News Archive

September 17, 2015
These nights, Tom Seaton is dreaming less about red-brown, steaming, humpbacked hulks. He's also getting more sleep, knowing dozens of wood bison that galloped to freedom behind his snowmachine last spring are wandering new country, munching grass and having babies. So far so good in the attempt to stock Alaska with a giant that vanished from the swamps not long ago. "It's turning out better than...
September 10, 2015
With every autumn breath we take, Alaska brightens with yellows, reds and oranges of plants recovering what they can from tired solar panels. But one shrubby tree does not join the party. Alders remain a stubborn green. Many won't drop their leaves until long after the snow falls. This reluctance is one of the wonders of an overlooked organism, said ecologist Roger Ruess. A UAF professor, Ruess...
September 3, 2015
Instead of falling to the dozer blade, the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program has new life. In mid-August, U.S. Air Force General Tom Masiello shook hands with UAF's Brian Rogers and Bob McCoy, transferring the powerful upper-atmosphere research facility from the military to the university. You may have heard of HAARP. Nick Begich wrote a book about it. Jesse Ventura tried to bully...
August 27, 2015
Many years ago, geologists stood on the bank of the Copper River and watched Childs Glacier thunder icebergs straight into the river. Using a little imagination, one researcher remarked how an advance of the glacier could seal off the big river. He envisioned a process that has happened many times in the world and is still happening in Alaska: glaciers growing to the point where they block rivers...
August 20, 2015
This is not Henry Allen's Tanana River. Nor is it the Trail River of people living here thousands of years before the nineteenth-century government explorer struggled his way down the Tanana. But it seems close. I'm on a family trip down the wide brown river, starting where it arcs from the mountains to Fairbanks. Wife, daughter, dog and I will float the river 150 miles to the town of Manley Hot...
August 18, 2015
Derek Starkenburg’s academic progression is a case study in how a person can set out in one direction only to find the path leads down many forks. As a kid, he was fascinated by the spaces people inhabit. “I thought if you could control that space, you could do something to influence the feelings that those spaces engender in people,” Starkenburg says. These interests led him to a master’s...
August 6, 2015
One of the quietest places in Alaska was temporarily home to a few hardy people when the Mayflower landed at Plymouth Rock. An archaeologist has fleshed out what life might have been like during a winter on St. Matthew Island in the 1600s. In some ways, St. Matthew, more than 200 miles from the nearest Alaska settlement (the village of Mekoryuk) is a great place to live: lush with plantlife (some...
July 30, 2015
A few years ago, Link Olson wanted students in his mammalogy class to see one of the neatest little creatures in Alaska, the northern flying squirrel. He baited a few live traps with peanut butter rolled in oats and placed them in spruce trees. When he returned the next day, he found no flying squirrels. Instead, peering back at him were the beady eyes of the mice of the north, red-backed voles....
July 23, 2015
In late July, more than 300 wildfires are burning in Alaska. With burned acreage totals one month ahead of the historic 2004 fire season, summer 2015 is again the year of the wildfire. Many scientists are not surprised. In papers written a few years ago, Alaska researchers and others suggested smoky years like this one will be the norm for a few decades as hardwoods replace the spruce of Interior...
July 16, 2015
While slicing a cylinder of mud he pulled from an Interior Alaska lake, Matthew Wooller ran into a snag. The wire he was using to cut the mud stopped when it hit something solid. He grabbed a knife, carved around the obstruction, and made a discovery. "There were a bunch of bones and very sharp teeth sprouting from the lake mud," said Wooller, the head of the Alaska Stable Isotope Facility at UAF...