Alaska Science Forum

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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...
May 17, 2018
By
Ned Rozell
A Fairbanks scientist recently made an intricate new map of Denali while crisscrossing its summit a few times in a single-engine airplane. His top-of-the-continent measurement was within a few feet of a GPS reading done a few years ago, using a system he calls fodar.   Matt Nolan is a former University of Alaska Fairbanks faculty member who is now in the business of precision mapping using...
May 10, 2018
By
Ned Rozell
When I left my sister’s house in Brooklyn yesterday afternoon, I was 4,200 miles from my home. That’s a long way, but I slept in my Fairbanks bed before the next sunrise. Enabling this incredible time travel are modern jet aircraft like the Boeing 737-700, which carried me and 125 others on the first leg of my journey, from Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey to Seattle-Tacoma...
May 2, 2018
By
Ned Rozell
“Jeremy offers us only his incessant snoring to remind us that he is a man and not a god.” So wrote Seth Adams on an Instagram post showing Jeremy Vandermeer striding across a wind-whipped ridge near the frozen headwaters of the Ambler River. Adams is a writer and photographer in Fairbanks who accompanied Vandermeer for a good portion of a recent 500-plus mile ski traverse of Alaska. Vandermeer...