NNA Track 1: Pursuing Opportunities for Long-term Arctic Resilience for Infrastructure and Society (POLARIS)

  • Chi, Guangqing G. (PI)
  • Tickamyer, Ann Rachel (CoPI)
  • Howe, Elbert E.L. (CoPI)
  • Holen, Davin D. (CoPI)
  • Maio, Christopher C.V. (CoPI)

Project: Research project

Project Details


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.

Alaskan coastal Indigenous communities face severe, urgent, and complex social and infrastructural challenges resulting from environmental changes. Coastlines are degrading and this impacts infrastructure that communities use on a daily basis, changing how people access and hunt for food and other natural resources and conduct their lives. The magnitude and significance of impacts are unclear as is how local communities will respond to resulting disruptions and disasters. A major problem facing researchers, stakeholders, and policymakers in addressing these issues is that existing research is piecemeal. The whole picture of coastal communities is not well understood, and ways to address problems they face are not as effective as they could be. A changing environment drives changes to the populations of Alaskan coastal Indigenous communities due to families and individuals relocating either seasonally or permanently, which complicates efforts to understand the relationship between environmental changes and society. These challenges demand a robust, integrated, and convergent research platform to identify the complexities of the issues and the ways communities can respond. The POLARIS (Pursuing Opportunities for Long-term Arctic Resilience for Infrastructure and Society) project supplies just that kind of research platform for analyzing current and future needs in order to create resilient communities in the face of a changing environment.

The POLARIS project has identified three convergent research pillars to help communities adapt: environmental hotspots of disruption to communities and infrastructure, food in complex adaptive systems, and migration and community relocation. These pillars are interwoven with five component processes: education, outreach, local community engagement, international comparison and collaboration, and evaluation. Research integrates the pillars where system responses and uncertainties are predicted under several socio-environmental scenarios. Researchers from a variety of fields are coming together with local community members to conduct the research. The data and analysis created through surveying local community members, modeling environmental changes, and conducting economic research inform local, state, and national decision makers and leaders about how to address infrastructure and social needs in the face of environmental changes. In addition to the research and community focus of the project, POLARIS is training junior researchers, graduate students, and undergraduate students in interdisciplinary research as they participate in work across the pillars and five components. This helps ensure that the rising generation of researchers is well prepared to continue the crucial work to address the issues that the project identifies well past its conclusion. In addition, local educators are working with local communities to develop classroom tools to engage students in K-12 settings. This integrated research project will enable communities to become more resilient with both stronger societies, civic culture, and improved infrastructure needed as the new Arctic continues to emerge.

Co-funding for this award is being provided by the NSF Research Traineeship Program (NRT), reflecting the project's alignment with the broader goals of interdisciplinary graduate education.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

Effective start/end date1/1/2012/31/23


  • National Science Foundation: $3,009,000.00


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