Skating on Thin Ice: Climate Change at the Poles

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Polar IceSeptember 5, 2014
Society of Environmental Journalists 24th Annual Conference
Hilton New Orleans
New Orleans, LA

Currently observed rates of environmental change are unprecedented.  Climate change poses especially novel challenges in polar regions, where temperature increases have been three times greater than the global average. Melting ice will affect industry, trade, ecosystems, and Arctic communities.

Dr. Tatiana Rynearson describes the outsized role of polar environments for global climate and biological productivity. Photo by Karen Southern.

Dr. Tatiana Rynearson describes the outsized role of polar environments for global climate and biological productivity. Photo by Karen Southern.

 

 

More than two dozen journalists attended a panel to explore the effects of polar climate change at the 2014 Society of Environmental Journalists annual conference. Metcalf Institute organized the panel with support from a National Science Foundation grant awarded to URI Graduate School of Oceanography (GSO) scientists, in partnership with The Pew Charitable Trusts. GSO associate professor and Metcalf Science Co-Director Tatiana Rynearson, one of the NSF grantees, served on the panel to explain the surprisingly widespread repercussions of these polar shifts for the rest of the globe.

Marilyn Heiman, director of the U.S. Arctic Program for The Pew Charitable Trusts, described industrialization in the Arctic, especially oil and gas exploration, as a result of reduced ice cover. President and CEO of Kawerak, Inc. and native Alaskan, Melanie Bahnke, chronicled the devastating effects of climate change on the people of the Arctic, arguing that these human communities are an endangered species whose plight is not receiving adequate news coverage. Metcalf Institute Executive Director Sunshine Menezes moderated the panel.

Melanie Bahnke, President and CEO of Kawerak, Inc., describes the cultural effects of a warming Arctic. Photo by Karen Southern.

Melanie Bahnke, President and CEO of Kawerak, Inc., describes the effects of a warming climate on native Alaskan culture and livelihoods. Photo by Karen Southern.

Speakers:

  • Melanie Bahnke, President and Chief Executive Officer, Kawerak, Inc.
  • Marilyn Heiman, Director, U.S. Arctic Program, The Pew Charitable Trusts
  • Tatiana Rynearson, Associate Professor of Oceanography, Graduate School of Oceanography, University of Rhode Island

View resource list on climate change impacts in polar environments.

Unique Communication Training Opportunity for GSO Graduate Students
The NSF grant also supported the participation of two URI GSO graduate students, Kelly Canesi and Tara Stevens, to attend the SEJ conference. Canesi and Stevens tweeted about conference sessions, met journalists and science writers from all over the country, took environmental field trips in and around New Orleans, and blogged about their experiences on oceanbites, a blog run by URI GSO graduate students.  Stevens is a doctoral candidate studying the behavior and ecology of killer whales and Canesi is a master’s candidate researching how changes in the environment affect Narragansett Bay marine phytoplankton populations.

Read Kelly and Tara’s Blog Posts

This program was supported by a grant to study Seasonal Trophic Roles of Euphasia superba (STRES)
from the National Science Foundation’s Office of Polar Programs. Read more about the STRES project here.
The Pew Charitable Trusts provided in-kind support.

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