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Published: 2023-05-15 Updated: 2023-08-16, 10:20

Arctic Graduate School Funds 6 New Arctic Research Projects

NEWS 6 out of 13 applications have been granted funding for their Arctic research projects.

Text: Monica Börlin

During spring, The Arctic Graduate School launched their call for funded research projects at Umeå University. In March, 13 applications were submitted, and 6 applications have now been granted funding.

Congratulations to Christian Bigler, Liselotte Eriksson, Malcolm Lillie, Uwe Raffalski, Per Åke Rosvall and Norbert Steigenberger! Read more about the projects below.

–We are very happy with the number of applicants, and the vast spread in the applications.

The Director of Arctic Graduate School, Linda Lundmark, comments the result:
–We are very happy with the number of applicants, and the vast spread in the applications.
Lundmark explains that the Doctoral students for the projects are expected to attend the school at the school start in the autumn. A kick-off for this will be planned in October.
–The new projects provide even more perspectives on sustainable development in the Arctic, and with a total of 16 Doctoral students at the Graduate School, I expect that we actively contribute to new knowledge and social debate, and become a natural gathering point for interdisciplinary research, Lundmark shares.

The following projects have been granted funds

Cumulative effects of environmental impacts in the Arctic – Christian Bigler

Department of Ecology and Environmental Science (EMG) in collaboration with Várdduo – Centre for Sámi Research

The ongoing green transformation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate climate change has resulted in an increased pressure on land and natural resources in Northern Sweden. In a new geopolitical setting, the goal is to ensure supply of clean energy (e.g. wind) and essential natural resources (e.g. forestry, mining). This results in tremendous environmental, societal and economic impacts, challenging the overall aims of sustainable development.

Even though Environmental Assessments (EA) are carried out prior to decision making, substantial challenges remain if overall societal needs for energy and resources are to be balanced against cultural, economic and social needs and rights of local and Indigenous communities. Often, certain impacts of a single, specific project are considered, neglecting the cumulative effects and consequences of other past, present and future actions. As a consequence, Sámi reindeer herding communities in particular, are experiencing accelerating losses of their lands to external and extractive industry actors.

In this project, we aim to assess the consequences of these cumulative environmental effects on local and Indigenous communities. Including environmental, social and economic aspects, but also consequences on well-being and health. We intend to address our research questions both on a regional scale (case studies in specific areas in northern Sweden), but also through comparisons with in other Arctic areas (e.g. Canada).

Children in Arctic Sweden in the 1920's and 1930's: The Meaning of Childhood Living Conditions for Health and Well-being Later in Life –Liselotte Eriksson

Unit of Economic History

Today, we have an uneven geographical distribution of resources, which causes a skewed access to school, medical- and social care. In society at large, there is a growing socio-economic inequality between different groups where low income and education increase the risk of suffering from illness and premature death. However, up until the 1990’s, equality increased, reaching its peak in the 1980s. Since income and education have a documented effect on health, we would expect an equalization of health and mortality over the period. However, instead, great geographical differences in health and mortality were noticed in the 1980s. Parts of Arctic Sweden had a 40% higher mortality from cardiovascular diseases than some regions in southern Sweden.

A growing body of literature shows that early life conditions affect health and mortality well into later life. Many of the individuals in Arctic Sweden who later suffered excess mortality in the 1980s experienced poverty, poor educational opportunities, ethnic discrimination and malnutrition as children.

The difficult childhood living conditions led in 1929/30 to an extensive socio-medical investigation of nutrition, health and living conditions among school children in Norr- and Västerbotten. Lena-Maria Nilsson has digitized the entire survey (NU database), which provides a unique opportunity to study the historical health of the Arctic population and how different living conditions in childhood affect health and mortality in adulthood. This is also of interest today as differences between children's opportunities have increased. The project can also shed light on the health effects of historical Arctic conditions, not least the short- and long-term health effects of the nomad school.

Arctic & Sub-Arctic Wetlands: A threatened resource – Philip Buckland

Department of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies

Climate change impacts are compromising the integrity of wetlands globally (Matthiessen et al. 2022). However, in regions like the Arctic, the precise nature of these impacts on heritage and palaeoenvironmental assets remains poorly understood (see Hollesen et al. 2018). Importantly Kåresdotter et al. (2021) have previously noted that there is a need for improvements in our understanding of Arctic wetlands in general, and that an assessment of their vulnerability to climate change impacts is also needed. A similar situation exists for archaeological sites in the Arctic/Sub-Arctic (Hollesen et al. 2018). Fundamentally, linking these themes is of considerable importance given the close synergies in in situ preservation of organic heritage and natural assets in wetland contexts.

To date, little, or no, consideration is given to the ways in which any climate (or human) driven changes impact upon Arctic wetlands and the heritage assets that are encapsulated within them. This is concerning given that (Hollesen et al. 2019:575) suggest that in the Arctic region alone there are ~180,000 sites in the national cultural heritage databases. As such, there is a clear need for research into the potential impacts of climate-and human-induced changes in Arctic and Sub-Arctic regions, and for the generation of high-resolution data aimed at assessing long-term changes in in situ preservation potential in these environments and the ways these link to climate change and other human impacts.

Measurements of stratospheric and mesospheric trace gases and retrieval of temperature and ozone profiles and UV radiation over the Arctic – Uwe Raffalski

Department of Physics

Microwave radiometry is a powerful tool for remote sensing of composition and variability of the atmosphere. At IRF in Kiruna the KIrunaMikrowaveRAdiometer KIMRA is operated since 2002 to monitor O3, CO and O2 in the stratosphere and mesosphere between 20 and 80 km altitude. Besides long unbroken time series these measurements also open up for interesting research with a direct connection to sustainability through the anthropogenic effects on Earth’s atmosphere. The direct coupling between climate heating of Earth's surface => stratospheric cooling => ozone depletion => increased UV radiation at the surface is only one of the examples which will be studied within this project. However, this coupling is of great importance especially for the arctic environment which suffers twice, first due to temperature rise due to climate change and then also due to increased UV radiation affecting the sensitive arctic flora. Not to mention the effects on reindeer herding, tourism and not the least on people's health in that area.

In this project we will develop methods to retrieve stratospheric temperature profiles in the context of ozone variability and UV radiation as well as we will find appropriate collaboration with other research (for instance at Abisko Natural Science station) where effects of such variability are studied.  With the research proposed here we will attempt to connect the evidence thoroughly studied on the ground with the developments higher up in the atmosphere

Sustainable development for work as and recruitment of qualified teachers in Creative subjects in the north of Sweden – Per Åke Rosvall

Department of Creative Studies

In general, too few teachers are trained in Sweden to cover future needs for qualified teachers. The situation is described as particularly difficult for municipalities and schools in northern Sweden. For smaller schools, it can also be even more difficult to create attractive positions for teachers in practical/aesthetic subjects such as arts, music and handicrafts because these subjects have little space in the time plan and rarely fill full positions. Working as a teacher of practical-aesthetic subjects in municipalities in Norrland's inland can therefore be synonymous with working part-time, shared assignments (for example, handicraft teacher and janitor) or a position divided between several different schools with great geographical distances. Through this application, we therefore intend to employ a doctoral student to study how teachers of practical aesthetic subjects, principals and municipal administration (head of education or equivalent) reason about the conditions for a sustainable working environment as teachers in these subjects and the possibilities for recruitment in a selection of municipalities in Norrland's inland. We choose a selection of municipalities because Norrland's municipalities' opportunities and obstacles are often described as similar, while previous studies have shown that the conditions for the municipalities can differ greatly. By studying several municipalities, variation can be described and how it possibly can be understood.

Female entrepreneurs in the rural Arctic – Norbert Steigenberger

Umeå School of Business, Economics and Statistics

With this doctoral project, we aim to build better knowledge on how female entrepreneurs in the rural arctic experience and resolve resource  constraints. In entrepreneurship research and practice, it is well-known that male entrepreneurs receive more funding and support than female enrepreneurs, and attention has been paid to how support institutions can help female entrepreneurs. We know close to nothing, however, about if and how female entrepreneurs experience these problems also in places where support institutions, such as science parks or incubators, are not accessible and support mostly comes from local communities. The goal of this PhD project is to build this knowledge. The project builds on qualitative methods (case studies).