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Dr. W. Russell Callender

Assistant Administrator, National Ocean Service

Why do you think Arctic science, research, and monitoring are important?
As multi-year sea ice continues to disappear at a rapid rate, the Arctic is becoming a busier place. Vessel traffic in the area is on the rise. This is leading to new maritime concerns, especially in areas increasingly transited by the offshore oil and gas industry, cruise liners, military craft, tugs and barges, and fishing vessels.
Keeping all of this new ocean traffic moving smoothly is a growing concern for safety’s sake. It’s also important to the U.S. economy, environment, and national security. That’s why NOAA is striving to update Arctic nautical charts, add new tide and current monitoring stations, conduct geodetic surveys in the region, and prepare for potential incidents.

What makes NOAA’s Arctic mission unique?
NOAA is the nation’s authority for establishing the geospatial foundation, conducting hydrographic surveying, monitoring tides and currents, and responding to oil and other incidents along our coasts. NOAA is carrying out these activities in the Arctic to better understand what is happening in the Arctic today and to prepare for change in the future.

What are the biggest challenges facing the Arctic and how can NOAA respond to them over the next decade?
One of the biggest challenges will be understanding the changes happening in the Arctic and how those changes affect the region as well as the rest of the country. NOAA’s Environmental Intelligence can help provide the data, tools, and services that communities and businesses need to make informed decisions.

Do you have any personal stories to share about the Arctic?
I’ve had the chance to travel to Alaska several times, either on a personal basis or as part of my work at NOAA and have always been impressed by the amazing beauty and vastness of the region. I had the opportunity to be in Kodiak, Alaska, for the deployment of NOAA ships Fairweather and Rainier on the 2015 Arctic Expedition. The mission’s primary aim was to collect hydrographic data for creating and updating nautical charts—critical as diminishing ice means the region is becoming increasingly accessible to ships. While in Alaska, I met with Federal partners including representatives from the Coast Guard and the Department of the Interior, as well as officials from the Alaska Ocean Observing System and Alaska Sea Grant. I also visited the Kachemak Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve and NOAA’s Kasitsna Bay Laboratory. The common theme across all of these interactions was the fact that the region is changing rapidly and NOAA’s products, tools, and services are crucial for understanding the impacts of that change.

Learn more about Dr. W Russell Callender here.

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