After Sandy, UAF grant helps forecasters track storms

Photo courtesy of Light Trekker Studios The Fairbanks Command and Data Acquisition Station occupies part of the Gilmore Creek valley and a nearby ridge off the Steese Highway north of Fairbanks.
Photo courtesy of Light Trekker Studios
The Fairbanks Command and Data Acquisition Station occupies part of the Gilmore Creek valley and a nearby ridge off the Steese Highway north of Fairbanks.

Diana Campbell
907-474-5229
12/8/2014

The effects of Hurricane Sandy, one of the largest and costliest cyclones to hit the United States, are resonating northward.

The University of Alaska Fairbanks has received a $1.7 million grant to improve satellite data capture and rapid product generation for the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration. The grant will help NOAA’s National Weather Service give earlier warnings of massive weather events.

“Data from polar orbiting satellites was vital in the days before Hurricane Sandy made landfall,” said Tom Heinrichs, director of the Geographic Information Network of Alaska, part of the UAF Geophysical Institute. “The Sandy hurricane track forecast was excellent, in part due to data from polar orbiting satellites that went into weather models.”

Sandy, a complex storm system, was close to 1,000 miles in diameter and affected 24 states.

The forecast gave people in New Jersey and New York several days’ notice of the danger, resulting in many lives saved, according to a report by NOAA. However, even with good forecasting, the storm killed 285 people and caused billions in damage.

After Sandy, Congress passed the Sandy Supplemental Appropriations Act in 2013, which in part provided NOAA an opportunity to strengthen the National Weather Service. The act covers Sandy recovery efforts and calls for improving response and recovery capability for future weather disasters.

Satellite image of Hurricane Sandy. Courtesy of NOAA.
Courtesy of NOAA
Hurricane Sandy hits the East Coast in this satellite image.

The NOAA award to UAF will beef up existing satellite systems at the Fairbanks Command and Data Acquisition Station, formerly known as Gilmore Creek Tracking Station, located off the Steese Highway north of Fairbanks. The new satellite reception antenna and processing equipment will further enhance the service’s ability to forecast the weather and provide warnings, Heinrichs said.

In partnership with NOAA satellite operators and NWS forecasters, GINA is designing a new satellite data collection and processing system for the site and will oversee the installation of a new satellite dish. The new system will help cover a potential gap between a current satellite’s end of design life in 2016 and its replacement launch in 2017.

“We’ve been working closely with the NOAA satellite operators and the Alaska NWS for nearly two decades. This project is an extension of that long and successful collaboration,” Heinrichs said.

GINA is a partner with NOAA, which owns the tracking station. All of the work will be completed near the end of 2015.

ADDITIONAL CONTACTS: Tom Heinrichs, GINA director, at tom.heinrichs@alaska.edu or 907-474-6897. Sue Mitchell, GI public information officer, at sue.mitchell@alaska.edu or 907-474-5823.

ON THE WEB: http://gina.alaska.edu/

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Museum to hold holiday sale and gift drive

Theresa Bakker
907-474-6941
12/4/14

 

14_HolidayThe University of Alaska Museum of the North will hold a holiday store sale and gift drive.

Shop in the museum store and get 10 percent off all merchandise through Dec. 24. Museum members will receive a 20 percent discount.

Each year, the museum acts as a collection point for donations of toys and gifts for Fairbanks families in need. This year the museum is partnering with the United Way’s holiday gift drive, a Fairbanks tradition that helps those in need during the holiday season.

The museum is also offering a family membership-in-a-mug, which can be given as a gift or donated to the drive. All proceeds from memberships and museum store sales support exhibits, research and education programs. For more information call 474-7505 or visit the museum online at museum.uaf.edu.

ON THE WEB: http://www.uaf.edu/museum/plan-your-visit/happenings/

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Lecture to explore wildlife changes

Marmian Grimes
907-474-7902
12/8/14

The University of Alaska Fairbanks will host a free public lecture, “Wildlife Changes in Northern Alaska,” Wednesday, Dec. 10, at 5:30 p.m. in Schaible Auditorium. Parking on campus is free after 5 p.m.

Ken Tape of the UAF Water and Environmental Research Center will give the presentation, which is part of the weekly research showcase hosted by the Office of Undergraduate Research and Scholarly Activity.

For more information, call 907-450-8772, or visit www.uaf.edu/ursa/.

ON THE WEB: http://www.uaf.edu/ursa/

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VISTA recruits in Interior Alaska

Debbie Carter
907-474-5406
12/5/2014

The AmeriCorps VISTA program is looking for individuals interested in serving with nonprofit organizations and public agencies in Interior Alaska.

VISTA participants agree to work for a year on projects that reduce poverty and build an organization’s capacity. They receive a $1,200 monthly stipend, health care and, at the end of their service, a $5,350 tuition benefit or a $1,500 stipend. Participants must be a U.S. citizen or able to work legally in the United States. College graduates are preferred.

VISTA is a federal service program founded 1n 1965 as Volunteers in Service to America. The University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service recently became the program’s Interior Alaska site sponsor. For more details, contact Kathryn Dodge at 907-474-6497 or kdodge@alaska.edu.

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Analysis shows Southeast Alaska wolves aren’t subspecies

Nancy Tarnai
907-474-5042
12-5-2014

University of Alaska Fairbanks Professor Matthew Cronin has published a paper in the Journal of Heredity concluding that Southeast Alaska’s wolves are not a separate subspecies.

“My study provides extensive genetic data. That, along with literature published by other scientists, does not support the assertion that these wolves are a subspecies,” Cronin said. “This is noteworthy because the wolves in Southeast Alaska are being considered for listing as endangered subspecies. The Alexander Archipelago wolf and the wolves on Prince of Wales Island are currently being considered for listing as endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.”

The paper, titled “Single Nucleotide Polymorphism Variation of Wolves in Southeast Alaska and Comparison with Wolves, Dogs and Coyotes in North America,” was written by Cronin and University of California Davis colleagues.

“There is considerable differentiation of wolves in Southeast Alaska from wolves in other areas,” Cronin said. “However, wolves in Southeast Alaska are not a genetically homogenous group, and there are comparable levels of genetic differentiation among areas within Southeast Alaska and between Southeast Alaska and other geographic areas.”

Cronin conducted DNA tests and reviewed published findings on wolf genetics. “They do not support recognition of the wolves in Southeast Alaska as a distinct subspecies,” he said.

The results also show the wolves on Prince of Wales Island are not highly differentiated compared to other populations in Southeast Alaska, which Cronin said indicates they do not warrant recognition as a distinct population segment.

Cronin is a research professor in the Palmer office of UAF’s School of Natural Resources and Extension. Contact him at macronin@alaska.edu, 907-227-1753.

ON THE WEB: http://jhered.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2014/11/25/jhered.esu075.full.pdf+html

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Museums bring objects closer to home

Theresa Bakker
907-474-6941
12/4/14

In November 2014, a box arrived at an archaeology lab on the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus bearing a postmark from Arizona. The crate with wooden slats and dovetail corners seemed like something from an earlier time — when packages looked like they had traveled over both land and sea.

The shipment signified the reversal of a trend in the mid-20th Century to move cultural artifacts around the country among museums in an effort to tell the story of the first peoples. Now archaeologists recognize the value of keeping these collections closer to their communities of origin.

An ivory harpoon counterweight, this artifact was collected on St. Lawrence Island, Alaska, in 1927. It was recently returned from the Arizona State Museum, where it had been on loan since 1955.
An ivory harpoon counterweight, this artifact was collected on St. Lawrence Island, Alaska, in 1927. It was recently returned from the Arizona State Museum, where it had been on loan since 1955.

Archaeologists at the University of Alaska Museum of the North  carefully removed the lid and found layers of foam protecting about 100 artifacts tucked into slots. These objects, originating from the Interior, Point Hope and St. Lawrence Island in Alaska, had been sent to an Arizona museum in the 1940s and 1950s, a time when it was common for museums to collect items representing the world’s cultures.

The box contained a wide variety of items, from harpoon heads and arrowheads to knife handles and a needle case. The box also contained human figurines and images, carved bears, winged objects and combs.

Josh Reuther is the UAMN curator of archaeology. His focus is on geoarchaeology — understanding the changes in human technological and subsistence systems. But he has another responsibility. To ensure that the people who live in both urban and rural communities of Alaska and the museum have a role in understanding the history and prehistory of the development of those landscapes.

“We wanted to bring the collections back to the regions where they were collected,” he said. “So that they will be available to both community members and researchers.”

Reuther also has a connection to Arizona. It’s where he got his Ph.D. During a visit to the Arizona State Museum in Tucson last year, he discussed the possibility of returning the objects exchanged by the two museums.

“All were in favor of the concept,” Reuther said. “We agreed it was the right thing to do. Neither collections were being fully utilized as far as research, teaching and public visitation because they were far away from the regional areas where they were collected.”

John McClelland is the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act coordinator at ASM. He said the original exchanges occurred during a period when most large museums sought to assemble collections for exhibits that represented cultures throughout the United States and the world.

“Since then, collections policies have changed considerably, partly because of ongoing consultation and collaboration with Native American tribes and Native Alaskan villages,” he said. “Many tribal representatives now prefer that the objects made by their ancestors remain in the region where they originated.”

These artifacts were returned recently to Arizona State Museum from the UA Museum of the North. Clockwise from upper left: Sandal made of yucca leaves from the Pueblo III period (AD 1150-1350). Black-on-white bowl from a Pueblo II period (AD 900-1100) site near Flagstaff, Arizona. A historic Pima coiled basket from Phoenix, Arizona. Black-on-white jar from a Pueblo IV period (AD 1300-1450) site near Holbrook, Arizona.
These artifacts were returned recently to Arizona State Museum from the UA Museum of the North. Clockwise from upper left: Sandal made of yucca leaves from the Pueblo III period (AD 1150-1350). Black-on-white bowl from a Pueblo II period (AD 900-1100) site near Flagstaff, Arizona. A historic Pima coiled basket from Phoenix, Arizona. Black-on-white jar from a Pueblo IV period (AD 1300-1450) site near Holbrook, Arizona.

Reuther and Scott Shirar, UAMN’s archaeology collection manager, worked closely with ASM to coordinate the transfer, which went both ways. Shirar said the items returned to ASM included archaeological objects from the Southwest: pottery, stone tools, textiles and baskets.

“Researchers and community members in Arizona will be excited to have these collections back,” he said. “Especially the complete pots and sandal fragments, which aren’t always well-preserved in the archaeological record and therefore pretty rare.”

Curators at ASM have begun reintegrating the returned items with existing collections. McClelland said information about the returned items will also be shared with tribal representatives.

UAMN will continue to seek the return of Alaska items by reaching out to more museums in the Lower 48 and coordinating exchanges like this one.

“We are hoping to reunite objects from several collections that were broken up, piecemeal, with the communities where they were collected,” Reuther said. “Reuniting all of the parts and pieces of these collections will also help researchers who will be able to come to one place to view and analyze artifacts. Hopefully this will encourage development of more research in the collections.”

ADDITIONAL CONTACTS: Josh Reuther, UAMN archaeology curator, at 907-474-6945 or via email at jreuther@alaska.edu, or John McClelland, ASM NAGPRA coordinator and osteology lab manager, at 520-626-2950 or via email at jmcclell@email.arizona.edu.

ON THE WEB: http://www.uaf.edu/museum/collections/archaeo/

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Report documents northern Alaska industry infrastructure

Marmian Grimes
907-474-7902
12/2/14

A recently released report from the University of Alaska Fairbanks offers the first holistic picture of current and planned oil and gas industry infrastructure throughout northern Alaska.

“This report contributes to the factual basis needed for informed deliberations about commercial and resource development activity in the Arctic,” said Kevin Hillmer-Pegram, a doctoral student at UAF and author of the report. “Understanding how much infrastructure and commercial activity there is on the landscapes and seascapes of northern Alaska, how much there could plausibly be in the relatively near future, and where it occurs will help people internalize what Arctic industrialization means to them.”

The report offers a comprehensive way for the layperson to understand oil and gas infrastructure in the state, according to Amy Lovecraft, a UAF professor, Hillmer-Pegram’s advisor and co-director of the North by 2020 Forum at UAF, which spearheaded the development of the report. It will serve as a resource for local and state elected officials and policymakers, businesses and agencies.

“It provides an unbiased starting point for anybody who is interested in understanding the current state of affairs and the future development of oil and gas projects,” said Lovecraft. “It doesn’t matter whether you are pro or against development, it’s important to think of the primary, secondary and tertiary effects.”

The report divides northern Alaska into regions and provides information about existing, planned and proposed oil and gas and commercial transportation infrastructure in each region. In addition, it provides an overview of the history, current conditions and plausible future extent of industrial infrastructure in the state. That future development include extensive increases in a wide variety of infrastructure, including structures, wells, roads and pipelines.

The report is available for download via the North by 2020 website at http://www.iarc.uaf.edu/en/NX2020/current-projects/oil or in hardcopy by contacting Hillmer-Pegram.

ADDITIONAL CONTACTS: Kevin Hillmer-Pegram, 907-474-7568, khillmerpegram@alaska.edu. Amy Lovecraft, 907-474-2688, allovecraft@alaska.edu.

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Lecture to highlight marine mammal research

Marmian Grimes
907-474-7902
12/2/14

The University of Alaska Fairbanks will host a free public lecture, “Tooth Walkers and Swimming Cows: Marine Mammal Research in Alaska,” Wednesday, Dec. 3, at 5:30 p.m. in Schaible Auditorium. Parking on campus is free after 5 p.m.

Marine biology professor Lara Horstmann-Dehn will give the presentation, which is part of the weekly research showcase hosted by the Office of Undergraduate Research and Scholarly Activity.

For more information, call 907-450-8772, or visit www.uaf.edu/ursa/.

ON THE WEB: http://www.uaf.edu/ursa/

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Ripley to serve as UAF alumni director

UAF photo by JR Ancheta Kate Ripley
UAF photo by JR Ancheta
Kate Ripley

Marmian Grimes
907-474-7902
12/1/14

University of Alaska Fairbanks alumna and lifelong Alaskan Kate Ripley has been named the new UAF alumni relations director. She will also serve as the executive director of the UAF Alumni Association.

Prior to accepting her new position at UAF, Ripley served as the public affairs director at UA statewide for the last decade. She came to the university system after nearly 15 years as a print and radio journalist and public relations consultant. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Montana and a master’s degree in northern studies from UAF.

Ripley began her new position this week. UA statewide plans to launch a search for her replacement soon.

ADDITIONAL CONTACTS: Kate Ripley, 907-474-7081, klripley@alaska.edu

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Rocket stove workshop offered Dec. 11

Debbie Carter
907-474-5406
12/2/2014

The University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service will host a rocket stove workshop Dec. 11 at its district office in Fairbanks.

Extension energy specialist Art Nash will offer the workshop from 6 to 8 p.m. at 724 27th Ave., in the Fairbanks Community Food Bank building.

Participants will build their own rocket stoves from cans and will receive a do-it-yourself wood burn box. Rocket stoves burn small-diameter wood and wood pellets efficiently and are useful for cooking and heating in camps and emergency situations. Eastern Alaska forester Glen Holt will also talk about efficient wood care and handling.

The cost is $15. Register at http://bit.ly/ces-workshops. For more information, contact Carmen at 474-5854.

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Austrian consultant to discuss nuclear and other fallout detection

Sue Mitchell
907-474-5823
11/28/14

Dèlia Arnold Arias
Delia Arnold Arias

The University of Alaska Fairbanks will host a presentation about the Austrian Central Institute for Meteorology and Geodynamics’s emergency response activities and weather modeling at noon, Tuesday, Dec. 2, in the Elvey Building’s Globe Room.

Delia Arnold Arias, an academic consultant, will give examples of how the institute, known as ZAMG, would respond to airborne radioactive transmissions or volcanic ash using timely weather information and atmospheric dispersion calculations. In addition, she will discuss the backtracking response systems ZAMG provides as a regional specialized meteorological center.

The Elvey Building is at 903 Koyukuk Drive at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

For more information, contact Delia Arnold Arias at Delia.arnold-arias@zamg.ac.at or Gerhard Wotawa at Gerhard.wotawa@zamg.ac.at.

ON THE WEB: www.zamg.ac.at or https://www.facebook.com/zamg.at

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Museum entomology endowment funded

Theresa Bakker
907-474-6941
11/26/14

An endowment has been established to benefit the entomology collection at the University of Alaska Museum of the North. The family of Kenelm Philip has funded the Kenelm W. Philip Entomology Fund, with the hope of attracting additional donations.

Philip was a renowned collector of Alaska lepidopterans. He donated more than 83,000 arctic butterflies and moths to the Smithsonian Institution and other collections, including UAMN. It is the largest private collection of Arctic butterflies in the world. He passed away in March 2014.

Ken Philip collecting along Murphy Dome Road in Fairbanks. Photo by Robert Pyle
Ken Philip collects in the Fairbanks area. Before passing away in March 2014, he created the world’s largest private collection of Arctic butterflies. Photo by Robert Pyle

Derek Sikes, curator of insects at the museum, said the fund will help establish a student research enhancement award to support entomological research in Alaska, with a preference for a focus on butterflies or moths.

“With this award, Ken’s legacy of Alaskan research will live on,” Sikes said. “Ken was a giant of Alaska entomology. We are thrilled his family chose to establish this fund to help continue the work Ken began.”

Sikes said the funds will also help provide for maintenance and improvement for the insect collection. To contribute to the endowment, visit the university’s giving form. The gift designation box should be filled in with “Kenelm W. Philip Entomology Fund.”

ON THE WEB: http://www.uaf.edu/giving/gift/giving-form/

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