The Chairs develop research and education cooperation, including undergraduate, graduate, PhD, and postdoctoral scientist training, as well as build partnerships with the broader Arctic community.

Each Chair serves for a period of five years, funded and hosted by the nominating UArctic member institution. 14 new Chairs from Canada (3), Finland (3), Norway (3), the US (3), the UK (2), and France (1) started in their roles during the first half of 2022. Currently three of the total 15 Chairs are women. The Chairs represent diversity in regions, disciplines, and topics, and thus cover many aspects of Arctic-relevant knowledge. This variety is key to the successful implementation of UArctic Chairs. 

In their first year of work, the new Chairs have been active in arranging meetings to discuss major issues in Arctic science such as the war in Ukraine, and collaboration with Indigenous communities, as well as ensuring that at least one Chair attends international science policy meetings. They have also begun organizing joint panels at major international meetings, the first of which took place at the 2022 Arctic Circle Assembly.

What do the new UArctic Chairs focus on, and what are their ambitions?

Hanne H. Christiansen, UArctic Chair in Permafrost Physical Processes, University Centre in Svalbard

I aim to increase the Nordic links within the High Arctic, especially between Greenland and Svalbard. I am also focusing on further developing permafrost education within science and engineering, especially internships and field learning. During my first year as a Chair, I have coordinated a manuscript with 13 Nordic permafrost educating colleagues, mapping out the present status and future needs within permafrost higher education in the Nordics. Another ambition that I am working on is further development of stronger Arctic university collaboration, on the scale of the ambitions of EU universities. This is where UArctic’s work and consideration are needed. 

David Anderson, UArctic Chair in the Anthropology of the North, University of Aberdeen

Anthropology has had a controversial history in Arctic communities. However, like my students, I feel that there are strong traditions centering around listening, empathizing, and participatory fieldwork traditions that can make Arctic anthropology one strong path of mutual understanding. I am working together with Indigenous experts to understand the effects of commodity chains, extractivism, and climate change, as well as supporting efforts to revitalize languages and traditions. I am also working to research the positive and negative histories of Scottish emigration to the Arctic.

Kirk Anderson, UArctic Chair for School Effectiveness and School Improvement, Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador

I seek to garner partnerships and support from partner universities, member groups, and funding bodies to promote and advance research. I also aim to develop northern-centric and interdisciplinary programming, so I am seeking out partnerships to support education programs for Indigenous and northern leaders related to STEM education. This would create a strong connection between UArctic members and industries that can empower students and communities in the North. Finally, I am seeking to promote graduate student development and research. Hopefully this results in a group of doctoral students from across the North who would be at home with their local institution but work as a UArctic cohort, rooting their research within the pan-Arctic region.

Odd Jarl Borch, UArctic Chair in Societal Safety and Security, Nord University 

The spectrum of societal risk areas has increased due to e.g. global pandemics, extreme weather, terrorism, war, and mass immigration. An increased focus on crisis preparedness and emergency response capabilities has been imminent worldwide. At the same time, political collaboration has been hampered by political tension and war. The need for building bridges and joint understanding is greater than ever. In my field, we work to provide a broader perspective on the vulnerability of societies, look into the needs for protection of life, health, and values, and stimulate the preparedness capabilities and efforts within the Arctic. This we do through building cross-border and cross-sector networks for exchange of best practices, and through knowledge accumulation and dissemination, emphasizing critical knowledge gaps.

Jan Borm, UArctic Chair in Arctic Humanities, University of Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines

As a specialist of travel literature in English, French, and German, my work focuses on textual and visual representations of the Arctic and the circumpolar work of French anthropogeographer Jean Malaurie (born 1922), author of The Last Kings of Thule (1955), one of the most widely-distributed books about Greenland in the world. As UArctic Chair and Director of the Malaurie Institute of Arctic Research Monaco-UVSQ, I wish to contribute to the important challenge of putting history and culture back on the center stage in current debates about Arctic issues that do not readily admit the vital role of perception and long-term perspectives.

Kamrul Hossain, UArctic Chair in Arctic Legal Research and Education, University of Lapland

The Arctic is a transnationally located region that faces many common challenges across sovereign territories of the eight countries. Its legal status hinges on fragmented national legal systems and applicable international regulations beyond national jurisdictions. My Chair aims at deconstructing presupposed structure and knowledge systems in the face of the dynamic problems and challenges. For example, the melting of glaciers has far-reaching consequences beyond the Arctic for the sustainable process of the Earth's natural system. As Chair, I explore Arctic-specific multifaceted challenges with a critical legal mindset that contributes to eradicating systemic governance challenges and promotes an understanding of the goal of law for achieving a fair, just, and equitable society at large.

Timo Jokela, UArctic Chair in Arctic Art, Design and Culture, University of Lapland

Historically, art and culture have played only a minor role in Arctic research. Artists from the Arctic, including Indigenous ones, have been educated in Western art schools adhering to the traditions of modernism and the Western dualism, at its worst advancing the cultural colonization of the Arctic. Today, the role of art, design, and visual culture education is getting stronger, and methodological tools like art-based research have a lot of interest among researchers of other disciplines. I see my role as a bridge-builder between art and science. Art brings tools to research to process and interpret feelings, perceptions, and tacit knowledge. But art is also a tool to create something together that we can only imagine. That is what the Arctic region and its people need right now, in rapidly changing situations.

Karl Kreutz, UArctic Chair in Arctic Ice, Climate, and Environmental History, Climate Change Institute - University of Maine

My primary goal as a Chair is to expand and promote field-based Arctic education opportunities for the widest possible student population. At the University of Maine, we lead and/or partner with organizations that are providing amazing opportunities for students in the Alaska and Yukon regions. In each case, students are exposed to an experiential education approach which deepens understanding of the Arctic natural and human landscape. My aspiration is to expand international student exchange in these courses through the UArctic north2north program, and also develop connections with local and regional student communities that leverage UArctic collaborations. 

Philip Steinberg, UArctic Chair in Political Geography, Durham University

The Arctic’s political geography is not just that of the eight Arctic states and the Central Arctic Ocean commons. It is also the world made by a range of Arctic and non-Arctic actors, from Indigenous peoples with livelihoods within, across, and beyond state borders, to the visions and norms imposed on the region by outsiders, to the dynamic foundation of land, water, and ice that underpins the region’s culture, law, and aesthetic expressions. As UArctic Chair, I research how this political geography is affirmed, contested, and undermined by all of those who live in, govern, extract resources from, or pass through the region.

Roland Kallenborn, UArctic Chair in Arctic Environmental Pollution Research, Norwegian University of Life Sciences

Although no significant pollution sources exist in the central Arctic regions, the combination of hemispheric distribution pathways, food web-based accumulation, and high environmental stability of environmental pollutants in cold climate can lead to surprisingly high pollutant levels in Arctic animals and humans. To cope with Arctic pollution, the development of sustainable abatement strategies is required. We urgently need experts in pollution science, management, and circumpolar regulation strategies with a complete understanding of the Arctic as a multifaceted environmental entity. UArctic plays a pivotal role in establishing and coordinating university-level education of environmental experts of tomorrow. I am looking forward to contributing to this development and to a coordinated academic educational program with UArctic as a teaching platform. 

David Natcher, UArctic Chair in Water, Energy and Food Security in the Arctic, University of Saskatchewan

In 2016 the Arctic Council moved to adopt the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), noting the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is also applicable to Arctic regions. Soon after, the Arctic Council’s Sustainable Development Working Group (SDWG) made a commitment to use SDG targets as guideposts for advancing the sustainable development of Arctic regions, but also acknowledged that a better understanding of the potential synergies and trade-offs was needed before regional implementation. In this context, my objective is to evaluate the current state of water, energy and food (WEF) security in the Arctic and make visible the synergies and trade-offs of WEF-related SDGs (2, 6 and 7). Indigenous communities across the Arctic experience a high rate of WEF insecurity, but due to their relatively small populations, their insecurities are too often obscured in national SDG reporting. Ultimately, my goal is to advance WEF security in the Arctic from an aspirational to a transformative policy agenda.

Bing Chen, UArctic Chair in Marine and Coastal Environmental Engineering, Memorial University of Newfoundland

My research has been dedicated to the development of new knowledge and engineering solutions to address critical environmental problems caused by persistent and emerging pollutants and oil spills in cold regions and harsh ocean environments. These problems have gained significant attention and importance worldwide, and we have observed some of the strongest impacts on the Arctic environments and communities. As Chair, I focus on cross-institutional, cross-disciplinary research and education in Arctic marine and coastal environmental engineering to facilitate understanding of these problems and provide sound solutions. A key effort is to form a new program by availing the global R&D and training network on Persistent, Emerging and Organic PoLlution in the Environment (PEOPLE) which I am leading.

Tuija Turunen, UArctic Chair in Education for Social Justice and Diversity, University of Lapland

Since 2015 I have had fruitful cooperation through the UArctic Thematic Network on Teacher Education for Social Justice and Diversity with a lot of successes. Working with policy makers is an important part of the network’s activities. During the Finnish chairmanship of the Arctic Council in 2017-2019, we explored the role of teacher education in diversity and equality in the Arctic. In February 2023, our Thematic Network was mentioned as one of the key players in the the United Kingdom’s Arctic Policy Framework. My aim is to work for flourishing Arctic communities by developing quality education for children and youth in the Circumpolar North and beyond. As Chair, I can enable these activities, and further encourage and develop high-level international cooperation.

Melody Brown Burkins, UArctic Chair in Science Diplomacy and Inclusion, Dartmouth College

From climate change and sustainable development to human rights and international security, the concerns facing us are immense, complex, and daunting. Yet, we always have opportunities to develop more inclusive, equitable, and sustainable paths forward. As UArctic Chair, I will advocate for opportunities in education, research, and practice that develop more inclusive and co-produced knowledge to address science and diplomacy challenges in the Arctic and globally. This includes the active engagement of youth, under-represented communities, and Indigenous Knowledge systems as well as the centering of human rights – including the right to self-determination of Arctic Indigenous Peoples – in Arctic policy and diplomacy. As the Arctic faces rapid climate change, increased pressures for “green energy” resource extraction, and rising geopolitical tensions,I believe this work is foundational for a more just, sustainable, and peaceful Arctic future.

By Arja Rautio, UArctic Vice-President Research and Heli Niittynen, Planner, UArctic Thematic Networks and Research Liaison Office, University of Oulu

[Originally published in the UArctic Shared Voices Magazine 2023. Read all articles here]