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You are browsing the archive for Alaska Science Forum Archives - AGU Blogosphere.

28 October 2022

What lives in frozen soil for 25,000 years?

In October 2022, Josephine Galipon visited Alaska to see if she could tease out genetic information from gray cylinders of permafrost — silty soil that has been frozen for at least two years, but in this case thousands.

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23 October 2022

Home insulation from wood and fungus

Robbin Garber-Slaght is a Fairbanks engineer who works for the National Renewable Energy Lab’s Cold Climate Housing Research Center. She notes that Alaskans pay more than double the national average to keep their homes warm during the winter and also pay a lot for sheets of foam insulation, which travels a long way to get here by truck and boat. She is teaming with Phillipe Amstislavski to develop insulation boards made of wood fiber bound by mycelium, the root-like tendrils of fungus.

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15 October 2022

The man who knew moose like no other

Vic Van Ballenberghe died on Sept. 22, 2022, at the age of 78. The man who knew moose better than perhaps anyone else on Earth had stood amid their knobby legs for many springs and falls in Interior Alaska. I got to join him in the field once, 11 years ago. Here is my story from that day…

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14 October 2022

Grains of Alaska made into art

Kelsey Aho works as a mapmaker for the U.S. Forest Service in Alaska. She is also an artist who collects earthen materials on her travels around the state. Throughout Alaska, Aho has gathered mineral soils — including clays when she can find them — as well as ash. She has collected from, among other places, the Denali Highway, Hartney Bay near Cordova, the Chilkat River and Murphy Dome in Fairbanks.

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23 September 2022

Alaska sand dunes hint at ancient past

Sand deposits everywhere in Alaska harken back to a time thousands of years ago when big winds blasted fine particles of glacier-ground mountain a long way. It must have been an unpleasant time to be walking around Alaska, but scientists like Mann are fascinated with what it left behind.

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12 September 2022

Where do Alaska bats spend the winter?

Jesika Reimer, a bat expert and consultant, has held in her hands little brown bats from the Northwest Territories to the Tanana River. Along with a few colleagues around Alaska, she is sharing new information about the farthest-north bat.

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8 September 2022

An attempt to de-mystify the mysterious

In this wild place where dump truck drivers once tipped load after load of gravel onto the moss to make roads and building pads, scientists rolled open an iron gate one recent Saturday afternoon. They invited in conspiracy theorists, reality-TV hosts and salmon fishermen from Chistochina to the grounds of a mysterious antenna field.

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30 August 2022

Adopt a woolly mammoth and win!

Adopt-a-mammoth will allow anyone who donates the radio-carbon dating fee of $350 to receive a digital photo of their tusk, femur or whatever mammoth part it happens to be. Scientists will then remove a collagen sample and send it to a carbon-dating lab in California. Mammoth adopters will get results on the age of their animal shortly after the scientists do.

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15 August 2022

Secrets of an ancient horse of the Yukon

The Yukon — a territory of Canada east of the Alaska border — is a great place to find the preserved remains of ancient creatures. One reason is that the immense ice sheet that covered most of North America (including Chicago and New York City) did not press down on central Yukon nor the middle of Alaska. That spared the landscape from the abrasion of millions of pounds of flowing ice.

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5 August 2022

Alaska lexicon sinks in over the years

When my little Ford pickup chugged into Alaska 36 years ago this month, I didn’t know a wheel dog from a dog salmon. You could have told me the North Slope was connected to the Panhandle by the Chain and I would have believed you…. I could have avoided that awkwardness if I had possessed the Dictionary of Alaskan English.

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29 July 2022

A high-country Eden for sockeye salmon

In late summer, a few months before this mossy valley will feel the sting of 40-below air, bright red salmon dart through a crystal-clear pool amid fragrant green vegetation. The Gulkana Hatchery has a Garden-of-Eden feel, which is fitting since millions of sockeye salmon begin life here each year.

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14 July 2022

110 years since the largest Alaska eruption

To put the largest eruption in Alaska’s written history in context, Robert Griggs pondered what might have happened if the volcano that erupted in summer of 1912 was located on Manhattan Island rather than the Alaska Peninsula. “In such a catastrophe all of Greater New York would be buried under ten to fifteen feet of ash and subjected to unknown horrors from hot gases….”

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7 July 2022

A half century in a difficult, dynamic place

Dan Mann hands me a clump of orange dirt the size of an almond. He instructs me to put it in my mouth.
“What’s it taste like? Does it crunch? Ash crunches because there’s glass fragments in it.”
“It crunches.”
“It’s from Mount Edgecumbe,” he says, referring to a volcano 100 miles away, near Sitka. “From an eruption 13,000 years ago.”

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5 July 2022

Salmon nose deep into Alaska ecosystems

A salmon head at its final resting place on the upper Chena River, one of the most important birth streams for Chinook salmon. Photo by Ned Rozell. That’s the finding of scientists who study Alaska streams and rivers that are teeming with salmon.

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29 June 2022

Bonsai trees tell of winters long past

“These are museum-class bonsais,” Ben Gaglioti says as we walk through an elfin forest. Gaglioti, a University of Alaska Fairbanks ecologist, has led me into another landscape I have never seen in Alaska. This terrace of spongy ground above the rainforest is home to trees that Dr. Seuss might have dreamed up.

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22 June 2022

Rugged science on the Southeast coast

To the woman wearing earbuds and sitting next to me in seat 7E: I’m sorry; I did not get to shower before boarding the plane after 12 days of accompanying four scientists in the hills north of Lituya Bay. I will try to keep my arms pinned to my side and lean toward the window.

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19 May 2022

Wading into the icy Yukon River for science

Snow geese flew in a ragged V overhead, rasping as they looked down upon Alaska’s bumpy face for the first time in 2022. Nine hundred feet below, the Yukon River flowed by quietly, except for the dull thuds of icebergs skidding along the river bottom near the shore. Sensing a break in the ice traffic, U.S. Geological Survey hydrologist Heather Best — wearing chest waders with a hole she would soon discover — stepped into the river.

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13 May 2022

Alaska’s big river breaks up at Eagle

While most of the town was sleeping, the ice slipped out. Breakup happened on the Yukon River here at its first settlement in the United States at around 2 a.m. on Saturday, May 7, 2022. That’s when meltwater rushing from side creeks into the colossal groove of the Yukon lifted a winter-hardened sheet in front of the town.

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12 May 2022

Awaiting river breakup on the Yukon

Andy Bassich lives on the south bank of the Yukon River, about 12 miles downstream from Eagle, Alaska, the first community in America along the largest waterway in Alaska. Like all of the few-thousand people who live along the big river in Alaska, Bassich hopes that river ice formed by the cold air of winter will continue to disappear in a mushy fashion, one that does not cause flooding.

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2 May 2022

Alaska’s water crop is a natural resource

As much of Alaska’s landmass crosses the magical temperature threshold that turns ice and snow into water, it’s time to consider the state’s richness in a resource more essential to humans than oil or gas. Clear as gin, brown as iced tea or tinted aquamarine by glacial dust, Alaska’s freshwater supply is so abundant the numbers are hard to comprehend.

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