On Thursday, Nov. 14, members of the University of Maine community gathered at Buchanan Alumni House to present the UMaine Arctic Share-Out, an event that highlighted the research efforts of members of the UMaine community. The event also featured collaborative projects between universities in the New England region and highlighted the importance of interdisciplinary research projects. 

The event was the first share-out of research to contribute to the UMaine Arctic initiative. UMaine Arctic is a project which is part of the New England Arctic Network which operates as a regional hub for institutions across the northeast to share and collaborate on research on the arctic. The UMaine Arctic initiative was set in motion over a year ago when researchers from UMaine decided that there was a need for a collaborative approach to arctic research, as a variety of departments at UMaine have been conducting research projects on the arctic environment but haven’t come together in their efforts. 

Jason Charland, the director of research development for UMaine Arctic spoke at the ceremony to recognize the initiative and speak on its importance to the UMaine community. 

“The University of Maine has a long history of engagement with the Arctic and the high north, from Greenland to Canada, Alaska and beyond. Our faculty and students engage with the region to study and share information about the environment, engineering, human dimensions, government policy and a wide range of research. These pursuits include glaciology, oceanography and research into the climate cycle,” Charland noted. “This group, the UMaine Arctic, seeks to identify how events in the Arctic drive changes in the Gulf of Maine and in New England. With more interest from the federal government in convergence research, it’s important [that we foster interdisciplinary research] and we hope that this network serves as a way to bring people from across disciplines, from across lines of academia to find mutually beneficial relationships.” 

The UMaine Arctic initiative is a way of bringing members of the UMaine academic community together across academic divides, and the event Thursday highlighted some of the value of this cross-field work. Presenting at the share-out were members from the Climate Change Institute, who presented posters that provided an overview of their work studying ice cores, iceberg melt effects on local and global ecology and research on how methane released by melting ice sheets and melting permafrost would affect the climate. Also presenting were faculty from the UMaine School of Nursing, with research on indigenous medicinal practices and cultural diffusion research. Highlighting the value of humanities research to the UMaine Arctic initiative, members of the UMaine Department of Art presented cultural resource recovery efforts, which worked to preserve art techniques of the indigenous communities in the Arctic who have been affected by climate change. 

Part of the UMaine Arctic initiative is to provide outreach opportunities to allow the UMaine Arctic researchers to present their research and findings to a wide array of community members. One way that UMaine Arctic is doing this is through UMaine’s “Follow a Researcher Program,” which works in tandem with the Maine 4H program to connect youth around the state with graduate student researchers. This program utilizes the power of social media to allow researchers to answer questions from K-12 students on their research and facilitate a space for students around the state to become more involved and knowledgeable about current research. 

“It’s great to see how far we’ve come. The UMaine Arctic [initiative] which is kicking off right now is building on 50 plus years of research, and we’re looking to educate future generations to continue [to make progress] in understanding the implications of further arctic change on the New England area and globally,”

UMaine Arctic works in tandem with prestigious universities from around New England including Bowdoin College, the University of Southern Maine, the University of New England, the University of New Hampshire, Tufts University, Harvard University, Dartmouth University and others.

UMaine Arctic is looking to provide even more research opportunities and will continue to announce funding opportunities into 2020 and 2021. The initiative also seeks to incorporate even more fields of study to contribute to a holistic understanding of how the changing arctic will affect ecology and environmental policy, as well as how it’s ongoing effects will alter human lifeways. To find out more, or to express interest in research opportunities with UMaine Arctic, go to https://umaine.edu/arctic/ or contact Kristin Schild at kristin.schild@maine.edu.