Arctic Communities Collaboration Team

Encompasses languages, cultures, local priorities, scenarios, and food

Scope of activities

Skin boat

Photo by Rob Wilder (PolarTREC 2007), Courtesy of ARCUS

The Arctic Communities Collaboration Team addresses research gaps and area for improvement in

  1. issues of food security as impacted by the rapid pace of climate and environmental change;
  2. factors enhancing community sustainability and adaptation, well-being, and health in the face of rapid technological, social, and ecological change;
  3. methods of preserving and enhancing culture and language retention; 
  4. bridging mechanisms that enhance collaboration between human and natural sciences and the resident communities of the Arctic.

Team leaders

Bill Fitzhugh
Arctic Studies Center (Website)

Performance elements from the Arctic research plan


Photo by Cristina Solis (PolarTREC 2012), Courtesy of ARCUS

ACCT tasks include identifying: (1) issues of food security as impacted by the rapid pace of climate and environmental change; (2) factors enhancing community sustainability and adaptation, well-being, and health in the face of rapid change; and (3) methods of preserving and enhancing culture and language retention. 2016 saw completions for most milestones, while two continued in progress and several were deactivated due to lack of viable prospects. The Team’s emphasis has been to encourage research and educational activities on the impact of warming climate, enhancing educational goals related to these activities, and encouraging culture and language preservation.

A number of milestones have been met in establishing or sustaining observing networks and community responses to climate and environmental changes. The National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Science, Engineering, and Education for Sustainability (SEES) program is funding Arctic-FROST, an international research exchange project dealing with community sustainability development. Workshops addressing indigenous views on research priorities for southwest Alaska and on the oral history and tradition relating to the Yukon salmon fishery have been funded. This year the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) obtained approval to initiate a social indicators study in coastal Alaska. Much progress has been made on several observing programs, including the creation of local observer networks; the Belmont Forum’s C budget of Ecosystems, Cities and Villages on Permafrost in the eastern Russian Arctic (COPERA) project supporting Russian environmental data recovery; transitioning NSF’s Bering Sea Sub-Network (BEES) into the Community Observing Network (CONAS), and Phase IV of its Exchange for Local Observations of the Arctic (ELOKA).  

Milestones on vulnerability research have been met or advanced. These include social and economic research by University of Alaska’s Institute of Social and Economic Research (ISER) group and by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Reducing the Incidence of Suicide in Indigenous Groups – Strengths United through Networks (RISING SUN) project evaluating suicide prevention interventions across the Arctic. NSF’s Social Indicators for Rural Alaska Communities (SIRAC) initiative will investigate discrepancies between census data and actual conditions in small Arctic communities. A North Slope Science Initiative project has prioritized energy and resource needs; the World Climate Research Program’s Climate and Cryosphere Project and the Arctic Council’s AMAP group produced an Arctic freshwater assessment. ICC-Alaska completed an Alaska Food Security study, and the Northwest Arctic Borough completed a subsistence mapping project. The Smithsonian completed the first phase of its investigation of Arctic animal crashes among major subsistence species. Several BOEM, NSF, US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), and National Park Service (NPS) projects specifically addressed Arctic resource issues, models, and adaptations needed by communities facing climate change. 

Culture, language, and heritage milestones advanced substantially. The US Arctic Council Chairmanship provided a platform for recognizing the importance of indigenous partnerships in science, as did the Smithsonian’s 2015 Arctic Spring Festival and the National Academy’s fall, 2015 Arctic Matters program. An NSF- NEH-SI partnership documenting endangered languages (DEL) has proven effective. An NSF-Smithsonian project investigating links between oral history, language, archaeology, and climate change in Yakutat Bay was completed. The Smithsonian publication Early Inuit Studies documented the development of Arctic anthropology, and NPS, NSF, SI, NPS and other agencies issued publications supporting Indigenous heritage and language. NSF’s Arctic Horizon’s process supported the Arctic Social Sciences in the 21st Century: Indigenous Scholarship in the North Decolonizing Methods, Models and Practices in Social Science Research workshop which brought Indigenous scholars together in Fairbanks to explore the role and contributions of indigenous frameworks and knowledge systems in advancing fields of science and informing global solutions. In addition, NSF made several awards in support of Indigenous language preservation and will continue to support such work into the future. 

Priorities for 2017

The work of the ACCT will be folded into the new Health and Well-being team under the Arctic Research Plan 2017-2021.

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