President Barack Obama has appointed James J. McCarthy, Alexander Agassiz Professor of Biological Oceanography in the Museum of Comparative Zoology, to the U.S. Arctic Research Commission (USARC). McCarthy joins the Honorable Edward Saggan Itta of Alaska as the only two new appointments to the independent federal agency.

“James McCarthy has been recognized internationally for his fundamental contributions to oceanography and Arctic science,” said Fran Ulmer, current chair of the USARC. “I am pleased that the president has appointed two extremely well-qualified individuals to the commission. Both gentlemen will undoubtedly bring great expertise and valuable perspectives to our work.”

“No place on Earth is changing faster than the Arctic,” McCarthy said. “How Arctic warming affects weather in adjacent regions across North America and Eurasia is an important and increasingly timely research question. Summer sea ice is melting faster than could have been expected only a few years ago, with new records set just this year, and without summer sea ice the Arctic ecosystem would be radically different. Coincident with, and partly due to, these changes in Arctic conditions, there are many new initiatives to develop commerce in this region. I look forward to joining this commission and participating in discussions about the research that will help to formulate wise uses of the Arctic.”

The USARC advises the president and Congress on domestic and international Arctic research through recommendations and reports. The commission releases a biennial “Goals and Objectives for Arctic Research” report for the nation’s Arctic research program, and the goals are adopted by the Interagency Arctic Research Policy Committee, which develops the United States’ five-year Arctic Research Plan.

Two Harvard teams win energy grants