Funding Awarded to Research Project Focused on Arctic Region

Dr. Pat Maher, an Associate Professor of Community Studies at CBU, has recently been awarded approximately $215,000 by the Norwegian Centre for International Cooperation in Education (www.siu.no) for a project he is co-leading with Dr. Outi Rantala of The Arctic University of Norway (Finnmark campus). The project will develop graduate-level tourism curriculum specific to the Circumpolar North, although equally applicable to other rural and peripheral destinations such as Cape Breton. This three-year funding package (2015-2018) was awarded through SIU’s High North Programme, which aims to expand, strengthen and disseminate knowledge about or relevant to the Arctic.

With an increased awareness of the Arctic, due to globalization, geopolitical tensions and climate change, there is a growing desire for Arctic experiences. Recently, the area has seen growth in tourism, with people wanting to explore endangered Arctic flora, among other reasons. Although tourism can bring economic benefits there are concerns around natural resources, culture and traditions. As such, all eight Arctic states have agreed that the exploitation of the Arctic regions must be ecologically and socially safe and sustainable.

Maher, Rantala and their team will develop a graduate level studies program as a channel to critically evaluate the problems and offer meaningful solutions. Using research expertise intertwined with cooperative teaching and institutional partnerships. “The scholars involved in this project are world-renowned experts in sustainable Arctic tourism,” says Dr. Maher. “Through their institutions they will contribute to an aligned suite of online courses that allow such knowledge to circulate widely. These will be complemented by a field course that connects the small groups of students at each institution into a larger cohort giving critical thoughts to Arctic sustainability and tourisms role in that.”

This project came to be through connections made within the University of Arctic’s Thematic Network on Northern Tourism. Maher has been leading that group for the past four years. The network provides multidisciplinary research and education on tourism in the northern and Arctic regions, its impacts on the surrounding society, cultures and nature, and economic, social and ecological development possibilities offered by sustainable tourism. CBU became a member of the umbrella organization, the University of the Arctic (www.uarctic.org), in 2014.

“The funding from SIU will allow the group to pilot the courses, working out any glitches, which may be present in this sort of international, inter-institutional endeavour”, says Dr. Maher. He and Dr. Rantala are collaborating with colleagues from the University of Iceland, Umeå University (Sweden), the University of Lapland (Finland), the University of Oulu (Finland) and Vancouver Island University.