Participatory climate modeling and ethnoclimatology in the Arctic (ESRC White Rose DTP)


Professor James Ford (

Project description

The Arctic is undergoing transformative climate change, with profound implications for transportation systems. The lengthening of the shipping season in the Arctic Ocean is well-documented herein, with warming temperatures also compromising the operating period and safety of winter roads. Less studied are the more informal transportation networks involving use of unmaintained trails on frozen lakes, rivers, ocean, and the frozen ground, which are critically important for travel between communities, to cultural sites, and for practicing traditional hunting and fishing activities which have particular importance for Indigenous communities.

In research conducted as part of the Indigenous Health Adaptation to Climate Change (IHACC) project (, we have documented concerns among Inuit communities that changing trail access due to climate change is affecting a variety of health outcomes including compromising food security, impacting wellbeing, and reducing physical safety. With the Arctic projected to experience the most warming globally this century, these impacts could worsen considerably.

Our understanding of potential future vulnerabilities is limited, however, with research examining associations between changing trail access and health outcomes mostly qualitative and descriptive in nature. The PhD project will play a key role in developing and applying a framework to connect Indigenous knowledge (IK) and science to model how climate affects community access to trails.

The framework will use mixed methods to link local experiences, observations, and knowledge into climate language and climate modeling constructs, and will be developed in close collaboration with Inuit communities.

The objectives of the studentship include developing a participatory modeling framework to quantify how climate-related conditions affect trail access, and projecting future impacts using downscaled GCM data to model how climatic thresholds and associated trail access might be affected at different levels of warming and over different timescales.

Key benefits

- Highly interdisciplinary project developing a novel approach for connecting qualitative and quantitative approaches
- Fieldwork in northern Canada or Greenland
- Links to the IHACC research program, an international program with field sites in Canada, Peru, and Uganda 

Entry requirements

  • Previous research experience or a research degree (e.g. undergraduate honours thesis, masters thesis, or dissertation) or equivalent
  • Educational background in: environmental studies/ sciences, geography, sustainability, public health, epidemiology, or similar/equivalent.
  • Minimum UK Upper Second Class Honours (2.1) or equivalent
  • Coursework and familiarity with both quantitative and qualitative methods, with a strong interest in integrating quantitative analysis and community-based qualitative fieldwork
  • An interest in climate change
  • Experience working and/or travelling in Arctic to comparable settings
  • A high degree of self-motivation, initiative, and independence
  • Interpersonal skills enabling comfort and engagement of diverse cultures and peoples
  • Ability to adapt to, and work in, new cultural and development settings
  • Excellent oral and written skills in English

If English is not your first language, you must provide evidence that you meet the University’s minimum English Language requirements.

How to apply

See ESRC White Rose DTP for details.