About the Arctic Matters Initiative

CaribouArctic Matters is an initiative by the Academies’ Polar Research Board (PRB) to highlight what science has illuminated about Arctic change and its potential impacts across the globe. The effort is timed with the United States’ two-year chairmanship (April 2015-April 2017) of the Arctic Council, which is a high-level intergovernmental forum that addresses a wide array of issues faced by the eight Arctic nations and the indigenous populations in the region. The vision of the Arctic Matters is to:

  • highlight and build upon the relevant NRC body of work;
  • illustrate why the changing Arctic matters to us all;
  • reach audiences who are not normally engaged in polar science or policy issues;
  • provide an opportunity for federal agencies to spotlight their relevant accomplishments and programs; and
  • provide an opportunity for international engagement.

Arctic Matters is funded by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine and the United States Arctic Research Commission; additional sponsorship is being sought (see opportunities here). The initiative began with the release of new educational resources: a booklet, an interactive web tool, and a poster, which are strongly rooted in Academies’ studies. The capstone of the effort is the Arctic Matters Day Symposium to be held on January 14, 2016 in the Academies’ Auditorium in Washington DC.  The event is free and open to the public and is intended to improve public understanding of Arctic change its impacts around the globe. A committee of scientists and other experts who have worked extensively on Arctic issues are planning the event.

Arctic Matters Planning Committee
See Planning Committee bios

James W.C. White – (Chair)
University of Colorado Boulder

Geraldine Knatz – (Member)
University of Southern California

Brenda Ekwurzel – (Member)
Union of Concerned Scientists

Walter Meier – (Member)
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center,
Cryospheric Sciences Laboratory

Henry Pollack – (Member)
University of Michigan (Emeritus)

Karen Frey – (Member)
Clark University

Stephanie Pfirman – (Member)
Barnard College/Columbia University

Geoff Haines-Stiles – (Member)
Passport to Knowledge

Malte Humpert – (Member)
The Arctic Institute

Louis Mead Treadwell – (Member)
Former Lieutenant Governor of Alaska

About the Academies

012685The National Academy of Sciences (NAS), National Academy of Engineering (NAE) and the National Academy of Medicine (NAM) work together as the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to provide independent, objective analysis and advice to the nation and conduct other activities to solve complex problems and inform public policy decisions. The Academies also encourage education and research, recognize outstanding contributions to knowledge, and increase public understanding in matters of science, engineering, and medicine.

Each year, thousands of the nation’s top scientists, engineers, and other experts volunteer their time to address pressing problems, often at the government’s request or as a result of federal legislation.  The Academies provide advice in several different forms: written reports reflecting the consensus reached by an expert study committee, symposia and convocations engaging large audiences in discussion, and proceedings from workshops on issues of interest. Reports from the Academies have spurred some of the nation’s most lasting efforts to improve the health, education, and welfare of the population.

About the Polar Research Board

First established in 1958, the Polar Research Board (PRB) promotes excellence in polar science and provides independent scientific guidance to federal agencies and the nation on science issues in the Arctic, the Antarctic, and cold regions in general. The PRB strives to:

  • make research in the polar regions more productive and responsive to U.S. needs
  • maintain U.S. awareness of and representation in international science programs, and
  • enhance understanding of issues in polar regions.

Reports from the PRB have provided independent, objective advice on a wide range of polar science topics. Each report is produced by a committee of experts selected by the Academy to address a particular statement of task.  Committees are balanced to represent various points of view, and committee members are screened for conflict of interest. Committee members serve without pay and deliberate free of outside influence.

The PRB serves as the U.S. National Committee for the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) of International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU) and is also the U.S. National Committee for the International Arctic Science Committee (IASC).

Arctic Matters Planning Committee

James W.C. White – (Chair)
University of Colorado Boulder

James W. C. White is a Fellow and Director of the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research and a Professor of Geological Sciences at the University of Colorado at Boulder. He is a climate scientist with experience working with ice cores from Greenland and Antarctica. His areas of focus are global change, paleoclimate dynamics, and biogeochemistry and his specific interests include global scale climate and environmental dynamics, carbon dioxide concentrations and climate from stable hydrogen isotopes peats and other organics, climate from deuterium excess and hydrogen isotopes in ice cores; isotopes in general circulation models, and modern carbon cycle dynamics via isotopes of carbon dioxide and methane. Dr. White received his Ph.D. from Columbia University. He has participated in numerous NRC study committees, including Chairing the study on Abrupt Impacts of Climate Change, and recently completed a term as Chair of the PRB.

Geraldine Knatz – (Member)
University of Southern California

Geraldine Knatz is retired executive director at the Port of Los Angeles. She previously served as managing director of the neighboring Port of Long Beach for seven years, where she oversaw a $2.3 billion capital improvement program and led a number of environmental initiatives. An alumna of the University of Southern California, where she presently teaches civil engineering, Dr. Knatz earned two degrees from USC: a doctorate in biological science and a Master of Science in environmental engineering. Dr. Knatz is a member (and former chair) of the NRC Marine Board, served on the National Sea Grant College Program Review Panel, and served on the NOAA Science Advisory Board. She is a member of the Executive Committee of the International Association of Ports and Harbors (IAPH), and chair’s the organizations World Port Climate Initiative.

Brenda Ekwurzel – (Member)
Union of Concerned Scientists

Brenda Ekwurzel is a senior climate scientist with the Climate & Energy Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). She is leading UCS’s climate science education work aimed at strengthening support for sound U.S. climate policies. Prior to joining UCS, Dr. Ekwurzel was on the faculty of the University of Arizona Department of Hydrology and Water Resources with a joint appointment in the Geosciences Department. Her specialty is isotope geochemistry, a technique she has used to study climate variability in the Arctic Ocean. She has published on topics that include climate variability and fire, isotopic dating of groundwater, Arctic Ocean tracer oceanography, paleohydrology, and coastal sediment erosion She received a Ph.D. from the Department of Earth Sciences at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. A widely quoted expert on climate change, Dr. Ekwurzel has appeared on ABC News, Good Morning America, CNN, the Fox News Channel and The Colbert Report, and has been cited by the Washington Post, USA Today, the Associated Press and Reuters.

Walter Meier – (Member)
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Cryospheric Sciences Laboratory

Walter Meier is a research scientist at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Cryospheric Sciences Laboratory. His research focuses on remote sensing of sea ice, development of new sea ice products and sea ice climate data records, and analyzing changes in the Arctic sea ice cover. From 2008-2013, he was the principal investigator for a NASA-funded National Snow and Ice Data Center ?Arctic Sea Ice News and Analysis? project, a widely-used resource providing near-real-time analysis of sea ice conditions. Walt was a coordinating lead author for the Arctic Council’s Snow, Water, Ice, and Permafrost in the Arctic Assessment Report, published in 2011. He has contributed to the NOAA State of the Climate reports, the EPA Climate Indicators, and several NASA Earth Observatory features. He served as a consultant on the A Tour of the Cryosphere DVD produced by the NASA Scientific Visualization Studio. He has served on numerous international and national committees on sea ice, Arctic climate, and climate data. Finally, he has participated in several outreach activities including: teacher workshops, public lectures, and interviews with media. He recently served on a planning committee for an NRC workshop on Linkages Between Arctic Warming and Mid-Latitude Weather Patterns.

Henry Pollack – (Member)
University of Michigan (Emeritus)

Henry Pollack is professor of geophysics (Emeritus) at the University of Michigan, where he served as chairman of the Department of Geological Science and Associate Dean for Research in the College of Literature, Science and the Arts. His recent research has focused on the record of climate change as recorded by the temperatures in the rocks beneath the Earth?s surface. Presently, he is also studying the effects of climate change on North American hydrological systems. He has published widely in scientific journals, was a Contributing Author to the 3rd and 4th IPCC Assessment Reports, and is a science advisor to former Vice-President Al Gore?s Climate Reality Project. He is an elected fellow of the American Geophysical Union, the Geological Society of America, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He currently serves on the NRC Board on Earth Sciences and Resources. He authored Uncertain Science?Uncertain World (Cambridge University Press, 2003), a book aimed at a non-scientific audience, in which he discusses scientific uncertainty and the role it plays in the formulation of public policy. He also authored a second book, A World Without Ice (Penguin, 2009), on the topic of global climate change as seen through the prism of ice. Dr. Pollack received his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan.

Karen Frey – (Member)
Clark University

Karen Frey joined the faculty in Clark University?s School of Geography in Fall 2007, after earning a B.A. from the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences from Cornell University, and an M.A. and Ph.D. from the Department of Geography at the University of California, Los Angeles. Her research interests involve the combined use of field measurements, satellite remote sensing, and GIS to study large-scale linkages between land, atmosphere, ocean, and ice in polar environments. Her most recent work focuses on the hydrological and biogeochemical impacts of terrestrial permafrost degradation across Siberia, and on the biological and biogeochemical impacts of sea ice decline in polar shelf environments. Over the past decade, she has conducted field-based research in West and East Siberia, as well as in the Bering, Chukchi, and Beaufort Seas. In 2010-11, she served on an NRC Committee to plan the workshop Frontiers in Understanding Climate Change and Polar Ecosystems.

Stephanie Pfirman – (Member)
Barnard College/Columbia University

Stephanie Pfirman is Professor and Chair of the Department of Environmental Science at Barnard College. She holds a joint appointment with Columbia University where she is a member of the faculties of the Earth Institute and the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, and Adjunct Research Scientist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University. Prior to joining Barnard, Professor Pfirman was a senior scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund and co-developer of the award-winning exhibition, “Global Warming: Understanding the Forecast,” produced jointly with the American Museum of Natural History. She has worked for the House of Representatives as a staff scientist and for the US Geological Survey as an oceanographer. She is involved in research on environmental changes in the Arctic as well as undergraduate education and public outreach. Her recent papers focus on the trajectory and origin of Arctic sea ice, contaminant risks in the Arctic marine environment, and the use of digital data in Earth Science instruction. She has chaired the NSF Office Advisory Committee to the Office of Polar Programs and now chairs NSF?s Advisory Committee on Environmental Research and Education. She was a member of U.S. delegations to the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme, and Key National Expert representing the U.S. in preparation of the State of the Arctic Environment Assessment. She recently served as co-chair for the NRC study The Arctic in the Antropocene: Emerging Research Questions (which will likely provide an important basis for our planned symposium).

Geoff Haines-Stiles – (Member)
Passport to Knowledge

Geoff Haines-Stiles is a writer/producer/director of science documentaries, and heads GHSPi/Passport to Knowledge, an innovative developer and distributor of multimedia materials. He?s currently Project Director of the NSF-supported EARTH: The Operators? Manual (hosted by Richard Alley), which premiered nationally on PBS in 2011. This initiative also includes a dynamic website and on-site outreach at major science centers. Haines-Stiles was a senior producer and director for Carl Sagan?s classic COSMOS series; he produced and directed a PBS special, The Creation of the Universe; for NOVA he wrote and produced several space-related programs; and he collaborated with then Senator Al Gore on Earth in the Balance. For the International Polar Year 2008-9, he served as a leading producer of Polar-Palooza, a highly successful multimedia educational initiative about polar science (supported by NSF and NASA), involving researchers, Alaskan natives, and others giving presentations at science centers and natural history museums, in video and audio podcasts, and more.

Malte Humpert – (Member)
The Arctic Institute

Malte Humpert is the Executive Director of The Arctic Institute, an interdisciplinary non-profit think tank based in Washington DC, which he founded in 2011. His research focuses on the impact of climate change on the Arctic environment, especially the decline in Arctic sea ice, Arctic shipping and shipping scenarios, the development of oil and gas resources off the coast of Alaska and Norway, and China’s geopolitical and geoeconomic interests in the region. During his graduate studies at Georgetown University he concentrated on regime change in the Arctic, energy and security issues, and economic potential of Arctic shipping routes. He regularly speaks at Arctic-related events and conferences in North America and Europe and routinely publishes articles, research papers, as well as op-eds and blog posts relating to climate change in general and the Arctic in particular. Malte holds a master?s degree in European Studies from Georgetown University?s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service and a bachelor?s degree in political science from California State University, Northridge.

Louis Mead Treadwell – (Member)
Former Lieutenant Governor of Alaska

Louis Mead Treadwell served as Lieutenant Governor of Alaska until December 2014. Before this role, Treadwell served on the United States Arctic Research Commission, serving as Chair from 2006 to 2010. He also worked as Chairman and CEO of Venture Ad Astra, an Anchorage technology firm specializing in geospatial imaging. Treadwell has also worked as a political reporter for the Anchorage Times and, after entering the energy industry, director of spill response during the Exxon Valdez oil spill crisis. He was also Alaska?s Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation.

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