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2 February 2022
By Ned Rozell A recent winter storm that featured a heavy rainfall caused hardships for many animals of Interior Alaska, but some people found the event fascinating. Two men who live up here and study the cryosphere — the frozen and snow-covered portion of the Earth’s surface — squinted for a closer look at what the storm threw at us. When the snow-rain-snow storm began just after Christmas 2021, Matthew …
31 January 2022
At the end of this month, Vladimir Romanovsky will retire after 30 years as a professor and permafrost scientist at the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute. This comes at a time when people — finally — no longer squint at him with a puzzled look when he mentions what he studies.
10 December 2021
Librarian Judie Triplehorn solved the mystery of Elephant Point with a yellowed document she placed on my desk. In it, a writer for the Edinburgh Museum in Scotland in 1829 hailed the arrival of “two tusks of the Mammoth, brought home by Captain Beechey.”
18 November 2021
Hannah Myers has listened to many hours of orca calls in the Gulf of Alaska. The University of Alaska Fairbanks graduate student often knows a killer whale’s family group after hearing just a few syllables of its call.
11 November 2021
A bar-tailed godwit recently arrived in New Zealand on its second attempt to get there from Alaska, after a storm had blasted it back north. Keith Woodley of the Pukorokoro Miranda Shorebird Centre on the North Island of New Zealand reported that a male godwit carrying a satellite transmitter first left the mudflats near the Kuskokwim River on Sept. 11, 2021.
4 November 2021
Pencil-beaked shorebirds with the ability to stay airborne for a week — flying all the way from Alaska to New Zealand — rely on a few crescents of mudflat to fuel that incredible journey.
Scientists recently found that almost the entire population of bar-tailed godwits that breed in Alaska fatten up on clams and worms on ephemeral sand bars just west of the mouth of the Kuskokwim River. In autumn, 80 percent of the birds rest and feed on islands within 15 miles of one another.
29 October 2021
“The bus is a touchstone for many things Alaskan: wilderness, exploration, personal discovery, survival,” said Patrick Druckenmiller, director of the museum. “It evokes very strong emotions. It’s exactly for these reasons that the museum is an ideal place to display the bus.”
14 October 2021
Green auroras occur at about 60 miles above Earth. Pure red auroras are much higher, from about 200 to 300 miles up, which allows people closer to the equator to see them. An important gas remaining at that altitude is oxygen, and electrons that excite the oxygen atoms there produce a red light as pure as a laser.
1 October 2021
The crested auklet looks like a smiling clown that never blinks. It is probably the only seabird that smells like a tangerine. Its beak — the color of a tangerine — is so bright a scientist thinks it may be fluorescent.
17 September 2021
On this crisp, cool fall day in 2021, this trapper — who lives in Atlanta and works for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — hunts for a virus that was unknown to humans until 2015. That’s when a Fairbanks doctor examined a lesion on a woman’s shoulder.
12 August 2021
We were on the Yakutat Forelands — a sweep of forested lowlands left behind after glaciers retreated from the landscape hundreds of years ago. Taking steps that felt like walking on a trampoline, we moved through a pine grove in a few-acre spread of open green muskeg.
What if the country’s largest earthquake in the last half century happened as you were getting ready for bed in the only cabin on a tiny island in the North Pacific. What if the epicenter was just 50 miles away?
15 July 2021
We heard a loud buzz. A hummingbird hovered in front of my cracker. As I held still, the hummingbird probed the peanut butter, twice, with its needle beak. The cracker transferred the vibration to my left hand, tickling my fingers. As the bird zoomed off, I looked over at Ben to confirm the experience.
“I think you have superpowers now,” he said.
13 July 2021
By Ned Rozell You may not notice it as you scooped fish out of the Copper River or rode your bike through the tawny light of 10 p.m., but Alaska is about to make a left turn toward winter. Much of the state will soon reach the average yearly date when the air won’t get any warmer. In Fairbanks, on July 19 the average daily temperature based on about a …
1 July 2021
By Ned Rozell Leaving cloven hoof prints from the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, more than 3,500 muskoxen live in Alaska. All of those shaggy, curly-horned beasts came from one group of muskoxen that survived a most remarkable journey in the 1930s. In 1900, no muskoxen existed in Alaska. Though the stocky, weatherproof creatures have survived in the Arctic since the last ice age, the last reports …
17 June 2021
In 1964, just after Lyndon Johnson swore the oath to follow John F. Kennedy, Alaska forester Les Viereck and others planted tree seedlings at the north end of this old farm field.
28 May 2021
By Ned Rozell On a fine June day about 100 years ago, in a green mountain valley where the Aleutians stick to the rest of Alaska, the world fell apart. Earthquakes swayed the alders and spruce. A mountain shook, groaned, and collapsed in on itself, its former summit swallowing rock and dust until it became a giant, steaming pit. About six miles away, hot ash began spewing from the ground …
In “The Firecracker Boys,” Dan O’Neill explored “a piece of university history most people were happy to move on from.” He detailed a UAF president’s support of a 1950s Atomic Energy Commission proposal to create a harbor with nuclear detonations not far from the village of Point Hope.
13 May 2021
In a study of more than 2,000 gray wolves from near Mexico to northern Canada, researchers found that the farther wolves were from people, the fewer viruses and parasites they encountered. Scientists used blood samples taken over several decades from wolves on the Alaska Peninsula, Denali National Park and Preserve and Yukon-Charley Rivers National Park and Preserve. They also used samples from wolves living as far east as the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and as far south as Arizona.
30 April 2021
By Ned Rozell In Alaska’s infinite waters swims a handsome, silvery fish. Until recently, we knew little about the Bering cisco, which exists only around Alaska and Siberia. Then a scientist combined his unique life experiences with modern tools to help color in the fish’s life history. Randy Brown is a fisheries biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Fairbanks. Many years before he started that career, he …