Alaska Science Forum

July 30, 2015
By
Ned Rozell
A few years ago, Link Olson wanted students in his mammalogy class to see one of the neatest little creatures in Alaska, the northern flying squirrel. He baited a few live traps with peanut butter rolled in oats and placed them in spruce trees. When he returned the next day, he found no flying squirrels. Instead, peering back at him were the beady eyes of the mice of the north, red-backed voles....
July 23, 2015
By
Ned Rozell
In late July, more than 300 wildfires are burning in Alaska. With burned acreage totals one month ahead of the historic 2004 fire season, summer 2015 is again the year of the wildfire. Many scientists are not surprised. In papers written a few years ago, Alaska researchers and others suggested smoky years like this one will be the norm for a few decades as hardwoods replace the spruce of Interior...
July 16, 2015
By
Ned Rozell
While slicing a cylinder of mud he pulled from an Interior Alaska lake, Matthew Wooller ran into a snag. The wire he was using to cut the mud stopped when it hit something solid. He grabbed a knife, carved around the obstruction, and made a discovery. "There were a bunch of bones and very sharp teeth sprouting from the lake mud," said Wooller, the head of the Alaska Stable Isotope Facility at UAF...
June 26, 2015
By
Ned Rozell
While tightroping on tussock heads in a bog off the Chandalar River, two companions and I heard a waterfall. Strange. Looking through binoculars, we saw a knee-high fountain of clear water in the tundra. The flow was as thick as your leg. We squished over to investigate. The three of us had never seen water spewing from the ground in such a way. The clear water was so cold it burned, forcing us...
June 22, 2015
By
Ned Rozell
MIDDLE FORK, CHANDALAR RIVER — Two-hundred miles straight north of my home in Fairbanks, I'm at the northern edge of a forest that carpets the continent all the way to Labrador. Here for a meteorite search with an astronomer, I have helicoptered into a place humming with life. This dark spot on the nighttime map of North America is not always in this active state, with the squeak of bank swallows...
June 22, 2015
By
Ned Rozell
NEAR THE MIDDLE FORK, CHANDALAR RIVER — Our knees pressed into crunchy lichen, three of us hunch around a rock the size of a postage stamp. Peter Jenniskens, a meteor astronomer with the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute in Mountain View, California, is smiling. This rock is unusual: it was sitting on top of day-glow lichen and is dark as a charcoal briquette. “I’m very...
June 8, 2015
By
Ned Rozell
On February 26 at 1:06 p.m., someone in northern Alaska may have seen a torch of light in the cold daytime sky. On that afternoon, satellites detected a meteoric fireball headed toward Earth. An asteroid six feet in diameter penetrated the atmosphere at 13 miles per second, piercing the protective shell of gases at a steep angle. Arriving from the northwest, the asteroid exploded 21 miles above...
June 8, 2015
By
Ned Rozell
When Carl Roland was hiking the high country in an Alaska national park not long ago, he thought the landscape looked different than any park in the Lower 48. The alpine zone seemed to be carpeted with more plant species than the much-larger forests and wetlands in the valleys below. When Roland looked at plant inventories from a large chunk of Denali National Park, he confirmed a pattern that...
May 24, 2015
By
Ned Rozell
In a gorgeous warm May this year, we have not yet sniffed the bitter scent of flaming spruce. When we do, many of us will think back to a year that still haunts us. In summer 2004, a Vermont-sized patch of Alaska burned in wildfires. That hazy summer was the most extreme fire year in the half century people have kept score. Here's how it happened. May 2004 was warmer than average in the Interior...
April 13, 2015
By
Ned Rozell
A scientist named Victor Hessler once made an aurora detector by driving two metal rods in the ground a few hundred feet apart and stringing a wire between them. When voltage changed along the wire, a bell rang. Hessler then pulled on his boots and went outside to take black-and-white aurora photos. During the recent St. Patrick's Day geomagnetic storm, people all over North America became...