Arctic Portal logo

The Arctic Gateway

News & Press Releases

Arctic Portal News Portlet

24 August 2010

Joan Nymand Larsen

The Arctic Portal staff is pleased to post news of the twentieth anniversary of the International Social Sciences Association (IASSA) and wishes to extend it's congratulation to the organization and it's members. May the future of IASSA be as fruitful as it's past and may it continue to contribute to our understanding of our surroundings, the Arctic.

The text below is the announcement from president of IASSA, Joan Nymand Larsen

From the President

On the Occasion of the Twentieth Anniversary of IASSA – August 23, 2010
Please join me and our membership in celebrating the 20th Anniversary of IASSA. On behalf of IASSA, I wish to extend to the membership and the Arctic social science community my warmest greetings on this important occasion of the Association´s Twentieth Anniversary.
The International Arctic Social Sciences Association (IASSA) had its early beginnings in 1990 – twenty years ago today. IASSA was founded in 1990 in Fairbanks, Alaska, at a meeting held in conjunction with the 7th Inuit Studies Conference on August 23, 1990. The creation of IASSA follows the suggestion, made at the Conference on Coordination of Research in the Arctic held in Leningrad in 1988, to establish an international association to represent Arctic social scientists. On this special occasion, I would like to salute our founders, our true visionaries – who were the pioneers of this undertaking. Among the early founders of IASSA who were instrumental in the IASSA creation and who did the important preparatory work are Ludger Müller-Wille, our first IASSA president, Noel Broadbent who worked on the by-laws and founding documents, and Igor Krupnik who served on the first IASSA council, and others.

On this occasion of the 20th anniversary of IASSA, I also wish to extend my congratulations and respect to our members, both past and present, whose dedication and continuous efforts have led to the present profile, growth and recognition of the Association that we now enjoy. On this occasion, it is a time to reflect, remember the achievements, take stock, and to look to the future. This reflection cannot be done in this relatively brief message from me today. Rather, you will learn more about our early beginnings in a special anniversary issue of Northern Notes which we are now preparing for publication early this fall.
Our past presidents, our many IASSA council members over the past two decades, and our numerous dedicated members have done an invaluable job for our association, working to raise the reputation, recognition and visibility of IASSA and the Arctic social sciences in the North and beyond. Much effort has been put into promoting and stimulating national and international cooperation, to increase the participation of social scientists in national and international arctic research, and to furthering our communication and coordination with other related organizations.

From our relatively short history, we can, I think, derive confidence. This is a memorable day, when we should not only look to the past, but also and above all re-commit our strength to the growth of the Arctic social sciences and to international and multi-disciplinary scientific cooperation. The growth and visibility of our association bears witness to its success. Our membership has grown to between 500-600 members, residing in more than 20 countries. The Association has reached a phase of critical reflection, the object of which is to ensure its continued growth, the increased recognition of Arctic social sciences and a growing participation in social science research in the Arctic. The past twenty years have seen great advances towards the continued growth of the Arctic social sciences and humanities, and in this IASSA has played a notable part thanks to the dedication of our membership.
In celebrating the 20th anniversary, it is my sincere hope that our Association may continue to grow and realize its objectives to stimulate and promote our science, to increase public awareness of circumpolar issues and research results, and to promote mutual respect, communication, and collaboration between social scientists and peoples of the north. On this day of reflection, the important and in many respects pivotal role played by the 2007-2008 IPY cannot be ignored – but must be reiterated and celebrated. As we assess the outcome and achievements of the IPY it is clear that the Arctic social sciences have moved far to gain recognition and equal partner status in international forums and research policy circles. Looking back, it is evident that the collaborative work of IASSA and its membership has been an important contributing factor in facilitating the broader inclusion of the Arctic social sciences, and the improved access to funding and research opportunities.

Indeed, in the course of the past years, IASSA has played a vital role through a variety of exchanges, international committee work and science collaborations, which has helped accelerate the growth and profile of our science. The Association, I believe, has therefore good reason to feel confident. It knows better what it wants and has a better idea of what it can do. The triannual ICASS events – and now the 7th ICASS coming up in June 2011 – bear witness to our growing and vibrant science community.

As we celebrate this day, this is a good time to look back at some of our accomplishments and activities. It has been a busy past two decades for the Arctic social sciences and IASSA. No
doubt, social science participation in the IPY was instrumental in making the IPY more inclusive and cross-disciplinary. The IPY created the momentum to advance collaborative international research in social/human sciences to a new level. It also advanced the participation of Arctic residents, and particularly indigenous people – in science, research planning, data collection, and data management. On this note, I would like to acknowledge also the invaluable work of our social science representatives on the IPY Joint Committee; Igor Krupnik and Grete K. Hovelsrud. Since the onset of planning for IPY we have witnessed a remarkable turn-around in the standing of social and human research in Arctic science. The contribution made by indigenous peoples represents a major IPY legacy. Advances in the inclusion of indigenous people and local communities in research has also meant that many of the IPY projects and research since the IPY are relevant to indigenous people and local communities and that they address issues of importance to them.
But even as we remember and reflect, IASSA must review its present and meditate on its future. The official closure to the IPY has not meant a slowdown for the Arctic social science community; on the contrary, this continues to be a busy time for the Arctic social sciences and our association. In light of the scale and importance of the IPY and the large volume of Arctic social science research coming out of the IPY, the 2011 ICASS will provide once more an important forum for presenting and sharing our social science research including the extensive research produced during the IPY.

The Seventh Congress of the International Arctic Social Sciences (ICASS VII), entitled Circumpolar Perspectives in Global Dialogue: Social Sciences beyond the IPY will be held in Akureyri, Iceland, on June 22-26, 2011 ( On this Anniversary Day, please think about how you might contribute to this upcoming ICASS event. IASSA invites ideas and thoughts about themes of special interest for sessions and workshops at ICASS VII. Please submit your session proposals by September 15, 2010 to IASSA secretary Lára Olafsdottir at . The ICASS is a key venue for celebrating and advancing our science. As in the past, the Congress will offer various venues to share Arctic social science research and to analyse the outcome of IPY in social, human, and related fields. This includes special project sessions, discussion panels, plenary presentations, and invited talks. This will be the second IASSA Congress to celebrate the large volume of research produced during the IPY and beyond. The success of ICASS VII will be a significant testimony to the wealth of research that went on or was initiated during the IPY process.
The IASSA secretariat is putting together a special Anniversary Issue of Northern Notes which will be ready for distribution this early fall. To help celebrate the 20th Anniversary of IASSA, please consider sharing any thoughts, reflections, or accounts of interesting moments in our association´s history (including photos) by sending your written contribution to the IASSA secretariat at for consideration in the upcoming special issue of IASSA´s Northern Notes.

Once again, my best wishes on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the foundation of IASSA as well as the hope that its future may be marked by further great achievements to the benefit of our science and growing research collaboration in the North. In welcoming with confidence IASSA´s entry into its third decade, we can look forward to working together to continue the tasks that our early pioneers began long ago and to continue the work to strengthen Arctic social sciences.

Joan Nymand Larsen
IASSA President
Stefansson Arctic Institute
Akureyri, Iceland, August 23, 2010

19 August 2010

Oil tanker

On the 14 of August the ice-class tanker SCF Baltica began it's voyage through the Northern sea-route. The tanker will be accompanied by three nuclear powered ice breakers during the two week sail. For the duration of the trip the crew till gather information on ice conditions in the area and the data used to estimate the commercial benefit of choosing the Northern sea-route vs. traditional routes in the south.

What makes this trip special is the fact that it is the first time that a Aframax tanker of more than 100,00 dwt is navigating along the Northern sea route. The journey will cover 7,000 nautical miles where 3,000 are along the Northern sea route. The traditional southern shipping route connecting these two areas is around 12,000 nautical mile.  The ship started it's voyage from the port of Murmansk, while the port of discharge in China is yet to be determined. The tanker is transporting gas condensate for Novatek, Russia's largest independent gas producer. The voyage has been prepared by the ship's technical manager, SCF Unicom and specialists from SCF's head office in Moscow to make the voyage as safe as possible.

The three nuclear icebreakers assisting the ship are the "Rossiya", "Taymyr" and "50 years of Victory" the last one mentioned will be equipped with divers, equipment and specialists in dealing with oil spills and leakages.

The northern sea route is open for less than two months in the late summer when the sea ice is at its minimum. The period can however be expected to lengthen gradually as sea ice continues to decline.

Source: Barrentsobserver & MIC

For more information about arctic shipping please visit the Arctic Portal Shipping Portlet

10 August 2010

Nares overview

The largest Iceberg since 1962 has broken of the Greenlandic Ice sheet. The Iceberg comes from the Petermann glacier in North-West Greenland which is one of the largest glaciers connecting the Greenland Inland ice sheet with the Arctic Ocean- As the glacier reaches out into the ocean a tongue of ice is formed, which moves annually about one km. The Ice tongue of the Peterman glacier was the largest one in Greenland, with an extension of about 70km into the sea until now when this massive Iceberg has broken free.

petermann_glacier_MThe ice island has a surface area of about 161 square kilometers or 100 square miles and a thickness of about a 190 meters high. These astonishing numbers can be put in perspective by saying that it's four times larger than Manhattan and it's height approximately half of the empire state building- the freshwater stored in the ice island could keep all U.S. public tap water flowing for 120 days.

it can be estimated that this event was hastened by rising sea and air temperatures in the Arctic but perhaps not a direct consequence of the warming. In 1962 a 370 square kilometer iceberg broke of from the nearby Ward Hunt Ice Shelf.

There is some fear that the Ice island may travel down into the Baffin bay area, where there is a lot it could crash against. Further more it could over a number of years reach as far as into the North Atlantic either as still rather large ice island or it could brake up into smaller parts which in both event could pose a threat to infrastructure and shipping lanes.


28 July 2010

The Arctic Portal has just come across a plant portal launched by the Gwichin Social and Cultural institute. In 1997 the Gwich'in Social and Cultural Institute partnered up with the Aurora Researc Institute (ARI) and commenced work with Gwich'in elders on an ethnobotany project. The outcome of this cooperation include the book titled Gwich'in Ethnobotany: Plants Used by the Gwich'in for Food, Medicine, Shelter and Tools" by Alestine Andre and Alan Fehr (2002) as well as a masters thesis titled Master's thesis by Alestine Andre (2006) called, Nan t'aihnakwits'inahtsìh (The Land Gives Us Strength). Combined these two bodies of work form the basis for the Gwich'in ethnobotany database.

The plants in the database are divided into two categories which are by their use and by their type and guidlines or recomended on how to treat the land that offers these plants which can be seen below.

Respect for the land:

Important message from our Gwich’in Elders teachings

  • Harvest all medicine plants away from roads and communities.
  • Take only what you need. It is important to collect only the plant parts you need, pick selectively from different areas and take care not to over harvest from one area.
  • Leave an offering for gathering special medicine plants like tamarack, juniper and white moss (reindeer lichen). You may also leave offerings for other plants as a sign of respect. Place an offering like tobacco, wooden matches, or say prayers before and while collecting plant parts. Please note to always place an offering before collecting ochre.
  • Share harvested resources such as medicine plants, meat, fish, berries with those not able to obtain these resources for themselves.
  • Harvest resources with care, love and respect.

The Gwich'in database can be found by following this link

book-gwichin-ethnobotanyIf you are interested in purchasing the book: Gwich'in Ethnobotany: Plants Used by the Gwich'in for Food, Medicine,
Shelter and Tools" by Alestine Andre and Alan Fehr (2002) Follow this link

15 July 2010

State of the Arctic Coast cover

The Arctic coastal interface is a sensitive and important zone of interaction between land and sea, a region that provides essential ecosystem services and supports indigenous human lifestyles; a zone of expanding infrastructure investment and growing security concerns; and an area in which climate warming is expected to trigger landscape instability, rapid responses to change, and increased hazard exposure.

Starting with a collaborative workshop hosted by the Norwegian Institute for Air Research in October 2007, the International Arctic Science Committee (IASC), the Land-Ocean Interactions in the Coastal Zone (LOICZ) Project and the International Permafrost Association (IPA) decided to jointly initiate an assessment of the state of the Arctic coast. The goal of this report is to draw on initial findings regarding climate change and human dimensions for the Arctic as a whole provided by the ACIA and AHDR reports to develop a comprehensive picture of the status and current and anticipated changes in the most sensitive Arctic coastal areas. Adopting a social ecological system perspective the report considers the implications of change for the interaction of humans with natural coastal systems. The report is intended as a first step towards a continuously updated coastal assessment and aims to identify key issues requiring future scientific attention in an international Earth system research agenda.

State of the Arctic Coast 2010

The draft report is the outcome of this collaborative effort and starts with a thematic review of the state of physical and ecological systems and human communities and activities on the Arctic coast as of 2010. It than moves to a more holistic and coupled-system perspective to identify
knowledge gaps and future research needs. Current knowledge presented and synthesized is based on published literature and other sources.

The document was prepared by an international writing team, including 15 Lead Authors and 27 Contributing Authors. The draft report was released during the IPY Oslo Conference, 8-12 June 2010. The whole report will soon be available for a 2-month public review during August-September with the objective to publish the final version early in 2011. Instructions for submitting review comments will be posted along with the full draft report by the end of July.

General Editor: Donald L. Forbes ()

Editorial Board: Hugues Lantuit () Volker Rachold () Hartwig Kremer ()

For more information and to access the report, see:

To submit comments and questions, please email:

For more information and to access the draft report, see:

30 June 2010

Indigenous people

During the 28. June to July 2. The ICC holds it's general assembly in Nuuk, Greenland. Inuit Leaders from Canada, Russia, USA & Greenland come together every four years to discuss the development in the arctic and their common concerns- and the meeting now is especially focused on during the meeting:

  • Environment, including Climate Change
  • Political and economic development
  • Health and Well-being
  • Hunting and Food Security
  • Governance
  • Inuit Arctic Policy

Climate change and many other issues that are effecting the arctic, and thereby the Inuit, need to be discussed and a common policy or guidlines formulated.

Further information can be found on Http://

Source: Arcticcouncil news

11 May 2010

The Arctic Portal is proud to velcome International Arctic Social Science Association (IASSA) into the Arctic portal community, as the IASSA website is now hosted and designed by the Arctic Portal. The website has been up and running for a while and more content will continue to be added.

For those interested in taking a look please go to

11 May 2010

Exploring Polar Science poster

The Arctic Portal would like to draw your attention to the following publication, which is a cooperation between APECS, UArctic, SCAR, IAI and IASC. The cooperation is intended to assist early carrier scientists in planningthe path to the richly diverse and challenging world of polar research, and informative for all interested in the polar regions.

An information flyer to 'explore' polar science is now available for students and early career scientists. The flyer is a shared initiative of the Association of Polar Early Career Scientists (APECS), the University of the Arctic (UArctic), the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR), the International Antarctic Institute (IAI) and IASC.

With a simple overview it aims to inform about international opportunities to study the richly diverse and challenging world of the polar regions. It contains information on, and links to international organizations that inform and advise early career scientists on: career development, networking, funding opportunities and communication and outreach.

The flyer offers a first step in the advancement and support of a strong future of polar researchers and can be downloaded for print here:

Exploring Polar Science Flyer – small file size

Exploring Polar Science Flyer - large file size

10 May 2010

Scientists in the Northwest Territories have come across a polar bear and grizzly hybrid in the Arctic. The animal that was killed on April 8 in the proximity of the Holman community by inuvialuit hunter David Kuptana. The animal is believed to be a second generation hybrid, meaning that it's mother was a mixture of polar bear and grizzly bear, while it's father was a regular polar bear. Scientists state that this may be the first second- generation polar-grizzly bear hybrid to be found in the wild.

It is estimated that these hybrids will becoming increasingly apparent due to climate-change as polar bears are more likely to come into contact with grizzly bears due to declining summer sea ice, leaving them stranded on land.

28 April 2010

IPY International: Early Career Researcher Symposium

A report summary from the IPY International Early Career Researcher Symposium is now available at the APECS website.

There are many skills required of early career polar researchers that are not typically taught in graduate school or post doctoral environments, but are essential for the basis of a strong career. To help address this, the Association of Polar Early Career Scientists (APECS), together with the ArcticNet Student Association, and the Northern Research Forum held the IPY International Early Career Researcher Symposium, in Victoria, B.C, Canada from December 4-8, which was sponsored mainly by the IPY Canadian Federal Programme and the Canadian Polar Research Commission.

The summary of the meeting includes an overview of all seven sessions and the evaluations that were made. The career development workshop was attended by 71 participants and 20 mentors from 14 different countries, and brought together early career polar researchers from a range of disciplines for a series of training sessions to develop professional skills, work with senior mentors, and develop international and interdisciplinary collaborations. The Symposium had seven themed sessions, all of which included a plenary talk attended by all symposium participants, and a hands-on training session. All plenary talks and breakout sessions were recorded, and recordings will be available on the APECS website by June.

12 February 2010

AkureyriThe unique Polar law Master's program at the University of Akureyri, Iceland is open for application. The deadline for the submission of applications for admission and scholarships is April 1st. for International applicants and June 5, 2010 for EU/EETA applicants.

The Master’s program is designed both for lawyers (leading to the LL.M. degree -90 ECTS) and non-lawyers (leading to the M.A. degree -120 ECTS). There is also an option of a Diploma in Polar Law Studies at the undergraduate level (60 ECTS).

Polar law describes the legal regimes applicable to the Arctic and Antarctica. Emphasis is placed on areas of international and domestic law concerning the Polar Regions. Issues of human rights law, environmental law, the law of the sea, the law of sustainable development and natural resources are addressed, including questions of sovereignty and boundary disputes on land and sea; the rights of Arctic Indigenous peoples; self-government and good governance; security; climate change; economies and business development; resource claims and biodiversity in the Polar Regions.

Graduates will be able to seek work in the public and private sectors; with different levels of government (nationally and globally), with international and regional organizations; with academic institutions and non-governmental organizations; and with national and transnational corporations to promote the interests of the Polar Regions and their inhabitants. Intensive courses are taught in English by the leading international academic experts and practitioners in the field of Polar Law. There is no tuition fee.

The University of Akureyri is located in Northern Iceland in attractive natural surroundings.

For further information regarding the application process and courses, please visit the Polar Law website or contact Dr. Markus Meckl, Polar Law Coordinator, tel.: +354 460 8655

12 February 2010

inukThe connection between the native Americans and North American Inuit to the Inuit living in Greenland has long puzzled the minds of researchers. Also, the migration patterns of people over the northern hemisphere have for a long time interested people. Now it has been found out by the research team of Professor Eske Willerslev and his PhD student Morten Rasmussen, from Centre of Excellence in GeoGenetics at the Natural History Museum, University of Copenhagen, Denmark, that people preceding the Inuit living in Greenland today crossed into the New World from north-eastern Siberia between 4,400 and 6,400 years ago in a migration wave that was independent of those of Native Americans and Inuit ancestors. The discovery was made by analysing a tuft of hair that belonged to a man from the Saqqaq culture from north-western Greenland 4,000 years ago. This discovery is an achievement both in gene technology as wel as in archaelogy and can be of significant help to scientists as they seek to determine what happened to people from extinct cultures.

For more information, please visit the news section of the University of Copenhagen