Alaska Science Forum

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January 25, 2018
By
Ned Rozell
Two things happened on top of the world this week. In Utqiagvik (formerly Barrow), on January 22 the sun topped the horizon for the first time since mid-November.    The day before that, January 21, was the first time since Halloween the town’s thermometers recorded a below-normal daily average air temperature.   The returning daylight for the continent’s farthest north...
January 11, 2018
By
Ned Rozell
There are no photographs of bison spilling by the thousands across the Great Plains. By the time cameras came along, most of the bison were gone. John Wright of Fairbanks believes he has an Alaska version of what that photo might have been.   His image, 12 slide frames stitched together to show the Brooks Range rising from northern tundra, is papered on a wall of the University of Alaska...
January 9, 2018
By
Ned Rozell
NEW ORLEANS — As a child, Deb Long spent many hours at the post office in Ester, Alaska. Her mother Ruth was the postmaster there. As an adult, she has settled into a funky little house that stands on brick legs in the Holy Cross section of New Orleans. She likes to listen to jazz while trimming her banana tree and working on a former wagon house she rents out as an airbnb.   After she...
January 9, 2018
By
Ned Rozell
NEW ORLEANS — At this gathering of thousands scientists at a horseshoe bend of the lower Mississippi River, a few talked about a place far away they have been watching for years.   “The Arctic shows no sign of returning to the reliably frozen state it was a decade ago,” said Jeremy Mathis, an oceanographer with the Pacific Marine Environmental Lab in Seattle.    He was one of...
December 7, 2017
By
Ned Rozell
Snow falling silently on Alaska’s mountains will in a few months transform into a medium for migrating salmon, and so much more.   “That snowflake that falls on the mountain now is water that flows in streams and rivers late in summer,” said Gabe Wolken, a glaciologist who works both for the state and the University of Alaska.   Wolken and his colleagues recently added a snow-depth...
November 30, 2017
By
Ned Rozell
“Professor Fuller Drops Dead in Garden.”   So reads the headline in the Farthest-North Collegian newspaper of June 1, 1935. In the story, an unnamed writer described how the the wife of the only physics professor at the Alaska Agricultural College and School of Mines screamed when she found Veryl Fuller face down in his garden. He was 39.   Fuller left behind his Fairbanks-born wife...
November 22, 2017
By
Ned Rozell
On Halloween 2017, Alaskan Steve Ebbert, 56, retired from his job as an invasive species biologist. His longtime mission of removing arctic foxes and other human-introduced species from the Aleutian Islands has left him with a legacy few of us will match.   “There are hundreds of thousands more birds flying around on the planet because of that work. That’s a pretty cool accomplishment,”...
November 16, 2017
By
Ned Rozell
Animals the size of Labrador retrievers are changing the face of Alaska, creating new ponds visible from space.   “These guys leave a mark,” UAF ecologist Ken Tape said of North America’s largest rodents, beavers. He has observed the recent work of beavers north of Arctic Circle using satellite images. He and a group of arctic researchers have found the creatures have somehow colonized the...
November 9, 2017
By
Ned Rozell
MOUTH OF THE DELTA RIVER — On a morning with biting air in the single digits Fahrenheit, this river smells like sulfur and is splashy and loud. Bald eagles and ravens swoop in the updraft of a nearby rock bluff in what looks like play.   In early November, a time when shadows lengthen and deep cold hardens the landscape, chum salmon have returned to spawn in the lower Delta River. In spots...
November 2, 2017
By
Ned Rozell
A few Alaska researchers recently accepted a surprise assignment of giving Jerry Brown a tour of the Seward Peninsula.   The California governor was stopping in Nome on his way to a meeting in Russia. The 79-year-old environmentalist and leader of a state that resembles a progressive nation wanted to learn why the far north matters. He had never been to the Arctic or Alaska before....