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April 21, 2020

Life of Riley reaches its end

The biologists had an unusual opportunity with Riley, a wolf they knew since birth and one they saw often. Reading the necropsy report gave them even more appreciation for the silver wolf, said Bridget Borg, the Denali wolf biologist. “While people who saw her, like you, limping along the road, might have felt a pang of pity for her, even though her injuries were severe, she proved that she was a resilient and tough wolf until the very end.”


April 9, 2020

Howard Pass an extreme, inviting place

Howard Pass, a rock-stubbled tundra plateau in the western Brooks Range, is one of the lowest points in the mountains that arc across northern Alaska. It is a broad gateway between the great drainages of the Colville and Noatak rivers. Scientists who have visited the lonely spot say Howard Pass is noteworthy for two reasons — it features some of Alaska’s most extreme weather and, curiously, the area has an abundance of archaeological sites.


April 3, 2020

Lessons from bones, dusty and stinky

In her studies, Misarti and her colleagues found that walrus in the distant past ate a larger variety of food than they do today. Walrus eat clams almost exclusively these days, but in the past their diets may have included more fish, seabirds and even seals.


March 23, 2020

Village grave led to virus breakthrough

One-hundred-two years ago, a strain of influenza virus spread across the globe, eventually reaching Brevig Mission in Alaska. Five days after the flu hit the Seward Peninsula, 72 of the 80 villagers in Brevig Mission were dead. Through a series of events suited to a detective novel, researchers made a connection between Brevig Mission and the flu virus that helped prevent another outbreak of the 1918 flu, one of the worst epidemics ever experienced.


March 18, 2020

Heading farther north than she has ever been

On the cusp of Interior Alaska’s springtime, Melinda Webster will not experience it this year. She’ll miss most of summer, too. Webster will soon head north of Earth’s land masses, to spend the next half year cradled in ice.


March 12, 2020

The recent fall of the upper Yukon River

While skiing with two friends on the frozen Yukon River a few weeks ago, I visited the eight people who live between the towns of Eagle and Circle, which are 160 river miles apart. The adults in those three households all shared the same observation: The Yukon River’s average level has dropped recently. They all mentioned “river piracy” that happened in an unseen high valley, 500 miles away, as a probable cause.


March 9, 2020

‘Remarkable groove’ slides gold into Alaska

In the 160 miles between the towns of Eagle and Circle, a half-dozen gold-mining settlements — most of them ghosted out — were on the south bank of the Yukon River. Not one was on the north side. That seemed like more than a coincidence.


February 25, 2020

Winter journey along the Yukon River

We just skied 100 miles of the frozen Yukon River, two friends and I, until it got too cold for our skis to glide, and we flew back to Fairbanks on a plane that landed on both skis and wheels.


February 3, 2020

Keeping the carbon in Alaska forests

Carly Phillips and her colleagues have been running the numbers on the acreage and CO2 emissions of Alaska forests that might be spared with more aggressive firefighting. She figured if Alaska’s firefighting budget were quadrupled, there could be a 60 percent reduction in acreage burned each year. “That’s similar to nearly 7 million cars removed from the road,” she said.


January 30, 2020

Rocket on the chilled rail at Poker Flat

In cold, dry, subarctic air, a rocket taller than a house tilts northward, awaiting the moment when a person inside a nearby concrete building pushes a button. The ink-black Chatanika River valley will then flash white, and erupt with a clap of thunder.