The University of Maine will train future Arctic scientists to help address the socio-environmental challenges resulting from the world’s most rapidly changing environment with a nearly $3 million award from the National Science Foundation.
The new UMaine initiative, Systems Approaches to Understanding and Navigating the New Arctic, is funded by the NSF Research Traineeship (NRT) Program, which encourages the development and implementation of “bold, new, potentially transformative models” for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) graduate education training.
This is UMaine’s third NRT award; the first two are the One Health and the Environment initiative and Enhancing Conservation Science and Practice. All align with the University of Maine System Research and Development Plan and emphasize workforce development.
The new Arctic initiative to train graduate students in the interdisciplinary field of Arctic systems science is led by Jasmine Saros, associate director of UMaine’s Climate Change Institute and a professor of lake ecology. Its focus is on the interconnected nature of environmental and social changes in the Arctic and Northern Hemisphere.
“UMaine’s Climate Change Institute has been an internationally recognized leader in polar science for more than four decades. This new training program builds off of our legacy to advance understanding of the interconnected impacts of Arctic change on people and ecosystems, both in the Arctic and in Maine,” according to Saros, one of more than a dozen UMaine professors who have been conducting research in the Arctic in recent years.
Saros also co-leads the international working group, the Kangerlussuaq International Research Network (KaIRN), which focuses on recent climate-driven environmental changes in the West Greenland ice sheet, and terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems.
Over the next five years, the program is expected to train nearly 60 master’s and Ph.D. students, including 20 funded trainees in ecology, Earth sciences, anthropology, economics and marine sciences. Their training will include an interdisciplinary curriculum, Arctic field experience, and research focused on changes in Maine, southwest Greenland and the Arctic–North Atlantic.
The new graduate training program to foster systems perspectives to address the Arctic’s complex changes builds on UMaine’s strengths and expertise in polar biophysical research, cross-cultural perspectives and integration of knowledge systems, Arctic law and policy, and socio-environmental systems research.