Latest Research News and Events

December 14, 2018

<i>Photo by Deborah Mercy</i><br>Sea ice floats near Little Diomede Island in the Bering Strait.

The Bering Sea is undergoing massive changes that include the dramatic loss of sea ice last winter. “We have never been here before,” said Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory agent Gay Sheffield. Sheffield, who is based in Nome on the Bering Sea’s eastern shore, has seen the change firsthand as she works with communities, tribes,  federal and state agencies, and the general public . “Two marine ecosystems are rapidly merging,” she said. “What happens next is unknown and will potentially affect us all.” Since record-keeping began in 1850, sea ice had never been as scarce as it was during the winter months of 2017–2018, according to scientists. John Walsh of the International Arctic Research Center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks... read more
December 14, 2018
University of Alaska Fairbanks scientists are presenting their work at the American Geophysical Union’s fall meeting in Washington D.C. this week. Here are some research highlights from the world’s largest Earth and space science meeting. A tsunami is coming to Old Harbor — if not for the roughly 222 people who live there now, then for their descendants. In 1788 the settlement was destroyed by an earthquake and subsequent flooding from a tsunami. Since then, the community on the southeast side of Kodiak Island, Alaska, has relocated at least once and been hit by several additional major earthquakes. The most recent was the Good Friday earthquake of 1964, when the resulting tsunami reportedly left only two homes and a church in its wake. It... read more
December 14, 2018
University of Alaska Fairbanks scientists are presenting their work at the American Geophysical Union’s fall meeting in Washington D.C. this week. Here are some research highlights from the world’s largest Earth and space science meeting. Later freeze-up. Warmer surface water. Shifting walrus diets. Less cold water to serve as refuge for young fish. Changing pollock distribution. More freshwater. Lower sea bird reproduction. These were the anxious stories shared by a small, dedicated group of Arctic scientists at an Arctic Research Consortium of the United States town hall meeting during American Geophysical Union this week. These changes, and many others, are taking place in the Bering Sea. They are likely triggered by climate warming and... read more
December 14, 2018

<i>Photo by Chris Maio</i><br /> A former house site is seen on a coastal bluff in Port Heiden, which has some of the highest erosion rates in the world.

Alaska villages facing coastal disasters may be able to use new erosion-monitoring tools as part of their decision-making arsenal, thanks to a pilot study led by the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Lead author Chris Maio, an assistant professor of coastal geography at the UAF College of Natural Science and Mathematics, reported the findings on Dec. 14 at the American Geophysical Union’s fall meeting. The Stakes for Stakeholders study began three years ago, when it was becoming clear that many Alaska villages were not equipped to accurately document the destruction resulting from storms and other environmental events. One such situation occurred in 2013. After several villages were so damaged by a series of severe storms that a federal... read more
December 12, 2018
University of Alaska Fairbanks scientists are presenting their work at the American Geophysical Union’s fall meeting in Washington D.C. this week. Here are some research highlights from the world’s largest Earth and space science meeting. University of Alaska Fairbanks scientist Peter Bieniek is predicting wind speed to guide development of a potential oil and gas project off Alaska’s Arctic coast. In his AGU poster, Bieniek described how his wind data will be used to develop a 3D wave model. Project developers need the model to design a man-made gravel island for a proposed well-drilling site 20 miles east of Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. Bieniek’s projections, which extend to 2100, will help assess how climate trends will affect the facility. Ice... read more
December 12, 2018

<i>Photo by Phillip Spor</i><br /> Firefighters conduct a burnout operation along the trans-Alaska oil pipeline at the Aggie Creek Fire northwest of Fairbanks in 2015.

Researchers at the University of Alaska Fairbanks soon may forecast the likelihood of Alaska wildfires more accurately, just in time for the upcoming fire season. The new method, which they presented this week at the American Geophysical Union, aims to predict higher or lower fire activity during the summer. Predictive tools exist in the Lower 48, but this is one of the first seasonal forecasting products of its kind in Alaska. These predictions are important for fire managers in Alaska, because they share firefighters, supplies and other assets with the Lower 48. In early March, they begin allocating these resources. “The fire managers need some idea of what’s going to happen during the summer,” said lead presenter Uma Bhatt. “This was... read more
December 11, 2018

Vladimir Romanovsky and a permafrost thaw

Seventy percent of the current infrastructure in the Arctic has a high potential to be affected by thawing  permafrost in the next 30 years. Even meeting the climate change targets of the Paris Agreement will not substantially reduce those projected impacts, according to a new study published in Nature Communications. “Much more needs to be done to prepare Alaska and Alaskans for the adverse consequences of coming changes in permafrost and climate,” said Vladimir Romanovsky, a scientist with the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute who has been monitoring permafrost across Alaska for 25 years. Permafrost is ground that is frozen year-round for a minimum of two years. When it thaws, it can change from solid earth into mud.... read more
December 10, 2018

Photo courtesy of Robert CapornPavlof Volcano erupts on March 27, 2016.

University of Alaska Fairbanks scientists are presenting their work at the American Geophysical Union’s fall meeting in Washington D.C. this week. Here are some research highlights from the world’s largest Earth and space science meeting. Fritz Freudenberger 907-474-7185 A volcano is like a stream. It might sound like a Zen proverb, but it’s a useful comparison for University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute graduate student Julia Gestrich. Scientists can use stream flow to understand volcano ash plumes, Gestrich explained while presenting her research at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting in Washington, D.C., this week. Gestrich and her academic advisor, Alaska Volcano Observatory coordinating... read more
December 10, 2018
A new climate dataset representing historic and future conditions in Alaska, the Yukon and Northwest Territories is now available on Amazon’s Public Dataset Program. The data, placed on Amazon by a team at the University of Alaska Fairbanks International Arctic Research Center, represents more than 40 climate variables, such as temperature, precipitation, humidity, wind and more. The data is public, giving Arctic researchers, private companies and citizen scientists information that could significantly improve Arctic knowledge and development. “Not only can climate researchers build off of this data, but anyone can,” said data team member Erin Trochim. “You can produce whatever you want using this data; build an app or commercialize a... read more
December 6, 2018

<i>UAF photo by JR Ancheta</i><br /> Geophysics graduate student Chris Carr describes how Grace Schaible's gift to the university helps students during a Nov. 26 event at the Chancellor's Residence.

A $2.7 million gift from the estate of longtime university supporter Grace Schaible will benefit students, public radio and art collections at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. The bequest is one of the largest private donations in UAF’s history. “Grace began her remarkable career in a remarkable way. She was named Outstanding Woman in both her freshman and senior years before graduating from the university in 1949,” said UAF Chancellor Dan White. “We are grateful to have had the opportunity to have shared 73 years with her as a student, staff member, alumna, donor and tireless advocate for the university.” The largest portion of the gift, more than $2.2 million and nearly 1 million Alaska Airlines miles, will support graduate students... read more
December 5, 2018

Join Hangouts Meet: Join by phone: 515-674-2272‬ (PIN: ‪557 584 683‬#) For more information, email Heather McFarland at
December 4, 2018

<i>Image by Klara Maisch</i><br /> Klara Maisch painted this seascape to illustrate seasonal variability in the Chukchi Sea.

                        A recent study led by University of Alaska Fairbanks scientists Claudine Hauri and Seth Danielson is combining art and science to characterize the Chukchi Sea, a rapidly changing ecosystem off northwestern Alaska. The Chukchi Ecosystem Observatory is the first Arctic monitoring site to continuously and simultaneously measure a large suite of biological, chemical and physical characteristics of the Chukchi Sea. Over the last few decades, the region has seen dramatic shifts in sea ice cover, ocean temperature and storm activity. The observatory, three moorings densely outfitted with scientific sensors, is located more than 60 miles offshore at a biological hotspot where many walruses feed. Water, heat, nutrients and... read more
November 28, 2018

<i>Photo courtesy of Kelly Walker</i><br>Kelly Walker sets up a bottom trawl net on the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Healy during the Chukchi Borderlands Ocean Exploration Cruise in 2016.

Recruiting seems to come naturally to Kelly Walker. When she’s not trying to persuade students to come to the University of Alaska Fairbanks College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, she’s enlisting women hockey players and triathlon participants. Walker is the facilities coordinator and student recruiter for CFOS. She took the position in January 2018 after receiving both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in fisheries from the college. Now, some 10 years after she first came to UAF, she encourages other students to follow in her footsteps. During a fourth-grade field trip from her home in Valdez to the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward, Walker became fascinated by sea creatures. Working in the Valdez hatchery in high school shifted her... read more
November 27, 2018

Alan Tonne at the Fairbanks Experiment Farm

The World Meteorological Organization will recognize the Fairbanks Experiment Farm for more than a century of keeping weather records at a Nov. 30 ceremony in Fairbanks. The farm, which is part of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, operates the longest continuously running weather observation station in Alaska. It has been recording weather data since July 1, 1911. The World Meteorological Organization announced this summer that the farm was one of four long-term observing stations in the United States being recognized in 2018. The awards ceremony is open to the public and will take place from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Nov. 30 in Room 501 of the Akasofu Building, on the Fairbanks campus’ West Ridge. The World Meteorological Organization, which is a... read more
November 25, 2018
The public is invited to a party at the University of Alaska Fairbanks on Nov. 26 to watch the NASA InSight lander touch down on Mars. The event will be held in the Vis Space visualization environment, on the lower floor of the West Ridge Research Building in Room 010. Doors open at 10 a.m., and the lander is scheduled to touch down at approximately 11 a.m. The party will feature NASA television coverage of the landing, which is scheduled to run from 10 to 11:30 a.m. The event will also include discussion about Mars and space exploration by members of the Geophysical Institute, and a Mars trivia contest with prizes. InSight is short for Interior Exploration Using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport. The mission, which... read more