NSF Award # 1927827


Pursuing Opportunities for Long-Term Arctic Resilience for Infrastructure and Society: An NSF-Funded Project ($3,009,000)

POLARIS Project Website

POLARIS: Team Members

Team members: Guangqing Chi (PI), Andy Baltensperger, Lara Fowler, Eric Goddard, Kathy Halvorsen, Kathleen Hill, Davin Holen (co-PI), Lance Howe (co-PI)Anne Jensen, Chris Maio (co-PI), Megan Mucioki, Bronwen Powell, Todd Radenbaugh, Erica Smithwick, Ann Tickamyer (co-PI)Junjun Yin, Qiujie Zheng
Students: Emma Chiaroni, Casey Hamilton, Ekrem Korkut, Michael Letzring, Jessica Miller, Hannah Zimmerman 

Continents being analyzed
Long-term, active projects

Alaskan coastal Indigenous communities face severe, urgent, and complex social and infrastructural challenges resulting from environmental changes.

Coastlines are degrading and this impacts infrastructure that communities use on a daily basis, changing how people access food and other natural resources and conduct their lives. The magnitude and significance of impacts are unclear as is how local communities will respond to resulting disruptions and disasters.  

The POLARIS project supplies the kind of research platform for analyzing current and future needs in order to create resilient communities in the face of a changing environment. 

A major problem facing researchers, stakeholders, and policymakers in addressing these issues is that existing research is piecemeal. The whole picture of coastal communities is not well understood, and ways to address problems they face are not as effective as they could be. A changing environment drives changes to the populations of Alaskan coastal Indigenous communities due to families and individuals relocating either seasonally or permanently.  These challenges demand a robust, integrated, and convergent research platform to identify the complexities of the issues and the ways communities can respond.

The POLARIS project has identified three convergent research pillars to help communities adapt: environmental hotspots of disruption to communities and infrastructure, food in complex adaptive systems, and migration and community relocation.

These pillars are interwoven with five component processes: education, outreach, local community engagement, international comparison and collaboration, and evaluation.  

Researchers from a variety of fields are coming together with local community members to conduct the research. 

Data are collected by surveying local community members, modeling environmental changes, and conducting economic research to inform local, state, and national decision makers and leaders about how to address infrastructure and social needs in the face of environmental changes.

This integrated research project will enable communities to become more resilient with both stronger societies, civic culture, and improved infrastructure as the new Arctic continues to emerge. 

Additionally, POLARIS is training junior researchers, graduate students, and undergraduate students in interdisciplinary research as they participate in work across the pillars and five components. This helps ensure that the rising generation of researchers is well prepared to continue the crucial work to address the issues that the project identifies well past its conclusion.  Local educators are working with local communities to develop classroom tools to engage students in K-12 settings.