Latest Research News and Events

September 13, 2017

A new collaborative research project will investigate potential factors that have caused the Cook Inlet beluga whale population to remain in severe decline since the 1990s. Beluga whales were once common throughout inlet waters, historically numbering around 1,300. Unmanaged subsistence hunting in the mid-1990s led to a nearly 50 percent population decline. Today, despite conservation efforts, only about 340 Cook Inlet belugas remain. A moratorium on the subsistence harvest of Cook Inlet belugas was established in 1999. The whales were listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act in 2008, and critical habitat was designated in 2011. But Cook Inlet belugas have not recovered, and the reasons remain unknown. To better understand... read more
September 11, 2017

Teachers and teaching aides from six villages in the Bering Strait School District immersed themselves in a science and culture camp in Unalakleet, Alaska, last month to learn how to integrate science and Native knowledge in the classroom. The camp was offered as professional development for teachers by the Raising Educational Achievement through Cultural Heritage Up (REACH Up) program, part of the University of Alaska Fairbanks K-12 Outreach Office. Funded in 2015, the program provides Native students and teachers with place-based, culturally relevant science, technology, engineering and math curricula, and engages Native youth to come up with solutions to local climate change issues. In a rustic Alaska camp setting, the week-long... read more
September 7, 2017

On Saturday night, Sept. 2, Matt Gardine was at home outside Fairbanks playing with his daughter when his phone beeped. As the seismologist on call with the Alaska Earthquake Center, Gardine’s duty was to get information out about detectable earthquakes right after they happen. A few minutes earlier, at 7:30 p.m., a wave of energy had passed through Alaska. The shake had propagated through the entire planet, first reaching Alaska near the village of Wales and racing southeast from there. Looking at the waveform that registered on seismometers from Tin City to Ketchikan, Gardine noticed its squiggle signature did not look like an earthquake. He saw its origin was North Korea, which doesn’t have many large earthquakes. He also thought it... read more
September 6, 2017

Researchers at the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute are exploring the changing chemistry of the Arctic’s atmosphere to help answer the question of what happens as snow and ice begin to melt. The research, led by chemistry professor William R. Simpson, is concerned with the Arctic’s reactive bromine season, which is the period of time when bromine is consuming ozone, producing bromine monoxide and oxidizing mercury. Reactive bromine events occur during Arctic springtime, when temperatures are low and sea ice is snow-covered. As springtime transitions to summer, with temperatures climbing above freezing and snowpack melting, these events cease and atmospheric bromine quantities become low. “Atmosphere chemistry really... read more
September 1, 2017

In his job as a university machinist, Dale Pomraning has built and fixed earthquake detectors and aurora rockets. But recently he worked on his first object that was once part of a living creature. He and others sliced a 6-foot, 100-pound wooly mammoth tusk lengthwise, sort of like a salmon fillet. Seven people spent six hours wrestling the tusk into place for the precision cut. “We’ve got a great big corkscrew we’re trying to run though the bandsaw,” said Pomraning, who works in the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute’s machine shop. “It was an extremely awkward job.” Three scientists enlisted Pomraning and his supervisor, Greg Shipman, for the job. Dan Mann, Pam Groves and Mat Wooller wanted the tusk split down the... read more
August 30, 2017

<i>Photo by Matthew Smith</i><br>An unmanned aerial vehicle takes flight.

Building the unmanned aircraft systems industry in Alaska and the North will be the theme of the Alaska UAS Interest Group’s annual meeting in Fairbanks Sept. 13-15 at the Wedgewood Resort. The meeting will bring industry people together to learn about the latest ways to use unmanned aircraft for research, exploration, infrastructure inspection, commercial development and resource management. Highlights include a panel with drone racers, another with local and state law enforcement officers, and a presentation from the Pan Pacific UAS Test Range Complex’s range managers. Other sessions will discuss counter-drone research, expansion of Arctic tourism, and the latest research on wildlife management and geomapping. Marcus Johnson, research... read more
August 29, 2017

It’s not uncommon for Alaskans strolling their state’s vast coastline to encounter a marine mammal, dead and washed up on shore. When a surprise encounter happens, questions often bubble up. A new guide sheet from Alaska Sea Grant provides answers. “Is it OK if I take a tusk? What about a tooth or a bone?” “I’m not Alaska Native, but I live here so doesn’t that make it OK to harvest whatever I want since the animal is dead?” Alaska Natives are permitted to salvage all parts of dead marine mammals for subsistence. Non-Natives cannot. They are restricted to only collecting some parts, including bones, teeth and ivory, and only from some animals. “People don’t understand the legalities. It is so complex,” said Gay Sheffield, Alaska Sea Grant... read more
August 28, 2017

Barry Lovegrove

Barry Lovegrove, who studies warm-bloodedness in birds and mammals, will present the 2017 Irving-Scholander Memorial Lecture at 6 p.m. Aug. 31 in the Margaret Murie Building auditorium at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Lovegrove is a professor emeritus at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s School of Life Sciences in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. His free lecture is titled “Fires of Life: Why We Are Hot.” Lovegrove’s early research centered on small bird and mammal energetics. During the past decade, he has focused on the evolution of endothermy — the metabolic regulation of body temperature — in birds and mammals. His book on the topic, “Fires of Life: The Evolution of Endothermy in Birds and Mammals,” will be published later this... read more
August 17, 2017

The office of Undergraduate Research and Scholarly Activity invites undergraduate students to apply for awards of up to $2,000 for presenting their work at a conference, meeting or congregation of their peers and professionals in their respective field between Oct. 1, 2017, and Dec. 31, 2017. The deadline to apply is Sept. 10, 2017. Online applications and more information is available on the URSA website.
August 16, 2017

The University of Alaska Fairbanks will host a local Eclipse Across America event from 8-10:15 a.m. Monday, Aug. 21, outside the Reichardt Building on the Fairbanks campus. Optimal viewing of the partial eclipse will  occur at approximately 9:21 a.m. Graduate students from the College of Natural Science and Mathematics and the Geophysical Institute will explain the mechanics of the eclipse and help participants with viewing technology, including two telescopes equipped with solar filters and a radio telescope. The radio telescope, which resembles a large dish, can detect signals through cloud cover. Although radio telescope images will not be as spectacular as those seen through the filtered telescopes, they will show a decrease in the... read more
August 16, 2017

Across Alaska, berry harvests have begun in earnest — and, this year, so has a project in which Alaskans will help track their berry patches scientifically. The new National Science Foundation project, dubbed “Winterberry,” aims not only to engage Alaskans in research on berry resources but also to find ways to make the findings more valuable to communities. “Berries are an important resource for so many of us,” said principal investigator Katie Spellman, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Alaska Fairbanks International Arctic Research Center. “This work is an attempt to empower participation in scientific research and make it more accessible and useful to Alaska and Arctic communities.”   Spellman and Winterberry project... read more
August 9, 2017
The Alaska Earthquake Center will offer an online course in fall 2017 to help educators teach about earthquake science. The center, part of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute, is partnering with the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology to offer the 15-week, two-credit professional development course, which will provide teachers with the knowledge, tools and resources to teach earthquake topics to a wide range of students, from K-12 and beyond. The course is designed to use Alaska’s active seismicity and tectonics as a natural laboratory, while affording the educators the opportunity to participate from home and on their own schedules. Teachers will be guided through hands-on activities and important... read more
August 8, 2017

The University of Alaska Fairbanks will hold an open house at the High-Frequency Active Auroral Research Program facility in Gakona Aug. 19 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. This is the second annual HAARP open house since UAF assumed management of the facility in 2015. HAARP is a facility for studying the ionosphere. It is located in Gakona, Alaska, which is about 250 miles from Fairbanks and 210 miles from Anchorage. Construction may delay travel on both the Richardson Highway and the Tok Cutoff, so drivers should allow extra time. The free public event will include tours of the operations building and the antenna array. Scientists will give talks about the science behind HAARP and about the aurora. There will be displays about permafrost,... read more
August 3, 2017

There was a lot of silence as the two friends floated 110 miles south on a remote river in northeastern Alaska in July. But the silence wasn’t between them — it was all around them. “It was phenomenal,” Stan Havlick said of his trip with Mike Fallon on the Sheenjek River, which flows south from the Brooks Range. “It was way beyond our expectations. We experienced total silence and serenity.” The two floated the Sheenjek in honor of a 1956 expedition in the river’s upper valley that was part of an effort to protect the lands that now comprise the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The original expedition included their friend, 95-year-old Bob Krear, who recorded the endeavor in motion pictures and photographs. Famed conservationist Margaret... read more
August 3, 2017

The most common types of satellite images are only able to see the “top” of the sky — if it is a cloudy day, the satellite will only be able to see the tops of the clouds. For weather forecasters studying sea ice, this can be a large problem. “Consider if you were riding a satellite looking down at Alaska in the springtime,” said Eric Stevens, a science liaison at the Geographic Information Network of Alaska, a University of Alaska program that shares the institution’s mapping expertise and data. “The clouds are white, the snow-covered ground is white, the sea ice is white. Everything is white. How can you tell these things apart?” One solution is to create images using longer wavelengths of light, which the satellites can detect but... read more