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Iceland and Greenland: Climate Change and the Arctic (SIT)


Todd Heidt

Director, Eleanor Stellyes Center for Global Studies

2 East South Street

Galesburg, IL 61401-4999



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Over the last few decades, the Arctic has been the region that has warmed most in the world, and data confirms that Arctic warming has caused changes to sea ice and snow cover. Scientists have warned that Arctic amplifications may lead to feedback effects that will cause further warming to the planet. The rapid and interactive change in Arctic climate, biology, and society prompt a number of research questions: how will these changes—from a potential rise in sea level to accessibility to resources that have until recently been hidden under ice—affect the rest of the globe? How are Arctic communities adjusting to these changes? What could we learn from their behavior? How do we develop solutions to the problems caused by climate change? In this SIT program, the major topics of study include:

  • The impact of climate change on Arctic ecosystems and human communities
  • Climate modeling and trends
  • Renewable energy systems in Iceland
  • Carbon management
  • Indigenous knowledge of changes in climate
  • Scientific methods, data collection and ethics of climate research

Students will live with a host family in Isafjordur, the capital of the Westfjords region, for three weeks. Host families are usually close to the University Centre of the Westfjords, where classes are held. Isafjordur is a traditional fishing village of about 2,500 on a narrow spit of land in the fjord Skutulsfjordur, surrounded by mountains and the sea. The town has recently expanded into knowledge-based industries and nature-based tourism. Students will also visit Greenland for two weeks, staying in hostels during the their research excursion.

Students will pursue their own interests within the wide field of climate change, conducting an original research project with support from program faculty and partners in Iceland. Emphasis is placed on real-world relevance, interdisciplinary perspectives on climate change, and connecting with current research in Iceland. Working independently or in small groups, students will track climate change effects and/or design a method for protecting the Arctic climate, while also building collaborative partnerships with local scientific and indigenous communities to encourage innovation. Potential research topics include:

  • Thinning of ice sheets and glacier retreat
  • Melting permafrost
  • Ecosystem carbon sequestration
  • Renewable energy systems
  • Arctic air pollution
  • Climate change impacts on traditional lifestyles
  • Communicating climate science
  • Invasive species proliferation and altered migration patterns caused by climate change

Learn more about the Iceland and Greenland: Climate Change and the Arctic program and other SIT programs

Credits:  4.5 Knox credits for the fall or spring semester

Advisor: Professor Katie Adelsberger

Click here for more information about the application process, program selection, and more!

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Printed on Monday, May 23, 2022