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Alaska scientist appointed to fill vacancy at key US Arctic research agency

Alaska Native researcher appointed by Biden for final seat on U.S. Arctic Research Commission
Published: May. 15, 2022 at 5:38 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTUU) - Nikoosh Carlo, an Alaska Native researcher out of Fairbanks, has been appointed by President Joe Biden for the final seat on the U.S. Arctic Research Commission. She now becomes part of a group that is required by congress to submit a report every two years, outlining key Arctic research issues for the U.S. government to pursue.

Carlo, who said she is of Athabascan descent, has a background that includes a doctorate in neuroscience. She’s also spent time consulting for community-based climate planning, she said.

“I have worked at several federal agencies, I have worked statewide in Alaska,” she said. “But in many of those places, I find myself as the only person of color in the room. So it’s a really special opportunity.”

Carlo said climate change is warming Alaska at twice the national average, and that Indigenous people have been hit disproportionately hard by climate change while caring for 80% of the planet’s remaining biodiversity. Climate change solutions, she said, must put the needs, values, and expertise of Indigenous communities in focus.

“People across the Arctic are already witnessing the impacts of climate change,” she said. “Across Alaska, this means that these impacts are felt, no matter where you live. Coastal villages in western Alaska are losing homes and public infrastructure to erosion, to flooding, to warming permafrost. Southcentral Alaska glaciers are rapidly disappearing. Interior Alaska is seeing an increase of numbers and intensity of wildfires.”

In her time with the commission, Carlo said she hopes to remake government systems and policy to put climate change action in the forefront.

With this appointment, the commission will, for the first time, include four women and three Indigenous members.

“We had a moment in our meeting, and we also happened to be sitting next to each other, but just the recognition of how significant that it is, to be there to support each other but also to mentor others and encourage others to do the things you’re really passionate about,” Carlo said.

So far, the commission has selected five main issues of focus: environmental hazards and risks, infrastructure, economics, health and well-being, and research cooperation.

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