Greater Seattle has made its bid for a position in the ongoing global dialogue on the development and preservation of the Arctic. The University of Washington just launched the inaugural year of a new, cross-institutional initiative dubbed The Future of Ice (FoI). FoI will bring together scientists, policy makers, and students into a formal, multi-year-length collaboration on issues pertaining to Arctic trade, climatology, public policy, and energy development.
One FoI team of scientists has already secured a $200,000 grant from Microsoft’s Paul Allen to build a remote controlled, autonomous instrument that will float underneath sea ice to measure thickness, chemical composition, and other key pieces of data. The initiative also benefits from support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, which recently conferred a grant to the UW’s global studies departments to offset the effects federal cutbacks. FoI is also supporting research at the department of Marine Affairs on the topography and bathometry of the Northern Sea route, the polar trade route along Northern Russia that, as Arctic ice melts, heralds an expansion of existing trade relationships between Asia and Europe.
“There are things happening in the Arctic that have never happened before in the history of human society. It’s going to bring a lot of pollution, it’s going to bring a lot of investment, it’s going to bring a lot of employment,” says FoI co-director Professor Ben Fitzhugh.