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Nation’s leading Arctic experts to discuss U.S. role and interests in the region

Penn State will host the leading U.S. experts on the Arctic for a discussion on the role and interests of the United States in shaping global strategies for the Arctic region on Oct. 20 in the Lewis Katz Building.
Melting ice

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Members of the U.S. delegation to the Arctic Council, representatives from the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and the U.S. Department of the Interior, and Penn State experts will discuss the role and interests of the United States in shaping global strategies for the Arctic region from 1 to 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 20, in the Sutliff Auditorium of the Lewis Katz Building on Penn State’s University Park campus.

"The Penn State Symposium on the Arctic: U.S. Chairmanship of the Arctic Council and Strategy for the Arctic Region" is free and open to the public. An informal reception will follow. Paid parking is available in the Katz Building lot and the East Deck on Bigler Road, across Park Avenue from the Katz Building. The event will also be streamed live online. To view the live stream, visit

The event features keynote speeches by retired Coast Guard Adm. Robert J. Papp Jr., special representative for the Arctic, who leads the effort to advance U.S. interests in the Arctic region as the United States holds the chairmanship of the Arctic Council from 2015-2017; and Fran Ulmer, chair of the U.S. Arctic Research Commission and special adviser to the secretary of state on Arctic science and policy.

The symposium will be opened by a welcome speech from Nicholas P. Jones, executive vice president and provost of Penn State. Following the keynote speeches, there will be two panels. The first panel includes Klaus Keller, professor of geosciences and director of Penn State’s Center for Climate Risk Management, and Michael D. Farber, senior adviser to the director, U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement. The second panel includes retired Navy Vice Adm. James W. Houck, interim dean of Penn State Law and the School of International Affairs; retired Navy Rear Adm. David W. Titley, professor from practice in the Department of Meteorology; and Michael E. Mann, Distinguished Professor of Meteorology and director of the Penn State Earth System Science Center.

The symposium is a timely response to the pressing security, economic, environmental, and energy production issues in the Arctic region. The rate of ice retreat in the summer of 2015 remained faster than the typical rate for the same months in previous years. The melting ice in the Arctic is opening access to shipping routes, as well as mineral and oil resources that were previously unreachable. At the same time, interested nations have been expanding their presence in the Arctic. In this past August alone, the United States granted final permission for Royal Dutch Shell to drill for oil in the Arctic’s Chukchi Sea; Russian company Gazprom Neft put a second well in service in the Pechora Sea; and Chinese shipping company COSCO is on a path to increase its use of the Northern Sea Route.

The experts at the symposium will explore a wide range of issues, such as:

  • Have any principles emerged since the inauguration of the Arctic Council to guide future proliferation of commercial activities in the Arctic region?
  • ​What is the leadership role for the United States, which assumed the 2015-2017 chairmanship of the Arctic Council, in the Arctic region?
  • How will the changing natural conditions in the Arctic region affect future geospatial technology developments?
  • What implications do the recent developments in the Arctic region have on U.S. national security and relevant regulatory schemes?
  • How have the major concerns regarding social impacts of climate change been playing out through the lens of the Arctic?

This discussion is co-sponsored by the Penn State Center for Solutions to Weather and Climate Risk, the Center for Climate Risk Management, Penn State Institutes of Energy and the Environment, Penn State Law, the Penn State School of International Affairs, the Rock Ethics Institute, The Network for Sustainable Climate Risk Management, and The Polar Center.

For additional information, please contact Lara B. Fowler at or 814-865-4806. 

Speaker biographies listed in order of appearance

Robert J. Papp Jr.
Retired Coast Guard Adm. Robert J. Papp Jr. became the State Department’s special representative for the Arctic in July 2014. He leads the effort to advance U.S. interests in the Arctic region, with a focus on Arctic Ocean governance, climate change, economic, environmental, and security issues in the Arctic region as a member of the Arctic Council chairmanship. Prior to this appointment, Papp served as the 24th commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, and led the largest component of the Department of Homeland Security. As a flag officer, Papp served as commander, Coast Guard Atlantic Area; chief of staff for the Coast Guard and commanding officer of Coast Guard Headquarters; commander, Ninth Coast Guard District; and director of Reserve and Training.

Fran Ulmer
Fran Ulmer is chair of the U.S. Arctic Research Commission, where she has served since being appointed by President Barack Obama in March 2011. In June 2010, Obama appointed her to the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling. From 2007 to 2011, Ulmer was chancellor of Alaska's largest public university, the University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA). Prior to that, she was a Distinguished Visiting Professor of Public Policy and director of the Institute of Social and Economic Research at UAA. She is a member of the Arctic Council chairmanship, the global board of The Nature Conservancy, and the board of the National Parks Conservation Association.​

Klaus Keller
Klaus Keller is a professor of geosciences at Penn State, with an adjunct appointment as a professor of engineering and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University. At Penn State, Keller directs the Center for Climate Risk Management (CLIMA) as well as the NSF-sponsored research network for Sustainable Climate Risk Management (SCRiM). Before joining Penn State, he worked as a research scientist and lecturer at Princeton University and as an engineer in Germany. Keller graduated from Princeton with a Ph.D. in civil and environmental engineering. He received master’s degrees from M.I.T. and Princeton as well as an engineer’s degree from the Technische Universität Berlin.

Michael D. Farber
Michael Farber is the senior advisor to the director for the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement within the U.S. Department of the Interior. He has created an investigation and review unit to strengthen U.S. oversight of offshore oil and gas operations and investigate misconduct allegations. In addition, he is leading development of proposed Arctic-specific regulations and providing strategic advice on the oversight of exploratory drilling operations in the U.S. Arctic. Prior to joining the Department of the Interior, Farber was a partner at Dechert, an international law firm, focusing on antitrust and other federal and state investigations.​

James W. Houck
Retired Navy Vice Adm. James W. Houck is interim dean and Distinguished Scholar in Residence at Penn State Law and the School of International Affairs. Houck focuses his research and teaching on international law and national security law, with a particular emphasis on the law of the sea and the law of armed conflict. He joined Penn State in 2012 after retiring as the 41st judge advocate general of the U.S. Navy, during which time he was the principal military legal counsel to the secretary of the Navy and chief of naval operations. In this role, he led the 2,300 attorneys, enlisted legal staff, and civilian employees of the worldwide Navy Judge Advocate General’s Corps.

David W. Titley
Retired Navy Rear Adm. David Titley is professor of practice in Penn State’s Department of Meteorology and the founding director of the Penn State Center for Solutions to Weather and Climate Risk. He previously served as chief operating officer of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration from 2012 to 2013. Before assuming these positions, he was chief oceanographer of the U.S. Navy, where he served for 32 years. He also initiated the Navy’s Task Force on Climate Change and serves on the CNA Military Advisory Board and Hoover Institute’s Arctic Initiative. ​

Michael E. Mann
Michael E. Mann is Distinguished Professor of Meteorology at Penn State, with joint appointments in the Department of Geosciences and the Earth and Environmental Systems Institute. He is also director of the Penn State Earth System Science Center. Mann was a lead author on the “Observed Climate Variability and Change” chapter of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Third Scientific Assessment Report in 2001 and was organizing committee chair for the National Academy of Sciences Frontiers of Science in 2003. Mann contributed to the reports of the IPCC, which was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007. 


Lara B. Fowler
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