Understanding Resilience and Long-Term Environmental Change in the High Arctic: Narrative-Based Analyses from Svalbard

This research programme combines formal environmental monitoring with knowledge and observations of people from all walks of life who know parts of the Arctic well. Through this approach we will not miss the most important changes in these remote, but to the world important, environments.

Photo: Patrick Schneider

Why do we need to capture people’s knowledge of environmental change?

People who live, work or travel in the Arctic experience environmental changes in many different ways. Such experiential knowledge is valuable, yet rarely captured and integrated with environmental monitoring programmes. This is a missed opportunity and prevents us from truly understanding rapid environmental Arctic change.

SVALUR wishes to learn from others and develop ways to combine such experiences with knowledge from formal environmental monitoring. Such combined knowledge will connect better to people’s lives than knowledge from scientific monitoring alone. Our approach can help to make decisions regarding how to handle changes in local environments when and where they arise.

Why Svalbard?

Svalbard is unusual because here most people live and work for only a relatively few years, providing a unique perspective. For the project, we aim to learn how to bring together local knowledge and combine it with environmental monitoring, so that an “environmental memory” can develop and provide insight into making decisions regarding how to best manage environmental change locally and beyond.

Photo: Eirik-Hodne

What we do

We aim to bring together detailed knowledge and experiences of people living, working and exploring different parts of Svalbard, using in-depth interviews, document analysis and web-based story mapping. We will compare this information with data from environmental monitoring and bring this together through a variety of research methods.

Svallur figur v.2

An emphasis will be on communicating the shared knowledge to inhabitants and visitors to Svalbard, through interactive workshops, a stakeholder conference, participatory web-based story mapping, digital diaries, video accounts and holistic knowledge libraries/systems for locals and for tourist guides. Our project findings will not only document and give valuable, holistic insights into long-term environmental change, but also identify how current monitoring programs can be made more relevant to people living in and visiting the Arctic. Increasing levels of short-term occupancy throughout the region mean that developing ways in which story-based understanding can complement scientific knowledge is a crucial part of the project.

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