In Harmony: An Interdisciplinary Network in Littoral Species, Settlements, and Cultures on the Move (MiH-RCN) is an international, cross-disciplinary network of Arctic migration researchers. The groups include ecologists, economists, glaciologists, oceanographers, social scientists, and educators who will work with native communities.
The collaborative project teams will study how the migrations of Arctic ecosystems, economies, peoples, and cultures interact with one another; they’ll also look into how the various drivers of migrations intersect across different fields.
Eventually, the teams will educate students, communities, and policy makers about their findings and pinpoint future initiatives for the region.
“The changes to the Arctic are far reaching and all encompassing,” says Buma. “No single discipline and no one person can tackle it all. By bringing together these different angles of investigation, we hope to contribute to understanding—and finding new approaches to solve—some of these problems.”