2018 Lectures

The 2018 Science for Alaska Lecture Series will happen on Tuesdays, January 30 through March 6, at 7p.m.

The 2018 lectures will be held at the Raven Landing Center, 1222 Cowles Street, across from the Noel Wein Public Library.

January 30 - Tundra be dammed: Beaver colonization of the Arctic

Ken Tape, Research Associate Professor, UAF Institute of Northern Engineering 

Increasing air temperatures are changing the arctic tundra. Permafrost is thawing, snow duration is decreasing, shrubs are proliferating, and beavers are colonizing the tundra of northwest Alaska. Beaver ponds are warming stream water and thawing permafrost, while impacts to fish and stream biology are unknown. Beavers create dynamic wetlands and are agents of disturbance that appear to be enhancing the ecological responses to warming in the Arctic. In this talk, I will discuss patterns of tundra beaver colonization and consider how this ecosystem engineer might reshape stream and riparian ecosystems.




February 6 - Continuity and change: A century of Alaska weather and climate

Rick Thoman, Climate Science and Services Manager, National Weather Service Alaska Region

Systematic weather and climate observations started much later in Alaska than in the Lower 48. However, thanks to four generations of dedicated professional and volunteer observers we have a robust weather and climate record that extends beyond living memory. The story from this century of records is a fascinating tale of both change and continuity. On the North Slope, autumns are warming so fast that computers monitoring temperatures thought the measurements were unreal and excluded the data from their reports. While growing seasons are lengthening in many areas, in some places there is no trend. Today dramatic weather events make national headlines, but high-impact weather has always been a regular part of Alaskans’ lives. In this talk, we'll take a stroll through the past and come away with a sense of what's different and what's similar today, and how this might help us plan for Alaska's future.


February 13 - The Chicxulub impact and the dawn of a new era

Michael T. Whalen, Professor of Geology, UAF-GI

Sixty-six million years ago, an asteroid a little larger in diameter than downtown Fairbanks smashed into the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico. This caused one of the greatest upheavals recorded in Earth history, the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event. The impact led to the loss of 75 percent of all species on Earth, including the most charismatic of megafauna, the dinosaurs. In May 2016, the International Ocean Discovery Program/ International Continental Drilling Program recovered a new core from the impact crater, Chicxulub (Cheek-zoo-lube), created by the asteroid. In this talk, we will explore the ways that the impact event affected the Earth’s crust to produce a 125-mile-wide crater with a circular ring of mountains around its center. We’ll also investigate the types of deposits left by the impact and subsequent tsunami that reverberated around the Gulf of Mexico and the evidence for recovery of life in the crater. The Chicxulub impact marks the dawn of a new geologic Era as the giants of the Mesozoic fell, making way for the rise of mammals in the Cenozoic.


February 20 - How shrinking glaciers are affecting Alaska's coastal ecosystems

Eran Hood, Professor of Environmental Science, UAS

Alaska’s glaciers are losing mass at some of the highest rates on Earth. These changes in glacier volume influence glacier meltwater release, which has a variety of downstream impacts including modifying the temperature of coastal streams as well as nutrient and light availability in estuary ecosystems. Glacier recession is also expected to influence marine ecosystem productivity in areas where tidewater glaciers are being lost from highly productive glacial fjords. Given current rates of glacier change in Alaska, it is critical to improve our understanding of the linkages between icefields and downstream freshwater and marine ecosystems. This talk will explore how changes in glacier volume will affect the physical and ecological properties of rivers and estuaries along the Gulf of Alaska that support a wide variety of culturally and commercially relevant species including Pacific salmon.


February 27 - Exploring the final frontier from the last frontier

Richard Collins, Chief Scientist for the Poker Flat Research Range, Professor of Atmopsheric Science, UAF-GI


Perched at Poker Flat Research Range in Alaska, the Last Frontier, scientists have been studying space, the Final Frontier, for nearly 50 years. These studies have allowed researchers to explore how processes launched from both the Sun and Earth impact our space environment. This talk will look at how scientists have and continue to use rockets at Poker Flat Research Range to conduct their work and better understand these connections between space and our environment. The talk will highlight recent scientific discoveries and the payloads that made them possible.



March 6 - Alaska puts the Remote in Remote Sensing

Nettie La Belle-Hamer, Deputy Director, UAF-GI, Director, Alaska Satellite Facility 

Last spring many people watched with interest as the iconic, big, blue antenna on top of the University Alaska Fairbanks Elvey building was dismantled and a new, bigger, bluer dish was assembled in its place. Another large dish in the woods on North Campus was joined by a nearly identical one in 2013. At the same time, the Alaska Satellite Facility added two new antennas along the Richardson Highway. As we prepare to build two additional larger, more capable, antennas for NASA and install many antennas for small satellites, curiosity in the community is building. Why is NASA so interested in Alaska? Why so many antennas and why here? Part of the answer can be borrowed from your friendly neighborhood real estate broker: location, location, location. But location is not enough. To hear the rest of the story, join me for a look at remote sensing in Alaska, the Arctic and beyond.



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