Fairbanks, AK, United States
Fairbanks, AK, United States

The University of Alaska Fairbanks is a public research university in Fairbanks, Alaska, United States. It is the flagship campus of the University of Alaska System. UAF is a land-grant, sea-grant, and space-grant institution, and it also participates in the sun-grant program through Oregon State University. UAF was established in 1917 as the Alaska Agricultural College and School of Mines. It opened for classes in 1922.UAF is home to seven major research units: the Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station; the Geophysical Institute, which operates the Poker Flat Research Range; the International Arctic Research Center; the Arctic Region Supercomputing Center; the Institute of Arctic Biology; the Institute of Marine Science; and the Institute of Northern Engineering. Located just 200 miles south of the Arctic Circle, the Fairbanks campus' unique location is situated favorably for arctic and northern research. The campus' several lines of research are renowned worldwide, most notably arctic biology, arctic engineering, geophysics, supercomputing and aboriginal studies. The University of Alaska Museum of the North is also on the Fairbanks campus.In addition to the Fairbanks campus, UAF encompasses seven rural and urban campuses: Bristol Bay Campus in Dillingham; Chukchi Campus in Kotzebue; Interior-Aleutians Campus, which covers both the Aleutian Islands and the Interior; Kuskokwim Campus in Bethel; Northwest Campus in Nome; and the UAF Community and Technical College in Fairbanks, UAF's community college arm. Fairbanks is also the home of the eLearning and Distance Education, an independent learning and distance delivery program.In fall 2013, UAF enrolled 10,214 students. Of those students, 59.3 percent were female and 40.7 percent were male; 88 percent were undergraduates, and 12 percent were graduate students. As of May 2013, 1,288 students had graduated during the immediately preceding summer, fall and spring semesters. Wikipedia.

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Agency: National Aeronautics and Space Administration | Branch: | Program: STTR | Phase: Phase II | Award Amount: 749.34K | Year: 2017

Our Phase I results include a preliminary design for an advanced nanosat launch vehicle (NLV) upper stage that features several advanced propulsion technologies, as well as extensive empirical data from a series of pathfinding operations conducted at both the Pacific Spaceport Complex - Alaska on Kodiak Island and the Poker Flat Research Range. For Phase II, we are taking major steps, such as building a prototype upper stage, static fire testing it, and conducting another round of pathfinding operations at Kodiak in pursuit of an opportunity to manifest such a prototype stage on a suborbital flight test. Key technologies include LOX/densified propylene propulsion system, liquid rocket engine featuring a 3D additively manufactured injector, pyro-free mechanisms, and use of elements of NASA's Autonomous Flight Termination Unit. Our RI - University of Alaska Fairbanks - will continue to support the evaluation of UAS utilization for range services like telemetry acquisition.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: MAJOR RESEARCH INSTRUMENTATION | Award Amount: 581.70K | Year: 2016

An award is made to the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) to establish the first multi-collector inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometer (MC-ICP-MS) facility in Alaska. This new instrument will be part of the Alaska Isotope Facility (AIF) and will provide support to recruit a new full-time, expert research faculty member at UAF, trained in using MC-ICP-MS. These new resources will be available to train students and researchers from across the UAF campus, as well as other academic institutions both in and outside of Alaska. The facility will serve researchers from state and federal agencies, including those from the U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Army Corp of Engineers and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. AIF, the University of Alaska Museum of the North and the Center of Alaska Native Health Research, will provide high quality education and outreach opportunities involving the public, K-12 students, rural high school teachers, undergraduate and graduate students. The new facility will allow chemical analyses of samples, supporting research projects to better understand the migration of salmon and other commercially important fish species, to reveal the migration patterns of ancient and modern animals in the Arctic and to advance our ability to identify sources of heavy metal contamination to the subsistence food web in Alaska, which is critical to the culture and health of Alaska Native people.

This new research facility will provide cutting-edge research techniques to those studying environmental changes in the Arctic and will enhance existing federal investments in the Arctic. Research areas to be immediately enabled include research into migration patterns of economically and culturally important animals in both Arctic aquatic and terrestrial realms, such as salmon, bison and caribou, in response to environmental changes. This new instrument will also support hydrologic studies in the Arctic, which in turn are linked to understanding permafrost dynamics and the release of important greenhouse gases, such and methane and carbon dioxide, to the atmosphere. In the marine realm, the new instrumentation will enable research to study elements that are biologically necessary and can limit or co-limit productivity in parts of the ocean and others that are toxic and can negatively affect higher trophic levels when biomagnified through food webs, such as mercury. This area has particular cultural relevance for Alaska Native communities that rely on subsistence resources.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: BIOLOGICAL OCEANOGRAPHY | Award Amount: 657.05K | Year: 2016

Seagrass meadows are one of the most widespread habitats in shallow coastal marine environments. They have been dubbed blue carbon ecosystems due to their disproportionately large role in the global capture and storage of carbon (C). The worldwide decline of these coastal vegetated habitats is particularly troubling because C-rich ecosystems provide critical services to humans, such as nutrient cycling and sequestering of carbon, reduce current and wave stress, and supply habitat for fishes, birds and invertebrate species, many of them commercially important. Recent evidence suggests that the top trophic level in these communities, known as apex predators, can play a critical role in preserving vegetated coastal habitats. Apex predators, such as sea otters, can facilitate top-down control in these ecosystems by consuming herbivores such as crabs and fish that are dominant grazers of coastal vegetation. Thus apex predators may indirectly conserve blue carbon stocks by reducing the number of herbivores through predation. This project will use the recolonization of sea otters in Southeast Alaska as a natural experiment to understand the trophic relationships and indirect effects of apex predators on seagrass ecosystems and carbon storage. This research can inform societal decisions on how to manage these ecologically important seagrass communities as the apex predator range expands and sea otter hunting becomes more pervasive. Researchers will engage with Alaska Native villages on Prince of Wales Island in Southeast Alaska by training local field assistants and sharing results through regular meetings with various stakeholders in these communities that live with sea otters. This engagement will provide an avenue of communication for researchers and users of marine resources to understand the multifaceted role of sea otters in their ecosystem.

The ecological theory that top predators can drive ecosystem structure was developed in response to the question of why the world is green. In short, predators control herbivores, thus regulating the abundance of their plant prey. Through this trophic cascade, predators can play a critical role in maintaining carbon stocks stored by plants. Yet this view is limited to direct effects in the trophic hierarchy and does not consider the indirect role of higher order predators. The trophic linkages between apex predators and intermediate predators, such as crabs and fish that eat grazers, are much less studied. In Southeast Alaska, eelgrass (Zostera marina) is the dominant form of soft sediment nearshore aquatic vegetation and covers nearly 16,000 km of shoreline, which is 1.25 times greater than the entire shoreline of California, Oregon, and Washington combined. The researchers will use the geographical expansion of sea otters (Enhydra lutris) in Southeast Alaska, a region larger than the state of Maine, to investigate the role of apex predators on eelgrass community structure and carbon sequestration at a large temporal and spatial scale. Sea otters were historically distributed throughout the North Pacific and exterminated from northern California to Prince William Sound during the 19th century fur trade. The reintroduction and geographical expansion of sea otters in Southeast Alaska over the past 50 years is a natural experiment that researchers can use to better understand the role of apex predators in structuring marine ecosystems, because sea otter duration and density vary over space, allowing comparison of seagrass food webs along this sea otter gradient. Researchers will rigorously test for a trophic cascade linking apex predators and marine vegetation using this natural experiment combined with manipulative experiments that include alternative hypotheses of what is limiting seagrass and then quantify the role of this seagrass in C sequestration.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: ARCTIC SYSTEM SCIENCE PROGRAM | Award Amount: 368.82K | Year: 2017

Terrestrial Arctic systems are the result of complex interactions between climate, vegetation, herbivores, and humans that must be studied together to understand their functional
traits. While low temperatures and short-growing seasons limit plant growth, enough plant biomass exists to support herds of migratory caribou, on which Alaska Natives depend. Any changes in the plants at the base of the food web can have cascading consequences for herbivores and human consumers and their interactions. Today, the Arctic system is in the midst of change resulting in new vegetation assemblages, changes in the nutritive value of plant tissues, and ultimately in the diets of migratory caribou and the humans that depend on them. This project examines the nutritional landscape of the Central Arctic Caribou Herd as a unifying concept, describing the nutritional landscape as caribou available protein (CAP) and caribou available energy
(CAE), integrative forage quantity measures that reflect biomass, species composition, plant
C and N content, digestibility, and secondary compounds. The core objectives are gaining understanding of the drivers of spatial and temporal patterns in the amounts of CAP and CAE across the tundra; caribou use of this nutritional landscape; how the amounts of CAP and CAE will differ in the future under likely climate scenarios and long-term experiments, and the interactions between caribou and Native communities.

The broader impacts of this study involve several groups of Alaskan stakeholders, including: harvesters of the North Slope community of Nuiqsut, the worldwide caribou community, and students at multiple stages of education. The project will embed a team member with hunters in Nuiqsut,
and develop an educational scientific documentary on the caribou - Alaska Native interactions for
high school students. The group plans to employ village students and undergraduates affiliated with the Alaska Native Science
and Engineering Program to assist with experimental work and vegetation collection at Toolik Lake. This research is significant to ecologists from the Circumarctic Rangifer Monitoring
and Assessment Network, dedicated
to caribou conservation and sustainable management in the US, Canada, and Scandinavia, who will use the data to consider how a suite of climate change scenarios affect herd fecundity and population dynamics.

The intellectual merit of this project stems from the merging of five elements to understand Arctic
System function and response to climate change: (1) A landscape-scale assessment of plant species, soil and plant C and N, digestibility, and secondary compounds that will be used
to calculate the amounts of CAP (kg m-2) and CAE (kJ m-2); (2) analysis of how closely caribou foraging is tied to the nutritional landscape throughout the year; (3) analysis of samples
from an existing long-term winter - summer climate change experiment to provide data on how
CAP and CAE will differ in the future; (4) prediction of future nutritional landscapes and
caribou foraging interactions; and (5) observations of Alaska Native hunter harvesting and attributes
of the system that determine their spatial and temporal patterns. These project components will enable an integrative understanding of how an important herbivore, caribou, interact with a landscape that is rapidly changing. This research: (1) examines the Arctic System from primary production to secondary consumers and the
influence of climate change across multiple trophic levels; (2) applies broadly by examining
the most abundant large herbivore and its food sources, both of which are distributed throughout
the Arctic; and (3) integrates experimental, observational, and modeling approaches to understanding ecological systems and climate change. The integration of observation, experimental data
and modeling to describe current and forecast future nutritional landscapes is intended to provide a
mechanistic understanding of Arctic System function and transform the understanding
of climate-vegetation-caribou-subsistence hunter interactions.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Cooperative Agreement | Program: | Phase: ARCTIC RESRCH SUPPRT & LOGISTI | Award Amount: 3.98M | Year: 2016

The Toolik Field Station (TFS) has been a major site for research in the North American Arctic
since 1975. Much of what is known about structure and function of arctic terrestrial and aquatic
ecosystems, effects of climate change, and feedbacks to global climate has emerged from long
term, process-based ecological research at TFS. TFS-based work has resulted in significant
discoveries on adaptations of organisms to the Arctic and population-level changes in animal
and plant distributions and phenologies. Because climate is changing rapidly in the Arctic,
continuing research into mechanisms of ecosystem response and feedbacks is a high priority.
This need and ongoing interest by scientists from many disciplines in use of TFS promise a
steady demand for TFS science support in the future. TFS supports the Arctic Long-Term Ecological
Research program (LTER), projects in the Arctic Observatory Network program (AON), NASA?s
Arctic Boreal Vulnerability Experiment (ABoVE), the Earthscope Transportable Array, and is
a core site for the National Ecological Observatory Network program (NEON). TFS is a founding
partner in the EU-sponsored International Network for Terrestrial Research and Monitoring
in the Arctic (INTERACT), which links field stations around the circumpolar Arctic, and a
member of the Organization of Biological Field Stations (OBFS). At least 993 peer-reviewed
journal articles, 161 books or book chapters and 144 dissertations and theses have been published
on research based at TFS.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: LONG TERM ECOLOGICAL RESEARCH | Award Amount: 1.13M | Year: 2017

Alaska has warmed more than twice as rapidly as the rest of the United States over the past century, with some of the largest increases occurring in boreal (pine) forests far from the coast. This warming has triggered large changes in the number and size of wildfires, the melting of frozen soil, patterns of water flow, and outbreaks of insects and diseases. Thus, Alaskan landscapes are changing rapidly in complex ways, which is important because the changes directly affect the availability of natural resources and ecosystem services to Alaskan residents. More generally, changes to landscapes in the far North are of global significance because boreal forests cover vast areas and play a role in determining the Earths climate. Understanding how and why boreal forests respond as they do to a warmer world is important for predicting both regional and global changes over the next century. This Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) project, started in 1987, will continue to provide long-term data on how changing climate impacts Alaskan forests and the people who depend on them for a living. This LTER research will test new ideas and gain fresh insights of the type possible only from studies that last decades. The LTER scientists will also continue their long history of collaboration with state and federal agencies regarding forest and wildlife management, especially in regard to increasing disturbance from fire.

This project represents an integrated research program to study the cross-scale controls over responses of the Alaskan boreal forest to changing climate-disturbance interactions, including the associated consequences for regional feedbacks to the climate system, and to identify vulnerabilities and potential adaptations to social-ecological change with rural Alaskan communities and land management agencies. The project addresses the dynamics of change through the integration of five components: 1) Studying direct effects of climate change on ecosystems and disturbance regimes by characterizing controls over the spatial heterogeneity of ecosystems and disturbances, and the sensitivities of these controls to regional climate, and by studying the spatial and temporal synchrony of multiple disturbances to assess which landscapes are most vulnerable to change; 2) Understanding patterns, mechanisms, and consequences for scale-dependent climate-disturbance interactions involving current and legacy influences of fire, permafrost, and trophic dynamics as drivers of ecosystem and landscape change; 3) Linking landscape heterogeneity with regional and global climate feedbacks by studying and modeling how intermediate-scale patterns and processes influence regional scale ecosystem dynamics and climate feedbacks; 4) Studying how climate variability and change are affecting coupled social-ecological dynamics by characterizing variability in changes to ecosystem services across a select group of interior Alaskan communities, and collaborating with communities to find solutions that reduce vulnerability and improve adaptation to social-ecological change; 5) Integrating science and resource management with regional environmental change by coordinating research activities with agencies to fill management knowledge gaps, assessing outcomes of policy decisions, and communicating syntheses to policy makers in meaningful ways.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: ARCTIC SYSTEM SCIENCE PROGRAM | Award Amount: 517.24K | Year: 2016

This project will contribute toward building research capacity of future arctic science through teaching and training of undergraduate students in collaboration with an interdisciplinary team actively involved in Arctic system research. Students will bring the acquired experience back to their communities and spread the message about the exciting science that is done in the Arctic. Focusing on under-represented minorities will help broaden the base of the future arctic science workforce. Interdisciplinary educational materials that
result from the summer experiences will be made available to a broad scientific community.

The Arctic climate is changing and an integrated cross-disciplinary approach
is needed to understand and explain changes in the Arctic and their implications. Researchers at the University of Alaska Fairbanks will establish a new REU site to attract undergraduates, including students from minority groups, to arctic sciences. The overarching goal of the project is to disseminate new knowledge and discoveries at the
frontiers of polar science and ignite the enthusiasm of the undergraduates about the Arctic,
thus contributing to the development of a diverse and environmentally educated U.S. science
and engineering workforce. The science focus of this program will be on understanding Arctic as a system with emphasis on its physical components. The goals will be achieved by organizing summer research experience for undergraduates during which students will be involved in research and educational projects with their mentors and take advantage of collaboration with the proposing team. Pre- and post- summer experience surveys will provide metrics of success.

The intellectual merit of this effort lies in focusing on the interdisciplinarity and the systems approach
to understanding the Arctic environment. The proposed program of summer experience will provide the participating students with the current state of knowledge about the Arctic. The students
will benefit from close interaction with their mentors who are actively involved in ongoing
research and fieldwork in their disciplines. While each student (or group of students) will
be involved in a separate project, they will be also provided with a broad context of Arctic
system science. In addition to regular classroom teaching students will be involved in field
trips and hands-on activities linked to research projects of their mentors. Each of the summer
visits to Fairbanks will culminate in a workshop and a discussion between students and instructors, in which the students will present their results and will have an opportunity to synthesize
about current problems of Arctic climate.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: SEES Hazards | Award Amount: 1.10M | Year: 2016

Humans have a long history of controlling or hunting predators which has resulted in many of these animal populations being classified as threatened, endangered or extinct. Recent reintroduction of some species allows for an examination of their role in the ecosystem, potential for conflict with humans, and possible strategies for future coexistence of humans and predators. This project will use sea otters in Southeast Alaska as a model system, combining ecology, economics, and Alaskan Native traditional knowledge to learn more about the role of marine predators in coastal sustainability. Between the mid-1700s and 1900, sea otters were hunted to extinction in Southeast Alaska for their highly valuable fur. In the 1960s, these animals were reintroduced in the region, and their population has grown from roughly 400 to more than 25,000 individuals. The recovery of sea otters in Southeast Alaska provides an opportunity to understand their ecological role in coastal ecosystems, while simultaneously evaluating their interactions with people who depend on coastal resources for their livelihood. Because otters eat shellfish, fishermen and people who harvest shellfish have growing concerns that the increase in sea otters is affecting their livelihood and food resources. At the same time, hunting pressure on sea otters has intensified from coastal Alaskan Natives who can legally harvest sea otters for their fur. The project will involve collaboration with Alaska Native communities and elders. In addition, it will support a team of scientists that includes undergraduate researchers, graduate students, two postdoctoral scholars, and two junior faculty members. One of the graduate students is from a group underrepresented in science, and the investigators plan to build on their track record of recruiting and retaining students from programs for Alaskan Natives.

The objective of this project is to document the role of apex predators and environmental drivers on changes in nearshore marine resources, ecosystems, and humans using an interdisciplinary approach that integrates ecological studies, traditional knowledge interviews, and ecosystem services quantification and valuation. This research examines changes in the marine environment over a period of time in which sea otters were extinct and then recolonized. The absence and then expansion of sea otters into different areas over time allows for a space-for-time substitution in which the longer-term effects of sea otters can be seen in areas occupied longer. Analyses of historical data provide an opportunity to describe changes in kelp distribution and abundance and subsistence harvests over the last 30-100 years. Quantification and valuation of ecosystem services from sea otters, including seagrass, kelp, and fish, will provide information on the potential benefits of sea otter recolonization. The integration of ecological, anthropological and economic approaches will lead to a better understanding of the reciprocal feedbacks between humans, apex predators and environmental drivers. Collaborations with Alaska Native communities throughout the project include consultation with community members and tribal elders about project goals and results, with the ultimate goal of informing resource management to improve the sustainability of rural coastal communities and nearshore ecosystems.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: ANTARCTIC GLACIOLOGY | Award Amount: 164.75K | Year: 2017


This award supports a project to study the phenomenon of the rain shadow (technically called orographic precipitation) in the Antarctic Peninsula and its interaction with a mountain range covered in ice and snow. Orographic precipitation gives rise to the largest climatic and ecological gradients on Earth. Air ascending on the windward side of the mountain range expands and cools, condensing the water vapor it carries and producing heavy rain- or snow-fall. As the air descends on the leeward flank, the air warms and dries out, leaving little-to-no precipitation. This pattern of snowfall, caused by the interaction of winds and the landscape, is hypothesized to control the shape of the ice cap itself. The investigators hypothesize that feedbacks between precipitation and topography control ice flux and temperature, impacting basal conditions (frozen versus wet) and motion, which over long time scales can affect basal topography via erosion.

The authors propose to investigate the feedbacks between orographically driven precipitation, ice dynamics, thermodynamics, and basal erosion and uplift over the northern Antarctic Peninsula by coupling an orographic precipitation model to the Parallel Ice Sheet Model (PISM). Using idealized and more realistic geometries, they will begin with a 2-D flow band model, which will be expanded into three dimensions to determine the strength of the feedbacks as a function of bedrock geometry and the intensity of the orographic precipitation gradient. The Antarctic Peninsula is targeted as the ideal case study, in the context of its rapid modern and future change as well as its deflation since the Last Glacial Maximum. The broader impacts of the work include the strengthening of predictive models by capturing feedbacks related to orographic precipitation not included in current models. This is likely to provide a more realistic assessment of the impacts of orographic precipitation in a regime of changing climate. The project will support an early career scientist and a female mid-career scientist and will support one PhD student, and provide summer research experience for one undergraduate student as an REU supplement. The project does not require field work in the Antarctic.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: PETROLOGY AND GEOCHEMISTRY | Award Amount: 325.40K | Year: 2017

Many of Earths active volcanoes produce violent eruptions that send ash into the atmosphere, creating hazardous phenomena that threaten aircraft, people, and infrastructure. The United States hosts a number of recently active and potentially hazardous volcanoes with most located in Alaska. Volcanoes that erupt intermediate SiO2 composition magmas are common in Alaska (e.g., Mt. Augustine) and elsewhere in the world. They are typically water and crystal-rich, frequently active and produce eruptions that cycle between small lava domes and violent, ash-producing, Vulcanian-style explosions. Magmas degas as gas bubbles exsolve, grow, coalesce into larger bubbles, and then connect together to form permeable pathways through the magma that allow gas to escape. The driving force behind explosive eruptions is how easily the magma can release the gas pressure that builds as magma rises in the conduit, balanced against how fast the magma ascends to the surface. Prior results indicate that as the magmas crystal content increases, the solid crystals could modify the degassing process by allowing the bubbles to connect and the magma to become permeable at lower gas contents, although the mechanism by which this happens is poorly understood. The primary goal of this study is to examine and quantify how crystal content may influence magma degassing, using experiments that approximate the conditions of magma ascent in the sub-volcanic plumbing system. The experiments will be designed to apply generally to intermediate composition volcanoes anywhere in the world. However, the experimental results will be tested by application to the 2006 eruption of Augustine Volcano, Alaska through a comparison with natural samples from that eruption. This research will allow geoscientists to better understand the mechanisms responsible for the effusive to explosive eruption style that occurs often in crystal-rich, intermediate composition magmas in subduction zone volcanoes, like those in Alaska and elsewhere around the world.

This research will employ high-pressure and temperature, cold-seal decompression experiments to examine how crystal populations and/or matrix melt compositions may significantly influence permeability development in magmas. Specific goals of the research include: 1) quantification of the relative importance of phenocryst versus microlite crystallinity; 2) the timescales of permeability development and degassing in hydrous intermediate magmas relative to the timescales of eruption; 3) how crystals influence pore microstructure that controls permeable gas flow; 4) the influence crystals and/or melt composition may have on the development of permeability anisotropy in magmas during and after eruption. The experiments will be conducted under controlled conditions approximating magma ascent in the conduit, and rapidly quenched to preserve vesicle structures that evolve during decompression. The quenched samples will be analyzed using a novel combination of lab-based electrical conductivity measurements to probe the morphology of the pore structure, combined with 3-D X-ray tomography analyses to image the structure of the degassing pathways in the experiments. The results will be used to constrain the timescales and depths of magma degassing in the context of Vulcanian - lava dome cycles at hydrous intermediate arc volcanoes. For example, the experiments can be used to constrain how fast magma degassing and outgassing can lead to the formation of a dense plug or lava dome capping the conduit, and then the subsequent build up of gas pressure beneath that leads to ash producing Vulcanian explosions. When included in the broader context of volcano monitoring, the results from this study will help us better define the timescales over which effusive to explosive cycling occurs in arc volcanoes, and can be compared with pre and syn-eruptive geophysical monitoring data, leading to improved eruption forecasting in the future.

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