David Balton is the Executive Director of the Arctic Executive Steering Committee, which advances and coordinates and U.S. policies and activities in the Arctic region. He previously served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Oceans and Fisheries in the Department of State’s Bureau of Oceans, Environment and Science, attaining the rank of Ambassador in 2006. He was responsible for coordinating the development of U.S. foreign policy concerning oceans and fisheries and overseeing U.S. participation in international organizations dealing with these issues. His portfolio included managing U.S. foreign policy issues relating to the Arctic and Antarctica. Balton functioned as the lead U.S. negotiator on a wide range of agreements in the field of oceans and fisheries and chaired numerous international meetings. During the U.S. Chairmanship of the Arctic Council (2015-2017), he served as Chair of the Senior Arctic Officials. His prior Arctic Council experience included co-chairing the Arctic Council Task Forces that produced the 2011  Agreement on Cooperation on Aeronautical and Maritime Search and Rescue in the Arctic and the 2013  Agreement on Cooperation on Marine Oil Pollution Preparedness and Response in the Arctic. He separately chaired negotiations that produced the Agreement to Prevent Unregulated High Seas Fisheries in the Central Arctic Ocean.

Raina Thiele (Dena’ina Athabascan and Yup’ik)is the Senior Advisor for Alaska Affairs and Strategic Priorities, Department of Interior. She previously servedas Associate Director of Intergovernmental Affairs in the Obama-Biden White House, where she was the President’s Tribal liaison and advised on arctic and climate issues. She also served at the Office of Management and Budget where she oversaw multi-billion-dollar federal programs. A first-generation college graduate, she received her BA from Yale College and a Master in Public Policy degree from Harvard Kennedy School. She was born and raised in Alaska and her family hails from Pedro Bay village on Lake Iliamna and Alexander Creek. She is an enrolled member of Pedro Bay village.   

John Holdren is the Co-Founder and Co-Chair of the Arctic Initiative at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, as well as the Co-Chair of the Science, Technology, and Public Policy Program there. From January 2009 until January 2017, he was President Obama's Science Advisor and Senate-confirmed Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, where among many other responsibilities he served as the Founding Chair of the interagency Arctic Executive Steering Committee. He is a member of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering of the United States, a member of the National Academies' Polar Research Board, and the lead for Harvard's participation in the Permafrost Pathways Project.

Jackie Qataliña Schaeffer, an Iñupiaq from Kotzebue, Alaska, is the Director of Climate Initiatives program at the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium under the division of Community Environment and Health. For decades she has worked across Alaska holistically infusing indigenous knowledge into a variety of sectors she has experience in, including comprehensive planning, energy, housing, water security, sanitation and climate change adaptation for rural communities. Her passion is to serve the indigenous people of Alaska and provide an indigenous perspective to all her work, including the importance and recognition of traditional philosophies, knowledge and world views. Her current work includes climate change assessments, community engagement, community relocation oversight, and overseeing the Center for Climate and Health and the Center for Environmentally Threatened Communities within the Climate Initiatives program. 


Fran Ulmer has been a Senior Fellow at the Belfer Center's Arctic Initiative since 2019. She was a Visiting Professor at Stanford University from 2017 to 2018. Ulmer was appointed by President Obama as the Chair of the U.S. Arctic Research Commission (USARC) in March 2011 and served in that role until August 2020. From 2014 to 2017, Ulmer was a Special Advisor on Arctic Science and Policy at the State Department. In June 2010, President Obama appointed her to the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling. From 2007 to 2011, she served as Chancellor of the University of Alaska Anchorage, Alaska’s largest public university. Ulmer served as an elected official for 18 years as the mayor of Juneau, a state representative and as Lieutenant Governor of Alaska. She previously worked as legal counsel to the Alaska Legislature, legislative assistant to Governor Jay Hammond and Director of Policy Development for the state. In addition, she was the first Chair of the Alaska Coastal Policy Council and served for more than 10 years on the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission. She has served on numerous local, state, and federal advisory committees and boards. Ulmer earned a J.D. cum laude from the University of Wisconsin Law School, and has been a Fellow at the Institute of Politics at Harvard Kennedy School.