Date:  Feb. 26, 2007

Contacts:  Maureen O'Leary, Director of Public Information

Chris Dobbins, Media Relations Assistant

Office of News and Public Information

202-334-2138; e-mail <>


National Academies and National Science Foundation Host

U.S. Opening Ceremony for International Polar Year


WASHINGTON -- The opening ceremony for International Polar Year (IPY) took place today at the National Academies with a lively audience of approximately 400 people, recent video from the polar regions, and a new exhibit of polar art.  The importance of the IPY initiative and glimpses of the research projects were highlighted in remarks given by National Academy of Sciences President Ralph Cicerone, National Science Foundation Director Arden Bement, deputy secretary of the Department of Interior Lynn Scarlett, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Administrator Conrad Lautenbacher, among others.  A panel of polar scientists provided an in-depth discussion of ongoing and new research.


International Polar Year 2007-2008 is a worldwide scientific effort to analyze the role of the polar regions in the global climate system.  During the two-year initiative, researchers from over 60 nations will collaborate on 200 expeditions to the Arctic and Antarctic.  Scientific research from these projects is expected to answer important questions about climate change and the environment, as well as provide a baseline for understanding future environmental change.  The U.S. government will spend about $50 million on IPY, and approximately $350 million will be spent worldwide.


"The polar regions are central to many of the key scientific questions of our times," said Robin Bell, chair of the U.S. National Committee for the International Polar Year, and geophysicist, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University, Palisades, N.Y.  "IPY provides a framework to undertake projects that normally could not be achieved by any single nation, and it allows us to think beyond traditional borders -- whether national borders or disciplinary constraints -- toward a new level of integrated, cooperative science.  IPY also will serve as a mechanism to attract and develop a new generation of scientists and engineers with the versatility to tackle complex global issues."


The National Academies' Polar Research Board serves as the U.S. National Committee for the International Polar Year.  The committee’s role is to act as a liaison with the international community and be a portal for information about the initiative for the nation's science community.  A grant from the Tinker Foundation, along with money from the National Academies, funds the work of the committee.


An agenda for U.S. participation in IPY was formulated in 2004 by the National Research Council.  A Vision for the International Polar Year 2007-2008 recommended that the nation's scientific community assess change and variability in the polar regions; begin new polar studies; design and implement multidisciplinary polar observing networks; invest in critical infrastructure and technology; and increase public understanding and importance of the polar regions.  Copies of the report are available from the National Academies Press at 


The 2007-2008 International Polar Year is the fourth such event -- other polar years took place in 1882, 1937, and 1957 -- and it marks the 125th anniversary of the first polar year.


For more information on the project, visit or e-mail An overview of research goals and activities is available at  briefs/IPY  final2.pdf


[ This news release and a podcast of the event are available at ]


Members of the U.S. National Committee for the International Polar Year are:


Robin Bell (chair)

Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University, Palisades, N.Y.


James E. Berner
Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium,


David Bromwich
Byrd Polar Research Center, Ohio State University, Columbus


Calvin Robert Clauer
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor


Jody Deming
University of Washington, Seattle


Andrew G. Fountain
Portland State University, Portland, Ore.


Richard Glenn
Arctic Slope Regional Corp., Barrow, Alaska


Jackie Grebmeier
University of Tennessee, Knoxville


Sven D. Haakanson
Alutiiq Museum and Archaeological Repository, Kodiak, Alaska


Lawrence Hamilton
University of New Hampshire, Durham


Larry D. Hinzman
University of Alaska, Fairbanks


David Karl
University of Hawaii, Honolulu


Stephanie Pfirman
Barnard College
, New York


Diana Harrison Wall
Colorado State University, Fort Collins


John E. Walsh
University of Illinois, Urbana


James White
University of Colorado, Boulder


Warren Zapol
Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston