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Interview with Amy Merten, EPPR Working Group Chair

Read an interview with Amy Merten, Ph.D., the new chair of EPPR, the Arctic Council's working group on emergency prevention, preparedness and response…

Along with the incoming U.S. Chairmanship of the Arctic Council, many of the Arctic Council Working Groups (ACAP, AMAP, CAFF, EPPR, PAME and SDWG) have also welcomed new Chairs. The incoming Chair of the Working Group EPPR (Emergency Prevention, Preparedness and Response) is Amy Merten, Ph.D., of NOAA's Office of Response and Restoration.

Q: What is your background, and how is it that you came to be the EPPR chair?

I have a background in emergency response and data management for oil spills. I've been the data management lead for the Deepwater Horizon Natural Resource Damage Assessment, and worked on shoreline assessment and cleanup techniques for spills related to Hurricane Katrina (Mississippi Delta) as well as the Selendang Ayu (Unalaska, Alaska), the Athos (Delaware Bay), and several smaller spills in Louisiana, Texas and California. I have expertise in alternative response techniques and have been focused on oil-in-ice issues since 2005. I currently lead a team of scientists who specialize in data visualization and data management where one of our tools, the Environmental Response Management Application, or ERMA, was an EPPR pilot project allowing states to share data through a common platform. Together, all of those experiences brought me to the opportunity to chair EPPR.

Q: What element of your role as EPPR Chair are you most looking forward to?

Collaboration across multiple countries. Each country has unique challenges and perspectives, but there are also lots of areas of common interest. I look forward to finding those areas of overlapping interest to solve problems and maintain EPPR's reputation as a Working Group that delivers useful and practical products.

Q: What are one or two of the most important challenges within EPPR’s area of work in the years ahead?

Establishing what we can contribute to the prevention efforts that will follow from the Framework Plan for Cooperation on Prevention of Oil Pollution from Petroleum and Maritime Activities in the Marine Areas of the Arctic (2015) will be one of our challenges. Also, establishing a strong search-and-rescue (SAR) portfolio will be important, recognizing that our mandate was expanded by Arctic Ministers to include SAR explicitly. The main challenge will be coordinating with other fora and Working Groups to ensure good communication and avoid duplicating our efforts. Although we have a good start on the implementation of the Agreement on Cooperation on Marine Oil Pollution Preparedness and Response (2013), we will also be focusing on participating in U.S.-led exercises under that agreement and working on a project to support small communities in oil spill preparedness and response activities.

Q: How will EPPR be working to tackle those challenges?

EPPR will tackle those challenges by being proactive in our communication strategy. I will also be working closely with the vice chairs and executive secretariat to cover as many opportunities as possible to coordinate with external groups that also deal with issues related to our mandate.