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August 15, 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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August 5, 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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July 29, 2022

This North Carolina boulder carved a satisfying track as it slid downhill, and you can see it with lidar imagery

By Philip S. Prince A few weeks ago, after years of “lidar surfing,” I finally encountered an Appalachian boulder that left clear evidence of its sliding path down a mountainside. Large boulders are common throughout all of topographically rugged Appalachia, but they typically reveal little or no evidence about their paths from upslope sources to their current resting places. This Macon County, North Carolina, boulder is a rare exception, as …

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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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July 14, 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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July 7, 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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July 5, 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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Lidar imagery reveals interesting details of debris flow movement in the eastern Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina

Lidar imagery provides a way to track downslope material movement of old flows that is otherwise difficult or impossible to see in the field, which is particularly significant in forested Appalachia. This post highlights some interesting debris flow styles and paths now hidden by vegetation in Pisgah National Forest in Transylvania County, North Carolina. The age of these failures is unknown, but they likely occurred in 1916 during an extreme tropical precipitation event in the area.

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June 29, 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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June 22, 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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