US Arctic Research Commission
May 20, 2011

Today's Eventstodaysevents 


The Senate will consider a judicial nomination.  The Senate Armed Services Committee continues to consider the defense authorization bill. The House is in recess.

Media Reviewtodaysevents  


Coburn Writing Own Budget. After taking a "sabbatical" from the "gang of six" talks on deficit reduction, Sen. Tom Coburn is writing his own budget blueprint that will aggressively tackle entitlements. "I'm working hard on my plan," the Oklahoma Republican said Thursday, adding that he and his staff have been working on it for about six days - before he walked out on the bipartisan group of Senators. Congressional Quarterly


Obama Pushes AK Oil, But Measures May Take Years. President Barack Obama's call last week for additional petroleum development in Alaska was welcomed in the state, but U.S. consumers may not see effects at the gas pumps or anywhere else for the duration of his administration, even if he wins a second term. Obama said the federal government will extend leases off Alaska's coast to give companies time to meet higher safety standards. He pledged to streamline permitting. Anchorage Daily News  

Cheryl Rosa & Fran Ulmer


Alaska Mercury Levels Lower Than Other Parts of Arctic. The Arctic Council is bringing attention to the issue of mercury contamination in subsistence foods. A new assessment from the Council's monitoring program finds high levels of the metal in marine mammals. But the report shows mercury levels in Alaska tend to be much lower than other parts of the Arctic. Alaska Public Radio Network interviews USARC's Alaska Director, Dr. Cheryl Rosa, ANTHC's Dr. Jim Berner, former USARC Commissioner Ms. Vera Metcalf, among others. Audio File 


In Greenland, an Arctic Growth Story: The Danish possession has high hopes for this summer's oil drilling. Greenland's capital of Nuuk (pop. 15,000) was turned upside down by the arrival on May 11 of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. She was there for a meeting of the Arctic Council, an eight-nation group that's trying to figure out how to manage the region's growing industrial activity while protecting the ecosystem and native rights. Greenland's role as host of the meeting highlights its growing importance in the drive to exploit the riches of the Far North. Cairn Energy, a Scottish explorer of oil, just received approval from Greenland authorities to drill four exploratory wells in the chilly waters west of the island. Last year, Cairn drilled two wells that uncovered evidence of oil and gas in the same area the company plans to probe more extensively starting in early June. Oil majors Royal Dutch Shell and ExxonMobil have expressed interest in Greenland as well. Business Week 


Small Schools Warily Watch Enrollment Numbers. As summer vacation begins around the state, a handful of rural Interior villages are nervously wondering whether enough students will return in the fall to allow their schools to remain open. It's an annual ritual in many small communities in Alaska, where a minimum of 10 students are needed to qualify a school for full state funding. In the past decade, 20 schools across the state have closed because of low enrollment, including Far North School in Central last year. Fairbanks Daily News-Miner


Iceland and US Cooperate on Arctic Research. The governments of the USA and IcelandIceland are now working on a declaration of intent on cooperation on research in the Arctic regions following a meeting between Icelandic Foreign Minister ?ssur Skarph?dinsson and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Washington DC yesterday. Clinton also declared support for an agreement on an accident prevention strategy for oil harnessing areas in the Arctic regions, which is one of the core issues in Iceland's policy for the region, a press release from the Icelandic Foreign Ministry states. Iceland Review 


Murkowski Spotlights Alaska Native Health Disparities: Senator is lead MurkowskiRepublican on bipartisan minority health awareness resolution. Senator Lisa Murkowski joined colleagues across the aisle to commemorate "Minority Health Awareness," in a resolution that passed the Senate unanimously. "Alaska Natives, and many minorities nationwide, suffer health problems at an alarmingly high rate," said Murkowski. "There are many reasons and many factors at play - but the first step to fixing the problem, simply, is spotlighting the problem through information."  Senator Murkowski was the lead Republican co-sponsor on the resolution put forward by Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD).  The resolution also addresses the problems faced by African Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanics and Native Hawaiians - minority populations that face disproportionate rates of diseases and health problems, as well as a lack of access to health care.  Senator Lisa Murkowski 


University of Alaska Fairbanks Installs Ocean Acidification Buoy in Alaska Waters. A new set of buoys in Alaska waters will help scientists understand how climate change may be affecting the pH level of northern seas. Researchers placed the first buoy last month. "This is the first dedicated ocean acidification mooring to be deployed in a high-latitude coastal sea," said Jeremy Mathis, principal investigator for the project and an assistant professor of chemical oceanography at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. "Other moorings have been deployed with ocean acidification sensors, but this is the first complete package in Alaska." EurekAlert 


Iceland's Fin Whaler Declares Truce. IFAW has reported that Kristjan Loftsson, an Icelandic whaler responsible for killing 280 endangered fins whales in the past five years, has announced that he is laying off 30 staff and stopping whaling. According to the organization, he does not plan to resume before the end of the next meeting of the International Whaling Commission in July, at the earliest. World Fishing & Aquaculture 


NOAA Administrator Welcomes New Climate Science Report. NOAA Administrator Dr. Jane Lubchenco issued the following statement about the National Research Council's release of its fifth and final report as part of the America's Climate Choices series: In 2008, the U.S. Congress called for NOAA to execute an agreement with the National Academy of Sciences to establish a committee that would "investigate and study the serious and sweeping issues relating to global climate change and make recommendations regarding what steps must be taken and what strategies must be adopted in response to global climate change, including the science and technology challenges thereof." NOAA


Species Extinction Rates May be Lower Than Thought, study finds. A controversial study suggests that current extinction rate projections of animal and plant species may be overestimating the role of habitat loss. But researchers said that species extinction still remains a "real and growing" threat. Current methods of estimating extinction rates are flawed, using the wrong kind of data, and fail to take into account the full complexity of what influences species loss, researchers found. The study, published in the journal Nature, said that present figures overestimated rates by up to 160 percent, and called for more accurate calculations. Animals and plants are dying out about 2.5 times more slowly than previously thought, according to the study's authors, Stephen Hubbell from the University of California Los Angeles and Fangliang He from Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, China, who is currently on sabbatical from Canada's University of Alberta. Global Post 

Legislative Actionfutureevents  


No article related legislation was formally considered yesterday.

Future Events     


International Oil Spill Conference, May 23-26, 2011. This conference's theme of "Promoting the Science of Spill Response" continues the long tradition of providing a forum for the exchange of ideas and lessons learned from actual spill responses and research around the world. This conference will also continue the North American part of the Triennial Oil Spill Conference Cycle established in 2005, to be followed by Interspill 2012 (Europe) and Spillcon 2013 (SE Asia), before returning to North America in 2014. The Arctic focus will be on May 25th. 

6th International Conference on Arctic Margins, May 31-June 3, 2011. The International Conference on Arctic Margins was founded by the Department of Interior and what was formerly called the Minerals Management Service. Topics include: hydrocarbon potential and gas hydrates; science issues relating to UNCLOS Article 76; geodynamic significance of Arctic magmatism; vertical motions in the Arctic, tectonic, and glacial; geology and palaeogeography of the Arctic continental margins; evolution of the Arctic Ocean basins, including plate reconstructions, magmatism, and sedimentology; modern Arctic environments, including geological, climatic, and oceanographic processes; recent advances in Arctic research technology.


American Meteorological Society Summer Policy Colloquium, June 5-14, 2011. This policy colloquium brings together a group to consider atmospheric policy. The colloquium will cover policy creation basics, interactions with congressional staff, and information on the current atmospheric policy issues. 


The Arctic Imperative, June 19-21, 2011. The Alaska Dispatch, Aspen Institute, Commonwealth North, and the Institute of the North will host a domestic investment and policy forum titled "The Arctic Imperative." The forum, at the Alyeska Resort in the Chugach Mountains, near Anchorage, will bring together international policymakers, industry, and investment leaders to consider topics such as security, resources, port development, marine shipping, commerce, and trade. The goal of the gathering is to "sharpen the world's focus on the policy and investment needs of Arctic development through a series of high-level meetings, presentations and investor roundtables." Confirmed speakers include Fran Ulmer, Chair of the USARC; Edward Itta, Mayor of the North Slope Borough; Thomas Barrett, President of the Alyeska Pipeline Service Company; Richard Haass, President of the Council on Foreign Relations; Mead Treadwell, Lt. Gov. of the State of Alaska; David Rubenstein, Managing Director of the Carlyle Group; Reggie Joule, Alaska State Legislator; among others. 


4th Symposium on the Impacts of an Ice-Diminishing Arctic on Naval and Maritime Operations, June 20-21, 2011.The symposium is co-hosted by the U.S.

CNO Roughead

icediminisharcticNational Ice Center (NIC) and the U.S. Arctic Research Commission. This symposium addresses present and future impacts of rapid changes in Arctic Ocean sea ice cover on a wide range of maritime operations. Confirmed speakers include the Chief of Naval Operations, ADM Gary Roughead, Chief of Naval Research, RADM Nevin Carr Jr., and the Commandant of the US Coast Guard ADM Robert Papp. The forum, the fourth in a series, is a key opportunity for federal entities to discuss their response to changes in both the Arctic environment and associated policies. Registration is now open.


7th Congress of the International Arctic Social Sciences, June 22-26, 2011Akureyri 

The 7th Congress, "Circumpolar Perspectives in Global Dialogue: Social Sciences Beyond the IPY," will be held in Akureyri, Iceland. The  Intl'

Congress of the Arctic Social Sciences is held every 3 years.   


Tribal Energy Development at the Federal Level, July 14-15, 2011. Law Seminars International will host a seminar for attorneys, tribes, industry executives, and government officials to discuss energy development on tribal lands.


Holocene Glacier Variability from the Tropics to the Poles, July 20-27, 2011. Glaciers respond sensitively to climate change. Recent (Holocene) glacier fluctuations are a valuable proxy for terrestrial interglacial paleoclimate conditions. A main challenge for interpreting paleoclimate from past mountain glacier extents is distinguishing local and regional patterns from global signals. Reconstructing Holocene glacier extents involves many disciplines including terrestrial and marine geology, geochronology and glaciology. Organizers hope to facilitate an inter-hemispheric comparison of glacier records including locations in the Tropics, European Alps, American Cordillera, Southern Alps of New Zealand, Himalaya and Polar Regions and to identify future research questions and directions. For additional information contact: Meredith Kelly.  


13th Arctic Ungulates Conference (AUC), August 22-26, 2011. The theme of the conference will be "Challenges of Managing Northern Ungulates." The theme Muskokaddresses the difficulties of managing ungulate populations that are faced with the unpredictable effects of climate change and an ever-increasing human presence on the land. The conference will also focus on the challenges associated with developing recovery actions for declining caribou and reindeer populations that are an integral part of Aboriginal cultures and ways of life. 
9th International Symposium on Permafrost Engineering, September 3-7, 2011. The Melnikov Permafrost Institute (Yakutsk, Russia), the Institute of Northern Mining (Yakutsk, Russia), the Cold and Arid Regions Engineering and Environmental Research Institute (Lanzhou, China), and the Heilongjiang Institute of Cold Region  Engineering (Harbin, China) will host the Ninth International Symposium on  Permafrost Engineering to be held in Mirny, Yakutia. The aim of the Symposium is to provide a forum for discussion of permafrost engineering issues, as well as for exchange of practical experience in construction and maintenance of engineering structures on frozen ground. For additional information, please contact Lilia Prokopieva. 


4th International Sea Duck Conference, September 12-16, 2011. The conference is held to provide researchers and managers with opportunities to share information, research, and conduct workshops.


Lowell Wakefield International Fisheries Symposium, September 14-17, 2011.The 27th Lowell Wakefield International Fisheries Symposium, entitled "Fishing People of the North: Cultures, Economies, and Management Responding to Change," will be held in Anchorage, Alaska. This international symposium will provide a forum for scholars, fishery managers, fishing families, and others to explore the human dimensions of fishery systems and growing need to include social science research in policy processes. The conference is part of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Sea Grant program.    


Advanced Workshop on Oil Spills In Sea Ice: Past, Present and Future 

September 20-23, 2011. A technical workshop, organized by Dr. Peter Wadhams, on the physical problems associated with oil spills and blowouts in sea ice will be held at the Istituto Geografico Polare "Silvio Zavatti," Fermo, Italy. Scientists, engineers and policy makers are invited to address the questions of how oil is emitted from a blowout or spill, how the oil and gas are incorporated in the under-ice surface, how the oil layer evolves, how the oil is transported by the ice, and how and where eventual release occurs. The aim is to incorporate the experience of those scientists who worked in this field in the 1970s-1990s, when large-scale field experiments involving oil release were possible, and to relate this to the needs of present researchers who are seeking solutions to the problem of a sustainable Arctic oil spill management system. Notably, the workshop will be attended by the oil spill work package of the EU ACCESS project (Arctic Climate Change and its Effect on Economic Systems). Registration forms are available here


The Tenth International Conference on Permafrost, June 2012. The conference will be held in Tyumen, Russia, and is organized and hosted by Russia. The last conference was held in Fairbanks, Alaska, in 2008. Details to follow. 


Arctic/Inuit/Connections: Learning from the Top of the World, October 24-28, 2012.  The 18th Inuit Studies Conference, hosted by the Smithsonian Institution, will be held in Washington, DC. The conference will consider heritage museums and the North; globalization: an Arctic story; power, governance and politics in the North; the '"new" Arctic: social, cultural and climate change; and Inuit education, health, language, and literature. For more information, please email Lauren Marr.


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