Welcome to the 3rd CHARTER Arctic project newsletter, November 2022

The CHARTER 2nd General Assembly wrapped up recently in Hamburg, marking the half way point of this large scale Horizon2020 research project. There were over 40 participants from multiple institutions and countries represented and it was wonderful to meet existing project colleagues and welcome new researchers to the team.

Needless to say, it has been an extraordinarily challenging year from a fieldwork and project management point of view as the Russian invasion of Ukraine has meant a complete reorientation of the projects working environments, partnerships and collaborations. This includes the loss of access to field works sites, relationships and peoples that have been nurtured and developed over decades. Sadly, this is the new reality of research in the Arctic and surmounting these issues is not only an issue for research, but across the whole spectrum of life in the Arctic.

With that in mind, it was all the more important that the CHARTER team was able to hold this large in person assembly, in order to share research, stories, failures and successes and plot the direction of the various research segments over the coming year and next years fieldwork season.

It was exciting to see just how much progress has been made in the different work packages individually and the project overall, especially as we all get to know each other, and learn how to talk to each other across so many scientific disciplines. We heard progress reports from each of the Work Packages and had a whistle stop tour of who has been doing what and where. The diversity of work speaks volumes to the breadth of research that exists in the project.

According to project leader, Bruce Forbes, was a great pleasure to have more than 40 CHARTER participants in person in Hamburg, and many more online. The intense level of engagement at the project’s halfway point, coupled with palpable enthusiasm despite a number of complex challenges, I think left us all in great application of what we have managed with such a large, diverse team. We can all be rather proud of our shared collegiality and achievements.

We heard about participatory workshops in multiple locations in Finland and Sweden. We heard first person accounts of field work with reindeer herders in Finnmark. We heard more about progress in vegetation monitoring and vegetation change. We heard about reindeer being natures gardeners. Especially we heard about the vast amount of data analysis and large-scale data synthesis, statistics and even train trips across Europe with boxes of juniper and birch samples for analysis. We heard about the development of a museum exhibit on the topic of ‘rain on snow’ which will be ready next year.

Many thanks to our hosts at the Institute of Ethnology at the University of Hamburg and the tireless work of Otto Habeck and his assistants Natalia Aluferova and Hanna Bartels.

New CHARTER People!

We are really excited to welcome several new researchers to the project! New additions to the team include Laura Barbero of the Agricultural University of Iceland, Mariana Garcia Criado of the University of Edinburgh, Niina Kuosmanen of the University of Helsinki, Tim Horstkotte of the University of Umeå, Katarzyna Anna Ostapowicz of the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research, Gaëlle Veyssière of the British Antarctic Survey, and Yangxin Chen of the College of Global Change and Earth System Science, Beijing Normal University.

Project management has got a new face too – welcome to Helen Honkasaari (@HelenHonkasaari ) who has now joined the management team here in Rovaniemi.

Pictured above is Dr. Mariana Garcia Criado of the University of Edinburgh (Pic: Sandra Angers-Blondin), who graciously spared us some time to share her academic journey from Spain to Scotland via Brussels. You can read the full article here.

Visiting Fulbright Arctic Fellow

We are excited to have Irina Wang is joining us as a Fulbright Fellow in Finland (Aug 2022 through June 2023) to work on her project “Co-Designed Artefacts: Visualizing Indigenous Perspectives on Arctic Climate Change” with Aalto University’s NODUS Sustainable Design Research Group, CHARTER, and Sámi reindeer herders.

Check out Irinas’ diverse interests and portfolio on her website. We are really looking forward to having her join us and seeing what emerges from her time up North.

Leena is going to Antartica!

In other project personnel news, our resident snow and citizen science snow-how expert Leena Leppänen shortly leaves for Antarctica, where she will be part of the Finnish Meteorological Institute team that will be spending several months in the Finnish research station ‘Aboa’. We all wish Leena the very best and she will back at CHARTER work on her return next year.

Report on Finland’s new Arctic role and the state of Arctic cooperation

CHARTER is not alone in the Arctic facing the unexpected consequences of the Russian aggression in Ukraine. In Finland, a recentreport commissioned by the Prime Minister’s Office and published on 11th October comprehensively examines the impact of Russian aggression on international cooperation in the Arctic region. Markku Heikkilä, chair of CHARTER Expert Advisory Group and the head of science communications at the Arctic Centre, coordinated the work and research professor Timo Koivurova was the scientific director.

The report is in Finnish but the full English translation will be available in early December on the Arctic Centre’s website. An English summary and conclusions can be found here:

Finland’s current Arctic policy strategy dates back to June 2021. Although it highlighted the intensification of military tensions, the strategy did not foresee a situation like today in which Arctic cooperation has become significantly more complicated. The descriptions of the international operating environment and the structures of Arctic cooperation in Finland’s Arctic policy strategy are largely no longer relevant.

Among the international Arctic cooperation mechanisms, the most important is the Arctic Council, where Russia currently holds the chairmanship. Seven Western member states have temporarily suspended their activities in the Arctic Council. The Barents Euro-Arctic Council has also suspended its cooperation with Russia. Russia is still involved in activities based on legal agreements and, for example, in UN organisations.

The paralysis of international cooperation and research in the Arctic is particularly problematic. The sustainable development of the region requires extensive international and regional cooperation. In addition, possible steps taken by Russia away from sustainable development activities, for example, climate action, will weaken the state of sustainable development of the entire Arctic region. The state of the environment and climate know no national borders. With the geopolitical situation, the green transition will become increasingly important at the national level, not only in terms of climate and energy policy, but also for security policy and the security of supply.

According to the report’s conclusions, Finland needs to adapt its operations to the realities of the new Cold War, where the international Arctic structures are fragmented. Regardless of the geopolitical situation, environmental and climate issues, sustainable development, and the status of indigenous peoples will still remain the key themes of the Arctic region. They are still needed as priorities for Finland’s Arctic activities.

Overall, the indirect effects of the Russian aggression on the Arctic region and the role of Finland in the region are significant. As the situation continues, this will also affect the structures of Arctic cooperation. For example, an operating model at the Nordic level should be developed for the growing cooperation needs in the northernmost regions of Finland, Sweden, and Norway.

According to the report, Finland still needs information on Russia's Arctic regions. In the longer term, it is in Finland’s interest to continue to build a functioning relationship with Russia. However, this must not happen at any cost. In the coming years, ensuring national security must be at the centre of Finland’s policy towards Russia.

New Publications

Be sure to note our new publications page on our website – one example being the article titled An artificial intelligence approach to remotely assess pale lichen biomass by Rasmus Erlandsson and others which is about the ground breaking use of Artificial Intelligence to assess lichen volume from outer space. Read an interview with Rasmus on how this article came together here.

Also published in 2022 was a paper by Kirill Istomin, Roza Laptander, and Otto Habeck entitled Reindeer herding statistics in Russia: issues of reliability, interpretation, and political effect. An article by Torben Windirsch (also in attendance at the Assembly, he is a researcher at the PeCHEc project titled Large Herbivores on Permafrost – a Pilot Study of Grazing Impacts on Permafrost Soil Carbon Storage in Northeastern Siberia, also had sizeable CHARTER input. You can check out all the project publications here.

Very Random Fieldwork Sighting

If you are looking for an excellent documentary overview of one of the hot button issues in reindeer herding in Sweden and Norway today: the costs of the green shift and how the price is being paid by Sámi communities on the land and sea (this obviously an issue in Finland too, but not covered in this programme) you would do well to watch this documentary, and spot the CHARTER researcher Andrei Marin doing some ‘fieldwork’.

Wrapping Up

The next CHARTER Assembly will likely be heading back up North, with the location and exact timing to be confirmed. The project will be taking part in a collaborative reporting event to the European Commission in March 2023 with our sister Horizon2020 projects FACE IT and ECOTIP. We have started planning for what we hope is an impactful event.

Other significant events with CHARTER participation or input coming up in the near future, include the Fall AGU, Arctic Frontiers and Arctic Summit Science Week. You can follow CHARTER events from the calendar on our homepage, Our next newsletter will be out in Spring 2023.

These recent weeks have been busy in Rovaniemi as many CHARTER researchers have been in town brainstorming, and playing some of Sirpa Rasmus’ signature reindeer husbandry card playing games (clockwise from the top: Otto Habeck, Heidrun Matthes, Salla Eilola, Roza Laptander and Sirpa Rasmus)

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