NGEE Arctic Tabletop scenarios are facilitating field preparedness across sister groups and societies.
The NGEE Arctic project has a legacy of intentionally and continually working to develop a safe, secure project culture. A decade of experience suggests that the best way to be prepared for the unexpected is to discuss and raise awareness of situations that are ideally avoided but exist as real-world challenges in the remote Arctic. Thus, in recent years, the team introduced tabletop exercises in which team members rotated through breakout rooms to discuss a series of ‘what if’ scenarios that ranged from wildlife encounters to a car accident with injury to sexual harassment in a remote field camp. The discussions covered what could be done to respond calmly and appropriately to the situation, but, importantly, they also considered what pre-planning actions might be needed to mitigate or prevent such a scenario from occurring, as well as what lessons could be learned to prepare for similar future scenarios. This tabletop exercise format—often used by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the military—has now been adopted by projects and society groups from AmeriFlux to the American Geophysical Union – Biogeosciences section. Recently, NGEE Arctic Tabletop Exercise scenarios were used by the USPA, and members of the NGEE Arctic team volunteered to facilitate conversations among USPA team members. The USPA’s Field Safety Workshop was hosted by the USPA’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee—co-chaired by early-career NGEE Arctic team members Shannon Dillard and Julian Dann— on March 2, 2023, to foster respectful, productive conversations and exchange of ideas to raise situational awareness and assess preparedness levels for field work in permafrost ecosystems. Feedback was positive and highlighted pre-trip preparation and clear communication of expectations, norms, and safety guidelines. Lessons learned and conversation surrounding each of the scenarios can be found on the USPA Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) page, along with a variety of other DEI- and Arctic-related resources. The NGEE Arctic team is proud of Shannon’s and Julian’s leadership in the broader scientific community.