The Young Professionals Network was honored to host Dr. Ross A. Virginia, Director of the Institute of Arctic Studies at Dartmouth College, for a conversation on recent developments in and future prospects for the Arctic on Monday, March 8. The event was moderated by Dr. Katherine Kjellström Elgin, DAAD Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, senior adviser at fp21, and YPN Class of 2020 alumna.

Dr. Virginia is the Myers Family Professor of Environmental Science and Director of the Institute of Arctic Studies at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. He received his Ph.D. in ecology from the University of California, Davis, and previously held positions at the University of California, Riverside, and San Diego State University. He is interested in how rapid environmental change affects ecosystems and society. His research seeks to understand how climate change alters soil biodiversity and the cycling of carbon in Arctic and Antarctic ecosystems.

He was co-lead scholar for the first two rounds of the Fulbright Arctic Initiative. He also served as principal investigator of the National Science Foundation Joint Science Education Project in Greenland and the Joint Antarctic School Expedition in Chile and Antarctica. The goal of this expedition was to train and inspire future generations of international polar scientists. He also studies the relationships between the disciplines of ecology, ecosystem science, and environmental law and policy. He is active in Arctic policy and global environmental issues as co-director of the University of the Arctic's Institute for Arctic Policy, as a global fellow in the Wilson Center’s Polar Initiative, and as a member of the board of governors for Ilismatusarfik (University of Greenland) and the University of the Arctic. He is an elected fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and The Explorers Club.

Dr. Katherine Kjellström Elgin is currently a DAAD Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. She is also a senior adviser at fp21, a new think tank dedicated to the processes of foreign policy. She earned her Ph.D. in public affairs with a focus on security studies from Princeton University's School of Public & International Affairs. At Princeton, Dr. Elgin served as the director of the Center for International Security Studies' Strategic Education Initiative. She has also worked at Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. and the Institute for Security & Development Policy in Stockholm, Sweden. 

Dr. Virginia kicked off the discussion with an overview of the Arctic region; the status of political, security, and social issues in the Arctic; and projections for future environmental conditions in the region. The conversation touched on issues such as security disputes, diplomacy recommendations, perspectives of local Indigenous communities, and regional economic opportunities. The event concluded with a lively question and answer session from current YPN fellows and alumni. Questions explored topics like China's involvement in the Arctic and future prospects for Antarctica.