Arctic Update Header
February 22, 2012

Today's Eventstodaysevents 


The House and Senate will hold pro forma sessions today.



No Omnivore's Dilemma for Alaska Hunter-Gatherers. For most of the past 5000 years, the hunter-gatherers known as the Aleuts have lived on Sanak Island off the southern coast of Alaska, surviving on the local fish and marine mammals they caught as well as clams and mussels collected in the intertidal zone around their island. Now after constructing some of the most elaborate food webs ever built, a research team has begun to reveal how the Aleuts fit in as a top predator in the island ecosystem. In short, the Aleuts weren't picky eaters, consuming about one-quarter of the different species on and around Sanak Island. But by being such "supergeneralists", the research team suggests, they were likely able to keep the ecosystem stable because they would switch prey when a particular species became endangered, and thus harder to catch or collect. "This is our first detailed picture of how humans fit into food webs," ecologist Jennifer Dunne of the Santa Fe Institute in New Mexico said here yesterday at a symposium at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (which publishes ScienceNOW). "It is the first time that the roles of humans as predators are explicitly compared to the roles of other predators in food webs." Science NOW 


Orca KillerIconic Marine Mammals are 'Swimming in Sick Seas' of Terrestrial Pathogens. Parasites and pathogens infecting humans, pets and farm animals are increasingly being detected in marine mammals such as sea otters, porpoises, harbor seals and killer whales along the Pacific coast of the U.S. and Canada, and better surveillance is required to monitor public health implications, according to a panel of scientific experts from Canada and the United States. Science Daily 


Murkowski Applauds Approval of Shell's Arctic Spill Prevention Plan. U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today congratulated the U.S. Department of the Interior for its approval of Shell's oil discharge prevention and contingency plan for Alaska's Chukchi Sea. "I appreciate Interior's final approval of Shell's contingency plan for the Chukchi," Murkowski said. "Today's decision confirms what we've known for some time - that Shell has put together a robust and comprehensive spill prevention and response plan that offers the highest level of environmental protection." Today's approval represents the last major step needed to advance Shell's exploration program in Alaska's Arctic waters. Shell, which spent $2.1 billion on leases in the Chukchi Sea in 2008, has applied to drill exploratory wells in the Chukchi this summer. Shell is still awaiting  finalized permits for its Chukchi plan from Interior, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency. Senator Lisa Murkowski  


Arctic MapRace in the Arctic is on, but US and Alaska are Riding a Nag. [Commentary] Alaska's legislators have a pretty big job to do this session, with everything imaginable on the table and lots of pressure to make big decisions that will impact Alaska for years to come. There are some huge opportunities in front of this state right now that may be overlooked if our elected officials are nearsighted in their actions and advocacy, however. Arguably the biggest of those is the looming conundrum of how to catch up with other Arctic nations on issues of development, infrastructure, and preparation for the changing face of our planet. Alaska and the United States are woefully behind other governments in planning and focus on the Arctic, and a report released recently by the Northern Waters Task Force illustrates that perfectly while laying out a roadmap for playing this game of catch-up effectively. The report, which was released around the end of January, outlines the issues at hand. The sea ice is melting and a race to develop the natural resources and take advantage of new shipping routes in the Arctic is on. Alaska could benefit financially if it got a horse in this race. So far, many would argue we are still in the stables. Alaska Dispatch 


Environmentalists Challenge Shell's Arctic Ambitions Again. Environmentalists and an Alaska Native group fighting Shell Oil's offshore drilling plans in the Arctic are headed back to court, this time to challenge an air permit issued by the Environmental Protection Agency for Shell's drill fleet led by the Noble Discoverer. Claiming that "tens of thousands of tons of pollution" such as black carbon will further melt snow and sea ice in a delicate ecosystem already suffering from climate change, the group announced it had filed a lawsuit in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Shell officials say the company is using advanced technology to control emissions, and plans to burn ultra-low-sulfur diesel when operating the Noble Discoverer. A spokesperson for the group could not immediately be reached. Alaska Dispatch   


president signingPresident Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts. Recently, President Obama sent several nominations to the Senate for consideration, including Carlos Pascual to be Assistant Secretary for Energy Resources at the Department of State. Ambassador Carlos Pascual has served as Special Envoy and Coordinator for International Energy Affairs since May 2011.  From 2009 to 2011, he was U.S. Ambassador to Mexico.  Previously, from 2006 to 2009, he was Vice President and Director of the Foreign Policy Studies Program at the Brookings Institution.  Prior to joining Brookings, Ambassador Pascual served as the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization at the Department of State from 2004 to 2006.  From 2003 to 2004, he was Coordinator for U.S. Assistance to Europe and Eurasia.  Ambassador Pascual served as the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine from 2000 to 2003.  From 1998 to 2000, he was Special Assistant to the President and National Security Council (NSC) Senior Director for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia.  He previously served as the NSC Director for the same region from 1995 to 1998.  Before joining the NSC, Ambassador Pascual was the United States Aid for International Development (USAID) Deputy Assistant Administrator Europe and Eurasia.  He previously served with USAID in Sudan, South Africa and Mozambique.  Ambassador Pascual received his M.P.P. from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and his B.A. from Stanford University. The White House


Legislative Actionfutureevents  


No Arctic legislation was considered yesterday.

Future Events                                   


Pew: Arctic Ocean Energy Development, February 24, 2012. (** New space and additional RSVPs will be accepted**)The Pew Environment Group will host a panel discussion on Arctic Ocean energy development. Panelist will be Fran Ulmer, member of the BP Deepwater Horizon Spill and Offshore Drilling Commission, and now Chair of the U.S. Arctic Research Commission, Michael R. Bromwich, former director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement; Edward Itta, former mayor of North Slope Borough, Alaska; and Vice Adm. Roger T. Rufe, U.S. Coast Guard (retired). Marilyn Heiman, director of Pew's U.S. Arctic Program, will moderate. The speakers will address the challenges facing energy exploration in the U.S. Arctic Ocean, such as oil spill response, Coast Guard readiness, infrastructure needs, and how to best protect wildlife habitat and subsistence areas. 


Arctic Workshop, March 7-9, 2012. The Workshop is hosted by the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research. The meeting is open to all interested in the Arctic, and will consist of a series of talks and poster sessions covering all aspects of INSTAARhigh-latitude environments. Previous Arctic Workshops have included presentations on arctic and antarctic climate, archeology, environmental geochemistry, geomorphology, hydrology, glaciology, soils, ecology, oceanography, Quaternary history, and more. A traditional strength of the Workshop has been Arctic paleoenvironments. Click here


Fiscal 2013 Budget: Native American Programs, March 8, 2012. The Senate Indian Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on the fiscal 2013 budget request for Native American programs.


Fiscal 2013 Defense Authorization: Southern and Northern Commands, March 13, 2012. The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing on the U.S. Southern Command and the U.S. Northern Command in review of the defense authorization request for fiscal 2013 and the future years' defense program. The session may be closed.


Arctic Science Summit Week 2012, April 20-22, 2012. The summit will provide opportunities for international coordination, collaboration, and cooperation in all areas of arctic science. Side meetings organized by stakeholders in arctic science and policy are also expected. More information here


From Knowledge to Action, April 22-27, 2012. The conference will bring IPYmeetinglogotogether over 2,000 arctic and antarctic researchers, policy and decision-makers, and a broad range of interested parties from academia, industry, non-government, education and circumpolar communities including indigenous peoples. The conference is hosted by the Canadian IPY Program Office, in partnership with the National Research Council of Canada, among other groups. Each day of the conference will feature a program of keynote speakers, plenary panel discussions, parallel science sessions, as well as dedicated poster sessions. The conference-wide plenaries will explore themes related to topics of polar change, global linkages, communities and health, ecosystem services, infrastructure, resources and security. Other sessions will provide the opportunity to present and discuss the application of research findings, policy implications and how to take polar knowledge to action. Click here


USARC Commission Meeting, April 27-28, 2012. The 97th meeting of the CPClogoUSARC will be held in Montreal, Canada, in conjunction with the "From Knowledge to  


usarc logo large

Action" IPY meeting referred to above. The Commission will meet on April 27-28, and will meet jointly with the Canadian Polar Commission on the afternoon of the 27th, to discuss common interests in Arctic Research. Details to follow. 


Arctic Forum 2012, April 30-May 1, 2012. The Arctic Research Consortium of the U.S. will host the forum in conjunction with their 24th annual meeting. Both events will be in Washington, D.C. The Arctic Forum is part of the American Geophysical Union's Science Policy Conference, which will be held at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center. The Conference will focus on the science that helps inform policymakers' decisions. Within the Science Policy Conference, the Arctic Forum will assess gaps and priority needs for arctic scientific information to inform decision makers in policy

formation for three key themes:

                - Governance and Security in the Arctic;

                - Transportation and Energy Development; and

                - Changing Arctic Ecosystems.

The Forum will examine the current state of policymaker and public understanding of the issues. An important goal will be to foster an increased capacity for dialogue and action on arctic science-policy issues.


American Polar Society 75th Anniversary Meeting and Symposium, "The Polar Regions in the 21st Century: Globalization, Climate Change and Geopolitics", May 2-4, 2012, The Explorers Club, NYC. For 75 years, the American Polar Society has both documented and communicated polar activities to the interested world. This meeting will bring together the current leaders in science, government, commerce, and diplomacy for a state-of-the-art forecast of the next seventy-five years in a world influenced more than ever before by the destiny of the Arctic and Antarctic. Click 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. Click here.  


15th International Congress on Circumpolar Health, August 5-10, 2012. This event is sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Society for Circumpolar Health, and the International Union for Circumpolar Health.  The forum will consider community participatory research and healthmeetinglogoindigenous research; women's health, family health, and well-being; food security and nutrition; social determinants of health; environmental and occupational health; infectious and chronic diseases; climate change health impacts; health service delivery and infrastructure; and behavioral health. Click here


The Arctic Imperative Summit, August 24-28, 2012. The summit will be hosted by Alaska Dispatch and will bring together leading voices in this conversation, including residents from the small villages that comprise Alaska's coastal communities, state, national and international leaders, the heads of shipping and industry, as well as international policymakers and the news media. The goal of the summit is to sharpen the focus on the policy and investment needs of Alaska's Arctic through a series of high level meetings, presentations, investor roundtables and original research. Click here


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 inuitconferencelogomuseums 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, click here. 

USARC header

Find us on FacebookFollow us on Twitter 

4350 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 510
Arlington, VA 22203, USA 
(703) 525-0111 (phone)