Monday 18. April 2011

Polar Bears in Iceland and Sustainable Development in Rural Coastal Communities

Today and tomorrow two masters' theses in Coastal and Marine Management will be presented at the University Centre of the Westfjords. Both cover Icelandic matters and one specifically uses Ísafjörður as a case study.

Today Monday April 18 at 4 pm, Alex Stubbing will present his thesis entitled Polar Bears and Iceland: An overview, history and proposed response plan. The presentation is open to the public and will take place in the University Centre conference room.

Tomorrow Tuesday April 19 at 4 pm, Jennifer Brown will present her thesis entitled Can Sustainable Development Save the Rural Coastal Community? An Assessment Tool for Sustainable Development in the Rural Coastal Community; a Case Study of Isafjordur, Iceland. The presentation is open to the public and will take place in the University Centre conference room.

Polar Bears and Iceland: An overview, history and proposed response plan
Polar bears are not, and in recorded history, have never been native to Iceland. However, they have been occasional visitors. When they have come ashore it has generally been in cold years when there is a large presence of drift ice. However, during the latter half of the 20th century, polar bears were rarely seen in Iceland or surrounding waters, possibly as a result of a decrease in sea ice. Compared to the last quarter of the 20th century, in recent years, an increase in the number of bears reaching northern Iceland has been observed. It has been determined that the bears reaching Iceland are primarily from the east Greenland population. Historically, the response has always been to shoot these bears. In recent years, both the Icelandic and international community have questioned whether it is possible to save polar bears that reach Iceland, and if so, how this could be achieved.

The thesis advisor is Dr. Hjalti J. Guðmundsson Head of the Department for Natural Resources at the Environment Agency of Iceland and the external reader is Dr. Vincent Galucci, professor at the University of Washington, Seattle USA.

Can Sustainable Development Save the Rural Coastal Community?
The research is presented as the final component of a Master's Degree in Natural Resource Management with a specialty in Coastal and Marine Management from the University of Akureyri in conjunction with the University of the Westfjords. It serves to answer if the theories of sustainable development can be used to assess the degree of sustainable development taking place in a rural coastal community in a meaningful way. Through the development of a Sustainable Development Assessment Tool for Rural Coastal Communities, sustainable development in Isafjordur, a community in the Westfjords of Iceland is assessed through a case study. The assessment tool is analysed using a SWOT analysis and is found to provide communities with a large amount of diverse information but the potential for bias exists. The research concludes that the strengthening of connections regionally and at the state-level would benefit the community of Isafjordur and communities like it in their pursuit of sustainable development. Recommendations include improvements of these connections through the diversification of the economy and the use of sustainable development principles to solve community issues.

The thesis advisor is Dr. Helga Ögmundardóttir and the external reader is Sigrún María Kristinsdóttir a PhD candidate at the University of Iceland.

Alex Stubbing presents his thesis today at 4 pm.
Alex Stubbing presents his thesis today at 4 pm.