The Inaugural UArctic Chair

By JEFFREY M WELKER, UArctic Chair; Professor, University of Oulu &
University of Alaska Anchorage

I am grateful and honoured to become the first UArctic Research Chair as a collaborative
appointment between UArctic, the University of Oulu and the University of Alaska Anchorage. I
am prepared to sustain and amplify the spirit, the dedication and the vision of UArctic, as
formulated twenty years ago.

UArctic today is an enterprise of ambitious, caring, dedicated and talented undergraduate and
graduate students, postdoctoral scientists, researchers, faculty at all professional stages, and
support staff from across the Arctic. This diversity and the multidisciplinary aspect of UArctic is
the key to our collective future, as we can use our accumulated wisdom, the energy of youth and
the passion that is pervasive in our community to unlock the mysteries and the secrets of the
Arctic and its complexity.

The Arctic as prior generations knew it, is no longer the same, and it will be much different in
five or ten years. These differences are dramatically reflected in our observations of a shrinking
Arctic sea ice system that is almost absent of multi-year ice. In September 2016 sea ice covered
50% less of the Arctic Ocean than it did just 30 years ago. Today, we see expansive patches of
open water in winter with cascading consequences locally, regionally and globally.

Understanding the Arctic today, including the interactions between the marine and terrestrial
coastal systems, are one of the key areas of emerging interdisciplinary research. In addition,
documenting the changing nature of the Arctic water cycle, sea ice distribution and thickness as
well as the fate of carbon in permafrost in expanding periglacial landscapes are challenges that
require collaborations between nations and the use of advanced technologies. The importance of
the health and economic welfare of Arctic citizens and their resilience and adaptations to rapidly
changing conditions are trajectories of research that merit significant investments and
international cooperation. Today, many of our Native communities throughout the Arctic are
reliant on herbivores and wildlife populations for maintaining their subsistence lifestyle; thus,
understanding the causes and consequences of transitions in vegetation and plant-animal
interactions are critical to a holistic perspective of a future Arctic System.

Strengthening the collaborative nature of Arctic research, the interdisciplinary needs of our
studies and the mentoring of the next generation of Arctic researchers will be a priorities of
mine. Expanding the visibility and the understanding of the Arctic System to the broader global
community using the entire array of media tools, outreach means and supporting enterprises
dedicated to Arctic conservation and scientific discoveries will also be priorities of mine. I am
especially dedicated to devising and supporting the tremendous array of existing Thematic
Networks of UArctic, and to support the formation of new networks that can be the foundations
and the extension of our collective endeavors.

I look forward to meeting many of you, to working on behalf of you, to seeing obstacles as
challenges and opportunities, and using our collective fortitude to provide insight and wisdom,
built on sound scientific data.

UArctic Chairs are highly qualified academics who will serve as academic drivers in a broad
problem area of relevance to the Arctic. UArctic Chairs are to implement and drive
collaborative actions among UArctic members and Thematic Networks; develop research
cooperation, including undergraduate, graduate, PhD and postdoctoral scientist training; and
build partnerships with the broader Arctic community.

Last updated: 31.8.2017

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