Alaska Science Forum

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September 13, 2018
By
Ned Rozell
DENALI NATIONAL PARK — When I was 12 years old, I didn’t know permafrost was like frozen lasagna. I didn’t know what permafrost was. I grew up in a small town on the Hudson River in New York.   But here is my 12-year-old daughter and her classmates, gathered amid fragrant tundra plants. She is sitting on the T-end of a pointed steel rod, in order to help shove it in the ground. She stops...
September 5, 2018
By
Ned Rozell
Leaving cloven hoofprints from the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, more than 3,500 muskoxen live in Alaska. All of those shaggy, curly-horned beasts came from one group of muskoxen that survived a most remarkable journey in the 1930s.   In 1900, no muskoxen existed in Alaska. Though the stocky, weatherproof creatures have survived in the Arctic since the last...
August 30, 2018
By
Ned Rozell
Maybe she has the right idea, the arctic ground squirrel. Sniffing the chilly air, looking up to see the first stars of the season, she has decided to check out. A few weeks shy of fall equinox, the squirrel is now bunkered up for winter, three feet beneath the tundra of the North Slope.   “There’s tons of food, there’s tons of light, so why are they hibernating?” said Cory Williams of the...
August 23, 2018
By
Ned Rozell
Floating down the Fortymile River, we saw a cut in the green hills that hinted of a creek. My canoeing partner and neighbor, Ian Carlson, 13, wanted to see a ghost town. The map told us one should be dead ahead.   There, up a path of floury soil, was Franklin, Alaska. Like many Alaska ghost towns, it was a less-than-ideal place for kids and dogs: rusted nails, jagged edges and punky wood...
August 16, 2018
By
Ned Rozell
Thanks to her six-year-old grandson, Janet Klein of Homer recently hosted a few interesting house guests.   Five experts on ancient creatures slept in Klein’s Homer house last month as they searched local cliffs for another chunk of a mammal that lived in Alaska millions of years ago. Her guests were Patrick Druckenmiller of the UA Museum of the North, Grant Zazula and Susan Hewitson of...
August 9, 2018
By
Ned Rozell
The evidence is in: Snowshoe hares near Wiseman eat lots of dirt.   “I have thousands and thousands of photos of hares eating soil in this one little spot,” said Donna DiFolco, a biologist and cartographer with the National Park Service.    DiFolco has studied hares in the eastern portion of Gates of the Arctic National Park since 1997. That’s when she started counting hare...
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...