DCSIMG

Steller’s Sea Cow: The Sole Arctic/Subarctic Extinction

By: Joshua Fiacco

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Skeleton of now extinct Steller's Sea Cow on display at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.


There is a plethora of research documenting the rapid fluctuations of large mammal populations in the Arctic and Subarctic region. While certain local populations of animals have become extirpated, there is only one species that has become extinct entirely: Steller’s sea cow (Hydrodamalis gigas).

Steller’s sea cow was an aquatic herbivorous mammal that grew to a size of around 30 feet and a weight of eight to ten tons! It was an enormous but docile relative of modern day manatees and dugongs and is considered one of the largest mammals in modern history outside of the great whales (Marsh, et al, 2012). Due to its tremendous size,  slow and docile nature, and inability to completely submerge, Steller’s sea cow was an easily hunted and exploited target  for both Aleut and 18th century promyshlenniki –Russian maritime hunters and fur-traders (Ellis 2004). With the possible exception of a few very small remnant groups on the Near Islands (including Attu, Shemya and Nizka) the sea-cow had been hunted to extinction throughout the Aleut chain prior to the arrival of the Russian fur-traders.

Russian explorers first encountered this species in 1741 when Captain Vitus Bering and his ship’s crew were wrecked on an uninhabited island off the Kamchatka Peninsula in the North Pacific that would later come to be known as Bering Island. Over the course of several months, during which Bering perished, the crew survived off the meat of fur seals and sea cows until they were able to rebuild their ship and return to Kamchatka.

Georg Willem Steller, the expedition’s naturalist, reported that the animals lived in small herds, or family groupings, and were numerous around the island. In 1881, Smithsonian naturalist Leonhard Stejneger visited Bering Island where he exhumed the skeletons of several sea cows from the site of Bering’s shipwrecked camp. In 1887 he published an article titled ‘How the great northern sea-cow (Rytina) became exterminated’, in which he estimated that the population of sea cows surrounding Bering Island must have numbered around 1500 and were the last survivors of a more widely-distributed species before they were hunted to extinction. 

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Leonhard Stejneger in Field Clothes ca. 1920s. Source: Smithsonian Institution Archives, SIA2009-4252.


When word of these docile, easily-hunted animals spread among navigators, Russian hunters made expeditions to the region on a yearly basis on their way to the Aleutian Islands. Bering Island  became a spot for resource stocking for further voyages down south and back (Steller’s Sea Cow, 2005). 

In 1768, only twenty-seven years after their “discovery” by western scientists  the Steller’s sea cow was extinct. There is little doubt that excessive over-hunting was the primary cause of extinction of the last remaining local group of sea cows, as evidenced by the timing of the discovery and the previous trends of similar species when faced with sudden, continued human intervention. However, archaeologists argue that the species had been once common all along the Aleutian Islands, where it was actively pursued by aboriginal hunters. Some researchers also point to the over-hunting of sea otters as an indirect factor in rapid extinction of the sea cow. When the Aleutian sea otter population in the area was decimated by Russian fur hunters and their Aleut Islander clients, the increase in purple sea urchins—a primary food of the otters—may have decimated the kelp beds that sea cows depended on  (Anderson, 1995).


While manatees and dugongs continue to survive in the wild today, the Steller’s sea cow never saw a population rebound. This instance of extirpation preceding extinction is an excellent example of why Arctic Crashes philosophy is effective in studying population fluctuations. The destruction of the last population of sea cows can be seen from a botanic, biological, or anthropological perspective. In addition, the observation of one last local stock of an animal shows that extirpation on a local scale is observable and necessarily precedes the extinction of an entire species. Finally, it serves  as an example for future case studies involving local populations of arctic mammals and the effects of fluctuations on an entire ecosystem.

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

References

Anderson, Paul K. (July 1995). "Competition, Predation, and the Evolution and Extinction of Steller's Sea Cow, Hydrodamalis gigas". Marine Mammal Science (Society for Marine Mammalogy) 11 (3): 391–394.

Domning, Darryl P., Thomason, James, and Debra Corbett (2007). Steller’s Sea Cow in the Aleutian Islands. Marine Mammal Science 23(4): 976–983.

Ellis, Richard (2004). No Turning Back: The Life and Death of Animal Species. New York City: Harper Perennial. p. 113.

Marsh, Helene; O'Shea, Thomas J.; Reynolds, John E., III (2012). Ecology and Conservation of the Sirenia: Dugongs and Manatees. Conservation Biology 18. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 19.

Sirenia International. "Steller's Sea Cow." http://www.sirenian.org/stellers.html (accessed May 8, 2014).

Stejneger, Leonhard. 1887. How the great northern sea-cow (Rytina) became exterminated. The American Naturalist 21(12):1047-1054.

Formatted for Magnetic North by Meghan Mulkerin.


Still Searching for the Trail to Caribou House: Smithsonian-Tshikapisk Research in Ntessinan

By: Stephen Loring. Originally published in the ASC Newlsetter, No. 22, pg. 26-28.

The Caribou House project is a community initiative between Smithsonian anthropologist Stephen Loring, colleagues Anthony Jenkinson (Tshikapisk Foundation), and Chelsee Arbour (Memorial University [MUN]), Innu colleagues, informants and experiential educators from the community of Natuashish, Labrador, and the Innu Nation. The project combines archaeological practice with indigenous knowledge pertaining to the interaction between caribou herd dynamics and human beings over time.

Perhaps some of the most evocative descriptions of the interior of northern Labrador –it’s caribou country—are contained in William Brooks Cabot’s Labrador (1920) in the accounts of his intrepid wanderings—sometimes alone, sometimes with a companion or two—between 1903 and 1910.  Entranced by the opportunity to experience something of the traditional Innu caribou-hunting culture, he followed the old Innu travel routes from the coast of Labrador near Davis Inlet to the traditional Innu fall caribou hunting camps on Mistinipi Lake and George River.

Mistinipi 1906 tent
Cabot’s 1906 photograph of a tent (tastueikantshuap) at Mistinipi. This tent-ring was partially excavated during the 2014 field-season.


Doubtless Cabot was aware of the old Innu stories about the Master of the Caribou and his mountain home in the northern Labrador barrens. The Innu believe that Caribou House was a hollow mountain where the caribou dwelled when not in the environs of men. Coincidentally its presumed location in the heart of the Torngat Mountains is both the location of the George River caribou herd caving-grounds as well as the source of a lithic raw material that had been used by Indian and Inuit hunters for more than 7000 years. The trail to Caribou House is the metaphor for a collaborative research project that utilizes the converging research trajectories of archaeology, ethnohistory, oral history, and ecology in an exploration of the characteristics and consequences attending a specialized caribou-subsistence economy in Labrador, from its earliest appearance in conjunction with pioneering Paleoindian-Early Archaic hunters down to the present day.  

Some of the earliest evidence for the emergence of social complexity among native peoples in post-Pleistocene North America comes from northern Labrador, where elaborate mortuary traditions and large social aggregations appear around 7000 years ago.  It has been suggested that the dependable characteristics of the marine ecosystem formed the subsistence base for these pioneering populations. However recent work in the interior of Quebec-Labrador at caribou-crossing places suggests that the significance of caribou for early hunters has been over-looked.  Archaeological survey and excavation coupled with the observations and knowledge of traditional Innu hunters offers an unprecedented opportunity to interpret the role of caribou predation in the evolution of hunting and gathering cultures in North America and theoretically to contribute to an understanding of the relationship between subsistence practices and the maintenance of social boundaries and identities that figured so prominently in the success of early human societies in both the New World and Ice-Age Europe.

Field Work

The “summer”/fall 2014 Caribou House Project had two principle objectives: (1) Archaeological documentation of a prominent 19th century Innu caribou crossing camp on Mistinipi Lake that was visited by William Brooks Cabot in 1906, coupled with (2) an intensive site survey of a portion of the Mistinipi Lake basin to document the antiquity of caribou hunting strategies in the Quebec-Labrador barrens.

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Marcel Ashini (left) and Richard Nuna (right) in the “dug-out”/hunting blind at the 1906 Innu camp on Mistinipi Lake. They hold a photograph taken by William Brooks Cabot of Richard’s ancestor sitting in the exact same place. In 1906, having already speared hundreds of caribou at this crossing place, the men were enjoying watching the stragglers cross over.


Early in September, Stephen Loring, Chelsee Arbour (MUN) and Richard Nuna (Chief Environmental Negotiator with Innu Nation) flew in a chartered Twin Otter (thank-you Air Labrador and Air Labrador’s senior pilot, Lester Powell!) landing on an esker that is a prominent landmark adjacent the river-like northeastern-most extension of Mistinipi Lake. We were soon reunited with our colleagues, Anthony Jenkinson and Marcel Ashini who had arrived earlier by float-plane and who had established a camp adjacent to the 1906 camp that Cabot had utilized.

For a month, weather permitting, we conducted site surveys of the north-eastern arm of Mistinipi Lake, locating eight historic late-19th/early-20th century Innu camps that were contemporaneous –or nearly so—with Cabot’s 1906 camp, and six pre-contact ancestral Innu sites. The latter were all quite small, comprising only one or two hearths and a scatter of Ramah chert and quartz debitage. Situated adjacent to a prominent system of caribou trails, these sites are all interpreted as briefly occupied hunting and butchering sites used by small groups of hunters.

Mistanipi-04 hearth -c
Ancestral Innu (ca. 800 AD) hearth at Mistinipi with Chelsee Arbour.


Much of the 2014 fieldwork was directed at documenting the footprint left behind by Innu families in the late 19th century at and adjacent to Cabot’s 1906 camp. His observations and photographs form the only extant eye-witness account of the Innu at their traditional fall gathering caribou hunting camps in the interior of the Quebec-Labrador peninsula. When Cabot arrived at the camp in September, 1906, a small Innu band of 20-25 people, including four men and as many boys in the preceding weeks had speared over a thousand caribou as they swam across the lake narrows!

The 1906 camp, with its detailed historical description and photographs, provides a unique opportunity to compare and ground-truth historical observations with archaeological documentation. In addition to locating, mapping and photographing the historic Innu sites, including stone caches and hunting blinds, we were able to excavate several structures including a possible shaking-tent locality and a pair of circular tent-rings–the remains of tastueikantshuap—and a portion of their associated “middens”. I put middens in quotation marks since an underlying tenet of traditional Innu culture was the ceremonial and ritual attention to all aspects of the disposal of animal (especially caribou) remains, which were certainly not deposited haphazardly. The assemblage from these sites attest to the relative self-sufficiently of Innu families who, while they had limited access to sources of European goods (rifle cartridges, seed beads, and tobacco paraphernalia), still maintained their independent life in the interior of Nitassinan.

Mistanipi-7 St.1 (b)
Excavated tastueikantshuap, a late-19th century raised earthen-wall tent-ring at Mistinipi.


Previous field-seasons at near-by Kamestastin and Border-Beacon had lingered on through mid-October. Not only is this a very beautiful time to be in the country, with its relative absence of mosquitos and black-flies, and the astonishing beauty of the tundra’s fall colors; it is also the time when the caribou pass through on their autumnal migration. However this year it began snowing on September 22nd and barely let-up for the next ten days, bringing a precipitous conclusion to archaeological fieldwork and posing a great challenge to Lester Powell in retrieving us from Torngat’s frozen embrace.

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September 22: “Hard to do archaeology when there is a 60cm sterile white layer over everything.”


Final thoughts 

Arguably the most significant development in northern anthropology in the last decade has been the commitment to conduct research within a community paradigm, one that recognizes the potential of “traditional indigenous knowledge” and oral history to provide an important balance to the perspectives and research strategies of scientific investigators. The Arctic Studies Center has been at the forefront of this movement and is widely recognized for its leadership role in initiating community-based research throughout the circumpolar world. Since 1999 the ASC has been conducting research in close collaboration with the Innu Nation and Tshikapisk Foundation. In addition to conducting important archaeological research on the nature of  Innu and ancestral-Innu land-tenure and caribou predation in northern Labrador, the community goals of the program include working with Tshikapisk educators and Innu elders to systematically document and record the ecological knowledge of elderly Innu hunters and their wives pertaining to the behavior and ecology of the barren ground species, including caribou, bear, and wolverine that are derived from a life-time of observation and from oral tradition.

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Subsistence practices trump fieldwork. A pause in site survey results in lake trout for dinner.


This research has the potential to significantly influence our understanding of the social and ecological landscape of the earliest hunting peoples in northern North America.  It is a unique opportunity to reveal the nature, significance, and consequences of caribou predation not only in Labrador but, by analogy, to early Pleistocene hunters in North America and Europe.

The 2014 fieldwork at Mistinipi was made possible by financial support provided by a Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Studies Award in the Arts and Humanities and by the Innu Nation. We are further appreciative of the Innu Nation for allowing Richard Nuna to accompany the team to Mistinipi. His and Marcel Ashini’s contribution to the success of every aspect of the project was gratefully appreciated. Fieldwork was conducted with a permit from the Québec Ministère de la Culture et des Communications, thanks especially to Valérie Janssen.  And thanks once again to Lester Powell for his intrepid craftsmanship in all aspects pertaining to Twin Otters; I’ll never forget his remark upon his second landing at the Mistinipi esker, with the clouds down on the ground, “Gee, kinda hard to land when you can’t see anything,” and for getting us airborne, which necessitated driving through a snow bank and climbing out of a kettle hole… and that’s another story for another time!

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


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.”

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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.

 


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.

 


Material Traditions: Sewing Gut

By: Dawn Biddison with Meghan Mulkerin 

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Gut Parka Made Of Seal Intestines. Collections of the National Museum of Natural History, Catalog Number: 165342 Photo Credit: Donald E. Hurlbert.

If you were following @ArcticStudies on Twitter, you know that we got hands-on with a very interesting Native craft activity here at NMNH in the Q?rius education center: working with gutskin! What you may not know, is that this is part of a larger program, called the Material Traditions artists' residency, hosted by the Alaska office of the Arctic Studies Center (ASC) at the Anchorage Museum. The Sewing Gut artists' residency project was the third Material Traditions project for ASC Alaska. The event brought our staff and community members in distant parts of the country together through webcasting! If you missed the action on Twitter, be sure to check out this storify of all of the tweets we sent out during the event; you'll learn a lot about gutskin, see some great examples of gutskin clothing, and get to see the teens in action in Q?rius during the workshop.

B34d5gVIEAECjdQ B34Tq0vCYAA7nxeWorking on gutskin creations in the Q?rius Center and photos of craft ideas with the raw materials! Photo Credit: Meghan Mulkerin

During the Sewing Gut residency, artists Mary Tunuchuk (Yup'ik), Elaine Kingeekuk (St. Lawrence Island Yupik) and Sonya Kelliher-Combs (Iñupiaq/Athabascan) shared their knowledge about processing and sewing sea mammal gut (intestines and other inner membranes) with University of Alaska Anchorage Native art students, Anchorage school district students and museum visitors.

MTG SKC EM DL SBE 12-01-2014 WCMary Tunuchuk, Elaine Kingeekuk,and Sonya Kelliher-Combs processing gut skin. Photo Credit: Wayde Carroll Photography.

Conservators Kelly McHugh (National Museum of the American Indian), Michele Austin-Dennehy (National Museum of National History), Monica Shah (Anchorage Museum) and Sarah Owens (Anchorage Museum) also attended for hands-on learning about making and caring for gut objects and about the use of hog intestine as a substitute material. The work included: cleaning, scraping, soaking, blowing up and drying intestine; cutting dried intestine; preparing thread and grass for sewing; and practicing seams and stitches used in making gut parkas and windows. The conservators also joined the artists as they studied and shared technical information about masterworks made with gutskin taken off display from the Living Our Cultures exhibition and from the Anchorage Museum collection.

MTG Elaine Kingeekuk 12-01-14 WCElaine Kingeekuk examines a piece of gutskin. Photo Credit: Wayde Carroll Photography.

We were all thrilled to be able to collaborate live with the artists in Alaska through webcasts. One of the webcasts was with conservation students in three locations and another was with a Q?rius workshop at the National Museum of Natural History, for middle and high school students. The conservation webcasts were led by Monica Shah, and the residency artists gave a presentation to and answered questions from conservation fellows and students from three different programs: the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI), with conservator, Susan Heald, the UCLA Getty, with professor/conservator, Ellen Pearlstein, and at Winterthur Museum, with professor/conservator, Bruno Pouliot. Led by Kelly McHugh, the artists participated in a Q?rius workshop called "Do You Have the Guts" organized by Colleen Popson of the NMNH Office of Education and Outreach. ASC's Igor Krupnik gave a lecture, and NMAI conservation fellow Fran Ritchie assisted with bringing artifacts from Smithsonian collections for the students to examine. Meanwhile, ASC Program Coordinator, Meghan Mulkerin, live tweeted the event and provided factoids all day, resulting in nearly 500,000 impressions on Twitter.

SLIY Gambell 1930 NAA GA30-87Kiruka inflates walrus intestines for drying. Gambell, 1930. Photo courtesy of the National Anthropological Archives, GA 30-87

A new component to the Material Traditions series is a community workshop held for two days after the residency in Anchorage. For Sewing Gut, the workshop will be held in Bethel, in partnership with the Yupiit Piciryarait Cultural Center. Mary Tunuchuk (from Chefornak) will teach local students about gut as a material for sewing by demonstrating the processing of seal intestine and techniques for sewing. Anchorage Museum conservator Sarah Owens, who also participated in the Anchorage residency, will give a presentation on historic and contemporary museum pieces made from gut and assist Mary in teaching.

MTG Mary Tunuchuk 12-02-2014 WCMary Tunuchuk teaches about gut skin sewing. Photo Credit: Wayde Carroll Photography.

Workshop students will learn about processing and sewing gut through hands-on practice with seal intestine provided by Mary for Alaska Native students and with hog intestine provided to non-Native students. Students will begin a small project – an egaleq (window) – traditionally made from seal intestine and used in a qasgiq (community house).

Please let us know if you have questions about this residency program, or about gutskin clothing! Tweet to us @ArcticStudies. Don't forget to check out the Storify of the event on Twitter.

Acknowledgements 

The Sewing Gut residency was made possible by the generous support of the Surdna Foundation, The CIRI Foundation, Alaska State Council on the Arts and the Anchorage Museum. For examples of the local media coverage, please visit these radio and TV links:

The Material Traditions series is project managed by Dawn Biddison (Arctic Studies Center). Sugpiaq artist and videographer Anna Hoover filmed the residency and will also film and photograph during the workshop. The residency was photographed by Wayde Carroll. Assistance at the residency and additional sound recording was provided by Heather McClain, a former intern and currently Collections Coordinator at the Seward Community Library and Museum.