UW News

June 11, 2015

Conference next week will discuss future of Arctic, sub-Arctic seas

UW News

While the Shell drilling platform sits in a Seattle port and its future is hotly debated, a conference on changing Northern waters – including the Chukchi Sea where the oil company plans to use the rig to search for oil – will be held June 15-17 on the UW campus.

yellow oil rig with Seattle in background

Shell Oil plans to use the Polar Pioneer, now docked at Seattle’s Terminal 5, to search for oil beneath the Chukchi Sea.Dennis Bratland / Wikimedia

The symposium is the 10th annual meeting of the international Ecosystem Studies of Sub-Arctic Seas Program, or ESSAS, which includes members from the U.S., Canada, Iceland, Norway, Japan and other nations. Members take a scientific look at what increasingly ice-free summers will mean for the Arctic Ocean and surrounding waters.

The three-day event at the UW School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences will feature interdisciplinary “research in the sub-arctic North Atlantic, sub-arctic North Pacific, and the Arctic Ocean that bears on the issue of how changes in sea ice are likely to affect these marine ecosystems. The symposium will also consider the people who depend upon these ecosystems and how they may be able to cope with the changes in the ecosystem goods and services that are coming.”

UW presenters include:

  • Kristin Laidre, a scientist at the UW Applied Physics Laboratory and assistant professor at the UW School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, will discuss the status of Arctic marine mammal populations, loss in their sea-ice habitat and broad conservation recommendations for the 21st century
  • Donna Hauser, a graduate student in the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, will talk about how beluga whales in the northern Pacific Ocean pursue their prey, Arctic cod
  • Ben Fitzhugh, a UW associate professor of anthropology, will talk about climate shifts since the end of the last ice age, and human adaptations to seasonally frozen seas and coasts of the North Pacific
  • Betsy Baker, a visiting scholar with the UW School of Law, will speak about how lawyers and regulators think about Arctic sea ice
  • Qinghua Ding, a research scientist at the UW Applied Physics Laboratory, will discuss how the tropics influenced recent Arctic warming in northeastern Canada and Greenland
  • Mike Steele, a sea-ice expert at the UW Applied Physics Laboratory, will discuss the current sea-ice retreat and its impact on the Arctic Ocean
  • Neil Banas, a climate modeler in the School of Oceanography, will discuss how timing of sea-ice retreat affects the production of zooplankton needed by fish in the Bering Sea
  • Jan Ohlberger, a postdoctoral researcher in the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, will discuss how climate change will impact the productivity of Barents Sea cod
  • Craig Lee, an oceanographer with the UW Applied Physics Laboratory, will talk about the physics at the ice-edge zone to better forecast conditions in those regions
  • Vincent Gallucci, a professor in the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, will talk about the role of sea ice for Inuit people and their sustainable way of life

The registration fee is $100, or $25 for UW students. Last-minute registration is available at the door.

Other topics include everything from projecting the future of Alaskan fisheries, the role of tidewater glaciers, and even an archaeological excavation at a Medieval fishing station in Western Iceland.

The event is co-sponsored by the UW College of the Environment and the UW Future of Ice initiative. UW organizers include Fitzhugh and George Hunt, a research professor in the UW School of Aquatic and Fishery Science who studies marine birds, and how climate variability affects Bering Sea fisheries.


Media are welcome to attend. More information and an agenda are available from Hunt at geohunt2@uw.edu.