The invasion of the sovereign country of Ukraine by Russia has been a system shock to the international order, including academic and research cooperation. For CHARTER, fieldwork in Russia and cooperation with Russian partners were key parts of planned project activities.
As a research project funded by EU Horizon 2020 program, CHARTER strictly follows the guidelines of the European Union and its member states. According to them, ongoing projects in which Russia or Belarus are involved are to be frozen. Collaboration between individual researchers and teachers is not prohibited, but there is to be no exchange of funding with Russia or Belarus.
As a result, all planned CHARTER fieldworks and travels to Russia have been cancelled and the situation is not likely to change soon.
“This is a grave situation for us. Already the pandemic caused a lot of challenges for our plans”, says project coordinator Bruce Forbes, Global Change research professor in the Arctic Centre, University of Lapland.
Russia alone accounts for half of the Arctic coastline and its social and ecological importance to the Arctic system is immense. The CHARTER project is comprised of many academics and personnel who have spent decades working in and on regions in the Russian Arctic from the Kola peninsula to Chukotka. There are field sites on the Yamal Peninsula that have been studied for many years and the CHARTER project had an extensive summer field work campaign for which extensive planning and preparation had already been undertaken, after a pause that was enforced by the COVID pandemic.
Field sites in the Russian Arctic comprise a core component of the CHARTER project’s goals and aspirations and the creation of the project was the result of many years of partnership with Russian colleagues, administrators and indigenous peoples.
“Our work in Russia is now impossible and our only option is to follow the EU and national guidances, which are not consistent among the nine funded European countries comprising our consortium, not including affiliate institutions in Russia and China”, says Forbes.
“Now all this activity will and must be paused. I myself was intensively planning for CHARTER’s extensive summer 2022 fieldwork Yamal”, says Forbes.
In the short term (i.e. 2022), CHARTER project will reorient its research towards the Fennoscandian Arctic, including Greenland and Svalbard. Many of the details are still being worked on.
CHARTER was funded in part on the strength of the extensive and highly experienced consortium’s capacity to build upon and synthesize existing datasets from recent and ongoing, regional, national and international projects. Relatively little new fieldwork and new infrastructure were planned within the biophysical sciences. However, considerable resources are also devoted to social anthropological fieldwork and participatory workshops. These were originally conceived as part and parcel of an integrated and iterative process, so that CHARTER findings would be truly co-developed with our local and indigenous partners. It will be some time before we know how to navigate the new reality regarding existing and forthcoming datasets based on Russian cooperation
It is important to note that not all CHARTER activities are impacted. Some fieldwork in Work Package 3 was already carried out last year, below you can read about one aspect that is being carried out currently in Work Package 2. A great deal of material that has already been collected in both social and biophysical fields will also be utilized. Plans are underway to carry this out effectively.
Remote Camera Predator Captures in Chukotka
While all planned fieldwork in Russia by the CHARTER project has been halted and it is not clear when some or any of it might resume, one activity that had already been arranged are the remote camera captures of wildlife being undertaken by Dorothee Ehrich of the University of Tromso with her partners Diana Solovyeva and Daria Barykina of the Institute of Biological Problems of the North in Magadan of the Russian Far East, in Work Package 2.
Dorothee is focusing on predator / prey interactions and has been working in Finnmark and the Yamal peninsula on this and related topics for many years. The wildlife capture camera sites involved in this case are in the far north of Chukotka and the cameras are being maintained by local villagers.
Welcome Simo Sarkki
In good CHARTER news, we are delighted to welcome Simo Sarkki to the project team. Simo has a PhD in anthropology and holds docentship on “anthropology of environmental governance” at the University of Oulu, Finland.
Sarkki’s research interests include science-policy interfaces, land use in northern areas, scenarios, participatory approaches, and multi-level governance under the broader theme of environmental governance.
Simo has already started and will be with the project until the end of the year. While his academic background started out in the field of anthropology, during his PhD studies on forestry conflicts in Finnish Lapland, he became increasingly interested in policy, planning and how they feed into governance, and this is the direction his work has gone in the last decade.
CHARTER, Snow and Citizen Science
In case you missed it, under gorgeous spring skies by the banks of the Ounasjoki river, Rovaniemi a few weeks ago, CHARTER Arctic researchers Sirpa Rasmus and Leena Leppänen brought their snow science to the next generation of researchers. With the participation of the Grade 5 students from the Rovaniemi Steiner school students and their teacher, the principles of snow structure, snow pack, snow layers and the tools used and needed for hands on snow science were all introduced. After a short indoor class was held, we all got outside to test them out! Our ‘snow’ team is excited about building out this citizen science aspect of the project and are currently working with multiple agencies on this.