UAF, Institute of the North form arctic research partnership

Jeremia Schrock/Sun Star Reporter
June 24, 2011

The University of Alaska – Fairbanks (UAF) and the Anchorage-based Institute of the North have formed a partnership to address Alaska’s evolving role in the Arctic. The partners will collaborate on research and public awareness projects by pooling their scientific and financial resources.

The partnership plans to research numerous topics vital to Alaska and the circumpolar north. Some of these projects include surveys of existing and needed infrastructure, navigation rights, oil and gas development, potential new aviation routes and the impact of tourism on an increasingly accessible Bering Sea.

“We have a changing landscape and we’re not sure of all the implications of that changing landscape,” said Mike Sfraga, vice chancellor at UAF. Sfraga co-leads the collaborative project with Nils Andreassen, the managing director of the institute. The late Gov. Walter Hickel and current Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell formed the institute in 1994 to help Alaskans understand and responsibly use the state’s natural resources.

When asked if they saw the potential for students to become involved, both Sfraga and Andreassen agreed there was “definitely” potential. While hesitant to commit to student involvement immediately (the partnership wants to score some successes before incorporating students), Sfraga added “this has the right ingredients for students.”

The partnership will research topics and release their findings to the public. They will encourage legislators and policymakers to incorporate the findings into policy.

A workshop about the Bering Sea is scheduled for August.

“Alaska is in danger of not having a role in making decisions that affect our peoples and communities,” said Andreassen in an email. Both Andreassen and Sfraga underscored the importance of the partnership’s research having a genuine impact on global Arctic policy. “Alaskans must be present at a national and international level to effect [sic] change and to have a meaningful impact on policy decisions,” Andreassen added.

“We make the United States an Arctic nation,” said Sfraga. “Therefore, we should have a significant influence in that dialogue and in that decision making.”

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