RCN-SEES: Building a Research Network for Promoting Arctic Urban Sustainability in Russia
This award will support a Research Coordination Network aimed at creating models for Arctic urban sustainability. It is a multi-disciplinary, international effort examining the interconnections among resource development, climate change, and evolving demographic patterns in an effort to provide advice to U.S., Russian, and other policy-makers on how to develop Arctic oil and natural gas deposits and their related infrastructure in a way that produces minimal impact on the environment. The five-year project will convene an annual meeting of scientists working on these issues in Washington and Russia (alternating yearly) in order to facilitate collaboration across disciplines and institutes and to spur better communication between the researchers and policy-making community. Between meetings, the network will engage its participants through webinars hosted at George Washington University, place-based exercises to develop recommendations for specific cities, and coordinating on-going research projects. Russia is the central focus of this project because its territory holds most of the Arctic's energy resources and is the site of the most extensive urban development in the high north. How Russia develops its Arctic energy resources and how its northern cities evolve over the next several decades will have a major impact on the environmental health of the entire Arctic region. The output of the project will be policy advice on how to improve Arctic sustainability in the crucial urban areas associated with energy resource development. The project bridges disciplinary and national divides by bringing together geographers, political scientists, and sociologists to study the interaction of human and natural systems in the Arctic. Project personnel include researchers with a wide range of expertise, including knowledge of energy resource development; migration and employment patterns in Eurasia; and scientific measurement of permafrost thickness throughout Arctic regions. The project will provide additional enrichment for a) the graduate students and early career scholars who are involved in the networking activities, b) residents of Arctic urban developments who will receive area-specific advice on improving sustainability, c) and policy-makers who benefit from input on how infrastructure sites, resource exploitation, and social urban environments can be made more robust in light of forthcoming climate and socio-economic changes. Additionally, the project will serve underrepresented groups by assessing urban impacts on the indigenous peoples of the Arctic and examining the role that foreign laborers play in Arctic infrastructure development.