ARCUS Federal Advocacy | Senator Murkowski
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Advancing Arctic research through policy and science advocacy
So what made the International Geophysical Year in 1957-58 successful? The focus at that time was simple – provide a burst of coordinated international research that led to significant discoveries about our planet, and left a long-term legacy for future generations. During the last IPY, we made advances in weather prediction and how to measure ice sheets in the Polar Regions.
It is important that we not lose focus on why we are having IPY: to make a contribution that will not only serve as a benchmark in understanding the polar regions, but also help leave a legacy for future scientists and researchers.
I plan to use the occasion of the International Polar Year to bring more of my colleagues to the North. It is always rewarding when a member of Congress actually travels to the Arctic and sees for him or herself what the Arctic is really like. Last summer, I helped host Senators McCain, Clinton, Susan Collins, and Lindsey Graham during their brief time in Alaska, and Senator Stevens hosted many more.
On the Administration side, earlier this year I pressed Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for the State Department’s support during International Polar Year. Alaska and the United States have the opportunity to shine during IPY to bring the Arctic to the forefront.
If you combine the budgets of every agency involved in the Arctic, roughly $300 million to $400 million is allocated to Arctic research. The National Science Foundation deserves praise for taking on the bulk of the work on the Arctic.
On both international and national levels, we are increasing our collaboration with local communities and indigenous people as partners in research – from designing the projects, and collecting and interpreting the data, to disseminating the results.
There are already projects trying to achieve a greater partnership. For example, The STUDENT-PARTNERS Project (SPP), headed by the Woods Hole Research Center, unites students, teachers, and scientists to study the role of rivers in the Arctic System and create an innovative and effective education and outreach program. By partnering with K-12 grade students and teachers living beside the largest arctic rivers in Russia, Canada, and Alaska, the high frequency river water samples that are needed to understand hydrologic and biogeochemical fluxes in the river systems will be obtained. In the process, the capability we seek in a multinational arctic river observing network will be developed.
As another example, at the Bering Strait School District in Alaska, teachers are trained to educate students in grades K-12 about climate change data collection and scientific study. The project blends modern science with Native tradition, language, and subsistence needs. Full community involvement has been achieved in 13 of the 15 villages in the school district.
Scientists from the Geophysical Institute work with teachers and students to collect and use data on weather, erosion, sea ice movement, and wave and wind action. Native elders are involved in teaching the students using the Native language, culture, and historical observations. The elders use the data to assist them in predicting dangerous weather and sea conditions as the plan for subsistence activities.
What they are doing not only benefits the community and sustains Native traditions, it also generates a new generation of individuals interested in Arctic science.
IPY can and will be one of the most important periods of scientific discovery in the history of the Arctic. It can be used as a vantage point to update and revise U.S. policies toward the Arctic. It is an opportunity to craft greater coordination and cooperation among Arctic nations. It is a chance to ensure that those who live in the Arctic benefit from the attention to the Arctic.
And perhaps most importantly of all, it is an opportunity to develop the next generation of Arctic researchers to carry on your important work.
Thank you again for the opportunity to be with you today.