Facebook pixel

Arctic Polaris Project: Building a Resilient and Equitable Arctic

March 13, 2023
Lance Howe Lance Howe, Professor of Economics

How do we create a resilient Arctic in the face of significant changes to the physical and social environment? The POLARIS project funded by the National Science Foundation seeks to understand how communities in Arctic Alaska are affected by environmental hazards and risks, including coastal erosion and flooding, declining sea ice cover, and changes in the availability and access to wild resources.

Dr. Lance Howe, professor of economics at UAA’s College of Business and Public Policy, is co-principal investigator on the project, which stands for “Pursuing Opportunities for Long-Term Arctic Resilience for Infrastructure & Society.” The team also includes researchers from The Pennsylvania State University, University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF), Michigan Technological University, and Alaska state agencies.

Howe’s work contributes toward experiments that explore topics related to nutrition and food security in light of a changing physical and social environment. He is also contributing toward related migration research that explores how people respond to changes in the environment. The project is “a wonderful opportunity for UAA students and faculty to be engaged in a large interdisciplinary project addressing issues that are important for Alaska; we hope our findings prove valuable to Alaska Native people living in remote rural Alaska communities,” Howe said.

Another major theme of the project, led by Dr. Chris Maio of UAF, involves understanding how the environment is changing, particularly coastal erosion and changes due to melting permafrost. “We were in Chevak to conduct related research, measuring coastal erosion, and to meet with the community and tribal council to discuss the social science components of the project related to nutrition, food security and migration of people,” Howe said. “Part of the project also involves educational outreach to students in the community and so our team worked with the local school and used a curriculum developed by Dr. Maio to introduce concepts related to coastal and river erosion, including customized maps from Chevak, to allow students to see changes in their own community.”

CBPP students from Chevak or Dillingham interested in learning more about this project or perhaps engaging in related project research should contact Lance at elhowe@alaska.edu.

A POLARIS project video features interviews from Chevak, Alaska, as community members discuss climate changes, subsistence, and impacts of Typhoon Merbok, the strongest storm to hit western Alaska in fifty years.

Learn more at the Polaris website
Subscribe to the Arctic Polaris Youtube channel