The Study of Environmental Arctic Change began in the late 1990s as a way to foster communication between scientists who were studying distinct pieces of the environment. With a new round of funding, SEARCH is evolving to include indigenous knowledge holders and decision makers from the public and private sectors.

The Arctic is experiencing rapid environmental change that is impacting residents, industry, and politics. Rather than focusing on understanding that change from a scientific perspective, SEARCH now aims to bring together scientists and indigenous people to directly inform decision makers, says SEARCH Director Brendan Kelly. It’s essentially connecting people who produce the knowledge with people who can use it.

In the past, SEARCH scientists have consulted indigenous residents, but now Alaska Natives will be included as equal partners who are paid for their contributions. Indigenous people of the north have a longer history of understanding the Arctic than scientists and a different way of collecting and using that knowledge. “If you put those different time scales and types of knowledge together you have a much richer understanding than if you just have any one of those,” Kelly says.

Scientific, indigenous, and decision-making experts will form three working groups that will explore human well-being, drivers and consequences of Arctic environmental change, and geopolitical and economic stability. The teams will meet through 2025. “This is really kind of an all-hands-on-deck moment for us. Especially in the Arctic, it takes all of these perspectives to advance the understanding of what’s happening,” Kelly says.


Alexander Deedy formerly worked as the assistant editor and digital content manager for Alaska magazine.

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