New community office guides national Arctic research initiative

February 1, 2021

Heather McFarland

A new university-led office will provide leadership and support to the National Science Foundation’s Navigating the New Arctic initiative. NNA recently funded 17 projects totaling $26.7 million to improve understanding of rapid Arctic change in order to improve food security and better mitigate challenges like coastal erosion and increased shipping traffic.

Alaska Pacific University, the University of Alaska Fairbanks and the University of Colorado Boulder will host the Navigating the New Arctic Community Office. Research and Indigenous advisory boards, led by Nikoosh Carlo, will provide guidance. Together they will help to build an integrated and diverse network of researchers, stakeholders and communities who are tackling the pressing challenges created by an Arctic in profound transition.

The NNA Community Office is funded through a five-year, nearly $5 million cooperative agreement with NSF. UAF’s International Arctic Research Center will receive almost $400,000 to host an Education and Outreach Field Office to facilitate connections between NNA researchers and communities, educators and students across Alaska. Their efforts will help maintain coordinated, culturally appropriate and place-based education and outreach activities.

Photo by Matthew Druckenmiller. Arctic residents stand atop jumbled sea ice as they look out over the open Arctic Ocean.
Photo by Matthew Druckenmiller. Arctic residents stand atop jumbled sea ice as they look out over the open Arctic Ocean.

“Our home here in Alaska is changing rapidly, and the collaborative and holistic way of doing science being promoted by this initiative is a step forward,” said Katie Spellman, UAF co-lead of the project with Elena Sparrow. “For the NNA Education and Outreach Field Office, our mission is to ensure that our youth, those who will be inheriting this changing Arctic, benefit from the science in locally meaningful ways and have an active role in it.”

NNA began in 2016 as part of NSF’s 10 Big Ideas Initiative, which sets long-term research priorities at the frontiers of science and engineering. NNA works to better understand Arctic change and its impacts through convergence research, which uses different areas of expertise, including Indigenous knowledge.

The NNA community office will support the goals of NNA by focusing on four key areas: coproduction of knowledge with Indigenous peoples, convergence research, culturally responsive education and outreach, data sharing and reproducibility across the research and decision-making communities. The office will help build awareness, partnerships, opportunities and resources for collaboration within, between and beyond NSF-funded NNA projects.

In addition, the NNA Community Office will work to increase recognition of Indigenous knowledge and data sovereignty, promote inclusive and collaborative research design and implementation, and coordinate effective knowledge sharing, education and outreach.

“This office will bring people together to identify new ways to understand the holistic nature of Arctic systems, to learn from Arctic peoples who are adapting on the frontlines of change and to envision new and creative approaches to sharing knowledge across cultures and worldviews,” said Matthew Druckenmiller, director of the NNA community office from the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

A successful NNA Community Office will build stronger connections between Arctic residents and the Arctic research community, a research enterprise that responds quickly to rapid environment change, and a more integrated and resilient path forward for NSF Arctic activities.

Read the NSF and University of Colorado Boulder announcements.

CONTACT: Katie Spellman, 907-388-5178,; Elena Sparrow, 907 474 7699,; Matthew Druckenmiller, 303-735-6472,

ADDITIONAL MEDIA CONTACT: Audrey Payne,, 303-492-1497