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The Arctic’s Emerging Young Leaders

Allen Pope’s Arctic Vision: Collaborative, Connected and Committed

The new head of the International Arctic Science Committee wants to see more teamwork among scientists of different stripes in the North – and says his own work studying glaciers is driven by a desire to better understand the processes that shape our planet.

Written by Eline Gordts Published on Read time Approx. 3 minutes
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A frozen meltwater lake along the northeast Greenland coast, as seen from NASA's P-3B aircraft on May 7, 2012.Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0/NASA/Jim Yungel

This month is Allen Pope’s first at the helm of the International Arctic Science Committee, a nongovernmental organization aimed at encouraging and facilitating cooperation in Arctic research across borders, areas and issues.

Pope is taking the lead at a crucial time for Arctic research. An alarming report by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released at the end of last year confirmed that the Arctic is changing at a rapid pace. The 11th annual Arctic report card revealed that temperatures in the Arctic are rising fast, warming temperatures are causing the tundra’s permafrost to melt and algae blooms are becoming widespread. Alarmingly, the report also indicated that trends typical in the summer months are now being seen in the winter, too.

Arctic Deeply spoke with Pope in November 2016 about his work, his research interests and his vision for the Arctic, as part of our series focusing on the work of young leaders in the circumpolar Arctic.

Arctic Deeply: What are you working on at the moment?

Allen Pope: Like any early career researcher, I have a lot of projects going at the moment. I’m preparing to present new results (on Antarctic ice sheet change) at a conference in December, I’m writing a paper about measuring glacier velocities using satellite imagery, I’m developing a proposal to run a polar science communication workshop next summer and I’m preparing to start a new job with the International Arctic Science Committee next year.

Arctic Deeply: What will you be working on next year?

Pope: Next year, I will be beginning my role as executive secretary of the International Arctic Science Committee. I’m excited by what I’m sure will be a fascinating and challenging new position – and by continuing IASC’s mission to facilitate and amplify international and interdisciplinary Arctic science.

Arctic Deeply: Who inspires you in your field?

Pope: There are so many people in the Arctic and polar communities that inspire me. Researchers making new discoveries. Arctic locals bearing witness to the world about change in their homes. Students just beginning to engage with the Arctic. I couldn’t name individuals – there are too many!

Arctic Deeply: What motivates you?

Pope: Ultimately, two things motivate me: people and our planet. I love connecting with other humans and working together to make a shared vision a reality. As a scientist, a deeper understanding of the processes that shape our planet is what drives me. The stunning scenery of polar environments doesn’t hurt, either.

Arctic Deeply: Has there been a defining moment in your career?

Pope: In becoming a glaciologist, my participation and involvement in the Juneau Icefield Research Program has been deeply meaningful. In my career trajectory, I would trace it back to when I was a master’s student. I heard that a group called the U.K. Polar Network (part of the Association of Polar Early Career Scientists) was putting together a workshop on cryospheric sciences. I really wanted to get a slot at the workshop, so I volunteered to help organize it. That was how I got more involved in the polar science community, and ultimately what led to my role at IASC, I think.

Arctic Deeply: What’s your vision for the Arctic 10 years from now?

Pope: Arctic 2026 – collaborative, connected and committed to improved scientific understanding of the region.

Arctic Deeply: What do you need to make that vision happen?

Pope: Teammates! We will need to work together, across national and disciplinary boundaries, to ensure a bright (and scientifically based) future for the Arctic.

This Q&A is part of our series on young leaders in the Arctic. Read more:

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