In receiving the award, he recognized the incredible support of Inuit communities: “Without the collaboration, encouragement and knowledge of Inuit communities, the success of SmartICE as a climate change solution would not have been possible. This award recognizes them too, and I am most humbled and grateful to receive it on their behalf.”

We spoke with SmartICE Regional Operation Leads Rex Holwell and Andrew Arreak to understand how SmartICE is helping their communities adapt to unpredictable sea ice conditions.

What does sea ice mean for you and your community?

Andrew: In Mittimatalik we use the ice in our everyday lives. We use it to hunt, harvest, and travel to other communities. We are a part of the ice because we use it so much and in so many different ways. It is a unique way of living. Being out on the ice like my ancestors did, enjoying what it has to offer, is very therapeutic.

How is the ice changing?

Rex: In my community of Nunainguk, people are not able to predict their traditional travel routes. The ice isn’t freezing as early as it used to, and conditions are very different from 20-30 years ago.

Andrew: In my lifetime, I am noticing that the ice is forming a little later and breaking up a little earlier each year. There are some dangerous areas that are becoming more dangerous earlier in the year than they normally do.

How does SmartICE reduce ice travel risk?

Rex: We are helping communities and providing them with the tools, data and information they need to make more informed decisions before their travel on the ice.

Andrew: I talk with the community first and ask them where they would like me to monitor the ice. We collect the data; it stays here in the community and is available when it is needed. When we listen to the community, we have a better relationship and get a better outcome for our ice monitoring service.

SmartICE launched its Northern Production Centre (NPC) in Nain in 2019 to train Inuit youth to assemble its stationary ice thickness sensors (SmartBUOYs). As manager of the NPC, how do the youth benefit from this program?

Rex: It is important to have the technology built by and for Inuit. After the SmartBUOYs are built, the youth sign a sticker on the sensor so people know they are made by them. They take pride in building them. I’ve seen so much growth in the youth. We give them a stepping stone to better themselves. They further their abilities and skills, and gain confidence to go on to other opportunities after the program finishes.

How does working for SmartICE make you feel?

Rex: I am a positive influence on local youth and I am really proud of that, and offering this program has had a huge impact on my community.

Andrew: I will continue to work with SmartICE for as long as I can because there is no other occupation like this, providing safety information for the community in real time, and having the community support us. I think it's great. SmartICE is for the North, by the North.

The Frederik Paulsen Arctic Academic Action Award provides high-level recognition for innovative ideas that transform knowledge into action to help address the impacts of climate change in the Arctic. It comes with a 100,000 euro unrestricted prize, intended to help develop the idea through outreach, engagement and communication. The award is a joint activity of UArctic and the Arctic Circle.

By Emma Dalton, Communications Coordinator and Emily Best, Development Officer, SmartICE.

[Originally published in the UArctic Shared Voices Magazine 2022. Read all articles here]