April 18 2024

Fighting Climate Change and Pollution in the Arctic Region – The ICEBERG Project has Begun

The ICEBERG project addresses climate change and pollution issues in the Arctic ocean-land interface via multidisciplinary research and citizen science. The project began at the beginning of 2024 and the first field studies will be conducted in Svalbard in April.

Picture from arctic area

Climate change and pollution pose significant threats to human health and ecosystems in the Arctic region. The ICEBERG research project is tackling these problems in collaboration with Indigenous and local communities.

“ICEBERG deals with a very current topic which is the water pollution of our oceans and more precisely the Arctic. What happens there might impact larger regions at some point,” says Doctor Élise Lépy, the Project Manager of ICEBERG.

The goal of the project is to co-develop resilience strategies to combat pollution and climate change, via innovative community engagement. Additionally, the project aims to create recommendations for better pollution-control governance.

“Our expectations for the project are high, especially with regard to the development of comprehensive and concrete policy recommendations for action,” says Professor Thora Herrmann, the Project Scientific Coordinator of ICEBERG. The project started on the 1st of January this year and will continue until the end of year 2026.

Photo or Thora Herrmann.
Professor Thora Herrmann is the Project Scientific Coordinator of ICEBERG. Photo: Laine Chanteloup, 2023.

ICEBERG 101 – Three locations, community participation and multiple disciplines

ICEBERG’s field research will take place in three different locations in the Arctic. These are western Svalbard (Ny-Ålesund and Sørkapp Land), northern Iceland (Akureyri and Húsavik) and southern Kalaallit Nunaat (Greenland) (Narsaq, Qaqortoq and Nanortalik).

These three areas were selected because each are severely affected by climate change and pollution.

A crucial part of ICEBERG is engaging with Indigenous and local communities. For example, trainings on how to monitor pollution will be provided so the communities can be actively involved in the research and help contribute to the study.

The knowledge and expertise of the Indigenous and local communities brings valuable insights into the research and enables their voices to be heard.

“For us, this inclusive approach is very important as it not only enhances the science, but also encourages ownership and empowerment by Indigenous communities and local participants and ensures that the project is tailored to local needs”, describes Herrmann.

An interactive citizen participation platform will also be published later on the project website.

ICEBERG is based on a holistic One Health approach that acknowledges the interconnectedness of human, animal and environmental health. The research is also highly interdisciplinary – natural sciences and social and human sciences have a strong role in the project.

“In ICEBERG we bring together researchers from different fields such as toxicology, biogeochemistry, environmental science and social science. That interdisciplinary collaboration allows us to gain a more comprehensive understanding of health dynamics and develop holistic solutions that benefit all,” says Herrmann.

Snow pits and time lapses – The field study begins in April 2024

The field study starts already in April 2024. The first research site is Ny-Ålesund in Northern Spitsbergen, where the research group will collect samples from snow pits.

Throughout spring and summer, the research teams will, for example, collect marine litter and install a time lapse camera to monitor beach dynamics and litter accumulation.

“Several of our partners are preparing for fieldwork this summer, while at the same time we are working with our local coordinators to prepare the community consultation and engagement sessions scheduled for late summer in Iceland and Greenland,” says Herrmann.

“Several of our partners are preparing for fieldwork this summer” – Thora Herrmann

Overall, modern technology will be harnessed to tackle the research questions in ICEBERG. Lépy gives some examples of what’s yet to come:

“In ICEBERG we work with drones, and are actively engaged in the development of automated litter detection tools using AI-technology. This opens new avenues for addressing environmental challenges.”

Photo of Élise Lepy in arctic area.

Doctor Élise Lépy, the Project Manager of ICEBERG

Climbing the ICEBERG – Together

ICEBERG is funded by the European Union’s Horizon Europe programme. The project is led by the University of Oulu in Finland and contributed by 16 partner organizations.

A lot of time and effort was required to organize the consortium. Regardless of the intense start of the project, the directors of ICEBERG feel optimistic.

“It has been an energizing journey so far, even though our project only started three months ago. Overall, I would say that although we are still in the early stages of our project, I sense a lot of enthusiasm and commitment from both our team and the communities at the local level, which is great for our future work,” says Herrmann.

Lépy and Herrmann also hope for participation and ideas from everyone who has anything to share regarding the project.

“We are always open to further dialogue and collaboration, and we are interested in hearing from people and communities who can contribute valuable perspectives or insights. We encourage everyone to reach out to us at any time. Only together can we create a meaningful impact,” concludes Herrmann.

About the project ICEBERG:

ICEBERG studies ocean and coastal pollution and creates governance and resilience strategies with European Arctic communities. Climate change and pollution such as plastics, ship emissions and wastewater, are threatening our health and ecosystems in the Arctic. For the EU to reach its Zero Pollution Ambition, we need a deeper understanding of the complex interplay of pollution and climate change as well as its impacts on ecosystems and communities in the Arctic.

ICEBERG studies sources, types, distribution of pollution and its impacts on the ecosystems and communities in Kalaallit Nunaat (Greenland), Iceland and Svalbard. Together with Indigenous and local communities, we co-develop pollution monitoring, mitigation and adaptation strategies using a One Health approach and policy recommendations for multilevel pollution-control governance.

ICEBERG merges natural and social sciences with Indigenous and local knowledge. The project uses an ethical multi-actor and gender-sensitive approach to assess the impacts, risks and vulnerabilities of local communities. Through innovative community engagement, we strive to increase community and ecosystem resilience to pollution and climate change in the Arctic.

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Contact us

Project Scientific Coordinator

Prof. Thora Herrmann
University of Oulu

Project Manager

Dr Élise Lépy
University of Oulu


Marika Ahonen

Innovative Community Engagement for Building Effective Resilience and Arctic Ocean Pollution-control Governance in the Context of Climate Change

ICEBERG has received funding from the European Union's Horizon Europe Research and innovation funding programme under grant agreement No 101135130

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