The Arctic Research and Policy Act of 1984 established the U.S. Arctic Research Commission (USARC), which is headed by seven Commissioners appointed by the President. The Commission includes four members from academic or research institutions; two members from private industry undertaking commercial activities in the Arctic; and one member from among the Indigenous residents of the U.S. Arctic. The Director of NSF serves as an ex-officio eighth member. Commissioners are appointed to four-year terms. Chair Fran Ulmer was appointed in March 2011.
In June 2012 President Barack Obama appointed David Benton to replace former Commissioner Michele Longo Eder. Benton is a marine conservationist with over 30 years experience in national and international oceans governance issues. For roughly 14 of those years, he represented the State of Alaska in international negotiations and on national fisheries issues. As the state's international fisheries negotiator at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Benton helped negotiate many fisheries treaties now in force in the north Pacific Ocean and Bering Sea. On behalf of the State of Alaska, he participated in numerous legislative initiatives in Congress including reauthorization of the Magnuson Stevens Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and the American Fisheries Act. In addition, he served on the North Pacific Fishery Management Council for nine years, three years as Chair. Benton also served twice on the North Pacific Research Board (NPRB), as the first Chair of the NPRB at its inception in 2001-2003 and as the special fisheries representative 2004-2006. Most recently he held the position of Executive Director of the Marine Conservation Alliance. He led industry efforts to secure the Arctic Fishery Management Plan, closing U.S. Arctic waters to commercial fishing. Benton is currently working as a consultant to the seafood industry and environmental organizations on a range of oceans management and conservation matters.
On 27 November the President filled two commission vacancies by appointing the Honorable Edward Saggan Itta to occupy the seat vacated by Helvi Sandvik, and Dr. James J. McCarthy to take the place of the Honorable Mead Treadwell.
Edward Saggan Itta, of Barrow, Alaska, is an Inupiat whaler and hunter, and served as Mayor of Alaska's North Slope Borough from 2005 to 2011. He has held a variety of leadership positions in municipal government, the Arctic Slope Community Foundation, the Barrow Whaling Captains Association, and the Inuit Circumpolar Council-Alaska. Itta is a local representative for Alaska on the Outer Continental Shelf Policy Committee and is a past commissioner, vice chairman, and current member of the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission. Itta brings to the Commission leadership skills and experience in areas of priority to the USARC, including the integration of local/traditional knowledge into research, subsistence and food security, and the improvement of human health through coordination of water and sanitation needs in rural Alaska.
James McCarthy, of Cambridge, Massachusetts, specializes in oceanography, marine systems, and climate; holds faculty appointments at Harvard University in the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology and the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences; and is the university's Alexander Agassiz Professor of Biological Oceanography. For the past two decades McCarthy has worked as an author, reviewer, and co-chair with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. For the Third IPCC Assessment, he headed Working Group II, which assessed the impacts and vulnerabilities of global climate change. He was also a lead author of the seminal Arctic Climate Impact Assessment published in 2004.
McCarthy is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and served as the association's past president and chair of the board of directors. He is also a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a Foreign Member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, and is currently chair of the board of directors for the Union of Concerned Scientists. McCarthy brings strong scientific experience to the USARC through service on national and international planning committees, advisory panels, and commissions focusing on oceanography, polar science, and the study of climate and global change for federal agencies, intergovernmental bodies, and international organizations.
The President also re-appointed Commissioners Dr. Charles Vorosmarty and Dr. Warren Zapol, M.D. to another four-year term on the Commission.
Additional biographical information can be found on the USARC website.