2016 Lectures

The 2016 Science for Alaska Lecture Series will run on Tuesdays, January 19 through February 23, with a bonus lecture on March 17.


Bonus Lecture: Thursday, March 17

Wedgewood Resort Borealis Ballroom

Coastal bathtub rings: What ancient shorelines tell us about future sea level rise

Julie Brigham-Grette, University of Massachusetts-Amherst

Glacial and interglacial change during the ice ages uniquely imposed on the Bering Strait region some of the most radical changes in sea level and paleogeography documented in the Northern Hemisphere. The Bering Land Bridge is a landscape that existed because of glaciation, exposing the shallow parts of the Bering and Chukchi seas.  Following the transition from a forested Arctic 3 million years ago to the first major glaciation of the northern hemisphere about 2.6 million years ago, coastal marine deposits found along the coasts of Alaska and Chukotka record a number of critical transitions in the evolution of Northern Hemisphere climate.  Ancient shorelines, or bathrub rings, record not only natural global warming but also the northward migration of marine ecosystems and changes in the extent of sea ice along Alaska’s shores. Changes in Beringian shorelines likely influenced the migration of man into North America. New research helps us understand the rate and timing of the last submergence of the Bering Strait, 12,000 years ago, and how ongoing sea level rise will likely cause changes in the shorelines we live along today.


January 19 - What do nano-technology, brain and border patrol have in common?

Martin Cenek, Assistant Professor, UAA

Climate change significantly effects vast regions of the sensitive arctic landscape. As a result, previously inaccessible locations will open up for commerce, research, natural resource exploration and recreation, with an increase of human traffic and environmental impact.  The ability to monitor the changes is vital for environmental monitoring, resource management, disaster response and patterns of use. The arctic region’s vast size, harsh environmental conditions, lack of reliable power and sparse communication infrastructure requires alternative means of survey and monitoring tools: cheap, redundant, decentralized, distributed and asynchronous. This talk will present a conceptual design of sensor networks that are inspired by the neuro-physiology of the human brain for event sensing in vast remote regions.

Martin Cenek is a computer science researcher and educator interested in a broad range of topics that include complex systems, cognition, artificial intelligence and artificial life, networks, machine learning, evolutionary computations and biologically inspired machines and computations. He received a PhD in computer science from Portland State University in artificial intelligence and complex systems. With his advisor Dr. Melanie Mitchell, he studied how to model of complex system processes information in order to solve a given problem. He's an avid outdoorsman.





January 26 - Drawing girls to science through art


Laura Conner, Research Assistant Professor, UAF-GI

Despite huge advances in the last few decades, women are still underrepresented in many science fields. For instance, only about 15 percent of engineers are female, and only 12 percent of physicists and astronomers are female. A leading cause of this disparity is a lack of interest in, and identification with, science among girls. Starting about middle school, girls tend to view science as rote, passionless, uncreative and not relevant to their interests. Our project is documenting how an educational approach that integrates art and science can change stereotypical views about scientists and science careers.

Laura Carsten Conner is a research assistant professor of science education at the Geophysical Institute and the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics at UAF. She was formerly the head of public programs at the University of Alaska Museum of the North, where she directed the development of exhibits and educational programs. Laura earned her PhD in ecology and evolutionary biology in 2007 from the University of Arizona, a master’s degree in science writing from the University of Washington in 2001, a master’s degree in plant pathology from Montana State University in 1998, and a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Colorado, Boulder.  She now conducts research in the learning sciences.  Laura enjoys spending time with her family, traveling, hiking and reading Harry Potter books in her free time.



February 2 - Tsunamis: How nature keeps surprising scientists

Elena Suleimani, Research Analyst, UAF-GI

The two shocking tsunami disasters of the 21st century have forever changed the definition of the word "tsunami." Its meaning was elevated from just an infrequent though potentially dangerous natural phenomenon to one capable of inflicting hundreds of thousands of fatalities and reaching every coastline on Earth. While the unrealized geophysical hazard was the major reason for the absence of a tsunami warning system and tsunami education in the Indian Ocean region and, as a result, the incomprehensible number of fatalities in 2004, the major cause of the high casualty rate in the 2011 Tohoku tsunami was failure to evacuate. The shift in paradigm caused by the tragic lessons learned from these recent catastrophic tsunamis is now used to reduce the potential damage and fatalities from future disasters.

Elena Suleimani holds a BS degree in radiophysics and electronics from the Gorky State University, Russia, a MS in Physical Oceanography from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and PhD in geophysics from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. She has studied nonlinear dynamics of tsunami waves at the Institute of Applied Physics of the Russian Academy of Sciences, and later numerical modeling of tsunami waves at the Institute of Marine Sciences at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Elena is currently at the Geophysical Institute in Fairbanks and is working on tsunami inundation mapping for Alaska coastal communities.



February 9 - Exploring the subterranean realms of Alaska’s active volcanoes

Jessica Larsen, Professor, UAF-GI

Alaska, located along the North Pacific portion of the Ring of Fire, is home to 52 historically active, potentially hazardous, and spectacularly beautiful volcanoes. These not-so-silent residents of our state produce an astounding diversity in eruption styles; each volcano has a somewhat unique “personality.” In order to monitor, assess hazards, and provide timely and accurate information to the public about our restless volcanoes, we must investigate what happens within the crust of the Earth: a realm hidden from human eyes. In this talk we will observe the region beneath volcanoes, from their deep magmatic roots all the way to the surface of the Earth, and explore some of the reasons why together they exhibit an astounding array of differences in eruption style.

Jessica Larsen received her PhD in geophysics from the University of California, Santa Cruz in 1996. Since arriving at UAF in 1997 to work with the Alaska Volcano Observatory, Larsen has focused her research on petrological imaging of the subterranean plumbing systems feeding Alaska’s many, frequently active volcanoes. To discover where magmas are staged in the crust and how they cause diverse, explosive or effusive eruption styles, she combines fieldwork in the remote Aleutian Islands and creates synthetic magma using high pressure and temperature experiments conducted here at UAF in the Petrology Lab.





February 16 - Home on the ice: Sea ice change and Arctic wildlife

Olivia Lee, Research Assistant professor, UAF-IARC

Sea ice plays a prominent role in the lives of walrus and ice seals in the Arctic. Learn how scientists and subsistence hunters are collaborating using a combination of satellite imagery and local observations to study the effects of changing sea ice on the behavior and migration of walrus, bearded, ringed and spotted seals in Alaska.

Olivia Lee has a PhD in wildlife and fisheries sciences from Texas A&M University, and a BA in marine science from the University of Hawaii at Hilo. She has studied seals and sea otters in Alaska and Russia, looking at migration patterns and how they use their environment to find food. She is interested in using technology and local knowledge to track changes in sea ice habitat in the Arctic.






February 23 - HAARP: New frontiers in space science on the last frontier

William Bristow, Professor, UAF-GI

The Geophysical Institute recently took over operation of the facilities of the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program after the Air Force Research Laboratory discontinued its research at the site. This high profile program has attracted a lot of attention over the years for a variety of imagined activities. The truth, however, is far more prosaic than was imagined, though still quite interesting. This presentation will cover some of the history of the program, including some of the significant results obtained, and plans for future research.


Bill Bristow is a professor of electrical engineering at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. His research focuses on the physics of the near-Earth space environment, primarily through radar observations of the ionosphere. He is the group leader for space physics research at the Geophysical Institute and the principal investigator for five radar systems supported by the National Science Foundation, three of which are in Alaska, and two are in Antarctica. Bristow is the GI’s chief scientist for the HAARP system.  




2016 Flyer