CHARTER Arctic fieldwork takes some tentative steps

Late spring and summer is normally a busy time for fieldwork in the Arctic. The conditions are more amenable, work routines allow for extended periods away from teaching and administrative duties and the fieldwork season is one which many eagerly look forward to – a chance to leave the office, get out in the field and spend time with colleagues and partners on the land, and it being the Arctic, spending time in some of the more remote and beautiful parts of our planet.

Of course the coronavirus has taken its toll on these activities. Many countries in the Arctic restricted movement from abroad, or even in country and it should be remembered that communities in the Arctic can be extremely vulnerable to communicable diseases and are in areas with little accessible health care. Simply on ethical grounds, in person field work has been a non starter in most sites.

However, in some regions where the situation allows, some tentative steps are being taken and plans are being made. CHARTER project leader Bruce Forbes (ULapland) and Timo Kumpula (Uni of Eastern Finland) spent a week with long time local collaborators and reindeer herders Juha Magga and Jouni Näkkäläjärvi in the Näkkälä reindeer herding district in the northwest ‘arm’ of Finland, a district which abuts the Norwegian border. This was a chance to conduct local consultations for project steps moving forward, and check up on equipments with which Forbes and Kumpula have been monitoring climate data for many years. It was a great opportunity and window for Forbes and Kumpula to reconnect and plan with a reindeer herding district that they have been working with for two decades.

Elsewhere, the prospects of fieldwork are progressing cautiously. In Russia, Kirill Istomin has returned from initial consultations with administrators, hunters, herders and fishers in the Vorkuta region, where he will be conducting much of his research. He was able to make valuable connections with previous research collaborators and made new connections and plans for return fieldwork trips in June and August. Already Kirill was able to have valuable discussions with Nenets and Komi herders, hunters and fishers related to local concerns including predators (specifically wolves, fox and pike), land use, landscape change, along with local and regional sources of pollution.

Roza Laptander is hoping in the coming weeks to return to her tundra home on the Yamal peninsula where her extended family are currently migrating northwards with their reindeer. Another Post Doc, Teresa Komu also intends to embark on field work (in Finland) towards the end of May. We will post more field work news as it comes in.

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