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Report: Minimising the footprint of Arctic research

On Sunday 21st October, the European Polar Board and INTERACT convened a panel session at the Arctic Circle Assembly 2018 in Reykjavik, titled Minimising the footprint of Arctic research. A range of experts in polar research and logistics discussed the management and minimisation of negative environmental and social impacts of research activities in the Arctic, and provided recommendations on how improvements could be made.


  • Brenda Konar (College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, University of Alaska Fairbanks)
  • Birgit Njåstad (Norwegian Polar Institute)
  • Hannele Savela (INTERACT/Thule Institute, University of Oulu)
  • Annette Scheepstra (Arctic Centre, University of Groningen)
  • Elmer Topp-Jørgensen (INTERACT/FARO/Aarhus University)

Chair: Kirsi Latola (European Polar Board/Thule Institute, University of Oulu)

Polar research is an essential component of global efforts to address the big issues of the 21st century for planet Earth. However, polar environments are among the most sensitive and remote on the planet. It is therefore imperative that efforts are made to minimise the negative impacts of all activities in the polar regions, including those relating to research. Hundreds of field campaigns are conducted throughout the circumpolar Arctic at various scales each year, with diverse levels of environmental impact from region to region depending on type and intensity of activities.

While the footprint of individual field campaigns may be small, the cumulative environmental impacts of research activities across the Arctic are significant. Field campaigns generate waste, which can pollute if not correctly dealt with, potentially introduce invasive species to Arctic environments, and possibly disturb sensitive flora, fauna, and fragile ecosystems and landscape features. Furthermore, the social impacts of research activities on small, remote communities, particularly in the peak Arctic summer field season, are not insignificant. This breakout session
explored ways in which these impacts can be minimised and properly managed with the help of best practice guidelines, communication with local communities, environmental and cultural sensitivities, new technologies, avoiding duplications of effort, and utilisation existing observations, all without compromising research quality.

A report, summarising discussions during the session, and detailing recommendations from the panel on how to better manage the footprint of Arctic research, is available here.