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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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May 19, 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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April 22, 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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April 11, 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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March 31, 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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February 4, 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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January 31, 2022

Thirty years on semi-solid ground

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.

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November 18, 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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November 11, 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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