Breakout session at the Arctic Circle in Harpa

Saturday, October 17th 2015 (15:30-17:00)

Location: Skarðsheiði, Harpa Third level

Proposed and organized by the Western Kentucky University; University of Akureyri; Icelandic Arctic Cooperation Network; Icelandic Meteorological Office; Institute of Freshwater Fisheries and the Icelandic Centre for Research.

Global freshwater is a finite and vulnerable resource, including in Arctic regions where climatic influences are manifesting in the form of melting glaciers, increased flooding and hydrological variability, and changes in ocean water composition from freshwater inputs. Additionally, these processes impact other regions, such as the Caribbean, in the form of drought, extreme storm events, and the migration of water borne diseases. Ecosystem changes are as of yet unknown in many regions due to evolving long-term impacts from water resource variability. There lacks a dialogue on the environmental implications of changing global freshwater resources with respect to the Arctic, which is necessary to bring to realization the potential questions and stakeholders needed to identify solutions. Collectively, this session proposes to create discourse on the physical and socio-economic bases of future freshwater resources, including groundwater and surface water, vulnerability from climatic and human impacts, the socio-environmental dynamics of water resource resilience, scarcity issues, quality and quantity, equity, perception, and education. A key component is determining mechanisms for communicating between stakeholders to couch this topic in an interconnected, broader social and policy context.

Opening remarks

dagfinnurDagfinnur Sveinbjörnsson, CEO, The Arctic Circle


Embla Eir Oddsdóttir, Director, Icelandic Arctic Cooperation Network


JasonPolkDr. Jason Polk, Assistant Professor, Department of Geography and Geology, Western Kentucky University: Freshwater Resources with Regard to a Changing Climate.
Jason S. Polk, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor of Geography and Geology at Western Kentucky University. He also is the Director of the Center for Human-GeoEnvironmental Studies (CHNGES) and HydroAnlalytical Lab. Dr. Polk earned his doctorate degree from the University of South Florida in Geography and Environmental Science and Policy. His current research investigates climate change, water resources and sustainability, isotope hydrology and geochemistry, karst resource management, and global climate dynamics. Dr. Polk has expertise in paleoclimate reconstruction, climate teleconnection dynamics, multi-proxy climate record analytics, hydrologic monitoring, water quality and quantity assessment, and isotope geochemistry. He has won several teaching and research awards, is a Fellow of the National Speleological Society, co-Director of the North Atlantic Climate Change Collaboration Project (NAC3), and conducts research in various places all over the world, including the Caribbean, China, Iceland, South America, and Europe.

ThorsteinnDr. Thorsteinn Thorsteinsson, Glaciological Research, Icelandic Meteorogical Office: Glaciers and ice caps in the Arctic region: Present status and future scenarios.
Dr. Thorsteinn Thorsteinsson is a glaciologist at the Icelandic Meteorological Office. He has a background in studies of climate history and physical properties of Greenland ice cores, obtaining his PhD from the Alfred Wegener Institute in Germany in 1996. Since 2000 he has been involved in studies of mass balance of ice caps in Iceland. He has also co-led national and international research projects on subglacial lakes beneath the Vatnajökull ice cap, with focus on jökulhlaup dynamics. He is a co-editor of the Icelandic geoscience journal Jökull and participates in the ongoing development of a new WMO monitoring program; the Global Cryosphere Watch.

JonOlafssonDr. Jón Ólafsson, Senior Scientist, Institute of Freshwater Fisheries: Freshwater Ecosystems in the Arctic.
Dr. Jón S. Ólafsson is Freshwater Ecologist at the Institute of Freshwater Fisheries, Reykjavík, Iceland and a Guest Professor at the Agricultural University of Iceland. His current field of research focuses mainly on structure and function of freshwater ecosystems in relation to warming climate. Previously he has been involved in research projects on ecology of glacier fed river in Europe, ecological succession of kettle hole ponds in connection to retreating glaciers and animal communities of theromokarst ponds in relations to thawing palsa formations. Dr. Ólafsson received his BSc. degree from the University of Iceland and PhD degree from University of Bristol, UK. For the last five years Dr. Ólafsson has been involved in work lead by CAFF on Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Program (CBMP) focusing on freshwater biodiversity. He is currently member of the Terrestrial Working Group organized by International Arctic Science Committee (IASC), where he represents Iceland.

SteingrimurJonssonDr. Steingrímur Jónsson, Professor at the University of Akureyri and Scientist at the Marine Research Institute: Fate of freshwater in the Arctic Ocean and its climate significance.
Dr. Steingrímur Jónsson is a professor of physical oceanography at the University of Akureyri and scientist at the Marine Research Institute. He obtained his PhD from the University of Bergen in Norway in 1990 investigating the exchange between the Arctic Ocean and the Nordic Seas as well as the atmospheric forcing of the Nordic Seas. Since then he has been working mainly on the ocean circulation around Iceland and its effects on the ecosystem. He is also involved in issues concerning the Arctic climate and is a member of the Marine Working Group of IASC.
You can read more about Dr. Steingrímur at the Network of Arctic Research and Projects.


Dr. Leslie North, Assistant Professor, Department of Geography and Geology, Western Kentucky University: Problem-solving: Engaging community and stakeholders through effective education and communication about regional freshwater resource dynamics and socio-environmental challenges, both existing and projected.
Dr. Leslie North is Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies in the Department of Geography and Geology at Western Kentucky University (WKU), Kentucky, United States. She serves as the Chief Education and Outreach Officer for the Center for Human-GeoEnvironmental Studies at WKU. The primary focus of her academic career has been the development of effective informal learning education and communication materials and techniques, particularly those related to water resources, climate change, ecotourism, karst landscapes, and sustainability. Her research and community engagement activities also center on the use of eye-tracking for the development of visualizations and graphical education materials. Leslie has worked with a number of international organizations on issues related to these foci, including the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre, Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance, University of Akureyri, Iceland Arctic Cooperation Network, Semester at Sea, The $100 Solution, City of Bowling Green, Kentucky, amongst others. In recent years, she has served as the project leader for multiple groundwater education campaigns aimed at teaching local populations about the importance of freshwater resources, and the role of individual actions in maintaining the quality and quantity of valuable water resources.

Closing remarks

Dr. Bernie Strenecky, Scholar in Residence at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, Kentucky


AC14 Logo OCT31-NOV2 litidThe Arctic Circle is a multi-national; multi-dimensional; and multi-sectoral event where various stakeholders and perspectives share a forum for networking and debate on a variety of issues important in an Arctic as well as a global context. The forum is designed to increase participation in Arctic dialogue and strengthen the international focus on the future of the Arctic. More information about the Arctic Circle can be retrieved from the conference webpage at www.arcticcircle.org

Photograph in header ©GRID-Arendal ©Peter Prokosch

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