Biden appoints Arctic Research commissioners

Scientists watch from the deck of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy as it cuts through multiyear sea ice in the Arctic Ocean in 2011. (NASA/Kathryn Hansen)

The White House on Friday announced six new appointees to the U.S. Arctic Research Commission and they reflect an emphasis on Alaska and Alaska Native representation.

The USARC is an eight-member board that advises on Arctic policy and research priorities.

One of the new appointees is Liz Qualluk Cravalho of Kotzebue, vice president of lands for Nana Regional Corporation. She wants to advocate for science that can be put into practice in Arctic life.

“As things are changing right now in our communities, for commercial activities, and for all the maritime activity in the Arctic, there’s a strong need to see research done that can be used practically and move our understanding of how we can adapt forward,” she said.

Other appointees are

•Former Alaska Commissioner of Natural Resources Mark Myers.

•Rasmuson Foundation Program Director Deborah Vo, who is originally from St. Mary’s and worked as an advisor to Sen. Lisa Murkowski.

•David Michael Kennedy, who worked for the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration for 30 years, ending as the senior policy advisor for the Arctic.

•Jackie Richter-Menge, who worked at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory and now a research afffiliate at UAF.

•Fairbanksan Michael Sfraga, founding director of the Polar Institute at the Wilson Center Washington D.C.

The Biden administration named Sfraga as chair of the Commission.

The White House says two-thirds of the appointed commissioners are now Alaskan, half are women and one-third are Indigenous.

 “Arctic Today” reported this month that the White House forced four Trump appointees to resign, for lack of required Arctic experience. Three of them listed little or no prior experience in Alaska or the Arctic on their professional biographies.

The White House also announced that it is reviving the Arctic Executive Steering Committee, to coordinate federal action in the Arctic. Its director is David Balton, a former ambassador for oceans and fisheries and a senior Arctic official during the Obama administration.

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Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Alaska Public Media. She reports from the U.S. Capitol and from Anchorage. Reach her at

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