By Lindsey Heaney
In a warming climate, long-term monitoring and research in the American Arctic is crucial. To address this, the North Slope Science Initiative (NSSI) implemented the Scenarios Project to help natural resource management agencies better direct research and monitor change in the Arctic using a scenarios framework.
To further this project, the NSSI initiated a collaborative network with the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) and GeoAdaptive, LLC to establish scenarios and create a final report. International Arctic Research Center (IARC)’s Dr. Olivia Lee served as principal investigator on the project, with IARC Director Hajo Eicken serving as co-PI.
“We were interested in seeing how scenarios can be used as a tool, both to bring in multiple stakeholder viewpoints and also to try and develop an observing strategy that takes into account the uncertainties of what the future might look like in the North Slope,” explained Lee in regards to the UAF leadership team.
The scenarios were used as a way of investigation and a starting point for future guidance. “There’s no way you can plan the future,” says Lee. “You don’t want to get too focused on one idea of what the future might look like because it’s very unpredictable.” This held true for collaborators when gas prices dropped significantly during the project. Factors like this were taken into account during collaboration and highlighted the need for a scenarios outlook.
Steps for scenario development
The scenarios development consisted of a 5-step process, including 3 workshops. Collaborators began the process by identifying the influential factors for creating these scenarios. The first workshop focused on collaboration about possible challenges and uncertainties that could hinder the scenario production. This allowed for next steps and the proceeding workshop to produce scenarios along with the implications of each. For the final workshop, collaborators identified what research and monitoring was needed in order to satisfy each scenario.
The project began in January 2014; now, 2½ years later, the project is nearing its end. However, Lee explains that there’s still work to be done. With the data collected and the report released, the leadership team continues to develop an outreach program.
“We want to make sure we do a good job of getting this information back to the North Slope communities,” she says.