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Fellows 2015

Aaron Richards

Project Delivery Analyst, Deloitte Consulting LLP


Abstract topic: Because of the anticipated rise in maritime activity in the Arctic region by the midpoint of this century, it is likely that criminals will seek to take advantage of a more accessible Arctic by finding new trade routes to ship illicit goods such as drugs, weapons, and people. The Arctic is of strategic importance for all of the eight nations that make up the High North, therefore, unified efforts should be made to enhance regional cooperation aimed at ensuring that shipping lanes and maritime activity are not threatened or disrupted by criminals and their illicit actions.

I intend to use the diverse network of peers and knowledge gained from the Arctic Summer College to further my understanding of Arctic issues that have a global impact, such as my proposed research topic of how to develop a cooperative strategy to combat illicit activities in the High North. Additionally, I anticipate to use this experience to discuss current developments in the Arctic relating to governance and regional security, as I see the ASC as a unique opportunity to gain new insights and learn about innovative solutions to today’s challenges in the Arctic.
Alexander E. Thornton

M.A.S., Marine Biodiversity & Conservation, Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UCSD

Co-Founder & Executive Committee, International Penguin Early Career Scientists (IPECS)


Abstract topic: Listed as a Candidate under the U.S.’ Endangered Species Act, Pacific walruses are an important subsistence species for indigenous peoples as well as an important link in healthy Arctic ecosystems, but their foraging habitat overlaps key oil and gas development lease areas and walrus are sensitive to even relatively small disturbances routine with these operations. I acknowledge the need for a better framework to regulate the economic (industrial and traditional), ecological, and social threats of the forced endangerment or potential extinction of walruses by examining the value of the species’ contribution to various ecosystem services and, subsequently, deliberating on conservation goals given stakeholder concerns.

I believe scientists are in the unique and ethically imperative position to lend our expertise to ecological stewardship and sustainable resource development efforts; however, it requires interdisciplinary comprehension of the intricacies between global stakeholder positions and best-available science to merge human interests in the Arctic and meaningful environmental policy. With that in mind, I am eager to explore facets of Pacific walrus (Odobenus rosmarus divergens) ecology and conservation with an international network of professionals equally enthused to influence positive change at the 2015 Arctic Summer College. It is only with international collaboration like this that we can hope to protect these charismatic, endemic Arctic pinnipeds―or any other species―who are facing climate change-induced loss of habitat and increased rates of anthropogenic disturbances.

Alix Varnajot

M.A. University of Versailles-Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines

France, Sweden

Abstract topic: This study focuses on the relations between tourism and societies on the first hand, and tourism and climate change on the other hand. The goal is to determine how tourism professionals feel, face and adapt to climate change in northern Sweden.

As a growing economy, tourism should have its place in Arctic debates. The tourism industry is closely linked to territorial development, therefore it has to be taken into considerations in Arctic development discussions. Moreover, as a climate-dependant and nature based industry, polar tourism is also closely linked to climate change. In Arctic and sub-Arctic regions like in northern Sweden, changing climate is synonym of both challenges and opportunities.

Andreas Kuersten

Legal Fellow, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Office of General Counsel, International Section


Abstract topic: The need for Arctic infrastructural development is spurring a wide variety of construction projects aimed at getting residents, companies, and others in the high north the services they need to be connected and productive.  One of the most important projects is the proliferation of high speed submarine communication cables.  Such undertakings, however, must be carried out with a strong respect for vulnerable Arctic seabed habitats and additional research into these ecosystems and environmentally conscious guidelines are needed to ensure this.

The Arctic is both a frontier and a region of established legal frameworks and relationships.  It is important not to forget the latter as the high north increasingly makes its way into the general coverage of current events and public discourse.  Fitting issues of northern security, development, and environmental protection into these frameworks and relationships - as well as applicable general international law and relations - is integral to meaningfully addressing them and making positive progress as the region opens up due to the process of climate change.

Anna Varfolomeeva

PhD student, Department of Environmental Sciences and Policy, Central European University

Russian Federation, Hungary

Abstract topic: The objective of my research project is to study how traditional historical connections of indigenous peoples to extractive industries operate in contemporary negotiations for natural resources in Russian Arctic.  My research during Arctic Summer College will discuss the case study of Vepses, a small Finno-Ugrian minority residing in the Republic of Karelia, North-West of Russia. This case study will show that many traditional views on indigenous peoples are simplified and fail to reflect the complexity of concrete situations.

Today the theme of indigenous groups facing industrial development is especially vital and challenging; it unites the communities with various backgrounds coming from different countries and continents. I believe that my past and current research on indigenous peoples in Sweden and Russia will be a contribution for the Arctic Summer College. Additionally, as a Council member of Association of Polar Early Career Researchers (APECS), I would be interested in sharing our work on Arctic issues.

Christina Ennis

Intern, Ecologic Institute US

Christina Ennis is an Intern with Ecologic Institute, working specifically on the organization and implementation of the 2015 Arctic Summer College. She is currently studying International Relations with a concentration in Global Development at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. She is working closely with the Fellows of Ecologic Institute to broaden her knowledge of environmental issues and policymaking. Christina plans to use the skills gained from this internship to pursue a degree in Human Rights and International Environmental Law. 

Dana Eidsness

Director, Maine North Atlantic Development Office (MENADO)


Abstract topic: How can we use international networks towards solutions-focused activity to address the global effects of the changing Arctic? With the evidence of melting sea-ice, sea-level rise and warming oceans, thawing permafrost, increased shipping traffic and migration in fisheries stock among other things; how can we frame Arctic issues in globally cooperative terms and direct global policy and economic development discourse towards developing solutions? if we utilize existing networks and events that mobilize business and academic resources around Arctic themes and we provide an agenda for collaborative solutions-focused working groups to meet during these events, can our leadership result in strong global action towards mitigating these issues? Conversations can occur either through existing public settings and organizations, such as the Arctic Circle Assembly or Arctic Economic Council—or through other networks, such as the North Atlantic Ocean Cluster Alliance. I propose to work within the context of these events and entities to promote results-driven collaboration among global stakeholders to address two issues that Maine has particular expertise to influence; the issues of the changing North Atlantic/Arctic seafood trade and the need to address the Arctic marine infrastructure deficit.

The challenge of balancing Arctic trade and development with sustainable practices will push the world to a new level of innovation. Business and sustainability do not have to be mutually exclusive. I am interested to explore how sustainable development and business can thrive together in an Arctic context to help mitigate the effects of Arctic change and its impacts globally. I also have interest to develop networks that will help the State of Maine prepare to address the impacts of increased shipping activity as Maine will be the Northeast U.S. entry point for the Northwest Passage when it becomes a viable shipping route.

Dr. Gil M. Arruda

Oxford Brookes University

United Kingdom, Italy

Abstract topic: The availability of many species that the Arctic indigenous people rely on for food has become limited due to climate change and the receding ice cover. The assessment of potential impacts of resource development should to some extent rely on traditional knowledge and could benefit climate change researchers in Western academia and policy-making circles as well as help the indigenous communities to tackle the difficult task of promoting their local adaptation. The benefits of the Arctic emerging economy may be seen in the creation of economic development, but it must be part of a sustainable prosperity project of co-management with triple gain to economy, environment and communities.

Arctic-specific natural ecosystems, the presence of indigenous communities and the commercial interest in the region will require an innovative model of energy development based on the highest level of responsible exploitation, diplomacy, regulation and policy-making
Dr. Heather Exner-Pirot

University of Saskatchewan


Abstract topic: The conundrum of how to speed the advancement of technology is one that affects the Arctic in many ways, e.g. agriculture and greenhouses; water and sewer processing; small scale energy generation; and telecommunications.  The Arctic Council, as a supra-regional level of governance, has been ineffective in supporting technology transfer. I would like to further explore the particular challenges of technology transfer in the Circumpolar North, particularly around telemedicine, and see if there are case studies where technology transfer occurred through the region relatively efficiently.

I have a wide range of research interests as pertain to northern governance and development, including: accessible post-secondary education, northern innovation, indigenous health, regional governance, Arctic Council politics, food security & greenhouses, self-determination & taxation, economic development, and regionalization.  I am also very interested in the cleavage between northern and southern perspectives of the Arctic, particularly around development, and providing nuance to Arctic governance discussions beyond climate change.
Eitan Dehtiar

Independent Consultant


Abstract topic: My focus is on arctic transportation challenges and opportunities and related risk that arise because of and are highlighted by climate change.  Changes in arctic transportation and related infrastructure will forever change the face of the arctic, as the arctic becomes more accessible for exploration and as remote communities gain increased access to the outside world.  These monumental changes will need to be managed responsibly and with a long term view of sustainable arctic development and of economic empowerment to those living in the arctic.

Over the past 15 years, my work has primarily focused on developing opportunities in the arctic, and in particular, addressing transportation and logistical challenges while developing business and training opportunities for northerners.  My involvement with a broad range of economic development, regulatory, and infrastructure related organizations has provided me with unique insight into the arctic at a time of monumental change.  The increased interest in exploration, an particularly of exploration of regions that were not previously accessible highlights the importance of a proper governance structures for responsible development, training and development programs for northern populations, and the development of supporting infrastructure which provides long term sustainable benefits to the arctic and its peoples.

Ekaterina Klimenko

Researcher, Arctic Future Project, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute

Kyrgyzstan, Sweden

Abstract topic: Energy cooperation in the Russian Arctic in light of Western sanctions. Despite initial policy of limiting access to the Russian Arctic energy development, the need for technology, exploration of the shelf, high costs of investment in the region and no immediate returns have forced the Russian government to open up the Arctic for foreign participation. The energy cooperation with Western companies has started to yield the first results in 2014 when the crisis in Ukraine burst out. The sanctions against Russia introduced by EU and the US in 2014 have significantly limited Russia’s energy cooperation with the foreign partners. The sanctions prohibited the American and European companies to take part in the deep-water offshore projects in Russia, to supply the appropriate equipment, technology and financing. The developments over the last year have raised a number of questions concerning the future of the energy cooperation in the Russian Arctic and development of the resources of the Russian Arctic shelf. First, whether there is future for Russia’s Arctic oil/gas resource development without cooperation with the Western partners? Taking into account Russia’s deepening energy cooperation with Asian states, the question emerges whether Russia will switch to Asia, primarily China to search for partners for its Arctic projects? What impact the changing international context will have on the energy cooperation in the Arctic?

As a researcher within the SIPRI Arctic Future Project , I am focusing on the security and military cooperation in the Arctic region and Russia’s Arctic military and economic policy. Participating in the Arctic Summer College will broaden my understanding of the problems faced by the Arctic states and peoples beyond the area of my expertise, particularly issues of fisheries, transport, and human dimension.

Ilker Basaran

PhD Candidate, International Maritime & Environmental Law

USA, Turkey

Abstract topic: Arctic has become an attractive venue for commercial activities. Globalization and technological advancement combined with the sea ice melting have made it conceivable to reach hydrocarbon, mining, fishing and even clean water resources that the region possess. But this ever-growing interest poses potential threats to one of the most fragile marine ecosystems of our planet in the Arctic ocean, and its approximately four million residents are in danger because their survival also depends on protection of this ocean.

Arctic can only be linked to the future global market with safe, reliable and environmentally sound marine transportation system. Therefore, despite strong criticism, adoption of the IMO Polar code, first ever maritime rules for the polar region, is a historical achievement for the Arctic shipping.  These set of rules will form the foundation of the changes that we expect from flag and costal state regulations in the near future. 

Katrina McLaughlin

Research Asistant, Resources for the Future


Abstract topic:  My research topic this summer concerns ecosystem services and governance in the Arctic. The Arctic system presents a clear case of what environmental economists term ecosystem services, which are generally thought of in four categories: provisioning, regulating, cultural, and supporting services. The distributional implications of Arctic ecosystem services affect how they are managed. Some, like subsistence hunting, are profoundly local; some, like weather system regulation, are profoundly global. How might these distributional effects impact management approaches, are there lessons from other instances of cross-boundary ecosystem services that might be useful for the Arctic, and how should we think of these different ecosystem services as the Arctic system changes?

I am an early career researcher focused on energy and climate policy. At a time of high interest and polarized opinions on the future of the Arctic, it is my hope that the Arctic Summer College and its network of peers can offer a long-term outlook by developing people and ideas outside of our usual echo chambers. I look forward to the opportunity to collaborate with and learn from others across disciplines, backgrounds, and viewpoints. 
Kiira Keski-Nirva

Energy Policy Advisor, Aula Europe

Finland, Belgium

Abstract topic: The role of energy in the complex international relations and the geopolitical situation in the Arctic region should not be underestimated. Relations with the Arctic states play a major role with regard to the EU energy policy. The approach that the EU will choose to take in its new Arctic policy – focus mainly on the European arctic or rather to the circumpolar region as a whole – and the choices with respect to possible focus areas, might have an influence on the EU energy policy objectives, and is worth a closer look.

Through my studies on indigenous peoples and my work at the Arctic Council Secretariat I’ve had an opportunity to develop my understanding of Arctic issues with a variety of topics. While working on EU energy policy has allowed me to specialize on one of the most topical issues in the Arctic, it has also been an opportunity to develop my understanding of the EU's approach on the Arctic. 
Kristina Bär

Public Information Officer, Alfred Wegener Institute/Management Support Team, EU-PolarNet


Abstract topic: Bringing Arctic stakeholders from diverse backgrounds and specific interests together creates a need to find a common basis for understanding. One way to do this might lie in listening to the way people talk about the specific issue and to identify the underlying, so called frames, within which stakeholders formulate their ideas, but also interpret and evaluate given information. These insights are believed to help to create a shared understanding amongst the selected actors and to ultimately facilitate the creation of a common frame, upon which the stakeholders could act.

Science is increasingly gaining influence on European policymaking, especially so in the Arctic. This opens up new chances for a sustainable development of the High North, but at the same time evokes new challenges: How are scientific results translated into policy recommendations and how is science made relevant to local communities, industry, NGOs, etc? I find these questions very interesting and I see the Arctic Summer College as a rare opportunity to discuss these issues and to engage in an on-going dialogue that offers the chance to approach Arctic topics in new, creative and multidisciplinary ways.
Léon Fuchs

Visiting Researcher in the Anthropology Research Team of the Arctic Centre, Rovaniemi. M.A. Arctic Studies, Versailles.

France, Finland.

Abstract topic: This abstract questions the impact of climate change on reindeer herding in Sweden; briefly reflects on several possibilities to sustain Sami traditional livelihoods; introduces the concept of Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK), and focuses partly on the notion of indigenous governance.

Like other native peoples of the Arctic, the Sami are among the first affected by environmental changes. Many reindeer herders have already observed significant variations during the last decades, and the unreliable weather, the increase in precipitation, the rising temperatures and the changing snow conditions have strongly impacted Sami reindeer husbandry. Climate change is immediate and stressing, rather than something that might happen in the future. The development, promotion and protection of Sami Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) will play an important role in the near future.
Marina Aizen

Journalist & Editor, Clarin Newspaper and Viva Magazine


Abstract topic: Defining what is sustainable development in a landscape dominated by disappearing ice at the top of the world. How to protect an area that has so much oil.

The Arctic is the region of the planet where climate change meets a new geopolitical reality. Because of its dominance on the rest of the globe -for instance, the ocean circulation depends on it- one could compare the need to protect this vast and complex area with the necessity of preserving a delicate system such like the jungle of the Amazon forest, that is considered as the lungs of the planet.  The Arctic, on the other hand, is the air conditioner of the world. But paradoxically it has become a hot issue: not only because temperature has risen here more than double that anywhere else, but also what is at stake.
Martin Kossa

PhD Candidate Department of Asian and International Studies, City University of Hong Kong

Slovakia, Hong Kong

Abstract topic: This research seeks to answer a series of questions, namely: what should the role of Asian states be in the Arctic Council, will they be satisfied with their newly gained status, will they challenge the current Arctic governance structure, and can they constitute a unified ''Asian voice'' in the Arctic Council.

I have a longstanding interest in the Arctic, going back to my Masters degree at Zhejiang University. I am currently conducting research on Asian engagement with the Arctic region – comparatively analyzing approaches taken by South Korea, Japan, Singapore, India and China towards the Circumpolar North.  Against this backdrop, I am very pleased to be a part of the Arctic Summer College which will give me the opportunity to further expand my knowledge in this area and to engage in stimulating discussions with Arctic specialists and fellow students.

Michaela Louise Coote

MSc Environment and Natural Resources, Háskóli Íslands

England, Iceland

Abstract topic: The Arctic Council (AC), since it arose out of the Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy in 1996, can still be seen as historically concerned with environmental matters whilst being commended for its inclusion of Indigenous Peoples. Arctic state officials, experts and indigenous representatives (the Permanent Participants), ‘sit at the same table’ to discuss and research key issues, which may proceed to inform the national policy of the Arctic states. In this study, interviews are carried out with those holding specialist knowledge in the AC - including Permanent Participant presidents and Working Group authorities - to paint a picture of the means Indigenous People can use to influence environmental policy in the AC framework, and the extent of their impact.

I am very passionate about finding new ways to manage the environment more effectively, using interdisciplinary studies as a primary apparatus. I have completed numerous ecological studies and soon, will complete my MSc project looking at, how and to what extent, do indigenous people influence environmental decision-making in the Arctic Council. I think the Arctic can potentially provide a ‘new frontier’ in science where we may find, through cooperation, more effective and holistic environmental management solutions amidst the fast paced changes occurring in the region. 

Nathaniel Betz

State of Alaska Division of Community and Regional Affairs


Abstract topic:  I will examine how education can contribute to increased agency for local and community stakeholders in the Arctic.  Further, I will draw on a range of inter-disciplinary resources to identify a set of mechanisms for practical, strategic investment in Alaska’s human potential.

Arctic society occupies a unique position at the front end of a narrow time-window, during which the stage will be set for a period of unprecedented activity and attention. A variety of actors already seek to shape the Arctic future, drawn by environmental treasures, new transportation corridors, the prospect of massive resource wealth, and a variety of climate-related policy priorities.  I am interested in exploring the ways in which Arctic societies can utilize their existing resources to invest in human and cultural capital.  
Sophia E. Albov

M.S. Candidate, Department of Geography, University of Montana


Abstract topic: My interest in the Arctic lies primarily in the sustainable development of agricultural systems. While there are not numerous agricultural holdings above the Arctic Circle, each farm holding has the potential to impact the surrounding environment substantially. I specifically want to explore the geo-socio interaction of players involved in high Arctic winter wheat farming. 

My master’s level academic work has focused on the human dimension of sub-arctic organic and alternative agricultural systems in Finland. I would like to expand the scope of my study area for my PhD work to include agricultural systems that are above the Arctic Circle. Participation in the Arctic Summer College is the next step to my ability to continue to pursue human subject focused agricultural research in the Arctic.