Systems Approaches to Understanding and Navigating the New Arctic (SAUNNA)


The Arctic is the most rapidly changing environment in the world. People living in the Northern Hemisphere are now experiencing the consequences of a changing Arctic, including abrupt shifts in weather patterns, altered availability of natural resources such as fish, minerals and water, and threats to indigenous cultural heritage and economies. Anticipating and adapting to these changes requires exploration and understanding across environmental and social systems spanning from the Arctic to lower latitudes, raising the need for new approaches to train future Arctic scientists. This National Science Foundation Research Traineeship award to the University of Maine will address this demand by training graduate students in the interdisciplinary field of Arctic systems science. The project anticipates training 57 MS and Ph.D. students, including 20 funded trainees from Ecology, Earth Sciences, Anthropology, Economics, and Marine Sciences.

Strengthening skills and competencies to improve integration across environmental, social, and knowledge systems are essential to understanding and navigating the new Arctic and enhancing training of the broader STEM workforce. The goal of this project is to train a new generation of leaders prepared to: 1) advance understanding of Arctic changes and their local & global effects, 2) conduct solutions-driven research focused on socio-environmental systems and their dynamics, 3) apply models and tools to integrate across systems, 4) develop cross-cultural & cross-disciplinary perspectives on emerging environmental and economic issues, 5) conduct interdisciplinary, collaborative research with stakeholders to foster resilience of systems affected by Arctic change, 6) inform future Arctic policy, 7) effectively & rapidly communicate results geared to different audiences. An interdisciplinary curriculum that integrates active learning models, professional development, faculty and peer mentoring, collaborative research, and stakeholder engagement will be created, focused on changes in Greenland, the Arctic-North Atlantic and Maine. The core training elements of this project include an annual retreat, a suite of new and existing coursework, a collaborative interdisciplinary research project, Arctic field experience, and an internship with a partner organization.

The NSF Research Traineeship (NRT) Program is designed to encourage the development and implementation of bold, new potentially transformative models for STEM graduate education training. The program is dedicated to effective training of STEM graduate students in high priority interdisciplinary or convergent research areas through comprehensive traineeship models that are innovative, evidence-based, and aligned with changing workforce and research needs.

Co-funding for this award is being provided by Navigating the New Arctic (NNA) program, one of NSF’s ten Big Ideas. NNA supports projects that address convergence scientific challenges in the rapidly changing Arctic, empower new research partnerships, diversify the next generation of Arctic researchers, enhance efforts in formal and informal education, and integrate the co-production of knowledge where appropriate. This award aligns with those goals.

Project PI(s)
Funded Institutions
University of Maine
Other Research Location(s)
Project Start Date
Sep 2020
Award Year