Maine has several experts on Arctic-related topics. Here are just a few:

Ralph Pundt

OCCUPATION: Professor, Maine Maritime Academy

EXPERTISE: He’s teaching the nation’s first Arctic navigation and first responder course

Ralph Pundt

Ralph Pundt

This retired merchant marine captain taught the first ice navigation training course in the United States to students at Maine Maritime Academy in Castine this spring, just in time for new training standards that go into effect for mariners who travel to the Arctic in 2017.

Pundt used simulators to mimic the bridges of an icebreaker and a cargo ship traveling together through an ice field to teach the art of Arctic navigation. Cargo ships that traverse the Arctic often use icebreakers to help cut through the sea ice that remains even during the late summer months.

The Coast Guard, part of the Department of Homeland Security, asked the department to fund the course because it expects more merchant marine vessels to sail the Arctic as rising temperatures melt the ice that once kept the region closed to all but occasional oil tankers, researchers and adventurers. Although clearer now, the shipping routs still pose special risks to vessels.

The spring class had 21 students, but in the future, students from around the country will be able to take the course online. Pundt is also developing an advanced class that the Coast Guard will require all merchant marine captains and first mates who travel the Arctic to take.

Pundt, the head of the academy’s marine transportation department, is a co-founder of the International Maritime Security Network, which has developed a special focus on how to keep mariners safe from pirates who have hijacked hundreds of cargo and tanker vessels and held their crews and cargo ransom for months at a time.

He lives in Brooksville.

Shoshanna White

OCCUPATION: Portland artist

EXPERTISE: Her three-week residency in the Arctic Circle informed new multimedia work

Shoshanna White

Shoshanna White

A year ago, this New York native was one of 25 artists to sail aboard the tall ship Antigua for a three-week tour of the Arctic Circle north of Norway. Examples of her work from this time went on display Saturday at Corey Daniels Gallery in Wells, and a public installation can be seen on Congress Street in Portland.

White says her art, which often integrates photography into painting, sculpture and multimedia, is influenced by the environment and scientific concerns, even though it doesn’t necessarily have an overt political message. She went to the Arctic to see a part of the world deeply affected by humans, even though so few call it home.

She said it wasn’t as physically rigorous as she was expecting, with weather similar to a cold Maine winter, but the landscape itself, which is literally melting away, hit her hard emotionally. This summer, she traveled to Alaska and collected ice from the calving glaciers there to make ice prints.

“This is a deep, important thing going on on the planet right now and I wanted to get a closer view of it,” she said. “I wanted to capture these ephemeral objects that look at first as if they are transparent, but when you look closer, and you shine light through them, they are full of information. They tell us so much.”

While most people realize global warming is causing sea levels to rise and Arctic ice to recede, they don’t think of it on a daily basis. White likes the idea of the public installation on Congress Street because it will force people right here in Maine to wrestle with what is happening, much like White is doing herself.

Christoph Aeppli

OCCUPATION: Senior research scientist, Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences

EXPERTISE: Studies impact of oil spills, including in the Arctic

Christoph Aeppli

Christoph Aeppli

As the senior research scientist at Bigelow in East Boothbay, the marine chemist studies how the chemical composition of oil changes over time as it is exposed to the environment. Little is known about the transformed hydrocarbons, but they are believed to be more toxic, which is a big deal when studying the impact of oil spills.

Much of Aeppli’s work has been done in the Gulf of Mexico, identifying and studying the oil released from the Macondo Well after the Deepwater Horizon explosion in 2010, but some of the lessons learned there may also be of value in the Arctic, where it could take weeks for responders to reach a spill site.

In 2012, a Shell drilling rig, the Kulluk, broke free of its tow ship during high wind and seas, and ran aground near the Kodiak archipelago off the coast of Alaska. The 150,000 gallons of diesel fuel aboard remained encased in a steel tank, but the Coast Guard wrote a what-if report that sharply criticized Shell’s lack of caution.

Bigelow’s Center for Venture Research on the Opening Arctic Ocean, which Aeppli heads up, is studying the possibility of an Arctic oil spill, and how hydrocarbons released there may weather differently than in warm-water spills.

Microbes found in warm waters help to digest oil, but little is known about how the microbes found in the Arctic will react to oil. Aeppli and fellow Bigelow researcher Paty Matrai are studying how surface and sea ice microbes react to oil and if microbes can mitigate oil-tainted Arctic beaches.

Their research will inform methods for responding to Arctic oil spills.

Charles Norchi

OCCUPATION: Professor, University of Maine School of Law

EXPERTISE: Developing Arctic law curriculum

Charles Norchi

Charles Norchi

Maine Law calls Charles Norchi its resident global adventurer, with his expertise in international law, human rights and maritime law being in demand in Europe, the Middle East and Asia, but as of late, he has focused his work on the need to develop robust law and policy to protect the rapidly changing Arctic.

He focuses on how international law can help solve conflicts in the Arctic and mitigate the impact of the changes in the region, like the potential increase in Arctic shipping, including the indigenous population. “People live in the Arctic,” Norchi said. “People whose lives are being greatly impacted, indigenous and nonindigenous.”

Norchi is weaving these Arctic themes into his course work, and is developing Maine Law’s new Arctic law curriculum.

Norchi worked with the Maine North Atlantic Development Office to organize the biggest public forum accompanying the meeting of the Arctic Council’s Senior Arctic Officials this week in Portland. The daylong session Monday at the University of Southern Maine will include remarks by David Balton, U.S. chairman of the Senior Arctic Officials.

This will be the public’s best chance to learn what this week’s closed-door council meetings are all about.

Susan Kaplan

OCCUPATION: Archaeologist at Bowdoin College

EXPERTISE: Director of the Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum

Dr. Susan Kaplan

Dr. Susan Kaplan

While Maine is trying to assert a leadership role in shaping the future of the Arctic, Susan Kaplan, a professor at Bowdoin College and director of the Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum, is here to remind us of Maine’s long and storied history in the Arctic.

After all, it was the museum’s namesake, Adm. Robert Peary, a Maine explorer and Bowdoin alumnus, who “discovered” the North Pole. (It turns out that studies later revealed that Peary was actually 30 to 60 miles short of the North Pole, and some historians believe New York explorer Frederick A. Cook beat him to it.)

But the Arctic Museum is not just about preserving the history of the race to the North Pole – its large collection of Arctic photographs, especially those of indigenous Arctic communities, function as a kind of photo album to that region. Kaplan has even traveled to these villages to help identify people in the pictures.

Kaplan did not plan a career in Arctic studies, but the opportunity to travel to the Arctic as an undergrad at Lake Forest College made her fall in love with the region. In addition to the study of Arctic exploration, Kaplan’s work explores how the Inuit dealt with environmental change and contact with the West.

Paul A. Mayewski

OCCUPATION: Director, University of Maine’s Climate Change Institute

EXPERTISE: Arctic and Antarctic explorer, scientist

Paul A. Mayewski

Paul A. Mayewski

How many people do you know who can put explorer on their resume? Paul Mayewski can.

The professor is the director of the University of Maine’s Climate Change Institute, and he has made a career out of traveling to some of the world’s most remote locations, circling both the North and South poles, to study the ice as it is now, quickly receding, and as it was in the distant past.

He has led more than 50 expeditions to the Arctic, Antarctica, the Himalayas, the Tibetan Plateau and the Andes. The card-carrying member of the Explorers Club has made the first known ascents of many far-flung mountains, and holds a record for surface travel over unexplored Antarctic territory.

His scientific focus is on documenting the changes in atmospheric chemistry, including those occurring naturally and those caused by humans. He pioneered the use of calibrated ice core records to document centuries of old atmospheric conditions.

Despite his global focus, Mayewski is quick to note how the climate change threatening the Arctic is going to affect Maine, driving up sea levels, changing ocean circulation that impacts the Gulf of Maine, producing more icebergs and threatening marine navigation, and, ironically, colder, stormier Maine winters.

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