Who said curiosity killed the cat? Making connections in Kangerlussuaq, Greenland

When you’re a researcher, curiosity is step #1! In this case I hope my curiosity leads to a greater understanding of people and place and their connection to science and research.

The Kangerlussuaq Museum boasts about the area’s history as a US military air base during WWII and the Cold War, a place for polar air travel firsts, and a launching pad for scientific discovery. Although the museum lacks details of any permanent settlement at Kangerlussuaq prior to it becoming a military outpost in 1941, there is evidence of temporary native hunting settlements in the area dating back thousands of years. To this end, the hundreds of researchers, military personnel, and tourists that visit Kangerlussuaq throughout the year, may know little about the history and nearly 600 people that live in and operate the town everyday, other than their limited interaction with them at the local Polar Bear Inn general store and restaurant, or other retail establishments in town. It was this lack of interaction that sparked my curiosity in knowing who was responsible for this place that would become my home away from home for two weeks. I wanted to know more about Kangerlussuaq since it became an official Greenland settlement in 1992.

To solve the mystery I emailed every official email on the government’s website in hopes that someone would respond that I could interview (this is the kind of thing I do when there is nearly 24 hours of daylight). The next day, I was elated to receive an email from Minanngauq “Mina” Zeeb, the settlement’s administrator. She said she was delighted to speak with me and would invite the mayor, Albrecht Kreutzmann.  I was overjoyed, not only would I be speaking to the administrator but also the head politician. My colleague, Vick Walsey, a cultural geographer, joined me for the hour-long interview at the settlement’s service center, or what we would call city hall.

We learned about the settlement’s main goals, of being more environmentally friendly, improving the quality of life for its residents, especially seniors, and improving the relationship with those who visit the settlement, whether it is tourists, military personnel, or scientist. When we asked about climate change and other topics that were being research. Ms. Zeeb and Mayor Kreutzmann shared with us first hand knowledge about various topics as well as their yearning to learn about the research occurring in the area and about findings that might influence their policy making.

It was then my pleasure to invite the administrator and mayor to our research poster session being held that evening across the street at the Kangerlussuaq International Science Support (KISS) building. That night I ensured that Ms. Zeeb and Kathy Young, Director of KISS, met to discuss the future of sharing knowledge between visiting scientists and Kangerlussuaq locals. I hope that in this instance my curiosity has instead brought new life to the cat, and that in the future information sharing will occur between researchers and locals. I’m a firm believer that scholarly research should not only inform other scholars, but also provide evidence to facilitate citizens and policy makers in making informed decisions about governing society.

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