The Big Thaw

May 23, 2017

How Melting Sea Ice and Glaciers are Transforming the Arctic

One of the most obvious changes in the Arctic, in recent history, is the reduction of sea ice cover and rapid retreat of glaciers. How do these changes affect landscapes, ecological systems and the people that live in the Arctic, and how do we effectively communicate these changes to broad global audiences? 

Join us for presentations that explore the Arctic—the changes, opportunities and challenges ahead for the Arctic environment and its people, and the stories that illuminate the physical and social transformation currently underway in this region. The presentation will be followed by a discussion and Q & A.


Dr. Candis Callison is an Associate Professor in the Graduate School of Journalism at UBC. Her research and teaching are focused on changes to media practices and platforms, journalism ethics, the role of social movements in public discourse, and understanding how issues related to science and technology become meaningful for diverse publics. Dr. Callison leads a research team on Arctic Journalism, researching changes to professional norms, practices and standards for Canadian Arctic journalists working in an era of environmental change and global audiences.

Dr. Kevin R. Arrigo is a Professor in the Department of Earth System Science at Stanford University, and the Director of the inter-disciplinary Earth Systems Program. He is a biological oceanographer whose work examines the role of microalgae in the biological productivity in polar oceans. His interdisciplinary approach to research includes satellite remote sensing, computer modeling, and field studies on oceanographic research vessels. He completed a post-doctoral degree while working at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. 

Dr. Michele Koppes is an Assistant Professor in Geography at UBC, and Canada Research Chair in Landscapes of Climate Change. Her work in forensic geomorphology is aimed at reading landscapes to decipher the forces that shaped them, with a particular focus on glaciers and their impact in shaping polar regions at a variety of time scales, from years to millenia. Dr. Koppes has current field projects in high places all over the world, from B.C. to Patagonia, Alaska, the Himalayas, Greenland and Antarctica, where her team combines detailed field observations with numerical modeling of ice-ocean dynamics and glacier mass balance.


Eric Solomon is the Director of the Vancouver Aquarium’s Arctic Connections program. He has more than 15 years of experience working in the field of science and environmental education and communication with museums, science centres and public aquariums in the U.S. and Canada. He has dedicated much of his career toward improving communication of complex science and environmental issues to public audiences. Eric is focusing on creating greater public awareness of, and engagement in, the important issues facing Canada’s north. Eric holds a Bachelor’s in Psychology, a Master’s degree in Marine Ecology, and advanced graduate studies in Science Education. 


Over the past several decades, global climate change has had a significant effect on the Canadian Arctic. One of the most obvious impacts has been a reduction of Arctic sea ice cover, and the rapid retreat of glaciers and ice sheets. These changes have already began to have significant effects on landscapes, ecological systems and the livelihood of northern communities. In this presentation, Drs. Michele Koppes and Kevin Arrigo will discuss current understanding of the changing ice conditions in the Arctic. They will describe recent trends and future projections of ice loss, and how this may transform polar environments over the coming decades. They will discuss how changing Arctic ice cover is linked to changing ecosystem productivity, increased risk of natural hazards, and landscape alterations associated with changing freshwater flows, erosion and sediment transport. They will also reflect on the resiliency of Arctic communities in the face of rapid environmental change.


Brought to you by the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies and the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre.