Alaska Science Forum

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October 14, 2016
By
Ned Rozell
On a recent river trip down the Porcupine River, my friend Garrett Jones and I nosed into a few townsites we saw on the map. Old Camp, Canyon Village and Shuman House were all silent places with no people but the same unique regional touch: Decorative stamped-metal ceiling panels tacked up as outhouse walls.   During our 200-mile trip down the Porcupine's length in Alaska, we saw no...
October 14, 2016
By
Ned Rozell
YUKON FLATS — Out here, in a smooth plain stretching over Alaska’s wrinkled face, water and tree and mud dissolve to fuzz at each horizon. No hills or bumps. An ocean of sky. An observer once said Yukon Flats looks like a place where God forgot to put something.   Garrett Jones and I are camped on a giant island not far from the Yukon River map feature labeled "Halfway Whirlpool."...
October 14, 2016
By
Ned Rozell
Sometimes, a great idea arrives ahead of its time. A person squints at a raw landscape, thinks about it in his bunk on a heaving ship, dreams of it. He scribbles a diagram. He remains quiet years later as others rediscover the same thing.   Such was the case of a rugged geologist who island-hopped in the Aleutians following World War II. Thinking about the age of rocks he found, the...
October 14, 2016
By
Ned Rozell
Alaskans love fungi. This was evident one Saturday when author and mycologist Lawrence Millman offered a mushroom walk at Creamer’s Field on one of the wettest days of the yellow-leaf season.   “Eighty people showed up in the rain, all eager to learn about fungi,” Millman said by email after returning to his home in Massachusetts. “I dare say the hunter-gatherer instinct is alive and well...
October 14, 2016
By
Ned Rozell
CANWELL GLACIER — This summer, Sam Herreid has slept for 12 nights on these rocks that ride slowly downhill on a mass of ice. For a few days at a time during the last six summers, the 28-year-old has lived on this ephemeral landscape in the eastern Alaska Range. From his regal perch, he is learning how rock cover affects glacier melt.   Sometimes, the Ph.D graduate student at Northumbria...
October 14, 2016
By
Ned Rozell
Rabies is a death sentence for any animal. Experts have wondered how a virus survives when it kills all the creatures it infects.   "We don't have a really good answer to that," said UAF's Karsten Hueffer. "It probably has to do with the long incubation time of the virus, which can be months."   Hueffer and his colleagues, including four university undergraduate students, wrote a...
October 13, 2016
By
Ned Rozell
UAF FARM FIELDS — Gliding in with their wings folded like paper airplanes, nine Canada geese drop their paddle feet and prepare to land in a corner of this cleared plain.   On this early fall day, the birds could use an air traffic controller. Their landing zone of barley stalks is clogged with the rusty brown bodies of sandhill cranes, strutting like Mick Jagger.   The geese flap...
October 13, 2016
By
Ned Rozell
While Alaskans have long endured dense mosquitoes and frigid air, we’ve always had the absence of venomous snakes and dog ticks.   But the latter may be establishing themselves here. Ticks that infest red squirrels, snowshoe hares and a variety of birds have always been present in Alaska, but a team of biologists and veterinarians recently found five non-native ticks on Alaska dogs and...
October 13, 2016
By
Ned Rozell
Alfred Brooks was a geologist who traveled thousands of miles in Alaska and left his name on the state’s northernmost mountain range. Twenty years before his death in 1924, he also left behind a summary of what Alaska was like more than one century ago, when “large areas (were) still practically unexplored.”   In his 1906 government report, “Geography and Geology of Alaska. A Summary of...
October 13, 2016
By
Ned Rozell
MOOSE CREEK DAM — For the thirteenth consecutive day, four plates of steel in a framework of concrete have quietly saved Fairbanks.   Heavy rains in the basin of the Chena River, the waterway that spawned Fairbanks, have swelled the river to where motorboats can’t squeeze beneath downtown bridges.   Dam-tenders here have responded by lowering steel gates into the river. The gates...