News – UAF news and information http://news.uaf.edu UAF news and information Mon, 27 Jun 2016 20:28:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Researchers uncover some mysteries of Arctic lampreys http://news.uaf.edu/researchers-uncover-mysteries-arctic-lampreys/ http://news.uaf.edu/researchers-uncover-mysteries-arctic-lampreys/#respond Mon, 27 Jun 2016 20:28:05 +0000 http://news.uaf.edu/?p=65987 Arctic lampreys are known for their toothy oral disk. Photo by Katie Shink.With limited information and funding available, University of Alaska Fairbanks researchers are trying to piece together basic information about lamprey population dynamics and diet.]]> Arctic lampreys are known for their toothy oral disk. Photo by Katie Shink.

If you live in Fairbanks, you may recall the excitement that spread when flying lampreys made national news in June 2015. The lampreys had been dropped by gulls into parking lots around town.

<i>Photo by Katie Shink</i><br>Arctic lampreys are known for their toothy oral disk.
Photo by Katie Shink
Arctic lampreys are known for their toothy oral disk.

The fish are abundant in Interior Alaska waters. But little is known about how they live, eat and function as a part of the Arctic ecosystem. With limited information and funding available, University of Alaska Fairbanks researchers are trying to piece together basic information about lamprey population dynamics and diet.

Trent Sutton, a professor at the UAF School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, started studying Alaska’s lampreys in 2010. He joined forces with Andrés López, a professor at SFOS and the curator of fishes at the UA Museum of the North, and SFOS graduate student Katie Shink to study how lampreys develop and what this means for migration and feeding behavior.

Larval lampreys — called ammocoetes — can develop into one of two life stages. Anadromous Arctic lampreys migrate out to the Bering Sea to feed. Like salmon, they spend a number of years in the ocean, and then return to freshwater to spawn and die. Ammocoetes that develop into Alaskan brook lampreys remain in freshwater, where they become non-feeding adults that spawn and die.

Recent research suggests that Arctic lampreys and Alaskan brook lampreys are different forms of the same species. “The big question I want to figure out is — when is that decision point when a lamprey is compelled to either migrate out to the Bering Sea or remain in its natal location and begin the spawning process?” Sutton said.

With funding from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Rasmuson Fisheries Research Center and the UAF Center for Global Change Student Research Grant Competition, the researchers are beginning to piece together information on the lamprey’s genetic history.

Shink identified statistically distinct genetic populations of lampreys in the Chena, Gisasa and Andreafsky rivers. The scientists do not yet know why the three populations are unique. The Chena and Gisasa respectively feed the Tanana and Koyukuk rivers, major tributaries of the middle Yukon River. The Andreafsky is one of the final rivers to join the lower Yukon before it flows into the Bering Sea.

<i>Photo by Katie Shink</i><br>This fish fin was recovered from an Arctic lamprey's intestine, indicating that Arctic lampreys are predators.
Photo by Katie Shink
This fish fin was recovered from an Arctic lamprey’s intestine, indicating that Arctic lampreys are predators.

The researchers are also studying lamprey feeding habits. It is commonly assumed that all lampreys are parasitic, meaning they attach to a host and consume their blood. Shink discovered fish bones and fins in Arctic lamprey intestines, suggesting the fish are actually predators. She is the first researcher to study the diets of Arctic lampreys from samples of intestinal tract contents.

Shink is using environmental DNA testing to identify species present in lamprey intestines. Her samples were collected during annual National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration trawl surveys.

The researchers found DNA for salmon, cod, flatfish, capelin and rainbow smelt. Unexpectedly, they also detected a mystery: DNA sequences for sandlance, a small, agile fish that Shink believes is much too quick to be susceptible to predation by a lamprey.

“That’s one of the challenges of this genetic technique — determining how our results make sense, and in what context,” Shink said.

There are still many unknowns about how lampreys develop and function. The research team is eager to continue unraveling the story.

Read more on the School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences website.

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UAF researcher explores blue holes for climate change clues http://news.uaf.edu/uaf-researcher-explores-blue-holes-for-climate-change-clues/ http://news.uaf.edu/uaf-researcher-explores-blue-holes-for-climate-change-clues/#respond Thu, 23 Jun 2016 20:02:46 +0000 http://news.uaf.edu/?p=65972 bluehole-2_cropExamining records of large storms during the last 10,000 years could improve scientists’ understanding of how a changing climate affects large storm activity now and in the future. To start developing that record, researchers like UAF's Chris Maio are searching in underwater features that have trapped sediments over thousands of years.]]> bluehole-2_crop
Photo courtesy of Chris Maio<br /> The research vessel Alucia sits near a blue hole in this image captured by a drone. The dark blue color signifies deep water surrounded by reefy shallows.
Photo courtesy of Chris Maio
The research vessel Alucia sits near a blue hole in this image captured by a drone. The dark blue color signifies deep water surrounded by reefy shallows.

Coastal scientist Christopher Maio rested his eyes on a column of indigo known as a blue hole. The surrounding blue-green waters leveled over reefy shallows.

From the back of a boat, Maio and a group of researchers lowered a metal tube to the blue hole’s floor 150 feet below to capture one of many sediment cores.

At the blue hole’s bottom were alternating layers of thick, dark organic matter and thin white layers of coarse sands. Dark signifies an ocean at rest. White attests to turbulence. In sum, they create a zebra-striped history of local hurricanes that possibly dates back 10,000 years.

“Looking at a long storm history is the best way to understand the relationship between hurricanes and climate in order to assess future risk,” Maio said.

That long storm history is lacking. Historical records only go back a couple hundred years, if that, through ship logs and newspaper accounts.

Scientists like Maio are trying to fill in the timeline. He is an assistant professor of geosciences with the University of Alaska Fairbanks College of Natural Science and Mathematics. He hopes to reconstruct several thousand years of large storm history in the Bering Sea.

So why was he in the Bahamas?

Photo courtesy of Chris Maio Coastal scientist Chris Maio sits on the edge of an inflatable raft as his team navigates the reefy shallows around a blue hole. Maio is a researcher and assistant professor at the College of Natural Science and Mathematics.
Photo courtesy of Chris Maio
Coastal scientist Chris Maio sits on the edge of an inflatable raft as his team navigates the reefy shallows around a blue hole. Maio is a researcher and assistant professor at the College of Natural Science and Mathematics.

The pitch

Maio received an enticing pitch from his mentor, coastal scientist Jeff Donnelly of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, that went something like this:

Would Maio be interested in visiting 10 blue holes in the Bahamas, the Turks and Caicos and Haiti aboard businessman Ray Dalio’s private research vessel, the Alucia? Dalio is donating the ship’s time and crew to the research.

Sure

Would he mind if a film crew recorded the April research trip for the second season of the documentary television series “Years of Living Dangerously,” which will air on the National Geographic Channel this fall?

Not at all

Would he feel comfortable with two vampires on board?

Um … what?

Each episode of the show features a celebrity host who investigates a certain aspect of climate change. Actor Ian Somerhalder, who stars in the television show “The Vampire Diaries” and acted in the first season of the TV show “Lost,” was the celebrity host investigating how climate change will affect hurricane activity. He brought his wife Nikki Reed, who acted in the vampire movie series “The Twilight Saga.”

Together — the ship’s operating crew, the film crews, the actors/vampires and the scientists — traveled to the blue holes to learn about the research that will eventually be broadcast to the world.

What will the world learn? (You heard it here first)

“Right now many people say recent warming will increase storm occurrence and intensity, but it’s more complicated than that,” Maio said.

The dynamics that regulate storm occurrence, frequency and location are complex, and the factors that increase storms in one area may lessen them in another, Maio said.

Photo courtesy of Chris Maio A pontoon boat from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution is offloaded by a research vessel while studying a "blue hole" in the Caribbean.
Photo courtesy of Chris Maio
A pontoon boat from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution is offloaded by a research vessel while studying a blue hole in the Caribbean.

Examining records of large storms during the last 10,000 years, when the climate cooled and warmed, could improve scientists’ understanding of how a changing climate affects large-storm activity now and in the future, Maio said.

To start developing that record, Maio said Donnelly turned to underwater features near coastlines that have trapped sediments over thousands of years.

They can be basins, salt marshes or blue holes, as long as their waters were deep enough 10,000 years ago for layers to grow until today.

Being near the coastline and vegetation is key. It means dark organic sediments form layers when the waters are quiet. Then contrasting layers of heavier, larger sediments form when a powerful enough storm system roils the waters and shovels the sediments in.

Core samples are taken from the feature’s bottom, where the layers provide a chronology. Scientists use methods like radio-carbon dating to determine the age of the organic layers.

Although Donnelly pioneered this technique, many students and researchers like Maio who have worked with him are carrying on this work in different parts of the world. They hope their combined research will paint a historical picture of storm activity on a global scale.

Quite a few of those students and researchers have formed what Maio calls the “A-Team of coring” in the Bahamas. He hopes the same team will help him when the time comes to collect sediment cores off Alaska’s shores.

“I want to carry on this work in the Bering Sea because Alaska’s coastlines are certainly at risk from large storms,” he said. “To understand Bering Sea storms, we really need 10 to 15 good coring sites.”

Maio is still searching for sites, as are his colleagues in their respective parts of the world. On a boat ride back from a blue hole one night under the twinkling stars, they hatched a plan.

“We were thinking we should have our own reality TV show,” he said, one that follows the researchers all over the world as they explore coastal sediments. “We’ll call it the ‘Mud Hunters.’”

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New technique settles debate on highest U.S. Arctic peaks http://news.uaf.edu/new-technique-settles-debate-highest-arctic-peaks/ http://news.uaf.edu/new-technique-settles-debate-highest-arctic-peaks/#respond Thu, 23 Jun 2016 18:41:04 +0000 http://news.uaf.edu/?p=65887 Mount IstoA new, affordable mapping technique developed by a University of Alaska Fairbanks researcher has settled a longstanding debate about which mountain is the tallest in the U.S. Arctic.]]> Mount Isto
Mount Isto
Visualization courtesy of Matt Nolan
The west face of Mount Isto, tallest mountain in the U.S. Arctic. This was the face the team skied up and down with GPS.

A new, affordable mapping technique developed by a University of Alaska Fairbanks researcher has settled a longstanding debate about which mountain is the tallest in the U.S. Arctic.

UAF glaciologist Matt Nolan and ski mountaineer Kit DesLauriers joined forces to test the technique and settle the decades-long debate. Their research is published in The Cryosphere, an open access journal of the European Geosciences Union.

At 20,310 feet, Denali is the uncontested highest peak in North America, but above the Arctic Circle, a debate remains about which mountain can be crowned the tallest in the United States. Depending on the scale of the map you look at, the 1950s U.S. Geological Survey’s topographic maps of the eastern Alaska Arctic show either Mount Chamberlin or Mount Isto as the highest mountain in the region.

“These mountain peaks just happened to be located in the same area as the glaciers we were studying and several of the peaks ended up in our maps,” said Nolan, a UAF professor and the lead author of the study. He had been mapping glacier volume change in the Brooks Range using a technique called fodar, which he invented. “Because we were interested in understanding the performance limitations of fodar in steep mountain terrain, it seemed a natural fit to combine this validation testing with settling the debate on which peak was the tallest.”

Mount Chamberlin
Visualization courtesy of Matt Nolan
The northwest face of Mount Chamberlin. The climbing team first tried taking the left ridge up the snow slope, but changed course due to safety and gained the right ridge at the corner where it flattens out.

Fodar is used to survey and map terrain using airborne photography. It’s similar to airborne lidar, which relies on laser equipment mounted on an aircraft to scan the landscape and create 3-D maps of the terrain, but is much more affordable.

“The core equipment is a modern, professional DSLR camera, a high-quality lens, a survey-grade GPS unit, and some custom electronics to link the camera to the GPS,” Nolan explained. “A modern airborne lidar unit that can map steep mountain terrain like the one we studied costs over $500,000 and typically requires a twin engine plane and a separate equipment operator. In contrast, the fodar hardware costs under $30,000 if bought new (much cheaper if you buy used) and can be operated by the pilot flying in a small single-engine plane.”

Taking to the skies, Nolan flew his Cessna 170B to map the Brooks Range peaks. Meanwhile, DesLauriers, a professional athlete and the first person to ski down the highest peaks of the seven continents, was on the ground climbing up and then skiing down Mount Isto and Mount Chamberlin. During the trek, she tracked her position using the same type of GPS unit Nolan used in his plane.

“The GPS antenna, mounted to a steel post in my backpack, required a constant unobstructed view of the sky, which forced me find creative ways to adapt my usual ski-carrying system while climbing,” DesLauriers said. “Instead of a normal rest stop to eat and hydrate, I used the rare moments standing still to note my location and time in a field journal so that Matt could have as much data as possible to compare our measurements. The process made climbing the peaks, which took, on average, a 10-hour summit push after a multiday approach, more difficult but also more rewarding.”

Nolan explained why this challenging expedition was needed: “The general idea is to measure elevations from the air at about the same time someone is measuring them on the ground. These ground control points then get compared to the airborne measurements, and the difference between them is a measure of accuracy.”

Mount Hubley
Visualization courtesy of Matt Nolan
View of Mount Hubley’s south face from Schwanda Glacier.

With an accuracy of better than 20 centimeters (about 8 inches), Nolan and DesLauriers found that Mount Isto is, at 2,735.6 meters (8,975 feet), the tallest peak in the U.S. Arctic, while Mount Chamberlin, at 2,712.3 meters (8,899 feet), is only the third highest peak. Fodar measurements revealed that a third peak, Mount Hubley, surpasses Mount Chamberlin by about 5 meters (16 feet), taking up second place in the list of the highest mountains in the U.S. Arctic. Nolan and DesLauriers believe it is plausible that the ranking has changed over time, and may continue to change as summit glaciers dwindle, though not enough to remove Mount Isto from the top.

Fodar has helped settled this debate, but the applications of the technique extend far beyond measuring mountain heights.

“Though determining peak heights was a fun and useful study, our primary use for fodar is in change detection in the cryosphere (the planet’s frozen regions),” Nolan said. In addition to measuring peak heights, they are using the same maps to study how snow and glacier melt will affect the region.

Nolan has also used fodar to measure coastal erosion, permafrost melt, landslides, ice jams and infrastructure degradation, mostly in Alaska. Elsewhere, he has been discussing fodar projects to study landscape and ecological change in the Galapagos, flooding dynamics in desert regions of Botswana and even earthquake relief in Nepal.

The expedition to climb and map Mount Chamberlin and Mount Isto was sponsored, in part, by a grant from the National Geographic Society and by the National Science Foundation.

ADDITIONAL CONTACTS: Matt Nolan, 907-978-0542, matt2013@drmattnolan.org; Kit DesLauriers, kit@kitdski.com. Bárbara Ferreira, EGU media and communications manager (in Germany), +49-89-2180-6703, media@egu.eu.

ON THE WEB:
The scientific article is available online, free of charge, from the publication date onwards, at http://www.the-cryosphere-discuss.net/tc-2015-214/.
More information about the fodar technique, developed by Matt Nolan, is available at http://fairbanksfodar.com/.

 

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Murdock grant awarded for new computing system http://news.uaf.edu/murdock-grant-awarded-for-new-sustainable-computing-system/ http://news.uaf.edu/murdock-grant-awarded-for-new-sustainable-computing-system/#respond Wed, 22 Jun 2016 20:44:41 +0000 http://news.uaf.edu/?p=65833 The initial 10-node, Penguin Computing, Inc., cluster that launched Chinook in January 2016. UAF photo courtesy Gwendolyn Bryson.The University of Alaska Fairbanks has received a two-year grant for an energy-efficient, high-performance computing cluster. ]]> The initial 10-node, Penguin Computing, Inc., cluster that launched Chinook in January 2016. UAF photo courtesy Gwendolyn Bryson.
The initial 10-node, Penguin Computing, Inc., cluster that launched Chinook in January 2016. UAF photo courtesy Gwendolyn Bryson.
UAF photo by Andy Cummins
The initial 10-node Penguin Computing cluster that launched Chinook in January 2016.

The University of Alaska Fairbanks has received a two-year grant for an energy-efficient, high-performance computing cluster. The new Penguin Computing cluster was launched in January 2016 and has been incrementally expanding since.

The new cluster was named Chinook in honor of deceased UAF colleague Kevin Engle, who was known for his passion for salmon and Alaska.

Chinook is a Linux condo model cluster that will be used by University of Alaska researchers and collaborators. The cluster is in the UA Butrovich Data Center, an environmentally controlled office space on the Fairbanks campus.

“This community, condo model project launches a significant change in how high-performance computing resources are offered to the UA community,” said Gwendolyn Bryson, manager of Research Computing Systems at the UAF Geophysical Institute. “Chinook is more capable, more flexible and more efficient than our current resources. ”

The M. J. Murdock Charitable Trust has partnered with the Geophysical Institute, UAF vice chancellor of research, UAF International Arctic Research Center and UAF IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence to expand Chinook. The $415,000 grant, along with an equal match from the university, is funding the project.

The project will phase out older high-performance equipment such as Pacman and Fish.

The Chinook’s capabilities can be used by anyone in the UA system. The condo model allows for incremental expansion of shared infrastructure and encourages researchers to purchase shares that give them priority access to a resource beyond what they might procure individually.

Chinook may help researchers solve questions about climatic variability in Alaska and compute more accurate estimates of ice loss and sea level rises with higher-resolution ice sheet modeling. Chinook could also be used for research in bioinformatics, biogeochemical modeling, and studies involving the analysis of radio signals passing through the ionosphere.

The new computing cluster is expected to provide more computational capacity and use less power, saving UAF about $250,000 annually in electricity.

The M. J. Murdock Charitable Trust focuses funding primarily on colleges and universities in the Northwest, with an average of 60 grants administered each year for scientific research.

This year, the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust will celebrate its 40th anniversary and will hold a celebration in Fairbanks on June 23. From 5-6 p.m. there will be an informational session in the Margaret Murie Building auditorium, followed by a Founder’s Day reception from 6:30-8:30 p.m. in the UA Museum of the North.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Gwendolyn Bryson, 907-474-7870, grbryson@alaska.edu

ON THE WEB: http://gi.alaska.edu/research-computing-systems/

 

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Hibernation study yields insights about organ protection http://news.uaf.edu/novel-hibernation-study-yields-new-insights-organ-protection/ http://news.uaf.edu/novel-hibernation-study-yields-new-insights-organ-protection/#respond Tue, 21 Jun 2016 20:48:32 +0000 http://news.uaf.edu/?p=65881 Jeanette Moore, UAF Institute of Arctic Biology research professional holds an Arctic ground squirrel. Photo by Todd Paris/UAFNovel adaptations discovered in hibernating animals may reveal ways to mitigate injuries associated with strokes, heart attacks and organ transplants, according to researchers at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and Duke University. ]]> Jeanette Moore, UAF Institute of Arctic Biology research professional holds an Arctic ground squirrel. Photo by Todd Paris/UAF
<i>UAF photo by Todd Paris</i><br>Jeanette Moore, UAF Institute of Arctic Biology research professional, holds an Arctic ground squirrel.
UAF photo by Todd Paris
Jeanette Moore, UAF Institute of Arctic Biology research professional, holds an Arctic ground squirrel.

Novel adaptations discovered in hibernating animals may reveal ways to mitigate injuries associated with strokes, heart attacks and organ transplants, according to researchers at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and Duke University.

They described the adaptations in a paper published in the June issue of the journal Anesthesiology.

“This has been an important and exciting partnership that promises transformative changes to how trauma and surgical care are provided,” said Brian Barnes, study co-author, long-time hibernation researcher and director of the UAF Institute of Arctic Biology. “It comes from a better understanding of how Arctic ground squirrels and black bears overwinter in Alaska.”

A person typically takes a long time to recover from cardiac surgery or organ transplant. This is in part because organ tissue is damaged when blood flow ceases or is reduced when a heart stops or an organ is removed. Tissue is also damaged when blood flow is restored and the body’s metabolic machinery is not able to safely handle the returning rush of oxygenated blood.

Protection of tissues following cardiac arrest or organ transplant has remained an elusive scientific target, despite significant research and promising data.

In 2009, Barnes, a zoophysiologist, and Dr. Mihai Podgoreanu, chief of Duke’s Division of Cardiothoracic Anesthesiology, began collaborating to identify how a hibernating Arctic ground squirrel’s heart can survive what is akin to repeated cardiac arrests.

Unlike other animals, Arctic ground squirrels can lower their metabolism to 2 percent of their normal rate, which allows them to essentially shut down bodily functions they don’t need and, importantly, puts their organs in a state of suspended animation.

Barnes, Podgoreanu and colleagues from Duke and UAF collected and analyzed proteins associated with heart muscle from cooled, hibernating Arctic ground squirrels in which blood flow had been stopped. They repeated the analyses on heart proteins from active summer Arctic ground squirrels and rats, which don’t hibernate.

By comparing the various proteins produced and the metabolic changes within each animal, they identified novel internal adaptive mechanisms by which ground squirrels cope with cold and other stressors and how those mechanisms relate to blood flow problems associated with cardiac surgery.

One such mechanism is the ability of hibernators to exclusively use lipids, which include fats, vitamins and hormones, as metabolic fuel instead of burning carbohydrates, as humans do during surgeries.

Understanding this unique model of extreme metabolic flexibility may help scientists develop strategies that enable doctors to “switch” the metabolism of a patient who has suffered a stroke, cardiac injury or hypothermia to resemble that of a hibernator and thereby improve survival and recovery.

The authors anticipate that the knowledge gained from this study could be applied to organ protection in nonhibernators and ultimately in patients undergoing heart surgery and transplantation, and for victims of cardiac arrest, trauma and hypothermia.

ON THE WEB: “Proteomic Profiling Reveals Adaptive Responses to Surgical Myocardial Ischemia-Reperfusion in Hibernating Arctic Ground Squirrels Compared to Rats,” in Anesthesiology, the journal of the American Society of Anesthesiologists, at http://anesthesiology.pubs.asahq.org/article.aspx?articleid=2524031

ADDITIONAL CONTACTS: Brian M. Barnes, zoophysiologist and director of the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Institute of Arctic Biology, bmbarnes@alaska.edu, 907-474-7649; Dr. Mihai Podgoreanu, chief of Duke University’s Division of Cardiothoracic Anesthesiology, mihai.podgoreanu@duke.edu

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Interim chancellor forum scheduled for Tuesday http://news.uaf.edu/65891-2/ http://news.uaf.edu/65891-2/#respond Mon, 20 Jun 2016 23:03:22 +0000 http://news.uaf.edu/?p=65891 Dana Thomas
Dana Thomas

University of Alaska President Jim Johnsen will host a public forum with Dana Thomas, the candidate for University of Alaska Fairbanks interim chancellor, at 5 p.m. Tuesday, June 21, in Schaible Auditorium on the Fairbanks campus.

The forum will be webcast at https://goo.gl/FOLZzd. Thomas’ bio, letter of application and curriculum vitae is available online at www.alaska.edu/pres/uaf-interim-chancellor-se/. On the same page is a submission form to provide feedback on the candidate or to submit a question for possible inclusion during the candidate forum.

If appointed, Thomas, the former vice president of academic affairs and research at UA, would lead UAF’s 3,400 employees and 9,800 students for the next 12 months, succeeding Interim Chancellor Mike Powers, who steps down Aug. 1.

After a review of nearly a dozen applications, Thomas was the only candidate submitted for the interim chancellor position. President Johnsen will take into consideration the feedback received and consult with UAF governance before making a final decision by June 30.

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Some campus roads closed for Midnight Sun Run 2016 http://news.uaf.edu/campus-road-closures-midnight-sun-run-2016/ http://news.uaf.edu/campus-road-closures-midnight-sun-run-2016/#respond Fri, 17 Jun 2016 21:28:10 +0000 http://news.uaf.edu/?p=65838 The Midnight Sun Run begins at the University of Alaska Fairbanks at 10 p.m. on Saturday, June 18. Thousands of participants are expected for the 10K run. The UAF Police Department will limit access to campus starting at 9 p.m.

Thompson and North Tanana drives will be accessible until 9 p.m. and will then be closed. The roads are expected to reopen by about 10:30 p.m., after all racers have left campus.

Alumni Drive will remain open, but traffic will be rerouted at the intersection at South Chandalar Drive from 9-10 p.m. to bypass the race start at the UAF Patty Center.

A campus map is available at www.uaf.edu/campusmap/.

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UAF students receive marine policy fellowships in D.C. http://news.uaf.edu/uaf-students-receive-marine-policy-fellowships-in-dc/ http://news.uaf.edu/uaf-students-receive-marine-policy-fellowships-in-dc/#respond Fri, 17 Jun 2016 21:02:12 +0000 http://news.uaf.edu/?p=65788 Kelly CatesKelly Cates and Charlotte Regula-Whitefield, graduate students at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, will head to Washington, DC, next year as 2017 Knauss Marine Policy Fellows.]]> Kelly Cates

Kelly Cates and Charlotte Regula-Whitefield, graduate students at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, will head to Washington, D.C., next year as 2017 Knauss Marine Policy Fellows.

Kelly Cates
Kelly Cates

The two Alaskans are in a select group of 65 fellows nominated by Sea Grant programs around the country. The one-year fellowship was established in 1979 to provide a unique educational opportunity for graduate-level university students interested in marine resources and national policy decisions that affect those resources. The experience can serve as a springboard to related careers. The 2016 Alaska Sea Grant Knauss Fellow, Erin Shew, is currently working at the White House Center for Environmental Quality.

Cates, a master’s degree student in fisheries at the UAF School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, has been studying humpback whales to create baseline data for future management decisions. “Up to this point I have been primarily research focused and would like the chance to explore how I can broaden my future career path to contain both policy and research aspects,” she said. “I am hoping this fellowship will help expand and shape my future goals.”

Regula-Whitefield, also a fisheries student at SFOS, said her doctoral research relates to the concerns of coastal communities. As part of her academic experience, she helped establish a sea cucumber aquaculture program that developed into a larger working group for Alaska and Washington, the first of its kind in both states. “The fellowship will provide me with hands-on opportunities to expand my skills in integrating interdisciplinary science and public policy to improve coastal communities,” Regula-Whitefield said.

“This is a competitive fellowship, and we’re pleased to have two outstanding Alaskans chosen for next year,” said Paula Cullenberg, Alaska Sea Grant director. “In D.C., Knauss Fellows are engaged in all levels of marine policy and are well-regarded by agencies and Congress. Our new Alaska Sea Grant State Fellowship is modeled after this successful program.”

Charlotte Regula-Whitefield
Charlotte Regula-Whitefield

Cates and Regula-Whitefield will join other fellows in the capital in November 2016 for interviews and placement in the executive or legislative branch of the federal government, and will begin their fellowships in February 2017.

“This fellowship will be unlike anything I have previously experienced,” Cates said. “Previous Knauss fellows have had nothing but positive and encouraging words to describe it, and I am truly thankful for this opportunity.”

A third Alaskan also will head to D.C. as a Knauss Fellow next year. Nicole Kanayurak, from Barrow, has been chosen for the 2017 fellowship through the Washington Sea Grant program. Kanayurak is pursuing a master’s degree in marine affairs at the University of Washington.

The Knauss Fellowship is named in honor of John A. Knauss, one of Sea Grant’s national founders and former National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration administrator.

Sea Grant is a nationwide network of university-based NOAA programs engaged in scientific research, education, training and extension projects aimed at better understanding and managing the nation’s marine and Great Lakes resources. Alaska Sea Grant is based at the UAF School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences.

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Permafrost thawing below shallow Arctic lakes http://news.uaf.edu/permafrost-thawing-shallow-arctic-lakes/ http://news.uaf.edu/permafrost-thawing-shallow-arctic-lakes/#respond Thu, 16 Jun 2016 17:02:35 +0000 http://news.uaf.edu/?p=65774 Chris Arp (yellow and black) and Ben Jones (gray vest) drill into the ice of a shallow lake on Alaska's North Slope.New research conducted by scientists at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, the U.S. Geological Survey, the University of Wyoming and other institutes shows that permafrost below shallow Arctic lakes is thawing as a result of changing winter climate.]]> Chris Arp (yellow and black) and Ben Jones (gray vest) drill into the ice of a shallow lake on Alaska's North Slope.
Chris Arp (yellow and black) and Ben Jones (gray vest) drill into the ice of a shallow lake on Alaska's North Slope.
Photo by Guido Grosse, Alfred Wegener Institute
Chris Arp and Ben Jones drill into the ice of a shallow lake on Alaska’s North Slope.

New research conducted by scientists at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, the U.S. Geological Survey, the University of Wyoming and other institutes shows that permafrost below shallow Arctic lakes is thawing as a result of changing winter climate.

Warmer winters, combined with an increase in snowfall during the last 30 years, have limited the growth of seasonal lake ice. In response, lake bed temperatures of Arctic lakes less than a meter deep have warmed by 2.4  degrees Celsius during the past three decades, and during five of the last seven years, the mean annual lake bed temperature has been above freezing.

These rates of warming are similar to those observed in terrestrial permafrost, yet those soils are still well below freezing and thaw is not expected for at least another 70 years. However, a regime shift in lake ice is leading to sub-lake permafrost thaw now.

Since permafrost underneath lakes is generally warmer than the surrounding terrestrial permafrost, rising temperatures in the lake beds make permafrost thaw sooner than beneath surrounding dry land. These lakes may cover 20 to 40 percent of the landscape in vast areas of Arctic lowlands.

Christopher Arp, research assistant professor at UAF’s Water and Environmental Research Center, is the first author on a paper published this week in Geophysical Research Letters. “During the 1970s, late winter lake ice thickness measurements commonly exceeded 2 meters (6.5 feet) in northern Alaska. Such thick ice growth helps to limit sublake permafrost thaw by freezing the sediments solid each winter. However, during winter field surveys over the last decade, lake ice has typically only grown to 1.5 meters (5 feet) thick, and has been as thin as 1.2 meters (4 feet),” Arp said.

These drastic reductions in lake ice, caused by changes in winter climate, are the primary reason that shallow lake bed temperatures are warming and the permafrost below them is thawing.

Interactions and feedbacks among climate, permafrost and hydrology underscore the complexity of forecasting change in the Arctic. For example, thinner lake ice may help overwintering fish, or it may help the oil industry, which uses lake water to build winter ice roads. However, sublake permafrost thaw will likely unlock a portion of the permafrost carbon pool and potentially release this carbon in the form of greenhouse gases.

These findings also highlight the importance of conducting winter fieldwork in the Arctic. Benjamin Jones, with the U.S. Geological Survey in Anchorage, said, “Arctic lakes and ponds are typically ice-covered for nine months of the year, but research on them typically occurs during the short Arctic summer. To more fully understand Arctic lake dynamics and to document the changes we have observed requires also doing fieldwork under often harsh conditions during the cold and dark Arctic winter.”

Vladimir Romanovsky of the UAF Geophysical Institute, another author on the paper, added, “With further thawing of sublake permafrost there is a good chance that the ground will subside, increasing the lake depth and accelerating further permafrost thawing. In contrast, the warming on the land may increase the protective vegetation layer and delay thawing of permafrost outside of lakes.”

With increasingly warmer and snowier winters yielding thinner lake ice, shallow lakes will likely continue to warm, said Arp.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Christopher Arp, 907-474-2783, cdarp@alaska.edu; Vladimir Romanovsky, 907 474 7459, veromanovsky@alaska.edu; Benjamin Jones, 907-786-7033, bjones@usgs.gov

NOTE TO EDITORS: More photos available. Contact Sue Mitchell, 907-474-5823, sue.mitchell@alaska.edu

 

 

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Research to map risk of invasive elodea in Alaska http://news.uaf.edu/research-to-map-risk-of-invasive-elodea-in-alaska/ http://news.uaf.edu/research-to-map-risk-of-invasive-elodea-in-alaska/#respond Wed, 15 Jun 2016 17:12:16 +0000 http://news.uaf.edu/?p=65694 20150716__DSC3126

John Morton Photo. Toby Burke from the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge samples elodea living under a layer of ice with a modified chimney sweep in January 2013.
John Morton photo
Toby Burke from the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge uses a modified chimney sweep to sample elodea living under a layer of ice  in January 2013.

Bodies of water throughout Alaska are at risk for being inhabited by elodea, an invasive water weed that can interfere with salmon spawning and deplete lake nutrients. New research aims to inform resource managers about costs and benefits of managing elodea, and prioritize areas most at risk for invasion.

Tobias Schwörer, a researcher at the University of Alaska Anchorage Institute of Social and Economic Research, is leading a project to identify where elodea is likely to spread and to evaluate future management options. Schwörer is also pursuing a Ph.D. at the University of Alaska Fairbanks School of Management.

Elodea was originally introduced into Alaska as an aquarium plant. The rugged weed can affect water nutrients such as oxygen and can outcompete native plants to grow in dense mats in sandy habitats along lake shores where salmon like to spawn.

The weed can also get tangled in floatplane rudders and boat propellers and impair motor function.

Schwörer first considered the effect of elodea on salmon to assess possible economic consequences for Alaska’s salmon fisheries. Now he is working with floatplane pilots across the state to better map out potential elodea outbreaks and evaluate high-risk locations. The information will be useful to managers and decision-makers to determine how to minimize the spread of elodea and evaluate the best spots to eradicate the species.

“Toby’s research will help us identify locations where pilots are landing more frequently, and that should translate into an enhanced ability to understand where elodea is going to spread next,” said Joe Little, Schwörer’s adviser and an economics professor at UAF.

Schwörer pooled insight from salmon experts with experience studying salmon ecology and management. He presented habitat scenarios that varied in terms of location of elodea, degree of elodea cover, amount of dissolved oxygen, number of predators and amount of prey. The experts were asked to choose which scenarios were most likely to support a persistent population of salmon for the next 20 years.

He found that on average, the experts anticipated that growth rates for salmon in elodea-infested waters would range from minus 5 percent to 1 percent. Growth rates of less than 1 percent represent decreasing population sizes.

Schwörer is also estimating potential economic damages for floatplane pilots who operate in waterbodies likely to be infested by elodea. Pilots around Alaska were interviewed about where they fly, number of flights per season, likelihood of flying to a lake covered with vegetation, income and travel costs.

“Once we have the information from this survey, we can create a map of water bodies that are at risk of elodea outbreaks because of predicted floatplane activity,” Schwörer said.

Climate change is projected to increase the number of invasive species that spread to Alaska. Understanding the most efficient way to determine areas and economies most at risk will become increasingly important.

Schwörer and Little are working with researchers from the UAF School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, UAF SOM, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Alaska Department of Natural Resources, and Alaska Department of Fish and Game. The project received funding from Alaska Sea Grant, the Alaska Sustainable Salmon Fund, ADNR, ADFG and the Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association.

ON THE WEB: Read more here.

Heather Stewart Photo. A floatplane sits in an elodea-infested in Sand Lake, Anchorage.
Heather Stewart photo.
A floatplane sits in an elodea-infested in Sand Lake, Anchorage.
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