Water by the numbers in rural Alaska

22% of rural Alaska homes lack running water and a flush toilet, according to the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation – Division of Water. Photographer Clark James Mishler described the difference between living in an urban Anchorage residence and living in parts of rural Alaska as stark: “It’s like living in a third world country, […]

Matcharak archaeology hunting bones butchering paleo Native subsistence Alaska

Paleo subsistence: hunting, bones, butchering at Matcharak archaeology site

“Up until the point that the Matcharak Peninsula Site was found, you could essentially fit all the identifiable materials from these Northern Archaic sites into a shoebox,” archaeologist Joe Keeney said. The Matcharak Peninsula site is “A very unique site that has such good preservation, and such high numbers” of bones. The site’s details shed […]

Photosynthesis capacity forest needles Research Experience Undergraduates

Secret lives of evergreen needles

Benjamin Russell pointed out different years of growth on a white spruce tree, using bud scars found on the back of the branch to segment off different growing seasons’ needles. “This is the new growth, the growth from this season. And see how abnormally large this is compared to the rest of the tree? That […]

Starving trees and the boreal forest

“There are many many factors there. And we can only make rational policy decisions if we know how the system works.” Bjartmar Sveinbjornsson is a professor of biological sciences and the director of the Environment and Natural Resources Institute at the University of Alaska Anchorage. He’s hosted two student as part of the National Science […]

Boreal Forest Growth videos released

On FrontierScientists.com, watch new videos featuring Boreal Forest Research in Alaska: ‘Why So Small?‘, ‘How Tree Needles Age‘, and ‘What Are Stomata?‘. “It isn’t just the climate impacting the vegetation but the vegetation impacting the climate,” Bjartmar Sveinbjornsson explained. “As the globe warms up are the forests going to spread and are they going to […]

Sea otter UAV health checkup

Spying on sea otter activities lets biologists measure populations of other species in the otters’ habitat. “It’s just a lot of work to get densities of clams and marine species like that,” described wildlife biologist Daniel Monson. To get a better idea of ecosystem health, scientists can use Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) technology to take […]

Old Dogs, Alaska and the New World

When people first walked across the Bering Land Bridge thousands of years ago, dogs were by their sides, according to researchers who wrote a paper published in the journal Science. Scientists from Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles used dog DNA material — some of it unearthed by miners in interior Alaska — to conclude that […]

UAVs trail building potential sea ice maps

Trail building potential with UAV maps

“Breaking ice: it’s a community effort where a large amount of ice is leveled by the use of only hand tools,” said Eyal Saiet. Trail building off Barrow’s shore happens every spring. “It can be more than a month’s effort of breaking trail, so anything that can help breaking trail is of value.” “Sea ice […]

Sniffing The Arctic videos are released

Temperatures in the Arctic are warming twice as quickly as the global average. Globally, 2015 was the hottest year on record (reported by NOAA and NASA) and the month of January 2016 saw a new record low level for Arctic sea ice extent (reported by the NSIDC). Sea ice loss alters the solar radiation balance […]

Isotopes in the water cycle story

For the past 20 years, Dr. Jeff Welker, a Fulbright Distinguished US Arctic Chair, has been investigating the water isotope cycle in the Arctic and across all of N America. His US Network for Isotopes in Precipitation (USNIP) and his Alaska Water Isotope Network (AKWIN) are multi-site programs that quantify the means by which the […]

Play Arctic UAVs game app at Arctic Matters Day

Are you attending #ArcticMatters Day? Frontier Scientists (@FrontierSi) will be. On January 14, 2016, visit our table and try your hand at Arctic UAVs– An Alaska Game App. The Unmanned Aerial Vehicle challenge mobile game app aims to inspire interest about real science and research opportunities in Alaska. Arctic UAVs is a series of missions […]

Rough but not too rough sea ice

The scientists snapped small icicles off the underside of a chunk of sea ice that had broken away from its pack and rafted up onto the edge of another ice floe. Andrew Mahoney, geophysicist and assistant research professor in the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute, explained the icicles would taste incredibly salty. “It isn’t […]

Drilling sea ice– extracting a sea ice core

Geophysicist Andy Mahoney balanced a cylinder of ice on the top of his boot for a moment as he extracted it from a drill barrel. The balancing act kept loose snow lying on top of the sea ice Mahoney stood on from attaching itself to the extracted ice’s surface. The ice core looked like art: […]

Beaufort Sea Arctic Sea Ice Field Science Coring

Standing on the Beaufort Sea – new sea ice videos

Whether from the perspective of a helicopter pilot, a research scientist, or a local whale hunter, sea ice is an impactful part of Arctic life. Visit Frontier Scientists to watch new videos: ‘Barrow Ready Waiting‘, ‘Buoys On Ice‘, ‘Standing on the Beaufort Sea‘, and ‘First Year Or Multi Year Ice‘. Geophysicist Andy Mahoney, assistant research […]

The greatest story of man and permafrost

In 1973, Elden Johnson was a young engineer with a job working on one of the most ambitious and uncertain projects in the world — an 800-mile steel pipeline that carried warm oil over frozen ground. Thirty-five years later, Johnson looked back at what he called “the greatest story ever told of man’s interaction with […]

Scraping the bottom with sea ice

“It was coming here to Barrow and going to the sea ice north of here that kept me focused on sea ice for the last 15 years,” Andy Mahoney told Frontier Scientists. Mahoney is a sea ice geophysicist and University of Alaska Fairbanks assistant research professor in geophysics. Thick sea ice Level sea ice might […]

The freezing of Alaska

Beneath a sky of stars and hazy aurora, the heat of an October day shimmers upward. The next morning, leaves, moss and tundra plants are woven into a carpet of white frost; a skin of ice creeps over the surface of lakes. Alaska is freezing once again, responding to the planet’s nod away from the […]

Inconstant sea ice

“If you’re coming to the Arctic, bring a good book.” Andy Mahoney, sea ice geophysicist and assistant research professor in geophysics, University of Alaska Fairbanks, was waiting out bad weather so he and his team could travel by helicopter over sea ice. Barrow, Alaska, the northernmost city in the United States, is surrounded by the […]

Ancient dinosaur newly discovered: Ugrunaaluk kuukpikensis

Bone specimens at the University of Alaska Museum of the North once belonged to members of a newly defined dinosaur species: Ugrunaaluk kuukpikensis. So far nearly 6,000 individual bones have been cataloged from a group of mostly juvenile dinosaurs of U. kuukpikensis that died on the Arctic flood plain 69 million years ago in a place […]

Polar bears and gulls feeding on whale carcass on the Arctic coast of Alaska. A possible transition zone for disease transmission. / Courtesy USGS

Polar bears and the threat of disease

Genetic studies show that polar bears have “A relatively naïve immune system,” according to research wildlife biologist Todd Atwood, who heads the U.S. Geological Survey – Alaska Science Center Polar Bear Research Program. When polar bears are forced ashore they face new threats from disease. Polar bears, marine predators known for traversing arctic sea ice […]

Polar bears respond to sea ice habitat loss

More polar bear videos – the cost of finding food

September 8, 2015— Frontier Scientists presents new videos Polar bear swims 400 miles and What makes a polar bear? Also, explore our new site updated with a brand new look and better features: more mobile friendly, same url at FrontierScientists.com. Anthony Pagano, research zoologist with the U.S. Geological Survey – Alaska Science Center, talks about […]

Call to act on climate at Anchorage GLACIER conference

It’s impressive when President Obama visits your home base— Anchorage. And you know something important is happening when two cabinet members, Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, top level white house officials, foreign dignitaries, Alaskan Republican senators, and rural Alaskan officials all converge. It’s CLIMATE CHANGE. The Department of […]

Ice and fire and permafrost

May 20 2015, 9pm in Alaska, tune in to KAKM Science Wednesdays, Alaska Public Media, for Frontier Scientists’ CHANGING PERMAFROST. Under the tundra thawing Permafrost forms thermokarst features, causing sinkholes and landslides. Shifting climate conditions release greenhouse gases locked beneath the tundra in previously frozen ground. The episode features University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute […]

Impact and the Arctic

Arctic changes have global impacts. This month the United States assumes chairmanship of the Arctic Council, a forum which promotes intergovernmental cooperation in the Arctic region. The U.S. will chair the council from 2015 to 2017. In conjunction a booklet titled Arctic Matters: The Global Connection to Changes in the Arctic has been released. The […]

Kodiak Island grass bluff view bay

Ancient footprints on Beringia

You can see the depressions in the earth when the archaeologists point them out. Each house had a central room connected by tunnels to side rooms. Female relationships guided living arrangements: in a grandmother’s house, each of her daughters’ families would occupy one of the small side rooms. When they gathered there in rooms partially […]

water sample science Sagavanirktok River Alaska

Testing Alaska’s Sagavanirktok and Kuparuk rivers

“We are interested in studying what happens to this material as it makes its way to the ocean… The transformations that it undergoes.” Jason Dobkowski, lab manager in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Michigan, explained his work as he crouched on treacherous muddy ground to collect water at a […]

Dobkowski sampling brown water

Tea water in Arctic rivers– carbon pathways

At the turn of the season as snow and ice melt, Alaska’s waterways open up. “This is the highest this river will be this season,” Jason Dobkowski said. “Here is this giant flush of particulate and nutrients that flow through the river. So we are trying to make sure we sample at this big flush […]

Hallo Bay Sunset Katmai NPS

Mercury, cod, and climate change

It’s hard to imagine stalking the shores of Alaska hunting with spear or net more than four millennia ago. Harder still to know that the people living in that already-harsh time faced an even more insidious threat than hunger or the fierce elements. New archaeological findings show elevated levels of toxic mercury in Pacific Cod […]

That dress! – interpreting colors like an Arctic ground squirrel

Two people are looking at a picture of the same dress on the same screen. When asked ‘What color is this dress?’ they might give entirely different answers. Some people see a white dress with gold trim. Others see a blue dress with black trim. Others see variations. The viral picture set people at odds […]

sled dogs Iditarod ceremonial start

Iditarod sled dogs’ fat burning capabilities

The Ceremonial Start of the 2015 Iditarod, a sled dog mushing race, will be held in Anchorage on March 7th. The Restart will be Monday, March 9th, in Fairbanks. While the race is normally run from Anchorage to Nome, Alaska, low snow conditions have forced the race route north for the second time. You can […]

Hubbard, Daanen, Darrow

New videos about Frozen Debris Lobes, geohazards

February 24 2015— Slow landslides in permafrost slide downhill on mountain slopes in the Brooks Range of Alaska. These massive frozen debris lobes are geohazards. They pose a potential threat to the Dalton Highway, Alaska’s lone road to the North Slope. There are 23 identified frozen debris lobes situated less than one mile uphill from […]

Lake E impact breccia core

Wiggles and stacks: Paleoclimate 101

Imagine standing on the top floor of the Empire State Building. Above you, the frigid ice-capped waters of a lake in Siberia. Below you sits nearly a quarter of a mile of lake sediment resting atop impact breccia, a layer of rock formed when a meteorite slammed into Earth 3.6 million years ago. Graph wiggles […]

Arctic water sampling spring

Aufeis may mark Grayling safe spots

“Who’s eating our fish?!” Heidi Golden posed in her journalistic record of Arctic Research and Exploration studying Arctic grayling. “From the snow tracks we saw, it’s most likely a fox. Other predators in this area might include, birds, wolverine, ermine and wolves.” Golden is an aquatic ecologist and a Ph.D. candidate in the University of Connecticut, […]

Never Alone – Iñupiat storytelling with spirit

A young girl named Nuna aims carefully, flinging her bola at the shards of ice lingering in the windy sky above. The spirits answer. A crane appears: mysterious, beautiful, perhaps even sorrowful. Is it sorrowful for Nuna? I can’t say, but I know I’m entranced. Nuna is the heroine in Never Alone, a game crafted to […]

Squirrels’ role in climate change puzzle

Alaska’s North Slope is home to Arctic ground squirrels. Near the Atigun River their interlaced burrow network takes advantage of sandy soil. The burrows are so interconnected and the entrances so myriad that the scientists working there to decode Arctic ground squirrel mysteries carry a map denoting burrow entrance numbers so they can be certain […]

September 2014 sea ice extent

Continued Arctic changes, 2014

During high school when the day promised heat I used to spend a minute in the morning to put sunglasses on my car. They were ‘shutter shades’, louvered sunglasses printed in bold lines on folded white cardboard meant to be spread just under the windshield. The car may not have contained power anything, a reliably […]

Lab fridge Arctic ground squirrels

“They do their best to approximate a sphere,” Loren Buck explained as he removed the ground squirrel from its lab-made hibernaculum. Hibernating Arctic ground squirrels can sustain a core body temperature of just -2.9°C [26.78°F]. “It’s cold… Do you want to touch it?” Buck uncurled the animal carefully. “He knows he’s being handled, it just takes a […]

Many angles to decode frozen debris lobes

“Something chewed on the casing,” Margaret Darrow explained. “Probably a bear.” Blue chips were scattered from the cracked ABS pipe. Inside the casings that protect the holes drilled in and around frozen debris lobe -A there’s non-toxic propylene glycol. Propylene glycol, this brand a clear greenish liquid, prevents freezing – helpful for scientific instruments – […]

Effective stress and FDL science

“It’s a very dynamic slope,” Margaret Darrow said, standing in front of frozen debris lobe -A. FDL-A is a slow landslide; among the frozen debris lobes documented it’s the closest to the Dalton Highway and the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. Although the lobes likely began their life as debris left over when Pleistocene glaciers disappeared 10 to […]

Temperamental machinery and FDL science

When the machinery mounted to the man-height pole announced “RTK initialized,” the scientists gave a cheer. It was late afternoon and the morning’s downpour had finally cleared. They were gathered in a sunny spot discussing what was still on the agenda for the day when the rover – the pole and its paramount differential GPS […]

Arctic ground squirrel release

How to catch an Arctic ground squirrel – for science!

At Atigun River, north of the Arctic Circle, the sandy soil is run through with an interlaced network of burrows. The Arctic ground squirrels which call those burrows home have encountered something mundane to you or me, but no-doubt wondrous to them: big tasty taproots, stunningly orange. Carrots! Trapping squirrels The carrots are bait, placed […]

hibernating Arctic ground squirrel lab

The abundantly peculiar Arctic ground squirrel

They survive colder core body temperatures than any other known vertebrate, sustaining a temperature below freezing yet not becoming frozen. They emerge from hibernation with clock-like accuracy

river ice Alaska

When your only highways are ice

“The first half of the trip was in the forest and the second half on the tundra. The difference that those ecosystems imposed on the snow cover was beautifully manifest,”

snowmobile journey Matthew Sturm

Matthew Sturm – insight into the Arctic

Over four decades after entering the Arctic Circle for the first time, Matthew Sturm, snow scientist and University of Alaska professor, still looks on the Arctic as a place of wonder. In Finding the Arctic (University of Alaska Press, 2012), a story of history and culture along a 2,500 mile snowmobile journey from Alaska to […]

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.

Pilgrim Hot Springs thermal

Measuring and modeling geothermal resources at Pilgrim Hot Springs

There’s a place where the perennially frozen ground of the Alaskan tundra is interrupted by 2 square miles [~ 5 km² ] of thawed soil. There, cottonwoods and thick brush grow among lazily meandering waterways. The Pilgrim Hot Springs are a pleasant symptom of the geothermal heat which warms the earth deep beneath Alaska’s Seward […]

ITEX tram operation

Imaging the future of Arctic plant life

If you know where to look in the Arctic, you’ll find strange hexagons dotting the tundra beneath the enduring summer sun. Strange, scattered honeycomb chambers. The open-top hexagonal units shelter 1 or 2 square meters’ worth of tundra plants, passively raising the temperature within their fiberglass walls by 1-3°Celcius.

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 […]

Soumik Basu office

Predicting the effect of anomalous sea ice loss and increasing sea surface temperatures on global storm systems

Azara Mohammadi – To become a PhD candidate at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Soumik Basu moved from his home in Kolkata, India to a region infamous for its “below zero” weather: Interior Alaska. Basu left warm weather and his family (not to mention his mother’s cooking) because “The climate is changing, so I wanted […]

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, […]

snowy owl flight over snow

Snowy Owl Irruption

Laura Nielsen for Frontier Scientists – This winter snowy owls were on the move; unusually large numbers of the magnificent birds made their way to the Lower 48 United States. With a wing span greater than four feet and distinctive plumage, snowy owls are a glorious sight. The birds’ winter migrations normally take them to […]

Tram Powered International Tundra Experiment

Liz O’Connell for Frontier Scientists – Multiple instruments, configured along a tram-like platform, sense the tundra below and gather detailed data while traveling along a 50 meter transect.  “We are gathering measurements that we don’t know exactly how they will be used,” said Steven Oberbauer, professor of biological sciences at Florida International University. The high […]

Modeling shifting oceanscapes; a collective pursuit

Azara Mohammadi for Frontier Scientists – In 1996, Dr. Kate Hedstrom travelled to Norway to “Sit on Paul Budgell’s steps,” as she says. She went there to get a piece of code recently improved by Paul Budgell. “He promised his model and I went to Norway to get it!” says Kate. Hedstrom is an Oceanographic […]

sled dog Iceland

Iditarod sled dogs’ fat burning capabilities

Laura Nielsen for Frontier Scientists – “It is so instinctual to be doing what these dogs are doing…” Iditarod contestant and avid musher Mike Santos believes, “…That it really requires very little training.” Dogs love to run. Still, a musher’s challenges are daunting. Alaskan weather is fierce and unpredictable; handling logistics, supplies, the vagaries of […]

Feeling the heat? 2013 fourth warmest year on record

Laura Nielsen for Frontier Scientists – The year 2013 was the fourth warmest year on record, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Climate Data Center. 2013 tied with 2003 in NOAA’s record, which details global average temperatures all the way back to the year 1880. NOAA notes: “Including 2013, 9 of the […]

smoke layer temperature inversion

Atmospheric layers driving accelerated far North warming

Laura Nielsen for Frontier Scientists – Recent research published in Nature Geoscience states that the largest contributors to warming in the Arctic are the region’s distinct surface temperatures coupled with the Arctic atmosphere’s prevailing vertical temperature structure. The research suggests that diminished snow and melting ice cover, previously thought to have the largest impact on […]

Julie Brigham-Grette Martin Melles

Inter-hemispheric climate coupling

Laura Nielsen for Frontier Scientists – Paleoclimatology is the study of past climates. One of the many ways to study paleoclimatology is to collect a 2.5 inch [6.6 centimeter] wide tube of mud from a well-situated site. It’s amazing how much we can learn of Earth’s climate past – and what those findings teach us […]

Lake El'gygytgyn satellite space Russia

Data from an impact crater

Laura Nielsen for Frontier Scientists – There’s a place in Northeast Russia where, 3.6 million years ago, a meteorite slammed into Earth. A lake filled the crater. Today, the sediment that has settled at the bottom of Lake El-gygytgyn provides a rare preserved climate record: the longest sediment core record ever collected on land in […]

surface hoar crystal snow ice

Cryoseisms and depth hoar in the January cold

Laura Nielsen for Frontier Scientists – Cold hit hard this month. January 6 and 7, 2014, brought startlingly frigid temperatures to southern Canada and the United States, weather that swept through the Midwest and then eastward. The U.S. National Weather Service recorded widespread subzero temperatures; on January 7th over fifty U.S. sites measured record low […]

Icebreaker Snow Dragon Arctic research

Don’t freeze up: the Arctic Ice Watch campaign

Laura Nielsen for Frontier Scientists – Polar waters are unpredictable. The Antarctic rescue operation currently underway illustrates that fact thoroughly; the United States Coast Guard icebreaker Polar Star is en route to rescue the Russian research ship Akademik Shokalskiy and the Chinese icebreaker Xue Long which earlier came to the aid of the beleaguered Russian […]

Alaskan tundra plants

Nitrogen’s intense impact

Nitrogen is one of the most abundant elements on Earth; nitrogen gas (N2) makes up 78% of Earth’s atmosphere. Nitrogen is also an essential element for all organisms. In order to live and grow, plants and animals need the hydrogen (H) and oxygen (O) which compose water, as well as carbon (C), nitrogen (N) and […]

Alaska in the 2013 Arctic turmoil

Laura Nielsen for Frontier Scientists – “The Arctic is not like Vegas. What happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay in the Arctic. The major changes that we see in reduction in sea ice, reduction in spring snow cover extent, increasing vegetation that changes the radiation balance of the surface, potential changes in greenhouse gas fluxes, […]

Imnavait Creek water tracks

Snow’s journey underground

In Alaska’s North Slope snow can be called overeager. Scientists at Toolik Field Station know that —except for the second half of August— they can expect it to snow any day of the year. Even during the brief summer, fierce storm fronts sometimes bring snow that melts away in 70°F (21°C) weather the very next […]

Frontier Scientists presents videos about Understanding Climate Change Through Archaeology

October 8 2013— You’ve seen ancient bones uncovered by archaeologists in museums, dusty and mysterious, and learned something new about the past. For a zooarchaeologist, bones will give up more secrets than most. Join Mike Etnier, zooarchaeologist at Western Washington University, as he exposes the secrets of bones. In videos “A Zooarchaeologist’s Take on Climate […]

whale watching post ice

A continent of ice on the wane

Ned Rozell for UAFGI – Despite taking up as much space as Australia, the blue-white puzzle of ice floating on the Arctic Ocean is an abstraction to the billions who have never seen it. But continued shrinkage of sea ice is changing life for many living things. A few Alaska scientists added their observations to […]

Assisted migration could help plants find a new home

Laura Nielsen for Frontier Scientists – Plants, evolved to move with the natural rhythms of the world, cannot keep up with the rapid pace of climate change we are facing today. Their ideal habitats are sliding north as the world heats up. Do we get our hands dirty and help move the species most at […]

White Cottongrass BLM Seeds of Success Alaska

Safeguarding plants in an uncertain climate future

Laura Nielsen for Frontier Scientists – On a remote island in Norway, deep within an old coal mine sealed behind blast doors, seeds sit in the cold and quiet and wait. They are an insurance against an uncertain future. Our uncertain climate future is altering habitats so swiftly that plants can’t keep up, and we’re […]

Cathy Cahill unmanned aerial vehicle volcanic aerosol research

Taking to the sky to better sniff the air

On a cool spring morning in the mountains of southwest Washington, 12-year old Cathy Cahill helped her dad plant scientific instruments around the base of trembling Mount St. Helens. A few days later, the volcano blew

NASA Seasat satellite

Looking back in time at the world’s oceans

A time capsule of satellite imagery of the earth will become available to scientists this month. On June 28, digital imagery from more than three decades ago will be released by the Alaska Satellite Facility at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute, NASA’s processor and distributor for this type of data. The images reveal […]

Alfredo Soto holds lemming

Humble lemmings are an Arctic keystone species

Laura Nielsen for Frontier Scientists – Arctic temperatures are warming at twice the rate of lower latitudes’, making the area one of the most rapidly changing regions on Earth. Arctic ecosystems are facing radical alteration. And, surprisingly, a tiny furry rodent may be a major player in those changes. Lemming populations have a powerful impact on […]

zonal polar jet stream

Under pressure: Arctic trends sparking extreme weather at large

Laura Nielsen for Frontier Scientists In September 2012, at the end of last summer, the Arctic sea ice extent reached a record low since satellite measurements began. And, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, summer sea ice extent in the Arctic has declined roughly 40 percent in the last three decades. The […]

Columbia Glacier breakup satellite 2010

Eyes on Columbia Glacier’s retreat

The Landsat mission, a joint effort between the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), has been collecting data on Earth’s physical features via satellite since the 1970s. “The Landsat data record — humanity’s longest continuous record of our planet from space — has been an invaluable tool for scientists and decision-makers in […]

polar stratospheric clouds ozone creation

Ozone loss and recovery in the Arctic

Laura Nielsen for Frontier Scientists The ozone hole is a problem which plagues the skies above Antarctica. Yet in 2011, Arctic skies experienced the most severe ozone depletion ever measured in the north. The reasons why are now explained in a paper published in the Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres headed by lead author Susan E. Strahan, an atmospheric scientists […]

Plants march north

Laura Nielsen for FrontierScientists The face of the Arctic is changing as plant growth flourishes further north than before. According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), “Temperature and vegetation growth at northern latitudes now resemble those found 4 degrees to 6 degrees of latitude farther south as recently as 1982.” This change accompanies […]

Permafrost scientist snowmachining from Alaska to Atlantic

Ned Rozell for UAFGI – Kenji Yoshikawa will soon sleep on brilliant, blue-white landscape that has never felt the imprint of his boots. Beginning on spring equinox, the permafrost scientist and a partner will attempt to drive snowmachines from Prudhoe Bay to Canada’s Baffin Island. While traveling a distance equal to Seattle to Tokyo to […]

Aniakchak volcanic caldera from above

Arctic volcanism helps date ancient archaeological sites

“By dating ash,” said Richard Vanderhoek, “An archaeological site in Alaska, can be placed on a chronostratographic timeline.” Or in other words: the chemical makeup of the ash, matched with a volcano eruption, will provide an approximate date of the site. Archaeologists worldwide have dated ancient sites

Aurora Borealis purple red blue green Arctic

After a lifetime of study, aurora still a mystery

Ned Rozell for UAFGI – Sometimes, after idling in the sky for hours as a greenish glow, the aurora catches fire, erupting toward the magnetic north pole in magnificent chaos that can last for three hours. “Substorms,” as space physicists call them, can happen two or three times each night. The man who came up […]

Algae in the changing Arctic ecosystem

Laura Nielsen for Frontier Scientists The Arctic hosts a complex ecosystem, sensitive to the alterations in our changing world. Algae is part of that biome, growing in strands which hang down from the edge of ice floes. New conditions have caused an explosion in the growth rate of the algae Melosira arctica, which will influence […]

Bowhead Whale fluke

Triumphs of the endangered Bowhead Whale

Each spring, wildlife biologist Craig George stands where shore-bound sea ice meets open water at Point Barrow and counts whales. Barrow Alaska is the northernmost town in the united states. The lookout point, accessed daily via snowmobile, is no more than a canvas windbreak atop a pile of ice. Warming spring temperatures thin and break […]

Arctic snow cover low

Dramatic report card for the Arctic in 2012

Ned Rozell for UAFGI – Northern sea ice is at its lowest extent since we’ve been able to see it from satellites. Greenland experienced its warmest summer in 170 years. Eight of 10 permafrost-monitoring sites in northern Alaska recorded their highest temperatures; the other two tied record highs. 2012 was a year of “astounding” change for much […]

Tubeworm Lamellibrachia luymesi

The oceans are our neighbors too

Laura Nielsen for Frontier Scientists Deep sea oceans, once believed lifeless, teem with an astounding biodiversity. Where once we knew only speculation and fishermen’s tales, we now have a body of knowledge increasing with data from remotely operated underwater vehicles (ROVs) and human-occupied submersibles like James Cameron’s Vertical Torpedo. The deep ocean, the last unexplored terrestrial […]

Snowmobiles snowy mountain travel

Alaska’s Ned Rozell reads in SF at Writers With Drinks

Liz O’Connell for Frontier Scientists – Who isn’t thirsty when it comes to good prose? Ongoing San Francisco’s Writers With Drinks mixes it up Saturday, December 8, 2012, at the Make-Out Room, 7:30pm. Ned Rozell, science writer from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, will read from his book Finding Mars. Rozell joins SF luminaries Amy Tan […]

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 […]

ARSC Fish: CRAY Supercomputer Enables Scientific Discovery

Liz O’Connell for Frontier Scientists – Fairbanks, Alaska, November 6, 2012 – The Arctic Region Supercomputing Center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks has a new CRAY Supercomputer Called FISH. As ARSC transitions from a centralized machine to a strategically upgradeable hybrid system, they advance scientific discovery. It is a large scale upgrade to benefit research. Scientists who use […]

A Portal to Toolik Field Station

Laura Nielsen for FrontierScientists We know that the Arctic holds unique climate conditions and a complex carbon balance. Tundra fires and thawing permafrost release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, while unique ocean currents and cold waters prompt higher levels of ocean acidification. Methane emerges from sea and soil. The Arctic sea ice cover shrinks to increasingly startling extents. Plant life […]

Ocean Acidification

  Laura Nielsen for Frontier Scientists Will ocean acidification spell a watery grave for vital parts of marine ecosystems? Marine ecologist Jane Lubchenco, head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, named ocean acidification global warming’s “equally evil twin.” * Burning fossil fuels — coal, oil, natural gas — cutting down forests and other post-industrial […]

Cray Inc. provides “Fish” for Arctic Region Supercomputing Center (ARSC).

Liz O’Connell for Frontier Scientists – Fairbanks, Alaska, October 2, 2012 – “As Alaska’s Research University UAF (University of Alaska Fairbanks) must continue to provide the best tools, ARSC is one of the most important tools available,” said Brian Rogers, Chancellor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. And the Arctic Region Supercomputing Center’s new tool […]

Alaska’s view of the new sea-ice minimum

Ned Rozell for UAFGI – As the northern end of the globe nods away from the sun at fall equinox, the amount of sea ice floating on the northern oceans is now at the lowest amount ever detected by satellites, a period that goes back to 1979. This new sea-ice minimum follows an extremely cold […]

International Polar Week and Climate Predictions in Ice

Laura Nielsen for FrontierScientists – This week is International Polar Week, September 16 – 22, 2012. The event coincides with the Fall Equinox, when 12 hours of daylight will light every location on the planet. Polar Week aims to involve the public with research going on in the Artic and Antarctic through educational activities and […]

Glaciologists help with recovery of human remains

Ned Rozell for UAFGI – It’s not often that glaciologists help with the recovery of long-lost human remains, but military officials recently enlisted Martin Truffer for that purpose. The University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute professor and graduate student Dave Podrasky came up with useful information on a Southcentral glacier that held plane wreckage and […]

Modeling Arctic Waters from the Bering Sea through the Bering Strait to the Arctic Ocean

Liz O’Connell for Frontier Scientists – Fairbanks, Alaska, September 4, 2012 – Three videos introduce the oceanographic modeling work from the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF). The video Modeling Ice in the Arctic, shows a regional ice model coupled with a global climate model.  “The ice is not as stiff as it used to be,” said Kate […]

Fire is a natural part of the boreal forest ecosystem

Ned Rozell for UAFGI – With their mushroom clouds topped with cauliflower crowns, plumes from wildfire smoke are again a common sight in Interior Alaska, which — with barely a sprinkle of rain — just experienced one of the driest Mays in the 100-year written record. Though it’s a normal human reaction to think of […]

Arctic lakes getting a closer look

Ned Rozell for UAFGI – Minnesota is the Land of 10,000 Lakes, but Alaska has more than that in the great expanse of flatlands north of the Brooks Range. These ubiquitous far-north bodies of water — most of them formed by the disappearance of ancient, buried ice that dimples the landscape as it thaws — […]

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV’s) Fly in the Aleutians

August 14, 2012— Three videos detail the Unmanned Aircraft work from the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF). In March, Greg Walker, UAF’s Unmanned Aircraft Program Manager, led research in the Aleutians. Walker flies the UAVs in just about all conditions except freezing rain which would stick to delicate equipment. “We’ve regularly flown in showers, we’ve […]

Thermokarst Project

Survey: Abrupt permafrost thaw increases climate threat

Marie Gilbert for UAF Cornerstone – As the Arctic warms, greenhouse gases will be released from thawing permafrost faster and at significantly higher levels than previous estimates, according to survey results from 41 international scientists published in the Nov. 30 issue of the journal Nature. Permafrost thaw will release approximately the same amount of carbon […]

“This is not what we expected” said Julie Brigham-Grette in video describing work at Lake El’gygytgyn

July 10, 2012– “To this point no one has much of any terrestrial record anywhere in the Arctic older than 125,000 years ago” said Julie Brigham-Grette, University of Massachusetts Amherst as she describes findings from the Lake El’gygytgyn (or Lake E) project to Office of Polar Programs Board Meeting at the National Science Foundation. Brigham-Grette […]

Geologic methane seeping from thawing cryosphere

Geologic methane is seeping through the edges of thawing permafrost and receding glaciers in Alaska and Greenland, according to a study recently published in the journal Nature Geoscience. University of Alaska Fairbanks researcher Katey Walter Anthony led the study, which, for the first time, documents the widespread occurrence of these terrestrial sources of geologic methane […]

Flying machines for the dirty, dull and dangerous

Some places in this world are just too dirty, dull or dangerous for human pilots to fly. An airspace in the latter category is anywhere near gas flares in Alask’s oil fields. With only a few seconds of warning, flames blast high in the air from a network of pipes, releasing the stress of sucking […]

Unmanned Aircraft: Arctic science & technology

Speeding over Arctic sea ice, small remote-controlled aircraft snag video footage and high-definition shots of endangered Steller Sea Lions in their natural habitat. Quiet and unobtrusive, the machines can serve as Special Op.s for researchers. Low-altitude remote sensing using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) has vast potential… and we’re only beginning to explore it. Gregory Walker, […]

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 […]

Recovery after world’s largest tundra fire raises questions

Four summers ago, Syndonia Bret-Harte stood outside at Toolik Lake, watching a wall of smoke creep toward the research station on Alaska’s North Slope. Soon after, smoke oozed over the cluster of buildings. “It was a dense, choking fog,” Bret-Harte said. The smoke looked, smelled and tasted like what Bret-Harte has experienced at her home […]

Dig Afognak: Revealing the Past, Strengthening the Future

Play in the dirt with Dig Afognak Laura Nielsen for FrontierScientists If uncovering archaeological treasures and exploring local culture appeal to you more than simple sightseeing, you’ll want to check out the Kodiak Archipelago the next time you can make it to Alaska. The Afognak Native Corporation’s program Dig Afognak has visitors, archaeologists, and Native […]

Tools of ancient Alaskans emerge from ice

Ned Rozell for UAFGI – On a late summer evening a few years ago, a scrap of birch bark caught William Manley’s eye as he walked along the edge of an ice field in the Wrangell-St. Elias Mountains. The geologist yelled to nearby archaeologist Jim Dixon and Ruth Ann Warden of the Ahtna Heritage Foundation. […]

Alutiiq basket weavers share insight with Russian curators

Fairbanks, Alaska, April 24, 2012 – “The Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (MAE) and the Russian Ethnographic Museum in St. Petersburg Russia have the earliest collections of Kodiak baskets, grass and spruce root, in the world,” said Sven Haakanson, executive director of the Alutiiq Museum and Archaeological Repository. In 2010, Haakanson traveled with six Native […]

Memories from Lost Villages

Laura Nielsen for FrontierScientists World War II brought conflict and trial to Alaska. Unalaska, located in the Aleutian Islands, had served as a trading hub for local villages. Native people from Biorka, Kashega, and Makushin would bring goods like fox pelts and baskets via boat and hiking trail to Unalaska to trade. In June 4, […]

Alaska dune yields oldest human remains of far north

Ned Rozell for UAFGI – Last summer, archaeologist Ben Potter was supervising a group of researchers digging on an ancient sand dune above the Tanana River. Potter, who had a field camp he needed to start at another site, was anxious to get through the last day of work at the dune. Two graduate students, […]

Far-north permafrost cliff is one of a kind

Ned Rozell for UAFGI – In northern Alaska, an amphitheater of frozen ground is thawing where a northern river is cutting it, exposing walls of ice. The feature, known by scientists as “yedoma,” is the largest of its kind yet found in Alaska. Jim Helmericks, who lives with his wife Teena on the mouth of the […]

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 […]

New videos about Permafrost, a blog about the Dog Mushing Weather Dance, and a video description of FLOPs

January 31, 2012– Permafrost is an underground phenomena but three new videos, with beautiful footage and photos, allow you to see permafrost with your own eyes. University of Alaska-Fairbanks scientists Vladimir Romanovsky, Sergey Marchenko, and Ronald Daanen describe permafrost in videos “It’s a Bore Hole”, “The Permafrost Tilted House” and “Permafrost Patterns”. We should get […]

Flowing tongues of rock, ice and dirt

Ned Rozell for UAFGI – A few years ago, Ronald Daanen was driving north of Coldfoot on the Dalton Highway, looking for drunken trees. He pulled over when he saw some tipsy spruce on a hillside. The University of Alaska Fairbanks scientist thought the tilted trees would be a classic sign of thawing permafrost, ground […]

One Mean Dance Partner: How Mother Nature Twirls the Sport of Dog Mushing

Kristin Knight Pace for Frontier Scientists – The brittle cold of Dead Dog Flats is enough to make my parka crinkle as I ladle out the hot mixture of fat and tripe, chicken protein and kibble. One by one the dogs emerge from their houses and, by the time I have gone through the whole […]

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 […]

Into the Ice

By Carin Ashjian for The Arctic Winter Cruise 2011 We are now, finally, in ice. The ship is shuddering along, not breaking ice but rather pushing floes of pancake ice aside. When occasionally we break into a lead of open water, the ship glides unfettered, seemingly not moving because there is no irregular bumping and […]

Tern Tail and Shark’s Tooth

Laura Nielsen for Frontier Scientists The Karluk One archaeological site, situated on the shores of modern-day Kodiak Island, Alaska, was exceptionally well-preserved. The location of an ancient settlement where Alutiiq people once resided, the site was occupied from 1400AD to 1800AD and held an abundance of astounding artifacts. Its location turned out to be unfortunate. […]

Alaska volcano observers kick serious ash

With active volcanoes as close as 80 miles of Anchorage city limits, Alaskans are grateful for the professional volcano watchers who work in a nondescript building on the campus of Alaska Pacific University, topped with a massive array of tracking and communication instruments. “The August 18, 1992 Spurr eruption, sent an ash cloud here that […]

Sharing a planet with volcanoes

The scientists at the United States Geological Survey – Alaska Volcano Observatory (USGS-AVO) in Anchorage, Alaska don’t only have an impressive title – volcanologists – they also pursue an engaging, challenging career. Alaska contains over 130 volcanoes and volcanic fields.

Old age: it’s all in your mind when it comes to geologic time

It’s just a matter of time before one of the volcanoes in the chain that lines Cook Inlet erupts. But time in geologic terms is a bit like the federal deficit; so vast in scope it’s hard to comprehend. The Cook Inlet volcanoes of south central Alaska are practically babies when it comes to earth […]

The Arctic videographer’s wildest card: the weather

Our plan: a two-day video shoot to Cape Alitak on Kodiak Island in May 2010 to document the petroglyphs under study by the Alutiiq Museum and Archaeological Preserve. We had the best possible guides–the head researcher studying the rock art, anthropologist Sven Haakanson and his museum crew–to help us complete the scripted story we wanted […]

Cross-Cultural Art, a view of the Cape Alitak Petroglyphs

Laura Nielsen for Frontier Scientists – At the southern end of Kodiak Island, like gems hidden among the rocks of Cape Alitak, you can find petroglyphs carved into stone. These petroglyps are engraved images of faces, people, animals, spirals and shapes. Sven Haakanson, the executive director of Alutiiq Museum, works to document these petroglyphs. You […]

Future Directions: Beyond Matcharak Lake

The 2008-2009 excavations at Matcharak Lake confirm many assumptions about the Denbigh people 4000 years ago. We have shown the Denbigh to be specialized caribou hunters at least when they are in the mountains. We have shown the extensive use of organics as tools and that these earliest of Paleo-Eskimos were skilled artisans. Although research […]

Excavations at the Hungry Fox Archeological Site, Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve

Excavations at the Hungry Fox Archeological Site, Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve by Jeff Rasic for Alaska Park Science – Gates of the Arctic National Park, spanning the central portion of the Brooks Range in northern Alaska, is filled with remote river valleys that are hundreds of miles from the nearest city […]

Thermal State of Permafrost in North America: A Contribution to the International Polar Year

The permafrost monitoring network in the polar regions of the Northern Hemisphere was enhanced during the International Polar Year (IPY), and new information on permafrost thermal state was collected for regions where there was little available. This augmented monitoring network is an important legacy of the IPY, as is the updated baseline of current permafrost […]

Reflections on the Lake Matcharak Paleo-Eskimo dig

By investigating material culture, technological remains from our human past, we can better understand the way people interacted with the environment thousands of years ago. It can give us answers to how people adapted to change, whether it is climactic, technological, or interactions with other cultures. We as a global society are still facing these […]

Notes after our summer field work: Lake Matcharak

When we were working at the Matcharak Lake Denbigh Site in 2009, we noticed on a map that there are other spots around the lake which look like promising spots where people might have lived. So one day instead of excavating, Victoria and I took our boat across the lake and went on a short […]

Matcharak Lake: A seasonal mountain camp

The results of my studies identified four species of fish, dominated by arctic grayling, burbot, lake trout and northern pike, two species of bird, mostly willow ptarmigan, but a few duck bones (species unidentified) were recovered as well. This is important because ducks are migratory species only found in the Brooks Range in warmer months […]

The preservation of archaeological bone

A midden is basically a prehistoric trash dump. After processing animals for consumption, the unusable remains were often discarded in an area of the camp where people were not working and sleeping. Normally in the harsh arctic environment, bones on the surface waste away rather quickly. At Matcharak Lake, however, conditions were just right to […]

Uncovering the frozen remains of a Paleo-Eskimo culture

The Denbigh Flint Complex is the term used to define artifacts left behind by the earliest group of Paleo-Eskimos in Alaska. More broadly, the Denbigh are part of the Arctic Small Tool tradition, the first group of people to colonize arctic America from Alaska to Greenland, after the retreat of the massive ice-sheet that once […]

History in ice, a Paleo-Eskimo excavation

Does watching the archaeologists featured in Paleo-Eskimo videos hard at work– peeling away earth, getting excited over discovering an artifact– summon feelings of jealousy for anyone else? It does for me. The three archaeologists are working to uncover truths 4,000 years old. Situated in Gates of the Arctic National Park, their dig site reveals an […]