Kennesaw State researcher receives NSF grant to study effects of climate change in North Atlantic

KENNESAW, Ga. | Feb 17, 2023

Thomas Rotnem
Thomas Rotnem
Kennesaw State University faculty member Thomas Rotnem has been awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to study how recent climate shifts have affected farming and other communities in the North Atlantic island nations of Iceland and Greenland.

Over the past two decades, the nations’ farmers have seen longer growing seasons, but less precipitation to feed and water their plants and livestock.

The two-year, nearly $200,000 grant will allow Rotnem, associate director of the School of Government and International Affairs and professor of political science, and his research partner to travel to southwestern Iceland and southern Greenland and assess how climate change has affected local ecosystems, infrastructure and the livelihoods of farmers. They will investigate how recent demographic and economic changes are affecting participants in the study and how the use of satellite data to evaluate changes in landscape and vegetation may help residents adapt to the effects of climate change. 

Rotnem’s team will also study the methods these communities have used to press for local and regional government assistance to mitigate or assuage climate change effects.

“Just from a preliminary look at the area, we know there have been significant changes. The ice in these areas is not as robust as it used to be, and farmers have longer growing seasons,” Rotnem said. “Our job will be to interact with the people who are living with these changes and have them help us develop research questions for a future study that will help them.”

Rotnem said the research will analyze changes to the areas over the course of the past 22 years and what efforts residents of the two nations have made to mitigate the changes that are affecting their lives. The most significant change, he said, has been erratic precipitation patterns that affect farming. That's compounded by the fact that little irrigation infrastructure exists, he added. Greenland, with a population of about 55,000, and Iceland, with a population of about 375,000, are about 200 miles apart. 

“Tom Rotnem is one of the leading researchers in the country on the changing economic and political dynamics of the Arctic and the North Atlantic region,” said Kerwin Swint, director of the School of Government and International Affairs and professor of political science. “This NSF grant will lead to an advanced understanding of the stakes and challenges of protecting and governing those fast-changing areas.”

Rotnem said the NSF grant is for preliminary research that will guide the creation of a proposal for a more extensive research study on specific priorities and areas of concern for the communities involved, namely farming, herding and mining communities. 

–  By Thomas Hartwell
Photos by David Caselli

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