Arctic ecology is the scientific study of the relationships between biotic and abiotic factors in the arctic, the region north of the Arctic Circle (66 33’). This is a region characterized by stressful conditions as a result of extreme cold, low precipitation, a limited growing season (50–90 days) and virtually no sunlight throughout the winter. The Arctic consists of taiga (or boreal forest) and tundra biomes, which also dominate very high elevations, even in the tropics. Sensitive ecosystems exist throughout the Arctic region, which are being impacted dramatically by global warming. The earliest inhabitants of the Arctic were the Neanderthals. Since then, many indigenous populations have inhabited the region, which continues to this day. Since the early 1900s, when Vilhjalmur Stefansson led the first major Canadian Arctic Expedition, the Arctic has been a valued area for ecological research. In 1946, The Arctic Research Laboratory was established in Point Barrow, Alaska under the contract of the Office of Naval Research. This launched an interest in exploring the Arctic examining animal cycles, permafrost and the interactions between indigenous peoples and the Arctic ecology. During the Cold War, the Arctic became a place where the United States, Canada, and the Soviet Union performed significant research that has been essential to the study of climate change in recent years. A major reason why research in the Arctic is essential for the study of climate change is because the effects of climate change will be felt more quickly and more drastically in higher latitudes of the world as above average temperatures are predicted for Northwest Canada and Alaska. From an anthropological point of view, researchers study the native Inuit peoples of Alaska as they have become extremely accustomed to adapting to ecological and climate variability.