U prof travels to Arctic for climate change

The North of Sixty expedition will document stories of people affected by climate change.

U prof travels to Arctic for climate change

Hailey Colwell

University of Minnesota associate professor Aaron Doering has spent the past decade exploring the Arctic and four other continents — all in the name of sustainability and storytelling.

With a team of four, Doering left again Wednesday for the Arctic, where he will visit remote communities for the North of Sixty expedition, an initiative to collect stories of how climate change has affected the lives of people living there.

“Climate is changing within these environments,” Doering said. “As a result of it, people are needing to adapt to this changing world.”

The team members will travel for about two weeks, starting at a community school in Qikiqtarjuaq, an island community in eastern Canada. They’ll then ski more than 100 miles to Pangnirtung, an Inuit town where they’ll interview students and elders about how their traditions have changed with the climate.

Team members will transport food and gear in pulks, high-tech sleds that can support several hundred pounds. They’ll work in tents at night to upload photos and videos of the interviews onto the expedition’s website so University students and others can follow the expedition, said doctoral candidate and team member Jeni Henrickson.

The team connects to the Internet via satellite and charges laptops with a solar blanket laid atop their sleds as they ski, Hendrickson said.

“We’re trying to do things that are environmentally responsible when it comes to taking that type of technology into a wilderness area,” she said.

Hendrickson said the Arctic is often misinterpreted as a place where no one lives.

“There are actually very vibrant communities that have been there for thousands of years,” she said, and the team is working to help people understand this.

“It’s important that the outside world sees what’s going on over there and how things really are,” said Matti Koivula, who maintains the website from the expedition’s “base camp” at the College of Education and Human Development’s Learning Technologies Media Lab.

The team’s time in the Arctic will also contribute to its Earthducation project, for which Doering has taught sustainable practices in communities in Africa, Europe, Australia and South America.

Doering said one of the lessons he has learned during his expeditions is that as traditions change with the climate, people want their education systems to reflect that change.

“They want not only to adapt to the new, but they also don’t want to lose the culture which makes them who they are,” he said. “It’s this balancing act throughout these two worlds that you are seeing throughout the entire world.”