Pursuing Opportunities for Long-Term Arctic Resilience for Infrastructure & Society

Pursuing Opportunities for Long-Term Arctic Resilience for Infrastructure & Society

Pursuing Opportunities for Long-Term Arctic Resilience for Infrastructure & Society

Pursuing Opportunities for Long-Term Arctic Resilience for Infrastructure & Society

Coastal Hazards
Identify, map, and project hotspots of disruption to communities due to environmental changes
Food Security
Investigate the impact of environmental changes on food security and nutrition
Migration
Understand the influence of climate change on decisions about individual migration and community relocation
Integration
Examine the intersections and complexities of climate, food, and migration that support community resilience

Have you ever wondered...

How do environmental changes impact social well-being, the subsistence way of life, and community infrastructure in Alaska?

The Polaris Project 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.

Our team includes researchers from the Pennsylvania State University, University of Alaska Anchorage, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Michigan Technological University, Alaska state agencies, and others and is funded by the National Science Foundation.

Costal change
Photo Credit: Chris Maio

Coastal Hazards

A warming Arctic is contributing to increased coastal hazards resulting in significant changes to coastal ecosystems, infrastructure, and human subsistence lifestyles. Identifying and mapping historical trends in environmental change and areas of contemporary rapid change is critical to effectively planning for and mitigating their occurrence and social and economic impacts. We are analyzing historical shoreline and land use change trends based on the integration of existing and new geospatial data. Community-based erosion monitoring sites are also being established and maintained building relationships with local stakeholders and developing co-produced data products.

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Polaris pillar food security traditional foods salmon berries
Photo Credit: Gay Sheffield

Food Security

The impact of environmental change on traditional subsistence activities in the Arctic is complex and understudied. Ecosystem changes affect the abundance of traditional foods, and the access to, harvesting, processing, and storage of these foods. Warmer weather, thinner and more unpredictable sea ice, increased frequency of wildfires, and other changes impact the availability, timing, and safety of harvesting traditional foods. Changes in the abundance and variability of subsistence resources alters the likelihood of a successful harvest, and influences the relative costs and benefits of traditional vis-a?-vis store-bought foods. In this research pillar, we explore how Arctic environmental change alters household opportunities and decisions which more broadly affects Arctic communities. Related social changes impact nutrition and food security by modifying  the availability, accessibility, convenience, desirability, and sharing of traditional and store-bought foods. 

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Migration
Photo Credit: Chris Maio

Migration

People move for both push and pull factors such as jobs, education, family, and lifestyle opportunities. We anticipate that changing weather patterns, warming temperatures, and seasonal changes produced by climate change increasingly influence migration. POLARIS studies whether and how climate change affects migration decisions and behavior in Alaska. We want to know if individuals, families, and even whole communities are impacted by changing weather, melting sea ice and permafrost in ways that influence decisions to move.

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Integration
Photo Credit: Guangqing Chi

Pillar Integration

We use a transdisciplinary approach to integrate our three research pillars to capture the relationships within and between social and natural systems and built environments. To that end, POLARIS aims to develop a compelling theoretical framework that links complex dynamics among environmental changes, ecological and infrastructure disruptions, food security and nutrition, and migration.

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For Educators

We support local K-12 schools in teaching the social and environmental impacts of climate change and ways of building community resilience.

For the Community

We analyze current and future needs and share our research findings to promote resilient communities in the face of a changing environment.

Recent Products

Wood River Bridge Drone Video

Steve Colligan

Polaris Project Pillars Coastal Hazards Dillingham Shoreline Analysis Overview

Michael Letzring
University of Alaska Fairbanks