Arctic Freshwater Resource Dynamics and Socio-environmental Challenges: A Roundtable Discussion 2016




Breakout session/panel discussion at the Arctic Circle, October 2016, 8 október kl. 15:30-17:00

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, declines and changes to arctic flora and fauna, and changes in ocean water composition from freshwater inputs. Further, 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 social and 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 monitoring and understanding, vulnerability to flora and fauna from climatic and human impacts, the socio-environmental dynamics of water resource resilience, scarcity issues, quality and quantity, social equity, perception, and education. A key component is determining mechanisms for communicating between stakeholders and those individuals with the knowledge about the complexities of arctic freshwater challenges and opporutnities into the future to couch this topic in an interconnected, broader social and policy context.


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



Dr. Jason Polk, Assistant Professor, Department of Geography and Geology, Western Kentucky University
JasonPolkJason 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.



 Dr. Thorsteinn Thorsteinsson, Glaciological Research, Icelandic Meteorogical Office

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.


 Dr. Jón Ólafsson, Senior Scientist, Institute of Freshwater Fisheries

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
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
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.


 Jónína Sigríður Þorláksdóttir, manager of Rif Field Station, Northeast Iceland
Jónína has a BSc in biology and an MSc in Environment and Natural Resources, both completed at the University of Iceland. She has been working at Rif Field Station since July 2015.The station was established in 2014 in order to enhance and encourage scientific research and monitoring in Melrakkaslétta, an accessible lowland area in Northeast Iceland classified as sub-arctic. The area’s unique natural environment, in combination with the station’s infrastructure in Raufarhöfn village, has great potential for monitoring Arctic ecosystems, both  terrestrial and aquatic, and how they are affected e.g. by climate change and increased human activities. 

Embla Eir Oddsdottir 1

  Embla Eir Oddsdottir; Director of IACN. Embla has experience in research, project management, and various policy relevant issues including Arctic environmental governance, shipping and resource extraction, climate change, and resilience. In her current position, she leads the Icelandic Arctic Cooperation Network (IACN) in facilitating cooperation among Icelandic public and private organizations in research, education, monitoring, innovation, and other activities related to the Arctic region. The IACN is a part of the Nordic Center of Excellence Arctic Climate Predictions: Pathways to Resilient, Sustainable Societies (ARCPATH). Embla has held leadership roles and directed projects at the Northern Research Forum  and the Stefansson Arctic Institute, Iceland. She has also taught courses on northern issues at the University of Akureyri and Western Kentucky University, where she holds a position of adjunct professor at the Department of Geography and Environmental Science.

 DSC0292 Kári Fannar Lárusson; Programme Manager for the Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF). Kári is a Programme Manager for the Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF) which is the biodiversity working group of the Arctic Council. The CAFF Secretariat is based in Akureyri, Iceland. Kari has a broad range of experience in Arctic issues. He works with a diverse range of stakeholders throughout the Arctic. Key activities Kári has been involved in include the first Arctic Biodiversity Assessment (ABA) released at the Arctic Council Ministerial in May 2013. The ABA will create a baseline for use in global and regional assessments of biodiversity and provide a basis to inform and guide future Arctic Council work. Kári is also closely involved in the implementation of the Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Programme (CBMP) which is working to facilitate more rapid detection, communication, and responses to the significant biodiversity-related trends and pressures affecting the circumpolar world.             

Anisha Tuladhar

Anisha Tuladhar. Anisha is a second year graduate student studying Geosciences at Western Kentucky University. Her research interests include glaciers, hydrogeochemistry, climate change, and water quality. She is studying Icelandic glaciers for her Master's thesis to better understand arctic watersheds by a comparative hydrogeochemical study of the melt water system. She got interested in Icelandic glaciers after studying similar ones in Nepal. Her dream job is to travel around the world studying glacial melt water, drinking water, and solving water quality problems. 















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