Pondering the infinite in Yukon Flats

YUKON FLATS — Out here, in a smooth plain stretching over Alaska’s wrinkled face, water and tree and mud dissolve to fuzz at each horizon. No hills or bumps. An ocean of sky. An observer once said Yukon Flats looks like a place where God forgot to put something. Garrett Jones and I are camped […]

Storm surges in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta

“Doing science in the Delta is more than just coming up with interesting questions and implementing them. It also requires a lot of on-the-ground work and pre-season preparation in order to be out here for as long as we are.” A five month field season in remote Alaska is no deterrent to Ryan Choi. “I […]

Wintering Pribilof Rock Sandpiper Science

Rock sandpipers in Alaska videos

“Typically when a bird gets any ice on their body it’s game over.” But not for rock sandpipers overwintering on the mudflats of Cook Inlet, Alaska. Watch new videos about rock sandpipers on FrontierScientists.com featuring science about avian puffballs surviving and thriving despite enduring ice on feathers and feet. Rock sandpipers in Alaska In Cook […]

Where are the nests migratory bird science

Fitness for birds in warming Alaska

Jonathan Perez stands in a remote part of Alaska’s North Slope while White-Crowned Sparrows sing from surrounding shrubs and a Jaeger flies overhead, calling. Perez is listening to the bird calls, recording what species sound out and how many individuals are singing. Next to him, an automated device is attempting to do the same.

NOAA phytoplankton samples

The albatross and the phytoplankton

An albatross soaring over the wide open ocean doesn’t just rely on chance sightings of prey; it actually follows its nose. Dimethyl sulfide (DMS) is a biological sulfur compound that can result from the activity of microorganisms called phytoplankton. Not only does airborne DMS provide a wind-map for foraging seabirds, it also also aids in […]

Migration Over The Brooks Range

Even Wacky Weather doesn’t stop bird migration to Alaska. Scientists on the north side of the Brooks Range at Toolik Field Station find the birds which made it over the mountains have located their nests, indicating procreation has begun.

Alaska research insects vacuuming

Mosquito netting, vacuum power, and bug science

Vacuuming at home isn’t too edifying. How about vacuuming the Alaska tundra to snag a bag full of bugs? That’s an entirely different story. Ashley Asmus, graduate research assistant at the University of Texas at Arlington, is using a huge reverse leaf blower to collect the bugs she’ll study.

Longspur capture bird

Stressed out? Every year migratory birds battle stress, and win

On the tundra a wire walk-in trap has been placed over seed scattered atop icy Alaskan ground. A Longspur alights nearby. It twists its head to eye the seed, hops inside then briefly flaps – unsettled by the trap door closing behind it. The Longspur settles and eyes the ground again, beginning to peck. PhD student Jesse Krause, a researcher […]

white-crowned sparrow Alaska

Thousands of kilometers north – migratory birds and a shifting world

The Arctic is blanketed in snow for 9 to 10 months of the year. Then in May or June, with the Sun shining long overhead, snow melt comes sudden. Mathew Sturm, professor of Geophysics, University of Alaska, Geophysics Institute says the world of the Arctic can go from “White to dark in a space of […]

The ground changing under our feet – Thermokarsts

Laura Nielsen for Frontier Scientists – Jason Dobkowski stands on the shores of Wolverine Lake. His research site is located in the North Slope of Alaska, nestled near the remote foothills of the Brooks Range. “I’m here studying permafrost thaw slump which is depositing silt and material into the lake behind me. And that material, […]

Clear Sky Albedo

Dust on the sun’s mirror

Imagine yourself on a Colorado mountain slope. Bumblebees buzz happily around dwarf bluebell blossoms, and the spring sun is bright. Except not all is well. The flowers bloom a good seven hundred feet upslope of where they grew five years ago, forcing bees ever higher. Bright petal colors are faded: the flowers are past their […]

Guillemots, and the Edge of the Ice

Laura Nielsen for Frontier Scientists The Bering Sea region hosts over 90% of seabirds breeding in the continental United States. Most of those birds are hardy migrators, breeding on Alaska’s coast in the warm season and then departing south, chased away by the cold weather. One group which remains is Guillemots, a type of seabird […]

Birds Hall Island Alaska

A far-off place, all for the birds

Ned Rozell for UAFGI – HALL ISLAND — On this windy, misty August day, there are perhaps one million birds clinging to the cliffs that buttress this Bering Sea island. These seabirds, crazy-eyed and with bodies both sleek and clumsy, need solid ground for just a few months to hold their eggs. When their summer […]

Alaska creatures without us

In Alan Weisman’s book, The World Without Us, the author ponders “a world from which we all suddenly vanished. Tomorrow.” In last week’s column, a few experts discussed the fate of Alaska structures if Alaskans were to disappear. This week, people who study Alaska’s wildlife donate some thought to the subject. Alaska’s lack of people […]

Wind-aided birds on their way north

After flying northward from Chile, a whimbrel landed in late March in an alfalfa field near Mexicali, Mexico. The handsome shorebird with a long curved beak left its wintering ground in South America one week earlier and flew more than 5,000 miles. Nonstop. In one of the great migrations happening all over the world right […]

The longest non-stop migratory flight

LLiz O’Connell for Frontier Scientists – Early on Bob Gill, Research Wildlife Biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), thought Bar-tailed Godwits’ journey from Alaska to New Zealand was a non-stop flight. Faced with skepticism from his colleagues, but armed with satellite technology, Gill tagged a female Godwit he named E-7.  By tracking E-7 in […]

Satellite Tracking Helps Russian Tanker Navigate Critical Sea Duck Habitat

Matthew Sexson and Paul Laustsen for USGS – ANCHORAGE — On its way to deliver emergency fuel to Nome, Alaska, the Russian tanker Renda will move through an area used by wintering spectacled eiders, a federally threatened sea duck. But, to protect the ducks and their wintering habitat, resource managers from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and navigators from the U.S. Coast Guard are […]