Update from the U.S. Arctic Research Commission
Witness the Arctic provides information on current arctic research efforts and findings, significant research initiatives, national policy affecting arctic research, international activities, and profiles of institutions with major arctic research efforts. Witness serves an audience of arctic scientists, educators, agency personnel, and policy makers. Witness was published biannually in hardcopy from 1995-2008 (archives are available below) and is currently published online 3-4 times annually, depending on newsworthy events.
With the Spring 2009 issue, ARCUS changed the format of Witness the Arctic. To provide more frequent updates and reduce printing and mailing costs and associated environmental impacts, the newsletter is now distributed online in three or four shorter issues per year, depending on newsworthy events.
The Arctic Research Policy Act of 1984 established the U.S. Arctic Research Commission (USARC), whose principal duties are to develop and recommend an integrated national arctic research policy and to assist in establishing a national arctic research program plan to implement the policy. USARC Commissioners facilitate cooperation among the federal government, state and local governments, and other nations with respect to basic and applied arctic research. USARC is currently working with other federal entities to implement the Presidential Memorandum of 22 July 2010, regarding the Arctic Research and Policy Act (see NSTC to Coordinate IARPC Activities, in this issue of Witness).
USARC contributed to or produced several publications on key issues in arctic research:
White Paper: USARC Recommends Steps to Expand U.S. Funding for Arctic/Subarctic Oil Spill Research - Provides recommendations to the federal government for an invigorated oil spill research effort in the Arctic with a funding strategy that does not require new fiscal appropriation.
Scaling Studies in Arctic System Science and Policy Support: A Call-to-Research - Provides targeted recommendations on research to improve scaling approaches across a variety of disciplines and applications in the Arctic.
SCICEX Phase II Science Plan–Part 1: Technical Guidance for Planning Science Accommodations Missions - Provides the U.S. Navy with a detailed and prioritized list of sampling recommendations to measure sea ice thickness; ocean hydrology and bathymetry; and ocean biology and chemistry.
Behavioral and Mental Health Research in the Arctic: Strategy Setting Meeting Proceedings - Proceedings from a 2009 workshop recommend that the National Academy of Science's Institute of Medicine conduct a study of behavioral and mental health research in the Arctic.
USARC Report on Goals and Objectives for Arctic Research 2009-2010 - This biennial report to the President and Congress recommends national scientific research goals.
USARC publications are available through the website at: http://www.arctic.gov.
For printed copies, contact: info [at] arctic [dot] gov.
Former Commission Chairman Mead Treadwell resigned in June 2010 to run for public office in Alaska. Commissioner Michele Longo Eder temporarily assumed duties of the Chair until the White House designated Commissioner Virgil (Buck) Sharpton as Chair in August.
Since 2005, Ms. Pete has been the Director of the Kuskokwim Campus of the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) in Bethel. She holds a B.A. and an M.A. in Anthropology from UAF and has extensive background and experience in subsistence issues (i.e., noncommercial, customary, and traditional uses of fish and wildlife resources).
USARC Testimony to Congress
In March, Commissioner Warren Zapol provided written testimony to the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs during its hearings on "Youth Suicide in the Arctic." He recommended that $1.2 million be made available to the Institute of Medicine to evaluate current scientific knowledge and strategies for the prevention and treatment of mental and behavioral health problems faced by populations in arctic regions. To read the testimony, see: http://www.arctic.gov/testimony/zapol-03-25-10.pdf.
In May, Executive Director John Farrell testified before the House Subcommittee on Insular Affairs, Oceans and Wildlife in support of H.R. 2864 to authorize funds for improved charting of the Arctic Ocean to provide safe navigation, extend United States territorial claims off Alaska, and better monitor changes to Alaska's coast. To read the testimony, see: http://www.arctic.gov/testimony/farrell-05-06-2010.pdf.
In August, Commissioner Mary Pete testified before the Senate Commerce Committee on the impacts of climate change on subsistence lifestyle during the Committee's field hearing held in Barrow, Alaska. To read the testimony, see: http://www.arctic.gov/testimony/pete-08-19-10.pdf.
USARC led or participated in several workshops, including:
A public workshop in March on the scientific research on oil spills in ice-covered waters. To read the white paper published from this workshop, see: http://www.arctic.gov/publications/oil_spill_wp.html.
A workshop in April on arctic civil infrastructure to identify priority research needs and to develop a plan for addressing these needs. For more information and workshop results, see: https://sites.google.com/a/alaska.edu/arctic-civil-infrastructure-workshop/.
A workshop on "Operating in the Arctic: Supporting U.S. Coast Guard Challenges through Research" in September, in coordination with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Science and Technology Directorate, to identify ways in which scientific research and development can improve the U.S. Coast Guard's ability to operate and carry out its statutory missions in the arctic region.
The Commission co-sponsored the non-profit ICETECH 2010 Conference, "Performance of Ships and Structures in the Ice," in September. The conference was organized by the Arctic Section of the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers (SNAME) and Alaska's Institute of the North. The conference addressed the growing interest in arctic shipping and oil, gas, and mineral exploration in arctic offshore regions.
The Commission also holds regular meetings to discuss USARC business and relevant arctic issues which are open to the public. For information on upcoming meetings, see: http://www.arctic.gov/upcoming_meetings.html.
For more information on USARC activities, see the USARC website: http://www.arctic.gov/ or contact John Farrell, USARC Executive Director (jfarrell [at] arctic [dot] gov).