The Arctic Futures Institute (AFI) is a joint initiative between three Maine-based partners: the Center for Oceans & Coastal Law of the University of Maine School of Law, the Climate Change Institute of the University of Maine, and the World Ocean Observatory. The three founding AFI institutions are a unique combination of science, law, policy and outreach based in Maine.

In January 2015, a White House executive order established the Arctic Steering Committee to sharpen coordination of the 22 federal agencies working on U.S. priorities in the region. U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Angus King (I- ME) launched the Senate Arctic Caucus to promote congressional awareness of the gravity of the challenges in the northern latitudes. Under the chair of the United States the Arctic Council met in Maine in October 2017. The AFI will build on the energy and interest stimulated by that meeting and will invite participation State-wide of academic/research institutions, government and non-government entities, and businesses--many of which served on the Arctic Council Maine Host Committee.

Image courtesy of Max Stoiber

Image courtesy of Max Stoiber

AFI, an Arctic center of excellence located in Maine, will:

  • Nurture and leverage an international network in the northern latitudes to advance State objectives including research, education and commerce.
  • Contribute to the global effort to balance science and commerce, helping to assure the long-term preservation of the Arctic.
  • Promote understanding of Arctic issues through web-based and other communications to build broad public awareness of Arctic issues and the Institute in Maine, the United States, and throughout the global Arctic community.

To understand and communicate issues relating to the northern latitudes through examination of policy and law, science and research, education and public engagement. AFI will undertake programs to include academic studies and publications, courses and conferences, curriculum development, student internships and exchanges, capacity building programs in Arctic communities, organizational collaborations, digital platforms, on-line forums, social media, and other tools for public access and engagement.

The AFI will conduct interdisciplinary teaching supported by advanced research. By Summer 2018 courses and applied research opportunities are planned as part of the AFI summer Arctic Institute. Most credit-bearing teaching will be at the graduate level, although undergraduate offerings in complimentary fields would be welcome. Students will be able to earn a certificate in Arctic Studies. Non-credit courses and research opportunities will also be available.

Externships and research projects are planned for:

  • Science (e.g., climate, glaciology, glacial geology, biology, ecology, physical oceanography)
  • Polar Code implementation, SOLAS compliance
  • Indigenous Governance and Development
  • Arctic Council Agreements

The aim of the teaching program is to generate future leaders in Arctic law, science, business and government.

AFI research aboard S/V Westward out of Portland, Maine will enable students to work with leading scholars from the United States and other Arctic nations. Projects will seek to better understand and predict the profound transformations underway in the Arctic, exposing a new ocean and dramatic changes to the existing Arctic landscape, people and ecosystems that we have only begun to explore.

Prospective AFI research projects during Arctic cruises would include:

  • Arctic Science, Law & Policy
  • Arctic Climate Futures
  • Arctic Maritime Security
  • Arctic Energy
  • Arctic Remote Marine Sensing
  • Arctic Shipping,Ports and Infrastructure
  • GIS (geographic imaging system) Applications for Arctic Boundaries
  • Polar Code and Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) Compliance
  • The Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)

AFI has produced an inaugural research paper entitled, “The Arctic: Law, Science and Policy” coauthored by Professors Charles Norchi and Paul Mayewski which appears in the May 2017 issue of The Ocean & Coastal Law Journal.

Drawing upon a global network, AFI will host Visiting Arctic Scholars at various stages of research from post-doctoral through post-tenure. Building upon the success of the Arctic Council Host Committee, AFI will occasionally convene a Maine-Arctic Round Table for North Atlantic stakeholders to share ideas on Arctic research, education, government and commerce.

AFI will incorporate social media into its activities, thereby making available Arctic research and information to citizens, scholars, educators, business and governments. Outreach programs will include ship-board broadcasts of select program activities.

The Arctic Futures Institute seeks to collaborate on mutually beneficial activities with institutions and individuals in Maine, the Arctic and beyond. Should you wish to join in the work of the AFI, please be in touch.


  • Paul Mayweski, Climate Change Institute
  • Peter Neill, World Ocean Observatory
  • Charles Norchi, Center for Oceans & Coastal Law, University of Maine School of Law
  • Jeffrey Thaler, School of Economics, University of Maine