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INTPART-International Partnerships for Excellent Education and Research

Arctic Field Summer Schools: Norway-Canada-USA collaboration

Alternative title: Arktiske sommerskoler: et samarbeid mellom Norge, USA og Kanada

Awarded: NOK 4.5 mill.

This INTPART project supported research and education collaboration among UiT-the Arctic University of Norway, University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF), USA and University of Calgary (UC), Canada. Three summer schools have engaged graduate students from Norway, USA and Canada in exploring science questions related to Arctic challenges. The students gained field experience from the physical Arctic environment, hands on knowledge on how measurements are performed to support scientific questions, and learned how environmental changes can be studied and monitored through the use of advanced remote sensing technologies. The education partners gained field experience, observational data, and material to use in their university teaching courses, as well as real research data published in scientific journals. The project was affiliated with CIRFA (http://cirfa.uit.no), an SFI that conducted research on remote sensing technologies that advanced satellite remote sensing in the Arctic and developed complementary technologies using UAVs and ground-based sensors. The INTPART program benefited from CIRFAs expertise and involvement of CIRFA partners. The first field school in the Spring of 2017 included a one-week field cruise on board R/V Lance to the ice edge north-west of Svalbard, plus a one-week workshop in Tromsø. The cruise introduced the 15 students to techniques for sea water sampling, snow and ice thickness monitoring, snow pit and ice coring measurements, UAV/drone observations, and satellite image acquisition, as well as general navigation and safety in the Arctic. The subsequent workshop included lectures about current topics, techniques and challenges in the Arctic, as well as beginning to explore the in situ data and satellite images obtained during the field cruise. The second field school in the summer of 2018 included a ten-day field course in Utqiagvik (Barrow), on the North Slope of Alaska, plus a one-day workshop in Fairbanks. The course trained a new set of 15 students in techniques for snow and ice measurements, UAV/drone observations, and satellite image acquisition/processing, and this year introduced image time sequences (for history and change), navigation and safety in the Arctic, as well as cultural and general awareness. An outreach event in Utqiagvik gave the students the opportunity to connect with people living in the Arctic, and the open workshop in Fairbanks presented the student projects to listeners from UAF and Fairbanks in general. The third field school in the summer of 2019 was a 15-day capstone synthesis workshop at the Kluane Lake Research Station, Yukon, Canada, with 19 student participants and 8 researchers. Kluane Lake is the largest lake in Yukon, and sits adjacent to the world's largest non-polar ice fields. Efforts were directed toward field methods and analysis of data on glaciers and permafrost and synthesis of information from prior schools to assess the impacts of climate change on the cryosphere, ecosystems, and people in these areas. In addition to in-class and field exercises, participants were able to learn about the Holocene environmental and human history of the southwest Yukon region, the broad picture of climate change in the Arctic and Sub-Arctic, and the First Nations communities that live in the area under these changes. A joint data repository has been set up at UiT containing all the data-sets (field data, satellite imagery, lectures, reports) collected during all three summer schools. They are made available to all partners and participants and shall remain in place for continued future collaboration. Research exchange fellowships to encourage scientific collaboration between the students and researchers at the partner institutions were offered and, although extended until mid 2022, were somewhat restricted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Two students took up the short exchange program, one from Norway to Alaska in 2019, and one from Canada to Norway in 2022. One academic made a short exchange from Alaska to Canada for an open day meeting in 2019. This collaborative project aimed to deepen the Arctic knowledge of the young generation, and to create knowledge and resources to stimulate interest in Arctic research. Remote sensing is also of great importance for resource management in the North, in particular as related to marine resources, offshore development and hazards. The program promoted awareness about challenges caused by sea ice, ice bergs, ocean and meteorological conditions, and the needs of the Arctic communities. The project also strengthened awareness and collaboration between the three partner institutes that will last in to the future.

The outcomes of the project range from those of the individual participants to the partner institutes, and to both short and long-term results. The most obvious outcome relates to the student participants that have gained unique experiences in the Arctic environment, learned new skills from leading experts, and made international and cross-disciplinary connections that will last their lifetimes. Taking students into the remote and harsh Arctic environment was expected to have deeper and longer lasting influence on their education than could ever be gained from text-book courses. These students are the future of Arctic research and this deeper appreciation of their field of study must have and impact on the quality of their work in the future. The learning outcome was evident in the student reports, but the impact will only appear in their future research. The three Arctic field schools trained a total of 49 students. The exchange program created the opportunity to build upon the field school's experience and learn more from the partner's expertise. This was taken up by only two students, since the Corona pandemic limited international travel, but these students expanded their knowledge and brought new skills back to their own institutions. This new knowledge has been, or will be, incorporated into their PhD theses and future papers. Besides the students, many faculty researchers also benefited from such rare field opportunities provided by this project. The field experience will impact their teaching through both direct examples and through the data and photographs gathered during the three field schools. The researchers' collaborative networks were also broadened during the project, with a much deeper understanding of the partner institutes' fields of study, methods of teaching, and working procedures and administration. Different countries have different approaches to education and research, which is important to appreciate when seeking international collaboration, and was prominently demonstrated by each partner taking their turn of organising a summer school. The data collected from the field schools will remain available to the partner institutes for future incorporation into teaching courses, for master and PhD student projects, and for scientific publications. Such educational usage has already been reported by the Alaskan and Norwegian partners, and in scientific studies in all partners. The Arctic field schools project also brought greater awareness and cooperation between scientific researchers and local and indigenous communities. Particularly during the Alaskan and Canadian schools, where community involvement, politics and history was part of the learning plan. The project was also presented in posters at two Arctic Frontiers conferences in Norway, where the experiences gained great interest and questions of future schools or collaboration.

This INTPART project supports research and education collaboration among UiT-the Arctic University of Norway, University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF), USA and University of Calgary (UC), Canada. Through a series of summer schools, we have engaged graduate students from Norway, USA and Canada in exploring science questions related to Arctic challenges. The students gained field experience from the physical Arctic environment, hands on knowledge on how measurements are performed to support scientific questions, and learned how environmental changes can be studied and monitored through the use of advanced remote sensing technologies. To help integrate activities across the three summer schools and to sustain this effort beyond the duration of the project, we have adopted an assessment framework along the lines of the Arctic Council's Snow, Water, Ice and Permafrost Assessment (SWIPA). The assessment framework also ensured that students not only developed a common understanding of knowledge gaps, research methods, technologies and data analysis requirements in Arctic monitoring, but were able to tie this work into pressing societal information needs. The proposed project is affiliated with CIRFA (http://cirfa.uit.no), an SFI conducting research on remote sensing technologies, aiming to advance satellite remote sensing and to develop complementary technologies using UAVs and ground-based sensors. The INTPART program benefited from the involvement of CIRFA partners, such as researchers from the Norwegian Polar Institute and Norut Northern Research Institute. The first course was in the Spring of 2017 and included a one-week field course on board R/V Lance to the marginal ice zone (MIZ) in Svalbard waters, plus one week in Tromsø. The second course was organized at Barrow, Alaska in 2018 in a setting that has been a venue for advanced interdisciplinary education in the past. The third course was a Capstone Synthesis Workshop at the Kluane Lake Research Station, Canada in 2019. Further collaboration is encouraged with a funded exchange program for staff and students between the partner institutes.

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INTPART-International Partnerships for Excellent Education and Research