Alaska Science Forum

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August 2, 2018
By
Ned Rozell
YUKON RIVER — “She’s starting to wail,” Chris Florian says, referring to the worrisome shriek of a peregrine falcon across the river.   Florian, her biologist husband Skip Ambrose and I are sitting on warm gravel a few steps from the river on a sunny summer evening. We just ate dinner, and Ambrose is repeating an action he has performed for the past 46 summers — squinting through a...
July 26, 2018
By
Ned Rozell
It’s midsummer, a good time to slip a canoe onto the Yukon River.   I start at the river town of Eagle, population 85, and will finish in Circle, population 104. Circle is about 170 twisting miles downriver.    The Yukon is the longest and highest-volume river by far in Alaska. It is the third-longest in the U.S., after the Mississippi and the Missouri. At Eagle, the Yukon...
July 19, 2018
By
Ned Rozell
Floating down the Fortymile River, we heard the roar of a rapid just ahead. At the same time, we noticed the caribou, about 50 of them, clustered on a cliffside near the water.   It was too late to pull over. I aimed the canoe for the bumps of frothing brown water. As we plunged in, six antlered heads bobbed single-file in front of us. Caribou were swimming across the river at the pinch...
July 12, 2018
By
Ned Rozell
About 160 years ago, U.S. Secretary of State William Seward was taking some heat for his significant role in the purchase of Alaska. On the day the Russians received the $7.2 million check, a group of white travelers were at Nulato, getting ready for an upriver trip to Fort Yukon to explore this strange land. Among them was Frederick Whymper, an adventurous English artist who had signed on to...
June 28, 2018
By
Ned Rozell
Just beneath the owl box, hung 20 feet up the stem of a balsam poplar, the backyard barbeque continued late into the evening. Despite the thwap of badminton birdies and the chirp of human voices, the boreal owl had work to do.   With a vole in its talons, the hand-sized bird perched on a branch outside a wooden box nailed to the tree. After a quick scan of the activity below, the owl bent...
June 21, 2018
By
Ned Rozell
Just outside my window here at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, workers are drilling into the asphalt of a parking lot using a truck-mounted rig. They twist a hollow bit 25 feet into the ground and pull up hard, clear evidence of why the blacktop is sinking.   A few days ago, John Walsh gave a talk a few hundred steps from that parking lot. Walsh has spent 17 years in Fairbanks studying...
June 14, 2018
By
Ned Rozell
Of the five species of salmon that swim Alaska waters, the pink is by far the most plentiful. Some scientists think the fish is an overabundant predator that outcompetes other salmon and some seabirds.   In the late 1990s, Japanese researchers noticed an intriguing pattern while studying in the Bering Sea just north of the Aleutians. During every odd-numbered year, populations of tiny...
June 7, 2018
By
Ned Rozell
All of a sudden, we are again the land of no night. Summer happens every year, but it is always a surprise. Maybe because winter is the normal state of middle Alaska, with a white ground surface possible from late September until late April.   Over the years, I have marked this frenetic, green time by slaving my body clock to the circling sun and trying to stay awake at least once for 24...
May 31, 2018
By
Ned Rozell
In Alan Weisman’s book, “The World Without Us,” the author ponders “a world from which we all suddenly vanished. Tomorrow.” In his thought experiment, Weisman travels around the world to explore that question, revealing that cockroaches and bedbugs would not fare well without our sloppiness and warmth, but Theodore Roosevelt’s granite face will stare down from Mount Rushmore for the next 7.2...
May 25, 2018
By
Ned Rozell
For the past century, official thermometers scattered around Alaska have shown a warming trend. Most of the trusted weather stations are in river valleys; Gulkana, at 1,300 feet, is the high point of Alaska’s 21 “first order” weather stations, some of which have been running for a century.   But what about the weather up high? A scientist recently found evidence for even greater warming...