Photo: Ville-Riike Fofonoff

The General Assembly is the annual meeting of the Arctic PASSION project partners, external collaborators, and guests of the Arctic PASSION Project. This year’s meeting took place June 11th-13th at the beautiful Sámi Cultural Centre Sajos, in Inari/Aanaar and was organised by the Alfred Wegener Institute with the Finnish Meteorological Institute, the UKRI British Antarctic Survey, GRID-Arendal and Snowchange. This year around 80 people attended, with participants travelling from Canada, the US, Greenland and several European countries. 

Day 1: Tuesday, June 11th

The morning session of the Assembly started with an opening by the project’s Scientific Coordinator, Michael Karcher, and welcome messages given by Tauno Ljetoff, a member of the Sami Parliament Executive Board, Jyri Heilimo, head of the Arctic Space Centre of the Finnish Meteorological Institute, and Gaelle Le Bouler, the project officer representing the European Commission. Michael Karcher, and the project manager Luisa Cristini, provided an overview on the status and the development of the project over the past year, jointly with the communications team. The morning continued with Assembly participants breaking out into smaller, parallel sessions: 

  • Establishing a comprehensive Arctic observing system. Conveners: Jeremy Wilkinson, Margareta Johansson: Here the forthcoming work on synthesizing the project actions and outcomes, as well as a concept of the structure of the outputs were discussed. 
  • Shared Arctic Variables: Wildfire, Permafrost, Sea ice, Salmon. Conveners: Illka Matero, Katriina Veijola, Maribeth Murray: The SAV teams for the different themes presented the status of their work, which takes place in close cooperation with SAON and the two projects Arctic PASSION and RNA CoObs (US-funded at the UAF). 
  • Indigenous representatives. Conveners: Johanna Roto, Tero Mustonen: The exciting news in this session was the launch of six new event databases co-created by Snowchange and six different Arctic Indigenous Peoples’ Communities: the Skolt Sámi, Western Greenlandic Inuit, The Gwich’in, the Faroese and previous (pre-war) partners from Russia. The databases contain Indigenous knowledge from recent years (the last 5-10 years) and as far back as 8,000 years ago, gathered over the past 3 years for the project and are nicely summarised in storymaps created by Snowchange, and the data is available for map viewing via The data present knowledge for different spatiotemporal times and scales. 

Tero Mustonen talks about the launch of a new Indigenous Knowledge hub

There were good, cross-cultural discussions on how Indigenous Knowledge is protected and included in different nations, and it was acknowledged that we were privileged to have in attendance at our assembly some incredible female Indigenous Knowledge holders, including 

  • Leslie McCartney, University of Alaska Fairbanks
  • Kirsti Benson, Gwich’in Tribal Council
  • Lauren Clavelle TWILD
  • Noora Huusari, Snowchange

    Attention was given to the fact that there is a shortage of Arctic baseline data and that the data our project produces could be critical. 

    In the afternoon the focus was on the status presentations of work packages 1 and 4, dealing with enhanced and better-coordinated observations and the development of Arctic PASSION services. Six of the services were presented in an exhibition-style format:

    1. Arctic Service ‘Event Database of Community-Based Monitoring Using Oral Histories, Indigenous Knowledge and Local Knowledge’
    2. Pan-Arctic requirements-driven Permafrost Service
    3. Integrated Fire Risk Management (INFRA) Service
    4. Local Atmospheric Pollutant Forecast Service
    5. Improving Safety for Shipping in the Polar Seas Service
    6. Lake Ice Service for Arctic Climate and Safety

      The lead developers and teams working on each service then stood at a stand displaying information about and giving live demonstrations of their service in the Sajos lobby, as well as answering questions from the interested public. Read more about the Innovation EXPO

      Day 2: Wednesday, June 12th

      On the second day of the General Assembly, participants were treated to presentations from guests, including: 

      • Leslie McCartney (UAF) and Kristi Benson (Gwich'in Tribal Council, Department of Culture and Heritage) 'Three Decades of Gwich’in Culture and Heritage Research: An Indigenous Nation’s Contribution to Arctic Passion Events Database', who spoke on the Indigenous Knowledge gathered, dating as far back as the 1800’s or “a long time ago”, to 2003, creating an ‘event timeline’ for “on the land, lived experiences of climate change, putting a human story behind the scientific graphs and helping us to understand the impacts of climate change.”


      Short interviews with Leslie McCartney and Kristi Benson on the knowledge shared in the Gwich'in Climate Events Database

      • Caitlynn Hanna (UAF, Nanook) 'Blending Culture and Science: An Iñupiaq Student's Journey into Understanding River Rusting in the Wulik River Basin'

      Caitlynn Hanna presents her research on river rusting and its effects on Arctic Indigenous Peoples' Communities.

      • Verónica Willmott (AWI): POLARIN: The Polar Research Infrastructure Network
      • Otto Habeck (Uni Hamburg): CHARTER (Drivers and Feedbacks of Changes in Arctic Terrestrial Biodiversity): Invited Arctic PASSION to join forces with the CHARTER project, and demonstrated an impressive method for combining Indigenous Knowledge with climate models in 5 steps. 
      • Craig Lee (University of Washington, ARORA/Arctic GRA co-chair): The new Arctic Ocean Research Alliance - ARORA
      • Harmony Waynor (RNA CoObs): Convening a salmon expert panel with a Community Well-being focus

      Again, participants broke out into smaller sessions: 

      • Indigenous representatives, Conveners: Johanna Roto and Tero Mustonen, the continuation of the breakout session from day 1.
      • Societal benefits, (co-organised with US AON), Conveners: Jaakko Juvonen, Kaisa Juhanko, Sandy Starkweather: Here concepts and tools for Societal Benefit evaluation were discussed.
      • Arctic Data in action: This session covered the Status and next steps of the Arctic PASSION Data Management, including ‘actionable data’ and FAIR-compliant data formats and data repositories, Convened by Janine Felden and Øystein Godøy

      In the afternoon of the second day, we were treated with the opportunity for an excursion to the only UN-protected Sami land in Sápmi, which Snowchange has purchased to save the forest for restoration and upkeep by Sami reindeer herders based on Indigenous Knowledge practices. In the evening Assembly participants enjoyed a fantastic performance of traditional Sámi singing by artist Anna Morottaja and further information on the need for reindeer herding in Sápmi and the relevance of Indigenous Knowledge.

      Day 3: Thursday, June 13th

      On the final day of our assembly, all remaining work package teams made presentations on the highlights of their work over the past year; there was a focus on the synthesis of our outputs in the final year, as well as innovation and the impact of the expected results. The day finished with a meeting of the Advisory Board, many of whom were physically in attendance at the Assembly. The Arctic PASSION Early Career Scientists took a walk in nature guided by the Association of Polar Early Career Scientists (APECS) to discuss ECS matters. 

      This will have been the second to last General Assembly, the final one will happen in September 2025. The project will finish in December 2025 and until then there is a lot to do. We look forward to that exciting work with the great people in our team and our collaborators! 

      Listen to our project's scientific coordinator, Michael Karcher, reflect on the project in its third year.

      We had the pleasure of enjoying a poem written by Marije Tempel, composed while she was at the Assembly.