UNI ARCTICenter Photo

September 23, 2020

UNI Researchers Developing Data Hub to Track Spread of COVID-19 in the Arctic


Researchers at the University of Northern Iowa have been awarded a nearly $200,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to develop a data hub tracking the spread of COVID-19 in the Arctic. 

The Rapid Response Research (RAPID) grant went to the Department of Geography, the ARCTICenter and the GeoTREE Center at UNI. Professors, students, and a collaborator at Texas State University will work to develop and deploy the online hub. 

“In order to understand the COVID-19 pandemic and its consequences in the Arctic, we need to bring together state-of-the-art science, alongside with Indigenous, traditional and local knowledge systems,” said Andrey Petrov, director of the UNI ARCTICenter. “However, the first necessity is to ensure that all available data and other relevant information are collected, curated, preserved, and made available for secondary analysis and consideration. UNI ARCTICenter, in collaboration with UNI GeoTREE, represents a unique confluence of content matter knowledge and technical expertise to accomplish this task.”

The project will be managed by an interdisciplinary team of experts in data science, geoinformatics, epidemiology, and geography, who will collect, analyze and disseminate data on the spatial and temporal dynamics of the COVID-19 pandemic in the Arctic. Pandemic data will be contextualized through the collection of first-person accounts of the COVID-19 experience in Arctic communities. Information from the study will be made available to stakeholders including Arctic residents, researchers, and policymakers, and has already been used in the recent COVID-19 report to the Arctic Council. 

The team will also develop geovisualization tools and analyze datasets to address urgent questions related to the spread and geography of COVID-19 in the Arctic, assessing containment and mitigation policies and evaluating whether case fatality rates are affected by environmental, socioeconomic, and/or geographic variables. Long-term curation of Arctic COVID-19 data and data products will ensure availability for future analysis, historical study, and policy consideration.  

Additional information for the ARCTICenter Arctic COVID-19 Tracker can be found here.

UNI ARCTICenter, established in 2015, manages an extensive grant portfolio focused on human-environment interactions in the Arctic, social and economic change, Indigenous communities’ adaptation to changing climate, and sustainable development. UNI has a long legacy of involvement in the Arctic and cold environments research, dating back to alumna Dorothy Jean Ray, a renowned web Arctic anthropologist. Understanding the Arctic is relevant for Iowans by aiding researchers in predicting cold weather and other hazardous weather events, and sustainable regional and community development solutions, particularly for rural settlements.

Story from Panther Caucus.