Alaska Science Forum

August 20, 2015
By
Ned Rozell
This is not Henry Allen's Tanana River. Nor is it the Trail River of people living here thousands of years before the nineteenth-century government explorer struggled his way down the Tanana. But it seems close. I'm on a family trip down the wide brown river, starting where it arcs from the mountains to Fairbanks. Wife, daughter, dog and I will float the river 150 miles to the town of Manley Hot...
August 6, 2015
By
Ned Rozell
One of the quietest places in Alaska was temporarily home to a few hardy people when the Mayflower landed at Plymouth Rock. An archaeologist has fleshed out what life might have been like during a winter on St. Matthew Island in the 1600s. In some ways, St. Matthew, more than 200 miles from the nearest Alaska settlement (the village of Mekoryuk) is a great place to live: lush with plantlife (some...
July 30, 2015
By
Ned Rozell
A few years ago, Link Olson wanted students in his mammalogy class to see one of the neatest little creatures in Alaska, the northern flying squirrel. He baited a few live traps with peanut butter rolled in oats and placed them in spruce trees. When he returned the next day, he found no flying squirrels. Instead, peering back at him were the beady eyes of the mice of the north, red-backed voles....
July 23, 2015
By
Ned Rozell
In late July, more than 300 wildfires are burning in Alaska. With burned acreage totals one month ahead of the historic 2004 fire season, summer 2015 is again the year of the wildfire. Many scientists are not surprised. In papers written a few years ago, Alaska researchers and others suggested smoky years like this one will be the norm for a few decades as hardwoods replace the spruce of Interior...
July 16, 2015
By
Ned Rozell
While slicing a cylinder of mud he pulled from an Interior Alaska lake, Matthew Wooller ran into a snag. The wire he was using to cut the mud stopped when it hit something solid. He grabbed a knife, carved around the obstruction, and made a discovery. "There were a bunch of bones and very sharp teeth sprouting from the lake mud," said Wooller, the head of the Alaska Stable Isotope Facility at UAF...
June 26, 2015
By
Ned Rozell
While tightroping on tussock heads in a bog off the Chandalar River, two companions and I heard a waterfall. Strange. Looking through binoculars, we saw a knee-high fountain of clear water in the tundra. The flow was as thick as your leg. We squished over to investigate. The three of us had never seen water spewing from the ground in such a way. The clear water was so cold it burned, forcing us...
June 22, 2015
By
Ned Rozell
MIDDLE FORK, CHANDALAR RIVER — Two-hundred miles straight north of my home in Fairbanks, I'm at the northern edge of a forest that carpets the continent all the way to Labrador. Here for a meteorite search with an astronomer, I have helicoptered into a place humming with life. This dark spot on the nighttime map of North America is not always in this active state, with the squeak of bank swallows...
June 22, 2015
By
Ned Rozell
NEAR THE MIDDLE FORK, CHANDALAR RIVER — Our knees pressed into crunchy lichen, three of us hunch around a rock the size of a postage stamp. Peter Jenniskens, a meteor astronomer with the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute in Mountain View, California, is smiling. This rock is unusual: it was sitting on top of day-glow lichen and is dark as a charcoal briquette. “I’m very...
June 8, 2015
By
Ned Rozell
On February 26 at 1:06 p.m., someone in northern Alaska may have seen a torch of light in the cold daytime sky. On that afternoon, satellites detected a meteoric fireball headed toward Earth. An asteroid six feet in diameter penetrated the atmosphere at 13 miles per second, piercing the protective shell of gases at a steep angle. Arriving from the northwest, the asteroid exploded 21 miles above...
June 8, 2015
By
Ned Rozell
When Carl Roland was hiking the high country in an Alaska national park not long ago, he thought the landscape looked different than any park in the Lower 48. The alpine zone seemed to be carpeted with more plant species than the much-larger forests and wetlands in the valleys below. When Roland looked at plant inventories from a large chunk of Denali National Park, he confirmed a pattern that...