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New centre focuses on the Arctic

A new interdisciplinary centre will focus on the impact of climate change on the regions at the top of the globe – from the chemical compounds in the sea ice to the health of the Arctic population.

[Translate to English:] Billede fra Baffinbugten, farvandet mellem Grønland og Canada. Baffin- bugten er i fokus på det nye Arctic Research Centre. Forskere fra centeret vil opholde sig i kortere eller længere tid i området, ligesom studerende vil få mulighed for at tage kurser og forske deroppe. Det nye arktiske center har samarbejdsaftaler med forsknings- og uddannelsesinstitutioner i Canada og Grønland. Foto: Istock

‘The North Pole is melting at record speed’. ‘Shocking images of the ice sheet’. ‘Ominously warm in Greenland’. There are plenty of dramatic headlines. But why are the sea ice and ice sheet melting anyway? And what are the consequences for the Arctic region? A new interdisciplinary centre at Aarhus University will find the answers.?

“The ongoing and estimated global climate change will presumably have its maximum impact on nature, health and society in the Arctic. To understand the extent and consequences of this impact, it’s very important that we strengthen research in the Arctic area,” says Professor Søren Rysgaard, Director of the Arctic Research Centre.

Interdisciplinary collaboration

The new research centre will cover a considerable number of different projects with a focus on the Arctic. One of the projects will study chemical compounds in the Arctic sea ice, for example. Current research knows very little about this subject today.?

“One of the principal aims of this centre is to delve deeply into things that science hasn’t looked at before and concentrate on them,” says Professor Rysgaard. Hundreds of researchers from different disciplines are attached to the centre, and they will work together cutting across traditional subject boundaries. Physicists, chemists, glaciologists, meteorologists and geologists will analyse the sea ice. Biologists will study the impact of climate change on animal life in the Arctic, and health science researchers will examine the effect of temperature changes and new methods for transporting different hazardous substances to the Arctic on the nutrition and health of the Arctic population.

“For the time being, there are two main academic areas involved in the centre – Science and Technology, and Health. However, we’d like to spread this even further in due course. We also need social science researchers, for example, who can study what changes in the animal life will mean for fishery and Greenland’s economy,” says Professor Rysgaard.

Basic research and consultancy

The Arctic Research Centre will first and foremost carry out basic research. However, it should preferably be possible to use the results from the centre to provide consultancy services for the Greenlandic authorities regarding the management of natural resources. At the same time, one of the important aims of the centre is to boost familiarity with the Arctic region – especially Greenland – among the Danish population.

“In Denmark, we look very much towards the European Union in the south, but we need to also keep in mind that the Danish Realm has a very large country in the Arctic. I hope the centre can increase awareness of Greenland within Denmark. Greenland will be facing major challenges in the future, partly because a number of international companies would like access to the country,” says Professor Rysgaard.


Arctic Research Centre

Cutting right across Aarhus University, the centre has been set up with researchers from two of the four new main academic areas at the university and relevant research institutions in Denmark and Greenland.? The aims and objectives of the centre are to provide, integrate, teach and communicate knowledge about natural, environmental and health sciences in the Arctic. The centre wishes to provide answers to seven major questions:

  1. What controls changes in :i) snow, distribution and thickness of sea ice, ii) interactions between glaciers, sea ice and oceans and iii) thawing of permafrost and exchanges between atmosphere and land?
  2. What controls the marine and atmospheric transport of pollutants to the Arctic?
  3. How can palaeoclimatic/ecological markers provide new knowledge about changes in ocean currents, wind systems, future climate conditions and ecological consequences?
  4. What are the consequences of these changes (1–2) for i) biogeochemical circuits and exchanges between ocean, sea ice, land, snow and atmosphere, ii) the structure and function of ecosystems and iii) the impact of pollutants on ecosystems and humans?
  5. What is the impact of these changes on the lifestyle and health of the Arctic population?
  6. What is the combined effect of natural and human-induced impact on ecosystems and the way they are exploited?
  7. What are the feedback mechanisms between the Arctic and Earth’s climate system?


Five new interdisciplinary research centres

After a thorough selection and review process, Aarhus University has launched five new interdisciplinary research centres. The five new research groups have the financial latitude and freedom of research necessary to seek new knowledge by linking different disciplines.

The five new centres and centre directors are:

Arctic Research Centre (ARC)
Centre Director: Professor Søren Rysgaard, Department of Bioscience

Centre for Integrative Sequencing (iSEQ)
Centre Director: Professor Anders Børglum, Department of Biomedicine – Human Genetics

Centre for Integrated Register-based Research (CIRRAU)
Centre Director: Professor Preben Bo Mortensen, Department of Economics and Business

Interacting Minds Centre
Centre Director: Professor Andreas Roepstorff, Department of Culture and Society – Anthropology and Ethnography

Participatory Information Technology Centre
Centre Directors: Professor Susanne Bødker, Department of Computer Science, and Professor Kim Halskov, Department of Aesthetics and Communication – Information Studies