GoSouth!

 

Dr. Henry Huntington, one of our Cool Scientists had this to say about GoSouth and Africa:

In October 2005, I attended a global conference in Bonn, Germany, on the subject of human connections to global change. I was part of a group of Arctic researchers, but I was also eager to hear from researchers elsewhere in the world. I expected to learn new things, to find out about topics whose existence I was not even aware of. And I did. But I also heard some familiar themes. People who followed systems of rules that were not written down often had a hard time putting things in black and white, because flexibility would be lost. Some aspects of modern life--markets, land ownership, cash--could limit rather than expand adaptability to some kinds of challenges, such as climate change. Communicating climate information from scientists to traditional farmers or hunters was not easy, nor was the reverse. I was used to hearing this in the Arctic. What I hadn't expected was to hear it all from Africa, Asia, and elsewhere, too.

After listening to some of these presentations, I talked with the researchers from these (to me) exotic areas. One thing led to another, and I got a travel grant from the National Science Foundation to bring three African researchers to Fairbanks, Alaska, for an Arctic Science Conference. I believe this was a first, but I was not the only one to find the connection intriguing. The session was packed, we got lots of good questions, we were featured on statewide radio. After joining a graduate class at the University of Alaska, we took a trip to Fort Yukon, a Gwichin village on the Yukon River north of Fairbanks. It was like traveling with rock stars. People were wonderful to Chinwe, Mey, and Marie. We were again on the radio, live this time, visited a fish wheel, and enjoyed great warmth and hospitality.


In addition to just plain having fun, there is a lot of potential research to be done. Looking at the human impacts of climate change is important in the Arctic. But in Alaska, Arctic communities are not typical of the whole state or country. In some respects, African communities may have more in common with remote Arctic villages than do cities and towns elsewhere in the U.S. In addition, comparisons can help identify underlying principles, sifting through the differing surface details to help show how things really work. I'm hoping to have the chance to extend our interactions, to do some real comparative research. And of course to visit Africa with three remarkable women doing great research there!