Researcher Leaves Homer for Studies in the Arctic

Sixteen researchers from the United States, Canada, Finland, Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Russia, and Sweden will participate in the Fulbright Arctic Initiative. The group will meet in three countries for three different seminars. Each person will join a team to research developments in one of four specific areas: health, water, energy, and infrastructure. Individuals will also make international trips for their specific areas of study.

“We work in cross disciplines to find the common ground of different issues. For example, our climate up here is warming at twice the rate as the rest of the world. How does that affect communities relative to family, wellness, health and sustainability,” says Dr. Linda Chamberlain.

Dr. Linda Chamberlain’s work falls under health and she will contribute to the initiative by sharing her 20 plus years’ experience studying ACEs or Adverse Childhood Experiences. Simply put, she says ACEs are examples of childhood trauma.

“The original research on ACEs looked at all forms of child maltreatment so sexual, physical, and emotional. It also looked at neglect,” says Chamberlain.

She adds ACEs also stem from household dysfunction caused by substance abuse, domestic violence, divorce, and a litany of other issues. The other side of her work is building community resiliency.

“What can we do to keep those tough times during childhood from affecting brain development, a child’s school performance, and the long term health effects that we know can happen with this,” says Chamberlain.

But, how does the other researchers’ work impact ACEs in the Arctic and vice versa? Chamberlain explains it like this. Problems in households that negatively impact children can be triggered or worsened by outside stressors. Take climate change for example.

“That is affecting subsistence living. It affects the fish. It affects the fishing lifestyles [and] families’ economic welfare. Then you have another layer of pressure on a family or community that may already be struggling with these issues,” says Chamberlain.

And Chamberlain will in turn be a voice that pushes to understand what effect ACEs can have on the issues her fellow researchers are studying. Chamberlain expects the opportunity to learn from her Fulbright colleagues will be priceless.

“Communities like Homer are working to become trauma informed. I think we’ve learned a lot from communities elsewhere who are doing a lot of work around that and now we have an opportunity to learn from communities who live like we do in the circumpolar world,” says Chamberlain.

The researchers met for the first time this week for a program orientation in Iqaluit in the Canadian Territory of Nunavut. Through the next year they will conduct their research at home as well as travel to institutions located in the home countries of the initiative’s participants.

Chamberlain will visit Finland in June to give a presentation on ACEs and from there she’ll travel to a research center in Nova Scotia that studies community resilience.

“Then I’ll be back home laying out what my research plan will be. I’ll be spending the spring in Finland doing my research, but I’ll also be returning there in February,” says Chamberlain.

Once all the teams’ research is complete and the results are analyzed the initiative will culminate in a final meeting next year in Washington D.C. Chamberlain plans to share the end result of her research online.

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Quinton Chandler is a reporter at KTOO in Juneau.

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