A Long-term Partnership Helps Inaugurate an Arctic Center in Spain

January 8, 2018  

Two Arctic institutes, one at Dartmouth and the other in Iceland—each a legacy of the renowned polar explorer Vilhjálmur Stefansson—were destined to have shared interests, and through an endowed wish, have become important collaborators.

The most recent demonstration of the collaboration between the Institute of Arctic Studies at the Dickey Center for International Understanding at Dartmouth and the Stefansson Arctic Institute in Iceland, was support for a new interdisciplinary Arctic Research Centre (CER ARCTIC) at the Autonomous University of Barcelona (AUB)—the first of its kind in Spain.

“The new centre will bridge the Arctic with the Mediterranean, Africa and Antarctica, given that all these regions are related and face similar change,” said professor and Director of the CER-ARCTIC, Françoise Breton. Ross Virginia, Director of the Institute of Arctic Studies at Dartmouth, and Niels Einarsson, Director of the Stefansson Arctic Institute, have been appointed to the CER ARCTIC Board of Directors.

The annual Stefansson Memorial Lecture, founded in Iceland and now a joint program with Dartmouth, opened the ceremonies. Melody Brown Burkins, Associate Director of the Dickey Center and Adjunct Professor of Environment Studies, represented Dartmouth in Barcelona. She spoke about the enduring partnership between Iceland and Dartmouth that looks forward to working with CER ARCTIC on science and policy issues.
“It was an honor to represent Dartmouth at the founding of CER-ARCTIC,“ said Burkins. “The partnership builds directly upon Dartmouth’s international reputation as a leader in Arctic research, education, policy engagement, and community inclusion. I am looking forward to working with our new colleagues on international science collaborations that bring even more opportunities to Dartmouth faculty and students.”

The Stefansson Lecture has twice occurred at Dartmouth: Hugh Beach, a Sami cultural expert from Sweden’s Uppsala University spoke in 2016 and anthropologist Thomas McGovern, from Hunter College, SUNY spoke in 2013. The two institutes also collaborated on a 2015 conference on the future of Arctic fisheries, which brought together international scholars and indigenous leaders from across the circumpolar north. The President of Iceland, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, gave one of the presentations.

“Global interest in the Arctic is exploding as many non-Arctic nations see the importance of new investments in Arctic research and education to solve pressing global problems connected to seal level rise, permafrost thaw, and security concerns as the Arctic Ocean becomes “ice-free,” said Virginia. “It’s exciting to see the University of Barcelona move into this circle. I look forward to working with new colleagues at CER ARCTIC.”

Iceland and Dartmouth are bound together through the legacy of Vilhjálmur Stefansson, one of the last Arctic pioneers of the “heroic age.” Stefansson settled in Hanover with his wife, the polar scholar Evelyn Stefansson, in the 1950s, and established the Northern Studies Program, which and led to the founding of the Institute of Arctic Studies at Dartmouth in 1989. Ten years later, the government of Iceland established the Stefansson Arctic Institute as an independent research organization. Over time, and with the help of a generous gift from Evelyn Stefansson Nef, the two institutes have developed strong ties that now reach into Europe.