Postdoctoral Fellow: Sam Saville

Sam SavilleResearch topic: Svalbard Futures: Value and Adaptations in the Anthropocene
Research pathway: 
Host institution: Aberystwyth University

Svalbard is an “edge-of-the-world” hot spot for environmental change, political discourse, tourism, resource extraction and scientific research. As more eyes turn to the Arctic, Svalbard is a key hub of the modern Arctic that embodies many questions facing the region as a whole. My doctoral research revealed that community groups in Svalbard value common aspects of society here. The wilderness and the arctic landscape and climate, arctic cultural heritage, and the multi-cultural society are all important. However, there are tensions as to how best to measure, protect, manage, and develop these values within a rapidly changing socio-natural environment. What matters most? What should be prioritised? How should such decisions be made, by whom and using what kind of knowledge? How do emotions and sense of place factor in these decisions? Such questions are all linked to valuation processes and practices. This project aims to extend these findings by exploring the most recent developments, including avalanches and home evacuations in Longyearbyen and the closure of the largest coal mine, from residents’ and key stakeholders’ perspectives. It also hopes to increase understanding of how the present day situation has emerged. How questions of sustaining communities in Svalbard have been addressed in the past can offer important insights to the present day situation.

In providing the time, training and opportunities to build networks, the fellowship will allow this research to fulfil its potential by publishing original research findings in a range of formats. Feedback to Svalbard communities is important so that they can respond to and benefit from this knowledge. Hosting a discussion events and curating a local exhibition will enable opportunities for local input. The exhibition will be able to travel to other locations, increasing awareness and engagement with the everyday realities of climate change in Arctic societies.

Twitter: @Samsaville