Harbor Seal Population Dynamics at Yakutat Bay, Alaska: Investigations in 2014

By: Aron Crowell, Co-PI, Arctic People and Animal “Crashes”: Human, Climate, and Habitat Agency in the Anthropocene. Originally Published in ASC Newsletter, No. 22: June 2015.

Fieldwork on Alaska Native subsistence hunting for harbor seals (Phoca vitulina) and on the historical population dynamics of this species was conducted at Yakutat Bay, southeast Alaska, during May – July, 2014. The work included interviews with Tlingit seal hunters; video documentation of two seal hunts in the ice floe pack near Hubbard Glacier; bio-sampling of seals taken during the hunts; historical and archival research; and archaeological excavations at the Old Town site (A.D. 1500 – 1750) where a large sample of well-preserved seal bones dating to the Little Ice Age (LIA) was recovered.  Archaeological and ethnohistoric data recorded during three years of National Science Foundation-funded research (2011-2013) are also being incorporated.

52514 Jeremiah James with Seal 3, Disenchantment Bay
Yakutat Tlingit seal hunters in the ice floes near Hubbard Glacier, May 2014


An initial assessment suggests that seals have always been the most important wild food resource for the residents of Yakutat. Today the subsistence harvest is higher there than in any other Alaska Native community (255 killed in 2012). However, both the resident seal population and the numbers hunted have varied greatly over time. Prehistoric harvest levels have not yet been estimated from archaeological data but it is unlikely that the pre-contact Eyak/Tlingit population of 300 – 400 people, using bone-tipped harpoons, put significant hunting pressure on a seal population that must have been many times larger than at present.

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Students excavating seal bones at the Old Town archaeological site, Knight Island, Yakutat Bay (2014)


Seal hunting intensified greatly in the late 19th century, spurred beyond subsistence needs by a growing commercial market for seal skins and the availability of breech-loading rifles. It appears that 3000 or more animals were being killed each year by Yakutat hunters during the 1880s – 1890s, based on scant data culled from historical accounts. Even greater numbers were taken during the bounty hunting era (1927-1972) when commercial salmon fishing interests promoted large scale slaughter of the animals. Government bounty data indicate that on average over 10,000 harbor seals were shot per year in southeast Alaska from the late 1920s through the 1960s, a large but as yet unknown proportion of them at Yakutat Bay. A boost in the market value of seal hides during the 1960s may have pushed the number even higher. The fact that annual takes of this magnitude could be sustained for decades suggests that the original seal population at Yakutat must have been very large, perhaps in the range of 35,000 – 50,000 animals, with substantial numbers also found at nearby Icy Bay and Dry Bay. Yakutat elder George Ramos, Sr. remembers that in the 1960s the ice floes were “black with seals.”

West side Egg Island 6-14-11 002
Yakutat Tlingit elder George Ramos Sr. near Egg (Haenke) Island, a traditional sealing camp location (2011)


It is therefore significant that the well-documented population crash of harbor seals that has taken place across southern Alaska in recent decades (60-70% since the 1970s) occurred after the commercial and bounty hunting eras ended. Today the harbor seal population in Yakutat Bay is only about 1700. The modern crash cannot be attributed to Alaska Native subsistence hunting that since 1972 has accounted for only a small fraction of the numbers of seals that were being taken annually throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  An alternative explanation, based on the impact of warming sea temperatures and changes in the marine food web is under consideration by marine biologists. The Yakutat research will contribute to this hypothesis by providing baseline data on LIA sea temperatures derived from O18/16 ratios in marine bivalves excavated at Old Town and other archaeological sites. In addition, the DNA of modern Yakutat harbor seals (sampled in 2014) will be compared to DNA extracted from historical and archaeological specimens (bones and teeth) to monitor the in-migration of animals from other Gulf of Alaska subpopulations, which may have had a substantial effect on maintaining high numbers in Yakutat Bay.

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Concentration of seal bones in midden at the Old Town archaeological site, Knight Island, Yakutat Bay (2014)


 Read more about the Yakutat Seal Camps Project here.

For more on our Arctic Crashes project, please visit our website, and check out the other posts on this blog.


Arctic ‘Crashes’: ASC Advances on its Human-Animal-Climate Relations Project

By: Igor Krupnik.

Originally published in ASC Newsletter 22, June 2015, pg 25.

Crashes-Walrus_NOAA
In September 2014, a massive herd of estimated 35,000 Pacific walrus came ashore in Point Lay, Alaska. Its unusual large size points to a serious disequilibrium in walrus-sea ice-habitat system. Source: NOAA

In February 2014, the ASC team received the Smithsonian Grand Challenges Consortia award to implement its multi-disciplinary project Arctic Crashes: Human, Climate, and Habitat Agency in the Anthropocene (see ASC Newsletter 21:19–22, and 22:25-37). The project officially started in March 2014; the $100,000 grant was originally given for 15 months, till June 2015 but was eventually extended till fall 2015, to include the second Arctic field season for the project team. In late May 2014, the first field crew under Aron Crowell headed to the fieldwork in Yakutat Bay, Alaska (see Crowell, this issue).

The ‘Arctic Crashes’ project is aimed at the theme of human-animal relations in the rapidly changing Arctic that is of utmost relevance to scientists, Arctic people, resource managers and agencies, and policy-makers. The field is huge and a relatively small program, such as ours, would never achieve the needed circumpolar coverage and required focus on several animal species that are of critical importance to Arctic people. Therefore, our project from the beginning was organized around several local and species-focused ‘case studies’ in Arctic North America – some in the Western Arctic (Alaska and Bering Sea) and some in the Eastern Arctic and North Atlantic. In summer-fall 2014, four teams went to the field: those led by Aron Crowell in Yakutat Bay (Tlingit historical subsistence hunting of harbor seals), Bill Fitzhugh (historical Inuit and harp seals in Northern Québec), Stephen Loring (Innu and James River caribou herd in interior Labrador), and Walter Adey (Baffin Island to Labrador sea cruise to collect data on bottom coralline communities as proxies to historical sea ice and ocean temperature change). The stories of each of these 2014 field operations are presented in the sections below (Originally published in ASC Newsletter, No 22, see our Arctic Crashes blog posts, where they will appear here). In addition, Alaina Harmon conducted surveys of the NMNH arctic mammal collections at the Vertebrate Zoology and Paleobiology Departments (with the support of our colleagues,  Kris Helgen, James Mead, Charles Potter, Don Wilson, and Nicholas Pyenson – see below). Igor Krupnik summarized historical data on the distribution of the Pacific walrus sub-populations (stocks) in the Bering and Chukchi Seas, from 1825 to the present, assisted by biologists G. Carleton Ray and the late Lyudmila Bogoslovskaya. In all, our studies covered four Arctic species—caribou, Pacific walrus, harbor and harp seal (plus many more in the NMNH osteological collections)—and various groups of polar indigenous peoples, Inuit, Innu, Siberian Yupik, Chukchi, Tlingit, and others, who interacted with them over generations.

In 2015, the ‘Arctic Crashes’ crew is planning to expand its focus, both in terms of field geography, the number of species covered, and the spectrum of indigenous communities to be engaged in our research. We are also seeking to bring more partners—archaeologists,   paleobiologists, historians, indigenous experts, wildlife and environmental managers—to the ‘Crashes’ study. A major step in that direction was undertaken in winter 2015 by Aron Crowell and Igor Krupnik, who jointly planned an ‘Arctic Crashes’ session for the 42nd annual meeting of the Alaska Anthropological Association in Anchorage. The full report on that day-long session on March 5, 2015, with 14 presented papers, covering ten species (polar bear, Pacific walrus, caribou, bowhead whale, white whale, fur seal, sea lion, harbor seal, ringed seal, and salmon), primarily from the North Pacific–Western Arctic area will be published in the next issue of the ASC Newsletter. Following the next field season in summer 2015, we plan to organize another ‘Arctic Crashes’ symposium in early 2016, this time at the Natural History Museum. The second session will be also focused primarily on the Eastern Arctic, i.e. Canada and Greenland, also Northeast Russia. Papers from the two sessions will then be published together in the project’s final collection volume that will be the main product of our two-year study on the changing relations among of Arctic Peoples, Animals, and Climate.  

For more on our Arctic Crashes project, please visit our website, and check out the other posts on this blog.


Symposium at NMNH July 6, 2015: Cargo: Birds as Material Culture

Cargobirdsasmaterialculture

Don't miss this fascinating interdisciplinary symposium, Cargo: Birds as Material Culture: Engagements between Anthropologists and Zoologists at the Smithsonian, held at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History on Monday July 6th at 4 p.m., featuring the Arctic Studies Center's own, Dr. Stephen Loring. RSVP is required, and non-badge holders will need an escort to get in. Please RSVP to SIMA@si.edu.

 


Smithsonian Spotlight: Thursday, June 4 at Noon

Brian Walker SASC Nov2014
Iñupiaq/Athabascan Carver Brian Walker

Location: Anchorage Museum, Anchorage, Alaska in the Arctic Studies Center Gallery (2nd Floor, West Wing)
Cost: Free with Admission

Emerging artist Brian Walker walks in the two worlds of his family: Ukivokmiut Iñupiaq and Deg Hit'an Dene (Athabascan). Join him for a talk about his work as a carver and his experiences of cultural continuity and revitalization.

This event is sponsored by the Recovering Voices Program, an initiative led by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.


Arctic Spring Festival Symposium: May 8, 2015

Why the Arctic Matters: Applying a ‘Human Perspective’ to Understanding Arctic Change

Friday, May 8, 2015

1:30-4:30 pm

National Museum of Natural History, Baird Auditorium, Ground Floor

 

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Photo Credits: Wilfred E. Richard - ASC Research Collaborator. Featuring (center top): Aaju Peter


A panel discussion by leaders in Arctic research and education, followed by a film screening of ECHOES from the Greenland Eyes International Film Festival. The panel will be opened at 1:30 p.m. with Sounds of the Arctic by sound artist, Charles Morrow; a film screening of Tupilaq, from the Greenland Eyes International Film Festival; and a short musical performance by the Uummannaq Greenland Youth Ensemble.

Welcoming Remarks:

Kirk Johnson, Director, NMNH, Smithsonian Institution

Keynote speaker:

Heather A. Conley, Senior Vice President, Europe, Eurasia and the Arctic, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Washington, DC

Panel Moderator:

Igor Krupnik, Arctic Studies Center

Panelists:

Margaret Beckel, President and CEO Canadian Museum of Nature, Ottawa, Canada.
C. Nikoosh Carlo, Senior Advisor to the SAO Chair, U.S. Department of State, Washington, DC, Athabascan
John Farrell, Executive Director US Arctic Research Commission, Arlington, VA
William Fitzhugh, Director, Arctic Studies Center, NMNH, Smithsonian Institution
Craig Fleener, Arctic Policy Advisor, Office of Governor Bill Walker, Anchorage, Gwitch’n
Stephanie Pfirman, co-Chair, Environmental Science Department, Barnard College, Columbia University, New York
Simon Stephenson, IARPC Executive Director and OSTP Assistant Director for Polar Science
Mead Treadwell
, President, Pt Capital, former Lt. Governor of the State of Alaska, Anchorage, Alaska


Keynote Address:

The Arctic is the New Mecca of the North?: Why is the Arctic such a “hot” global topic and what does it all mean?

By: Heather A. Conley

Explorers have probed its farthest reaches. Distinct indigenous peoples have lived in harmony with and gained strength from this unique region for centuries. Species of mammals, migratory birds, and fish arrive seasonally or remain in its extreme habitat.

This is the Arctic: a region that covers 6% of the earth’s surface and approximately 14.5 million square miles of ocean and land. It is also home to 4 million people, producing roughly 0.6% of the world’s gross domestic product.

Today, the Arctic is experiencing profound and stunning change as the increased presence of black carbon and methane, ocean acidification, coastal erosion, permafrost thaw, and the depletion of Arctic species alter its physical environment. As Arctic sea ice diminishes and Arctic temperatures continue to rise, the Arctic Ocean is increasingly becoming a navigable, blue water ocean, piquing the economic interests of Arctic and non-Arctic states alike and driving policy urgency to preserve and protect this unique and fragile ecosystem.

As the United States begins its two-year chairmanship of the Arctic Council – an intergovernmental forum that discusses Arctic issues – it is a timely opportunity to examine current developments in the Arctic, assess the future of international cooperation in light of heightened geopolitical tensions with Russia, and address why the Arctic matters environmentally, economically, politically, and culturally.

 

HeatherConleyHeather A. Conley is senior vice president for Europe, Eurasia, and the Arctic and director of the Europe Program at CSIS. Prior to joining CSIS in 2009, she served as executive director of the Office of the Chairman of the Board at the American National Red Cross. From 2001 to 2005, she served as deputy assistant secretary of state in the Bureau for European and Eurasian Affairs with responsibilities for U.S. bilateral relations with the countries of northern and central Europe. From 1994 to 2001, she was a senior associate with an international consulting firm led by former U.S. deputy secretary of state Richard L. Armitage. Ms. Conley began her career in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs at the U.S. Department of State. She was selected to serve as special assistant to the coordinator of U.S. assistance to the newly independent states of the former Soviet Union. Ms. Conley is a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on the Arctic and is frequently featured as a foreign policy analyst on CNN, MSNBC, BBC, NPR, and PBS. She received her B.A. in international studies from West Virginia Wesleyan College and her M.A. in international relations from the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS).



Panelist Biographies:


Beckel

Meg Beckel President & CEO, Canadian Museum of Nature. On June 6, 2011, Meg Beckel began her five-year appointment as President & CEO of the Canadian Museum of Nature.  Beckel joins a team of passionate and committed individuals dedicated to the museum’s vision to inspire understanding and respect for nature. Prior to joining the Museum Meg was Vice-President, External Relations at the University of Waterloo for four years and  Chief Operating Officer of the Royal Ontario Museum for nine years.

Beckel began her professional career at the Bank of Nova Scotia where she served as Officer in Charge of Operations and as Assistant Manager, Corporate Banking before moving to the National Ballet of Canada in 1986, where she began a career in fundraising and external relations in the arts and education sector.   

Beckel currently serves as Chair of TerraTundra Foundation and lead for the Arctic Natural History Museums Alliance.  She also serves as a member of the Alliance of Natural History Museums of Canada Board, the Advisory Board for the Ottawa CEO Breakfast Club and the Advisory Board of  Ottawa River Keeper.

 

 

Dr. Nikoosh Carlo CNikooshCarlo is Senior Advisor to Ambassador David Balton, Chair of the SAOs, at the U.S. Department of Sta  te for the U.S. chairmanship of the Arctic Council. She brings to this position  prior experience in Arctic policy at the state-level, as the Executive Director of the Alaska Arctic Policy Commission, and at the federal-level as an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Science & Technology Policy Fellow at the National Science Foundation. Dr. Carlo has worked to advance programs that support the health and wellbeing  of  Arctic residents, and led efforts to develop U.S. Arctic science and policy. Dr. Carlo is Athabascan Indian from the interior region of Alaska, and was raised in the Fairbanks and Tanana communities. She attended the University of Alaska Fairbanks for undergraduate studies, earned her PhD in Neuroscience from the University of California, San Diego and served as a postdoc at the Salk Institute and a Fellow at the National Institute of Mental Health and Johns Hopkins University.
 

Dr. John Farrell is the Executive Director of the U.S. Arctic Research Commission, an independent federal agency of Presidential appointees that advises the White House and Congress on Arctic research matters and works with executive branch agencies to establish and execute a national Arctic research plan. The Commission also facilitates cooperation with local and state governments and recommends means for developing international scientific cooperation in the Arctic.

Farrell previously served as the Associate Dean of Research and Administration at the Graduate School of Oceanography at the University of Rhode Island. Before that, he was Director of the international Ocean Drilling Program that involved over 20 nations and had an annual budget of approximately $65M/yr. The program was dedicated to advancing scientific understanding of the Earth.

Farrell helped organized and conduct the first successful international scientific ocean drilling expedition to the high Arctic in 2004. He also participated in a US ocean mapping effort aboard the icebreaker US Coast Guard Cutter Healy in 2012.

He obtained a Ph.D. and Sc.M. in geological sciences from Brown University, and a B.A. in geology from Franklin and Marshall College. He was a NSF-funded Post-Doctoral Fellow at Brown University and an NSERC-funded Senior Research Associate at the University of British Columbia, in Vancouver, Canada.

- See more at: http://www.arctic.gov/farrell.html#sthash.2z7hyrin.dpuf

John FarrellDr. John Farrell is the Executive Director of the U.S. Arctic Research Commission, an independent federal agency of Presidential appointees that advises the White House and Congress on Arctic research matters and works with executive branch agencies to establish and execute a national Arctic research plan. The Commission also facilitates cooperation with local and state governments and recommends means for developing international scientific cooperation in the Arctic.

Farrell previously served as the Associate Dean of Research and Administration at the Graduate School of Oceanography at the University of Rhode Island. Before that, he was Director of the international Ocean Drilling Program that involved over 20 nations and had an annual budget of approximately $65M/yr. The program was dedicated to advancing scientific understanding of the Earth.

Farrell helped organized and conduct the first successful international scientific ocean drilling expedition to the high Arctic in 2004. He also participated in a US ocean mapping effort aboard the icebreaker US Coast Guard Cutter Healy in 2012.

He obtained a Ph.D. and Sc.M. in geological sciences from Brown University, and a B.A. in geology from Franklin and Marshall College. He was a NSF-funded Post-Doctoral Fellow at Brown University and an NSERC-funded Senior Research Associate at the University of British Columbia, in Vancouver, Canada.

John W. Farrell, PhD
USARC Executive Director

Dr. John Farrell is the Executive Director of the U.S. Arctic Research Commission, an independent federal agency of Presidential appointees that advises the White House and Congress on Arctic research matters and works with executive branch agencies to establish and execute a national Arctic research plan. The Commission also facilitates cooperation with local and state governments and recommends means for developing international scientific cooperation in the Arctic.

Farrell previously served as the Associate Dean of Research and Administration at the Graduate School of Oceanography at the University of Rhode Island. Before that, he was Director of the international Ocean Drilling Program that involved over 20 nations and had an annual budget of approximately $65M/yr. The program was dedicated to advancing scientific understanding of the Earth.

Farrell helped organized and conduct the first successful international scientific ocean drilling expedition to the high Arctic in 2004. He also participated in a US ocean mapping effort aboard the icebreaker US Coast Guard Cutter Healy in 2012.

He obtained a Ph.D. and Sc.M. in geological sciences from Brown University, and a B.A. in geology from Franklin and Marshall College. He was a NSF-funded Post-Doctoral Fellow at Brown University and an NSERC-funded Senior Research Associate at the University of British Columbia, in Vancouver, Canada.

- See more at: http://www.arctic.gov/farrell.html#sthash.2z7hyrin.dpuf

John W. Farrell, PhD
USARC Executive Director

Dr. John Farrell is the Executive Director of the U.S. Arctic Research Commission, an independent federal agency of Presidential appointees that advises the White House and Congress on Arctic research matters and works with executive branch agencies to establish and execute a national Arctic research plan. The Commission also facilitates cooperation with local and state governments and recommends means for developing international scientific cooperation in the Arctic.

Farrell previously served as the Associate Dean of Research and Administration at the Graduate School of Oceanography at the University of Rhode Island. Before that, he was Director of the international Ocean Drilling Program that involved over 20 nations and had an annual budget of approximately $65M/yr. The program was dedicated to advancing scientific understanding of the Earth.

Farrell helped organized and conduct the first successful international scientific ocean drilling expedition to the high Arctic in 2004. He also participated in a US ocean mapping effort aboard the icebreaker US Coast Guard Cutter Healy in 2012.

He obtained a Ph.D. and Sc.M. in geological sciences from Brown University, and a B.A. in geology from Franklin and Marshall College. He was a NSF-funded Post-Doctoral Fellow at Brown University and an NSERC-funded Senior Research Associate at the University of British Columbia, in Vancouver, Canada.

- See more at: http://www.arctic.gov/farrell.html#sthash.2z7hyrin.dpuf

John W. Farrell, PhD
USARC Executive Director

Dr. John Farrell is the Executive Director of the U.S. Arctic Research Commission, an independent federal agency of Presidential appointees that advises the White House and Congress on Arctic research matters and works with executive branch agencies to establish and execute a national Arctic research plan. The Commission also facilitates cooperation with local and state governments and recommends means for developing international scientific cooperation in the Arctic.

Farrell previously served as the Associate Dean of Research and Administration at the Graduate School of Oceanography at the University of Rhode Island. Before that, he was Director of the international Ocean Drilling Program that involved over 20 nations and had an annual budget of approximately $65M/yr. The program was dedicated to advancing scientific understanding of the Earth.

Farrell helped organized and conduct the first successful international scientific ocean drilling expedition to the high Arctic in 2004. He also participated in a US ocean mapping effort aboard the icebreaker US Coast Guard Cutter Healy in 2012.

He obtained a Ph.D. and Sc.M. in geological sciences from Brown University, and a B.A. in geology from Franklin and Marshall College. He was a NSF-funded Post-Doctoral Fellow at Brown University and an NSERC-funded Senior Research Associate at the University of British Columbia, in Vancouver, Canada.

- See more at: http://www.arctic.gov/farrell.html#sthash.2z7hyrin.dpuf


Bill head shotWilliam Fitzhugh, Director, Arctic Studies Center, NMNH, Smithsonian Institution. Dr. William Fitzhugh is an anthropologist specializing in circumpolar archaeology, ethnology and environmental studies. As director of the Arctic Studies Center and Curator in the Department of Anthropology, NMNH, he has spent more than thirty years studying and publishing on Arctic peoples and cultures in northern Canada, Alaska, Siberia and Scandinavia. His archaeological and environmental research has focused upon the prehistory and paleoecology of northeastern North America, and broader aspects of his research feature the evolution of northern maritime adaptations, circumpolar culture contacts, cross-cultural studies and acculturation processes in the North, especially concerning Native-European contacts.

Recent research efforts have been directed at investigations into the problem of the western penetration of Maritime Archaic, Paleoeskimo and early Inuit cultures along the Lower North Shore of Quebec, and to associate this culture history more closely with Labrador and Newfoundland. Current interests in the origins of reindeer herding have led him to conduct research in Mongolia, where he is investigating reindeer herding in southern Siberia along the forest-steppe border, as well as investigating possible connections between deer-stones and Scythian art to the ancient art of East Asia and the Bering Sea Eskimos.

As curator of the National Museum of Natural History's Arctic collections, Bill has produced four international exhibitions, Inua: Spirit World of the Bering Sea Eskimos; Crossroads of Continents: Native Cultures of Siberia and Alaska; Ainu: Spirit of a Northern People; and Vikings: The North Atlantic Saga. His public and educational activities include the production of films, including the NOVA specials, Mysteries of the Lost Red Paint People, Norse America and several other Viking films. He served as Chairman of the Smithsonian's Department of Anthropology from 1975-80, is an Advisor to the Arctic Research Commission, represents the Smithsonian and Arctic social science in various inter-agency councils, serves on the Smithsonian Science Commission and holds various other administrative and advisory posts.


FleenerCraig Fleener, Arctic Policy Advisor, Office of Governor Bill Walker, Anchorage, Gwitch’n. Craig Fleener is Gwichyaa Zhee Gwich'in from Fort Yukon Alaska. He has 6 children and 4 grandchildren and is married to his best friend Uliana. His decades of experience include work on Arctic Policy, Wildlife and Fisheries, subsistence, food security, and Alaska Native issues. He served as a member of the Alaska Board of Game, Director of the Division of Subsistence and Deputy Commissioner for Wildlife, Subsistence, and Habitat with the State of Alaska. He is a wildlife biologist with a specialty in Moose management and human dimensions of wildlife and fisheries.

He served as a City Council member at the City of Fort Yukon, Alaska and as a tribal council member with the Gwichyaa Zhee Gwich'in Tribal Council and work for his tribal government for 16 years overseeing health care, education, and natural resources management. He successfully negotiated the first ever annual funding agreement in the United States between a tribe and the federal government initiating tribal management on federal land. He has a BSc degree in Natural Resources Management and a MSc degree in Strategic Intelligence.

He is a combat veteran and has been in the military on active duty and as a guardsman for over 28 years, and currently serves as the Senior Intelligence Officer in the Alaska Air National Guard. He currently serves as the Arctic Policy Advisor to the Governor of Alaska.


Pfirman photoStephanie L. Pfirman, is Hirschorn Professor of Environmental Science and co-Chair of Barnard's Department of Environmental Science.  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.  Professor Pfirman’s scientific research focuses on the Arctic environment, in particular on the nature and dynamics of Arctic sea ice.  She served as co-chair of the National Academy of Science study committee on Emerging Research Questions in the Arctic which produced the 2014 “The Arctic in the Anthropocene” report.  She is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in the Section on Atmospheric and Hydrospheric Sciences. 

Professor Pfirman has contributed to the development of innovative educational approaches in interdisciplinary, environmental, and STEM education including currently serving as principal investigator of the Polar Learning and Responding: PoLAR Climate Change Education Partnership supported by the National Science Foundation. 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 is past President of the Council of Environmental Deans and Directors, and has worked for the House of Representatives, as a staff scientist, for the US Geological Survey, as an oceanographer, and for the GeoMarine Research Institution in Kiel, Germany, as an Arctic researcher.  Her PhD is from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology/Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution joint program in Oceanography and Oceanographic Engineering.

 

Simon StephensonSimon Stephenson, Assistant Director, Polar Sciences, Office of Science and Technology Policy. As Assistant Director, Polar Sciences Mr Stephenson assists the President’s Science Advisor, Dr. John P Holdren, on issues related to research in the Polar Regions. Recently this included establishing the new Deputy Secretary-level Arctic Executive Steering Committee chaired by Dr. Holdren. Mr Stephenson is on detail to OSTP from the National Science Foundation where he serves as Head of the Arctic Sciences Section. The unit is responsible for a research investment of about $ 100 M annually.  The disciplinary scope of the programs is broad, encompassing much of the natural and social sciences as they apply to Arctic science questions. 

 


220px-Mead_Treadwell,_Photo_1Mead Treadwell, President, Pt Capital, former Lt. Governor of the State of Alaska, Anchorage, Alaska. Mead Treadwell was elected Lieutenant Governor of Alaska in 2010. Since the early 1980’s, Treadwell has held leadership roles in both business and public service. He is recognized as one of the world’s Arctic policy experts and has testified to Congress regarding America’s preparedness for increasing development pressures in the Arctic.

Treadwell was appointed to the United States Arctic Research Commission by President George W. Bush in 2001 (tenure ending in 2010) and designated the Commission’s chair in 2006. Under his leadership, a new United States Arctic Policy was developed and is now being implemented by the current administration. He represented Alaska on U.S. delegations which established the eight-nation Arctic Council, and was involved in the establishment of the Northern Forum. In addition, Treadwell was a Senior Fellow of the Institute of the North, an endowed public policy research program founded by former Secretary of the Interior and two-time Alaska governor Walter H. Hickel, to focus on Alaska and Arctic natural resource issues, governance of public assets, geography, and national security. His efforts there helped establish missile defense in Alaska and strengthened the regional U.S. alliance with Japan.

After graduating from Yale University, Treadwell moved to Alaska to became the lead political reporter for the “Anchorage Times.” Then, in 1982, after completing his MBA at the Harvard Business School, Treadwell joined former Alaskan governors Wally Hickel and Bill Egan to found the Yukon Pacific Corporation, which instigated the Alaska gas pipeline project. He later served as the Deputy Commissioner of the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (1991-1994). Later in his career, he helped launch a series of technology, manufacturing and service companies, two of which – Digimarc and Emberclear – trade on public stock exchanges, and was a chairman of Immersive Media Company (IMC),  notable for developing the camera used for Google’s Street View and Map Quest’s 360 View services. Until recently, he was also the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Venture Ad Astra, an Anchorage company, which invests in and develops new geospatial and imaging technologies.

Treadwell was elected a Fellow National of the Explorers Club in 2002 and chairs the North Pacific Alaska Chapter of the Club. He is past president of the Alaska World Affairs Council, the Japan America Society of Alaska, and the Visual Arts Center of Alaska. As a founder of the Alaska State Chamber of Commerce Siberian Gateway Project, he worked to open the Alaska-Russia border in 1988. Further, he has served as a board member of Commonwealth North, the Great Alaska Council of the Boy Scouts, the Healthy Alaska Natives Foundation and the Alaska-Siberia Research Center.

 


Smithsonian Spotlight: Traditional Foods

SmSpot Trad Foods QT sm
The recently published book Qaqamiigux: Traditional Foods of the Aleutian and Pribilof Islands is a rich resource of cultural, historical and nutritional information, with many recipes and descriptive photos. Join author Suanne Unger and Moses Dirks, one of the significant contributors, for a discussion of how the book was made and their favorite recipes.

This event is sponsored by the Recovering Voices Program, an initiative led by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.