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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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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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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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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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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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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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22 April 2022

His 48th summer on top of the world

This June, George Divoky will refurbish a cabin that sits on a lonely gravel island north of Alaska. He was not planning a remodel this year. Sometime during the winter, a polar bear tore through a plywood wall of the cabin Divoky moved 20 years ago to Cooper Island.

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11 April 2022

Live-trapping lynx in the far north

Knut Kielland, a professor with UAF’s Department of Biology and Wildlife, used to trap lynx for their fur. Here, he has captured this 22-pound female lynx as part of an Alaska-wide project he leads to better understand the ecology of the animal.

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31 March 2022

Happenings north of the Arctic Circle

Though the calendar calls it springtime, the thermometer on the truck reads minus 28 F on this sunny morning a few days past spring equinox. I am riding shotgun with Knut Kielland, an ecologist at the Institute of Arctic Biology at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. He has invited me to join him for a week north of the Arctic Circle — 66.6 degrees north latitude, about 150 miles from Fairbanks.

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4 February 2022

Caribou cams give insight into secret lives

Caribou wearing cameras around their necks have filmed a secret world of mushroom nibbling, desperate head-shaking during bug episodes, and nuzzling of wet newborns seconds after they fall to the tundra.

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18 November 2021

Listening to the voices of killer whales

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.

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11 November 2021

Blown back to Alaska, bird perseveres

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.

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4 November 2021

Shorebirds depend on wee slivers of Alaska

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.

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1 October 2021

Fluorescent bill may be seabird’s neon sign

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.

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17 September 2021

Setting traps to catch an Alaska virus

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.

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12 August 2021

Pine grove near Yakutat is farthest north

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.

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15 July 2021

Visit to glacier begins with wildlife encounter

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.

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