The Arctic environment is changing at an unprecedented rate. The primary goal of the Arctic Research program is to carry out and support activities relevant to understanding the marine ecosystem during a period of rapid climate change. Research is largely focused on the Pacific Arctic sector, in support of activities conducted by NOAA’s Alaska Fisheries Science Center and the international Pacific Arctic Group.



NOAA Collaborative Projects

Two projects guided by ST include development of the Distributed Biological Observatory (DBO) and the Synthesis of Arctic Research (SOAR). These projects benefit from collaborations at the interagency and international level. Integrated research programs such as those conducted and informed by ST will provide the foundation for understanding and responding to changes manifest in the Arctic marine ecosystem.

Synthesis of Arctic Research (SOAR)

The Synthesis of Arctic Research (SOAR) project is supported through an Interagency Agreement with the Alaska Regional office of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. The overarching goal of the SOAR is to apply analytical and modeling approaches to data available from a cross-section of Arctic research activities to test hypotheses that cross scientific disciplines. The SOAR project focuses on three objectives: (1) increase scientific understanding of the inter- and intra-relationships of oceanographic conditions, benthic organisms, lower trophic prey species (forage fish and zooplankton), and marine mammal distribution and behavior , (2) enhance capability to predict future changes in oceanographic features and associated ecosystem changes, and (3) effectively transmit findings of synthesis activities to resource managers, local Arctic residents, national and international science societies and the general public. The SOAR will be guided by an independent Scientific Steering Committee comprised of local residents, federal and state research scientists. Additional details may be found on the SOAR website.

Distributed Biological Observatory (DBO)

The development of a Distributed Biological Observatory is central to Goal 2 of NOAA’s Arctic Vision & Strategy  and is included in the National Ocean Council Strategic Action Plan for the Arctic. The Office od Science and Technology has championed the development of the DBO since its inception and fostered partnerships among federal and state agencies, academia and industry partners. An international program of ‘pilot DBO’ sampling was undertaken in 2010, 2011, and 2012 with details from that research and future plans for the DBO provided at the DBO wesite.



Inter-Agency Collaborations

NOAA ST personnel serve on a variety of science steering committees and advisory panels. Two with particular relevance to advancing marine ecosystem research in the Arctic include the Study of Environmental Arctic Change (SEARCH) and the North Slope Science Initiative (NSSI).

Study of Environmental Arctic Change (SEARCH)

SEARCH is an interagency effort to understand the nature, extent and future development of the system-scale change presently seen in the Arctic. The core aim of SEARCH is to understand the recent and ongoing complex of interrelated pan-arctic changes affecting ecosystems, living resources, the human population, and local and global economic activities. For additional information, go to the SEARCH website.


North Slope Science Initiative (NSSI)

 The NSSI is an intergovernmental effort to increase collaboration at the local, state, and federal levels to address the research, inventory, and monitoring needs as they relate to development activities on the North Slope of Alaska. The mission of the NSSI is to improve scientific and regulatory understanding of terrestrial, aquatic and marine ecosystems for consideration in the context of resource development activities and climate change. The NSSI also facilitates information sharing among agencies, non-governmental organizations, industry, academia, international programs and members of the public to increase communication and reduce redundancy among science programs. The NSSI is guided by an Oversight Group and supported by a Science Technical Advisory Panel (STAP) and senior staff. For additional information, go to the North Slope website.

International Collaborations

ST personnel also participate in a number of international efforts aimed at identifying and understanding the effects of climate change and anthropogenic activities on the Arctic environment. Three with particular relevance to the goals of NOAA include the Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Program (CBMP-Marine), the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and Environmental Concerns (EC) Standing Working Group of the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission.

Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Program (CBMP-Marine)

The Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Program (CBMP) is an international network of scientists, government agencies, indigenous organizations and conservation groups working together to harmonize and integrate efforts to monitor the Arctic’s living resources. The CBMP is the cornerstone program of the Arctic Council’s Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF) Working Group, with a central goal to facilitate rapid detection, communication and response to significant biodiversity-related trends and pressures in the circumpolar arctic. For additional information, go to the Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna website.


International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN)

The IUCN and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) completed a project in 2010 to explore ways of advancing implementation of ecosystem-based management in the Arctic marine environment through invited expert workshops. The first workshop, held in Washington, DC on 16-18 June, 2010 explored ways to advance policy decisions on ecosystem-based marine management in the Arctic region. The second workshop, held in La Jolla, CA on 2-4 November, 2010 advanced the process of identifying Ecologically and Biologically Significant Areas (EBSAs) in the Arctic marine environment. It is anticipated that recommendations from these workshops will be acted upon via the IUCN Global Marine and Polar Program; for additional information, go to the IUNC website.


Environmental Concerns (EC) Standing Working Group of the Scientific Committee, International Whaling Commission

In 1993, the International Whaling Commission (IWC) adopted Resolutions on research on the environment and whale stocks and on the preservation of the marine environment. As a result of this and subsequent resolutions, the Scientific Committee (SC) formalized its work on environmental threats in 1997 by establishing a standing working group (SWG) on environmental concerns that has met every year since then. Currently, ST personnel are active on issues related to the Environmental Concerns SWG, which undertakes reviews of environmental science pertinent to the management of cetaceans under five categories: SOCER (an overview), POLLUTION, Disease, Climate Change, and Other Habitat Issues. For additional information, go to the IWC website.


Additional Links to Information on Arctic Marine Ecosystem Research

NOAA Arctic Theme Page 

National Science Foundation Office of Polar Programs/ Arctic Sciences (ARC)

National Snow and Ice Data Center

International Arctic Science Committee 

Arctic Council