Newsletter and Subscription Sign Up

Dartmouth Engineers Partner with Arctic Residents

Published Thursday Nov 14, 2019


In June 2019, some members of the team traveled to Qaanaaq, Greenland, including, from left: Joshua Elliott, a PhD student at Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth; Lene Kielsen Holm, a scientist at the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources; Kim Petersen, a carpenter living in Qaanaaq; Toku Oshima, a hunter-fisher living in Qaanaaq; Mary Albert, professor of engineering at Thayer; and Hunter Snyder, a Dartmouth PhD student. (Photo by Hunter Snyder)

Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth in Hanover was awarded a $2.6 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to partner with Qaanaaq, an Arctic fishing community in northern Greenland, in the residents’ transition to renewable energy and an affordable, sustainable future. The project is expected to produce sustainable technological solutions that will also benefit other communities facing the effects of the climate crisis, including areas in the mid-latitudes.

The people of Qaanaaq asked Mary Albert, professor of engineering at Thayer, to collaborate with them in their transition to affordable, renewable energy. But due to the conditions of the area, many common sources of sustainable energy such as hydro-power are not feasible.

“It's not a straightforward problem – it’s multifaceted. It involves equity, policy, the economy, ecosystems, societal culture, as well as engineering principles. All those aspects come into innovative solutions for this community,” says Albert.

Albert is confident the team, which includes research scientists, practitioners, and community members in Greenland, will be able to improve living standards as well as create sustainable solutions through the combination of technology innovation, youth education, and governmental policy change.

“In order to have a healthy community, we need to address the economic issues that accompany our energy needs and help promote a more sustainable society,” says Lene Kielsen Holm, who is the Greenland Lead for the project. “Economic change would produce many beneficial side effects such as enabling more independence and bringing people back to a more balanced everyday life.”

The team expects to travel to Qaanaaq for two weeks in the spring and two weeks in the fall each year for the next four years starting in April 2020. Previous funding from the Arthur L. Irving Institute for Energy and Society at Dartmouth enabled the team to visit Qaanaaq earlier this year to help identify the area’s needs.

“This is an amazing opportunity to link science and human needs directly,” says Christopher Polashenski, adjust assistant professor of engineering at Thayer. “Only by understanding the complex linkages between environmental change and human activities can we plan for our future.”

The grant is part of the NSF’s 10 Big Ideas program, which identifies and invests in research areas at the frontiers of science and engineering. Navigating the New Arctic, one of the 10 Big Ideas, recognizes that biological, physical, chemical, and social changes in the Arctic will fundamentally alter climate, weather, and ecosystems globally with profound impacts on the world’s economy and security.

All Stories