Blog: Arctic Observing Open Science Meeting

Panel Discussion: “Achieving an Interagency Arctic Observing System.” (Mia Bennett)
Panel Discussion: “Achieving an Interagency Arctic Observing System.” (Mia Bennett)
Last week in Seattle, the Arctic Observing Open Science Meeting (AOOSM) convened for the first time in seven years.

The meeting was organized by the Arctic Research Consortium of the United States (ARCUS), with meeting funded awarded by the National Science Foundation (NSF)’s Arctic Observing Network program. Approximately 200 scientists gathered to discuss research advances made by Arctic observing projects primarily funded by U.S. local, state, and federal agencies.

The agencies themselves were well represented, too. A panel discussion on the first day brought together representatives from seven government agencies with Arctic science objectives including the Department of the Interior, Department of Energy, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and NSF, who all expressed a variety of motivations in studying the region. William Ambrose of NSF explained that his agency’s goal is to “understand the Arctic on a regional scale and its relationship to the global system during a period of rapid environmental change,” while Martin Jeffries of the Office of Naval Research stated, “Where the Navy sees open water, it sees a responsibility to operate.” The link between the two, as AOOSM demonstrated, is that operations in the Arctic need robust networks of observations in order to proceed in a well-informed manner.

Environmental issues

The meeting’s many parallel sessions covered a wide range of topics including the terrestrial Arctic, maritime ecosystems, the fate of sea ice, community-based monitoring, and human dimensions. As two examples of the interdisciplinary nature of the talks as a whole, Ben Fitzhugh (University of Washington) examined how archaeological sites can serve as “distributed observation networks” of past Arctic and subarctic ecological conditions, while Alek Petty (NASA Goddard), an Early Career Travel Award Winner (see below), discussed how NASA Operation IceBridge data can be used to estimate sea ice topography.

One of the key features of AOOSM were the robust, hour-long discussions that followed each parallel session, centering on three key questions about the past and future of Arctic observing networks. Discussants reflected on the advances that have been already been made by these networks and on the future opportunities for enhanced collaboration and interagency observing system. The AOOSM Organizing Committee (full disclosure, of which I am a member) is considering publishing a special issue with articles reviewing these advances and opportunities in Arctic observing science so that they can reach a wider community.

The sun rises in Seattle with Mt. Rainier in the background the day after AOOSM wrapped up. (Mia Bennett)
The sun rises in Seattle with Mt. Rainier in the background the day after AOOSM wrapped up. (Mia Bennett)

A number of early career scientists participated in AOOSM, with six receiving Early Career Travel Awards. Applications were evaluated by the US Association of Polar Early Career Scientists (USAPECS) and sponsored by NSF and NASA. During the closing plenary, Hajo Eicken, Chair of the Study of Environmental Arctic Change (SEARCH, which also helped sponsor the meeting), stressed the importance of early career scientists’ participation in AOOSM, as it offers them an opportunity to extend their research networks and connect with some of the chief Arctic science funding agencies at a formative stage in their career.

The award winners were:

  • Jennifer Watts, Numerical Terradynamic Simulation Group, University of Montana.“Integrating Tower Eddy Covariance, Satellite Remote Sensing and Ecosystem Modeling to Identify Changes in Hydrology and Carbon Fluxes Across the Alaskan Arctic”
  • Elchin Jafarov, Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, University of Colorado.“Sustainable Permafrost Observing in Support of a Permafrost Forecasting System”
  • Anne Gaedeke, Water and Environmental Research Center, University of Alaska Fairbanks.“What Role do Glaciers Play in Subarctic Hydrology?”
  • Alice Bradley, University of Colorado.“Near-surface Temperature Gradients Detected by Microbuoys in the Arctic Ocean”
  • Victoria Herrmann, Scott Polar Research Center, University of Cambridge/The Arctic Institute, Washington D.C.“Frozen Assets: On the Evolution of Risk in Arctic Oil & Gas Development”*
  • Alek Petty, Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center, University of Maryland.“Characterizing Arctic Sea Ice Topography Using High-resolution IceBridge Data”
  • Matthew Druckenmiller, Rutgers University and the National Snow and Ice Data Center, University of Colorado Boulder.“Sea Ice Matters: Science Communication through the SEARCH Sea Ice Action Team”


This post first appeared on Cryopolitics, an Arctic News and Analysis blog



Mia Bennett

Mia Bennett is an assistant professor in the Department of Geography and School of Modern Languages & Cultures (China Studies Programme) at the University of Hong Kong. Through fieldwork and remote sensing, she researches the politics of infrastructure development in frontier spaces, namely the Arctic and areas included within China's Belt and Road Initiative. Read Mia Bennett's articles

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