Alaska Science Forum

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December 9, 2015
By
Ned Rozell
From space, the Nogahabara Dunes are a splotch of blond sand about six miles in diameter surrounded by green boreal forest. Located west of the Koyukuk River, the dunes are the site of an uncommon discovery. In 2001, biologists for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service were walking the dunes when they noticed the sand was infused with black rocks. Looking closer, they saw the rocks were obsidian,...
December 8, 2015
By
Ned Rozell
In this quiet, peaceful time of year, with all the noisy birds flown south and all the scary bears in hillside dens, little things catch our attention. Like wires that move as if by magic. Aurora scientist and interested-in-all-things guy Neal Brown contacted me to see if I had written about why power wires sometimes dance to their own beat when there seems to be no wind or other force pushing...
December 8, 2015
By
Ned Rozell
As a river eats its way into Newtok, Alaska, residents are planning their moves to a new village site 12 miles away. One family will move into a house on skis with the ability to migrate as needed with self-contained water and electrical systems. In his dozen visits to Newtok, a village of about 354 people 100 miles west of Bethel, Aaron Cooke has seen why the villagers have voted to move. "In...
December 8, 2015
By
Ned Rozell
Ed Berg has spent much of his life observing the natural happenings on a large peninsula (the Kenai) that juts from a larger peninsula (Alaska). The retired ecologist who worked many years for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been around long enough he might see a second version of the most damaging insect attack in Alaska history. The insect is the spruce bark beetle. About the size of a...
November 13, 2015
By
Ned Rozell
During Patrick Druckenmiller's not-so-restful sabbatical year, he is flying to museums around the world. In Alberta a few weeks ago and London now, the University of Alaska Museum’s curator of earth science is looking at bones of dinosaurs similar to ones found in northern Alaska. The more he squints at them and chats with experts, the more he thinks far-north dinosaurs are like Alaskans compared...
November 6, 2015
By
Ned Rozell
Eight summers ago, a bolt of lightning struck a dry tundra hillside in northern Alaska. Fanned by a warm wind that curled over the Brooks Range, the Anaktuvuk River fire burned for three months, leaving a scar visible from the International Space Station. The charred area was larger than Cape Cod. While northern Alaska's treeless terrain has not seen a repeat of the largest tundra fire in modern...
October 30, 2015
By
Ned Rozell
Aren Gunderson parks his truck, steps out and strips off his sweatshirt. "I always take off my outer clothing layer," says the caretaker of the University of Alaska Museum's colony of flesh-eating beetles. "The stink will stay with you." Gunderson, mammal collection manager at the museum, approaches a weathered set of buildings. He swings open a door. The dermestid beetles are housed about one...
October 23, 2015
By
Ned Rozell
On a damp island far out in the Aleutian chain, a secret weapon of Japan's World War II Navy sinks into the sod. A Type-A midget submarine the shape of a killer whale was one of six the Japanese carried to Kiska Island in 1942. Debra Corbett, an archaeologist who spent five weeks on Kiska last year, has imagined the plight of elite Japanese seamen assigned to operate the subs. Two men squeezed...
October 16, 2015
By
Ned Rozell
On a clear day last spring, fire sizzled on water at Poker Flat Research Range in the Chatanika River valley. There, scientists were spilling crude oil in a manmade water basin and torching it from above. A series of similar test burns were part of a team effort between university scientists and researchers with the oil and gas industry. On that April day, an orange flame hissed on the surface of...
October 9, 2015
By
Ned Rozell
As piles of wet snow fell, an unexpected guest rapped at the window. My wife, Kristen, heard it bump into the glass. She was soon cupping in her hands a delicate bird she saw perched on the windowsill. "It's a golden-crowned kinglet!" she said. Kristen is a bird biologist, but I was surprised at her identification. Mighty little ruby-crowned kinglets belt out their big songs in our woods each...