Multidisciplinary approach yields results in Arctic research

Multidisciplinary activity and cooperation between states, regions, businesses, and indigenous people enable the Arctic environment, people and wildlife to coexist. An Arctic strategy is currently being drawn up at the University of Oulu. One of those responsible is Arja Rautio, member of the Arctic Interactions management group and director of the Thule Institute.
Two children near the Lake Inari are looking at a trout that one of the children is holding.

Arctic strategy of UniOulu is in its preparation stage

The Arctic strategy of the University of Oulu is in its preparation stage. In the summer of 2022, the strategy will be given to the university's researchers and students for comment. At the beginning of the strategy work, they were asked for ideas and thoughts on the focal points of the strategy via a separate survey.

‘An inclusive way of working, a multidisciplinary approach, and cooperation between all Arctic region actors have been intensively discussed in the strategy work. The principles of sustainable development must be taken into account in all activities in the Arctic region. Russia's attack on Ukraine has shifted the focus of Arctic cooperation even further west. All cooperation with Russia has been halted, and many Russian universities central to Arctic research have been excluded from cooperation due to the war. This is also reflected in the strategy under preparation," says Arja Rautio, Professor of Arctic Research at the University of Oulu. Her basic qualifications are those of a doctor and in addition to several other positions of trust, she also works in the management group of the Arctic Interactions programme.

As a toxicologist, the health of Arctic residents, as well as various monitoring projects are of particular interest to Rautio.

‘Arctic research projects are funded by the EU, the Nordic Council of Ministers and the Arctic Council. The Thule Institute at the University of Oulu coordinates the international research cooperation between many universities, research institutes and communities in the Arctic region,’ Rautio continues.

Professor Arja Rautio, Director of Thule Institute.

Climate change problems can be solved through research

Rautio herself was born north of the Arctic Circle, so the surroundings, people and animals of the Arctic have been familiar to her since childhood. All people, animals and plants living in the ‘cold’ of the Arctic are constantly in close contact with nature. Climate change will bring with it many new and even distressing changes, but Rautio trusts in the ability of people and the environment to adapt.

‘New ways of adapting to the changes brought about by climate change are constantly being developed in the Arctic region. People and nature just get on with their lives there every day and don’t constantly worry about or fear climate change. Research brings new ways of solving problems and makes it possible to adapt to changes," Rautio reminds us.

However, this does not mean that people in the Arctic region should raise their arms and surrender in the face of climate change.

‘All possible means must be used to stop the rise in temperature and climate change. The most important thing is that we have enough clean water and food. Only from a multidisciplinary perspective can complex and interlinked problems be solved," Rautio emphasizes.

International and Nordic cooperation

Rautio sees the Arctic Interactions research programme as essential both for climate change research and as part of the implementation of the Arctic Strategy of the University of Oulu. The strategy, which tentatively looks forward about five years, is based on international research, but also on Finnish and Nordic research. This is one of the strengths of the Arctic Interactions programme, as it brings together many different Arctic research communities and the people who work within them in their various roles.

‘Coronavirus distanced people from each other, but now it’s time to physically bring people together again. At the beginning of June, I was in the United States for the UArctic Assembly, which was face-to-face for the first time in ages. You could clearly see the genuine happiness and relief in all those who came, as people got to meet each other again. The exchange of ideas between researchers in person is so much more effective than in virtual meetings," Rautio says.

‘I believe that the Arctic Interactions programme can do the same, especially here in the Nordic countries and in Finland. Changes in the Arctic region often happen faster than we realize. So, we need a wealth of up-to-date scientific research data, produced by different people and communities. It’s the only way we can make the right, responsible decisions,’ says Rautio.

Thule Institute

Thule Institute coordinates Arctic issues in the University of Oulu with close cooperation with focus institutes and faculties. The actions of Thematic Networks and Research Liaison Office of the University of the Arctic support and implement the Arctic Attitude and strategy of the University.

Thule Institute supports Arctic research and multidisciplinary collaboration of all the focus areas of the University of Oulu.

More information:

Thule Institute's EU Horizon -projects

NUNATARYUK is an international permafrost research project funded by the European Union Horizon 2020 framework programme:

Arja and Ulla went on a data collection trip to Greenland in September 2021 for their Nunataryk project. Here is Susanna Gartler's blog about the research group's trip: Multidisciplinary field work in Ilulissat Greenland in September 2021