Alaska Science Forum

December 7, 2017
By
Ned Rozell
Snow falling silently on Alaska’s mountains will in a few months transform into a medium for migrating salmon, and so much more.   “That snowflake that falls on the mountain now is water that flows in streams and rivers late in summer,” said Gabe Wolken, a glaciologist who works both for the state and the University of Alaska.   Wolken and his colleagues recently added a snow-depth...
November 30, 2017
By
Ned Rozell
“Professor Fuller Drops Dead in Garden.”   So reads the headline in the Farthest-North Collegian newspaper of June 1, 1935. In the story, an unnamed writer described how the the wife of the only physics professor at the Alaska Agricultural College and School of Mines screamed when she found Veryl Fuller face down in his garden. He was 39.   Fuller left behind his Fairbanks-born wife...
November 22, 2017
By
Ned Rozell
On Halloween 2017, Alaskan Steve Ebbert, 56, retired from his job as an invasive species biologist. His longtime mission of removing arctic foxes and other human-introduced species from the Aleutian Islands has left him with a legacy few of us will match.   “There are hundreds of thousands more birds flying around on the planet because of that work. That’s a pretty cool accomplishment,”...
November 16, 2017
By
Ned Rozell
Animals the size of Labrador retrievers are changing the face of Alaska, creating new ponds visible from space.   “These guys leave a mark,” UAF ecologist Ken Tape said of North America’s largest rodents, beavers. He has observed the recent work of beavers north of Arctic Circle using satellite images. He and a group of arctic researchers have found the creatures have somehow colonized the...
November 9, 2017
By
Ned Rozell
MOUTH OF THE DELTA RIVER — On a morning with biting air in the single digits Fahrenheit, this river smells like sulfur and is splashy and loud. Bald eagles and ravens swoop in the updraft of a nearby rock bluff in what looks like play.   In early November, a time when shadows lengthen and deep cold hardens the landscape, chum salmon have returned to spawn in the lower Delta River. In spots...
November 2, 2017
By
Ned Rozell
A few Alaska researchers recently accepted a surprise assignment of giving Jerry Brown a tour of the Seward Peninsula.   The California governor was stopping in Nome on his way to a meeting in Russia. The 79-year-old environmentalist and leader of a state that resembles a progressive nation wanted to learn why the far north matters. He had never been to the Arctic or Alaska before....
October 26, 2017
By
Ned Rozell
In the early 1990s, Janet Collins was hiking in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge when she saw “Camp 163” labeled on her map. Intrigued, she later looked up Camp 163 in Donald Orth’s Dictionary of Alaska Place Names. Her curiosity led her to Ernest Leffingwell, the subject of a biography she has written and Washington State University Press just published.   In the early 1900s, Ernest...
October 18, 2017
By
Ned Rozell
The wolf tracks appeared as they always do, as a surprise.   On a day between fall and winter, with the leaves fallen and browning but the ground not yet hard, I was walking with my dog and an a.m. radio. We were descending a four-wheeler trail on a hillside 20 miles from the nearest town, Minto.   The dog was exercising its need to move after a summer of walking across the state....
October 18, 2017
By
Ned Rozell
Life exists everywhere you look. Even on glacier ice, home to inch-long worms, snow fleas, bacteria and algae.   When gathered by the millions on the ice, algae cells can help make the water they need to survive. Alaska scientists recently studied this living agent of glacier melt.   “If you went to a place on a glacier and scraped the algae away, about 20 percent of the melting...
October 5, 2017
By
Ned Rozell
In her study of one of the farthest north lynx populations in North America this summer, Claire Montgomerie used her ears. While looking at the satellite tracker a female lynx was wearing, Montgomerie saw the animal was hanging around a hillside north of the Arctic Circle, not far from Coldfoot. The University of Alaska Fairbanks graduate student suspected the lynx might have paused in its...