Sunday, October 24, 2021
HomeClimate ChangeArctic & AntarcticPresident Biden Appoints Commissioners of U.S. Arctic Research Commission

President Biden Appoints Commissioners of U.S. Arctic Research Commission


WASHINGTON – Today, President Biden announced six commissioners to the U.S. Arctic Research Commission (USARC):

  • Michael Sfraga, Chair
  • Elizabeth Ann Cravalho
  • David Michael Kennedy
  • Mark D. Myers
  • Jackie A. Richter-Menge
  • Deborah Vo

The United States depends upon the USARC Commissioners to provide insightful guidance and rational, unbiased assessments of actions to maintain our position as an Arctic nation guided by science. The President’s appointments reflect his commitment to ensuring that USARC’s focus on scientific research goals and objectives for the Arctic are derived from a broad range of expertise and perspectives. One-third of the appointed commissioners are Indigenous, half are women, and two-thirds are residents of Alaska. The legislation that established the USARC specifies there shall be four Commissioners with academic or research experience, two who bring industry perspectives, and one Indigenous representative. 

Michael Sfraga, Chair
Dr. Michael Sfraga is the founding director of the Polar Institute and serves as the director of the Global Risk and Resilience Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, DC. An Alaskan and a geographer by training, his work focuses on the changing geography of the Arctic and Antarctic landscapes, Arctic policy, and the impacts and implications of a changing climate on political, social, economic, environmental, and security regimes in the Arctic.

Dr. Sfraga served as distinguished co-lead scholar for the U.S. Department of State’s inaugural Fulbright Arctic Initiative from 2015-2017, a complementary program to the U.S. Chairmanship of the Arctic Council; he held the same position from 2017-2019. He served as chair of the 2020 Committee of Visitors Review of the Section for Arctic Science, Office of Polar Programs, National Science Foundation, and currently serves on the Scientific Advisory Council of the Finnish Institute for International Affairs. Dr. Sfraga previously served in several academic, administrative, and executive positions at the University of Alaska including vice chancellor, associate vice president, faculty member, department chair, and associate dean. He earned the first PhD in geography and northern studies from the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Elizabeth Ann Cravalho
Elizabeth “Liz” Qaulluq Cravalho is vice president of lands for NANA Regional Corporation, an Alaska Native Corporation owned by the Iñupiaq people of Northwest Alaska. She is responsible for providing strategic leadership and management for programs that focus on the environmental protection and enhancement of NANA lands for subsistence use by shareholders and local communities. Ms. Cravalho previously worked in external affairs, representing and advancing NANA’s interests in various areas of policy, including Arctic opportunities, Indigenous representation, and responsible resource development. 

In addition to her time at NANA, Ms.  Cravalho served on the Alaska Arctic Policy Commission for two years, during which she provided recommendations to the Alaska Legislature on Arctic policy matters.  She is also a former board member and Chair of the Alaska Humanities Forum, where she supported building social bridges across Alaska’s diverse geography, cultures and communities. She holds a Master of Science in organization development from American University and a bachelor’s degree in history from Colorado College.

David Michael Kennedy
David Kennedy has served as the Chair of the US Arctic Research Commission since March 2021. Mr. Kennedy has over 50 years of experience and leadership in science, research, environmental management, and development of legislation and national initiatives. His experience in the Arctic is broad: after six years as a U.S. Air Force pilot based in Alaska, Mr. Kennedy worked at the University of Alaska’s Geophysical Institute in Fairbanks as the Research Facilities Director, and later the Director of the Spilled Oil Research Team focusing on Arctic pollution issues. This led to a 30-year career at the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), culminating as the Senior Policy Advisor for the Arctic region where he addressed policy goals, objectives, and programs until 2020.

His most recent work, prior to his initial retirement from NOAA in January 2014, was in the role of Deputy Under Secretary for Operations at NOAA where he led the agency on drafting and implementing the National Strategy for the Arctic Region and the development of the Integrated Arctic Management Report. Coming out of retirement in May 2014, Mr. Kennedy returned to NOAA in the role of Senior Policy Adviser for the Arctic Region in NOAA. In this role he addressed NOAA-wide Arctic policy goals, objectives, and program issues. Mr. Kennedy is a recognized national expert in the field of emergency pollution response; contingency planning; innovative technology development; matrix and collaborative program management; and a suite of coastal issues focused on development, climate change, energy, and coastal resiliency.

Mark D. Myers
Dr. Mark Myers has been engaged in Arctic research, resource management and policy for nearly four decades.   He is the principal of Anchorage based Myenergies and is engaged, through Deloitte and the U.S. Department of State, in overseas capacity building in government resource ministries in the Arctic, the Balkans, and Eastern Europe.  Previously, he served in senior leadership positions with the State of Alaska, University of Alaska, and the U.S. Department of Interior.  These positions included Director of the U.S. Geological Survey, Alaska Commissioner of Natural Resources, Vice Chancellor for Research at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Alaska State Geologist and State Director of Oil and Gas.  Dr. Myers spent 26 years in the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve serving as a pilot and intelligence officer.   He holds BS, MS, and PhD degrees in geology with specialization in clastic sedimentology and the interpretation of paleoenvironments and depositional systems.

Dr. Myers has served on many advisory committees for the Federal and State of Alaska governments including the State of Alaska Committee on Research, the National Petroleum Council, the Methane Hydrate Advisory Committee, the steering committee for the U.S. Global Change Research Program and as a principal member of US Interagency Arctic Research Policy Committee.  He has also been involved with the Arctic Council, serving as a member of the U.S. Delegation for the 2015 Arctic Council Senior Arctic Officials Meeting and as member of the U.S. delegation to the Sustainable Development Working Group and the Scientific Cooperation Task Force. 

Jackie A. Richter-Menge
Dr. Jackie Richter-Menge began her arctic research career in 1981, when she joined the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory (CRREL) in Hanover, NH. Dr. Richter-Menge worked at CRREL for 34 years, gaining first-hand arctic experience by leading or participating in more than 20 field programs. She continues to work as a research affiliate with University of Alaska Fairbanks. Dr. Richter-Menge’s research seeks to understand the impact of the warming climate on the Arctic environment with an emphasis on the sea ice cover. Her work enables the improvement of short-term forecasts to support day-to-day activities and operations, and long-term projections to plan for future climate-related changes. Jackie particularly enjoys educational outreach. She has devoted part of her career to teaching students and the general public about the polar environment and the especially pronounced effects of global warming on the Arctic region.

Dr. Richter-Menge was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Science from the University of Alaska Fairbanks in 2016 in recognition of her research accomplishments. She received the Army Achievement Medal for Civilian Service in 1994, 2012 and 2017 and the Bronze Order of the de Fleury Medal in 2017.

From 2005-2020, Jackie served as lead editor for the web-based Arctic Report Card, issued annually with support from the NOAA Climate Program Office. She served as co-chair for the National Science Foundation Arctic Research Support and Logistics report, “Increasing Arctic Accessibility Over the Next Twenty Years,” and the National Academy of Sciences report, “Seasonal-to-Decadal Predictions of Arctic Sea Ice: Challenges and Strategies.” She also chairs the Science Steering Committee for the U.S. Navy Submarine Arctic Science Program, supporting a unique partnership between the military and civilian research community in the collection of environmental data.

Deborah Vo
Deborah Vo joined Rasmuson Foundation in January 2021 as a program officer on the Program Team, the Foundation’s grantmaking team. She is a lifelong Alaskan whose expertise extends from tribal governance to health care to community development. She most recently worked as special assistant for rural affairs to U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski. During her nearly seven years in Murkowski’s office, Ms. Vo represented the Senator at gatherings, advised her on rural issues, and accompanied her on rural travel. She holds a Bachelors’ degree in Business from Elms College and a Master’s of Business Administration from Alaska Pacific University.

Ms. Vo was born and raised in St. Mary’s on the Lower Yukon River, the youngest of 10 siblings. She started her career as her hometown’s first woman city manager. She also served as a tribal administrator, a health planner facilitating tribal management of statewide Alaska Native health services, and executive director of the Alaska Inter-Tribal Council, a former statewide advocacy group for Alaska’s 229 federally recognized tribes. Ms. Vo also worked for two companies in the Community Development Quota program that channels investments from fisheries into jobs, education and other benefits in 65 Western Alaska communities. She managed rural energy planning for the Alaska Energy Authority.

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