The University of Alaska Southeast is a public, four year university that is part of the University of Alaska System. The main campus is located in Juneau, Alaska and the university has extended campuses in Sitka and Ketchikan. The University of Alaska Southeast is abbreviated as UA Southeast, Alaska Southeast, or UAS.UAS was established on July 1, 1987 with the restructuring and consolidation of the former University of Alaska Juneau, Ketchikan Community College, and Islands Community College .UAS is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. Wikipedia.
Agency: GTR | Branch: NERC | Program: | Phase: Research Grant | Award Amount: 1.82M | Year: 2015
The impacts of climate change, and warming in particular, on natural ecosystems remain poorly understood, and research to date has focused on individual species (e.g. range shifts of polar bears). Multispecies systems (food webs, ecosystems), however, can possess emergent properties that can only be understood using a system-level perspective. Within a given food web, the microbial world is the engine that drives key ecosystem processes, biogeochemical cycles (e.g. the carbon-cycle) and network properties, but has been hidden from view due to difficulties with identifying which microbes are present and what they are doing. The recent revolution in Next Generation Sequencing has removed this bottleneck and we can now open the microbial black box to characterise the metagenome (who is there?) and metatranscriptome (what are they doing?) of the community for the first time. These advances will allow us to address a key overarching question: should we expect a global response to global warming? There are bodies of theory that suggest this might be the case, including the Metabolic Theory of Ecology and the Everything is Everywhere hypothesis of global microbial biogeography, yet these ideas have yet to be tested rigorously at appropriate scales and in appropriate experimental contexts that allow us to identify patterns and causal relationships in real multispecies systems. We will assess the impacts of warming across multiple levels of biological organisation, from genes to food webs and whole ecosystems, using geothermally warmed freshwaters in 5 high-latitude regions (Svalbard, Iceland, Greenland, Alaska, Kamchatka), where warming is predicted to be especially rapid,. Our study will be the first to characterise the impacts of climate change on multispecies systems at such an unprecedented scale. Surveys of these sentinel systems will be complemented with modelling and experiments conducted in these field sites, as well as in 100s of large-scale mesocosms (artificial streams and ponds) in the field and 1,000s of microcosms of robotically-assembled microbial communities in the laboratory. Our novel genes-to-ecosystems approach will allow us to integrate measures of biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. For instance, we will quantify key functional genes as well as quantifying which genes are switched on (the metatranscriptome) in addition to measuring ecosystem functioning (e.g. processes related to the carbon cycle). We will also measure the impacts of climate change on the complex networks of interacting species we find in nature - what Darwin called the entangled bank - because food webs and other types of networks can produce counterintuitive responses that cannot be predicted from studying species in isolation. One general objective is to assess the scope for biodiversity insurance and resilience of natural systems in the face of climate change. We will combine our intercontinental surveys with natural experiments, bioassays, manipulations and mathematical models to do this. For instance, we will characterise how temperature-mediated losses to biodiversity can compromise key functional attributes of the gene pool and of the ecosystem as a whole. There is an assumption in the academic literature and in policy that freshwater ecosystems are relatively resilient because the apparently huge scope for functional redundancy could allow for compensation for species loss in the face of climate change. However, this has not been quantified empirically in natural systems, and errors in estimating the magnitude of functional redundancy could have substantial environmental and economic repercussions. The research will address a set of key specific questions and hypotheses within our 5 themed Workpackages, of broad significance to both pure and applied ecology, and which also combine to provide a more holistic perspective than has ever been attempted previously.
News Article | February 22, 2017
People have been fascinated by dolphins for millennia, but we still know very little about their life in the wild. Now a team of scientists from the University of Sydney's Charles Perkins Centre and the University of Alaska Southeast have lifted the veil on cetacean private life thanks to new bespoke cameras that harmlessly attach to the animal's flank and provide an account of dolphin behavior that more invasive techniques have missed. Dolphins are excellent environmental indicators, but they are also often put at hazard by human activity, so there are many reasons to learn more about them. The trouble is, they're a bit like dogs. You think you know what they're doing, but when you're not looking, you'd be surprised what they get up to. According to Heidi Pearson, Assistant Professor of Marine Biology at the University of Alaska Southeast, we can see only 10 percent of dolphin behavior from the surface and sending down dive teams and submersibles to study and film them may bring back valuable data, but it also interferes with their behavior, which becomes as disrupted as that of a human family being told by a television crew to "act natural." The team's solution was to use special camera modules equipped with suction cups that attach to the dorsal flanks of dolphins using a low pole and Velcro pads. Each camera is equipped with a six-hour battery, memory boards, VHF and satellite transmitters, and time/depth recorders. Tests involving eight wild dusky dolphins were carried out off the coast of New Zealand from December 2015 to January 2016. So far, the cameras have provided scientists with 535 minutes of video showing rarely-witnessed behaviors, such as mother-calf interaction, playing with kelp, and social flipper-rubbing, as well as hunting and other habits The researchers see such action-cam technology as not only providing unique views of dolphin life, but as a way of improving conservation and wildlife rehabilitation. By studying dolphins so intimately, it will be possible to gain a better understanding of the marine environment as well as the stocks of fish and squid eaten by dolphins that support much of the fishing industry. In addition, it will be a way to help minimize the impact of human activities, like shipping, on dolphin wellbeing as well as monitoring aquatic endangered species with high resolution. "For the first time, these cameras have given us the opportunity to see what dolphins do on their own terms," says Dr Gabriel Machovsky-Capuska from the University of Sydney's School of Veterinary Science and Charles Perkins Centre. "There were no wildlife crews, no invasive underwater housings – and the dolphins remained largely unaffected by our cameras. This research opens up a whole new approach for capturing wild animal behavior, which will ultimately help us to not only advance conservation efforts but also come closer to understanding wild predators' and human nutrition too." Now that the technology has proven itself on dolphins, the team hopes to adapt it to other cetacea and to sharks.
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: ECOSYSTEM STUDIES | Award Amount: 258.57K | Year: 2012
Glaciers and ice sheets represent the second largest reservoir of water and cover 10% of the earth. They also constitute an important, but poorly understood ecosystem. Improving knowledge of glacier biogeochemistry is particularly important as they are among the environments most sensitive to climate warming. Most notably, glacier melting is accelerating due to rising temperatures, changing precipitation patterns and the deposition of black carbon, which darkens glacier surfaces enhancing their absorption of light and heat. Glacier ecosystems were recently identified as a significant source of ancient, yet highly bioavailable dissolved organic carbon to downstream aquatic ecosystems. This finding runs counter to logical perceptions of age-reactivity relationships, in which the least reactive material withstands degradation the longest and is therefore the oldest. The remnants of ancient peatlands and forests since overrun by glaciers have been invoked as a source of this ancient, labile organic carbon. Preliminary results upon which this study is based, challenge the peatland/forest source hypothesis, indicating instead that glacier organic carbon is predominantly from aerosol deposition and enters glaciers in a pre-aged form. This study will determine the contribution to the glacial organic carbon pool made by fossil fuel derived aerosols, verify whether this organic carbon is indeed ancient and labile, and quantify the extent to which it is being exported to downstream ecosystems.
Today, around 60% of organic aerosols are derived from anthropogenic activities, indicating that organic deposition has also increased dramatically since the industrial revolution. Therefore, if the organics found on, within and being exported from Gulf of Alaska glaciers are from aerosols, the glacier ecosystem structure we observe today is fed by the waste products of industrial activity occurring thousands of miles away. If this is the case, then the organic carbon which is exported to ecosystems downstream of glaciers would also be of anthropogenic origin, suggesting these receiving ecosystems are also transformed relative to their pre-industrial status. As deposition of combustion products is a global phenomenon, all ecosystems may be receiving this ancient, labile carbon subsidy. In warmer ecosystems, the labile carbon windfall is presumably rapidly processed and its signal is lost. In frigid glacier environments, these inputs stand out, making glaciers sentinel ecosystems for the detection and study of anthropogenic deposition. Although the study focuses upon glaciers along the Gulf of Alaska, findings will be relevant to any ecosystem receiving depositional inputs. The project provides a highly interdisciplinary and collaborative research environment from which the undergraduates from under-represented groups in science, a masters student, and a postdoctoral researcher will all benefit. The collaboration extends beyond the funded US scientists to include German colleagues supported by the Max Planck Institutes Marine Geochemistry Group. This international component expands the possibilities for knowledge transfer and provides the US-based researchers access to unique, state-of-the-art analytical facilities. Results will be disseminated to the public through the U.S. Forest Service Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center in Juneau, providing an opportunity for public outreach on the effects of climate change on glaciers.
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: INSTRUMENTATION & FACILITIES | Award Amount: 79.50K | Year: 2011
This grant supports acquisition of a laser cavity optical spectrometer (LCOS) capable of rapid analysis of stable isotope ratios of Hydrogen and Oxygen in natural waters. The instrument will support NSF funded research on the effects of mountain glacier retreat proximal to the Gulf Alaska on hydrologic processes and ecosystem biogeochemical cycling across the cryosphere ? marine interface with a focus on stream processes in the wake of retreating glaciers. Recent climate warming in this region is dramatically altering local ecosystems as land is freshly exposed to atmospheric, hydrologic and biosphere activity. The effects of these processes have significant implications for important marine and freshwater fisheries, for sea level change and for the transport and fate of atmospheric aerosols. The LCOS will be particularly useful for determining the relative contribution of glacial melt waters to local streams. The PIs plan to engage in related K-12 outreach through an established summer short course series. The University of Alaska Southeast (UAS) in Juneau hosts a high percentage of Native Alaskans and UAS is an undergraduate institution. The potential impact for training underrepresented students in modern geochemical analysis method as applied to local environmental issues is high.
Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: ARCTIC SOCIAL SCIENCES | Award Amount: 108.05K | Year: 2011
PI Erica Hill will conduct a zooarchaeological analysis of vertebrate fauna recovered from St. Lawrence Island excavations in the 1960s. The proposed research is the first modern, comprehensive zooarchaeological study of fauna conducted on any St. Lawrence Island archaeological assemblage. The PI will also be testing a hypothesis about prehistoric hunting strategies and social organization based on the sexing of walrus remains. This research has the potential to generate data that could provide insights into the social organization of the prehistoric Eskimo, the development of complex societies along the Bering Sea coast, and better explain human adaptations to the arctic environment. There are no longer any intact archaeological sites on St. Lawrence Island, which means that museum materials are the sole source of information on an island adaptation that persisted for over two millennia. Data derived from this analysis will represent a contribution to our understanding of human occupation of the Arctic and may ultimately help explain the development of large, coastal aggregated sites focused on whaling.
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: OFFICE OF MULTIDISCIPLINARY AC | Award Amount: 96.81K | Year: 2015
This award is jointly funded by the Condensed Matter Physics Program and the Office of Multidisciplinary Affairs in MPS and the Artic Natural Sciences Program in GEO. The polar regions of our planet are home to many dynamic physical processes. Although the word glacier may invoke connotations of stoic and slow-moving mountains of ice whose changes are indistinguishable to the eye, this is not always the case. Among the most active regions of glaciological activity are the massive coastal fjords in Greenland. Rivers of ice which are 5-10 km wide and up to 1 km deep are rapidly flowing towards the ocean. At the end of these glaciers, where the ice meets the sea, icebergs are constantly breaking off or calving into the ocean. Approximately 30-50% of all ice discharged into the ocean occurs through calving, as opposed to other mechanisms such as melting. Unfortunately, the physical processes which control calving are not well understood. One possible influence is the presence of an ice mélange, which is a floating layer of icebergs and sea ice extending many kilometers away from the front of the glacier. The mélange is essentially a large-scale, quasi-two dimensional granular material, which can potentially have a large impact on calving rates and our ability to detect iceberg calving. This collaborative project aims to determine the correct physical description of ice mélange mechanics, as well as its influences on iceberg calving. This is accomplished through an interdisciplinary combination of satellite imagery, small-scale laboratory experiments, and theoretical modeling. By bringing together ideas in condensed matter physics to study large-scale glaciological processes, the project sheds new light on the underlying mechanisms which shape the polar regions of our planet.
The primary goal of this project is to characterize the rheology of ice mélange, a closely-packed granular material composed of icebergs and sea ice that is found in fjords throughout Greenland. Ice mélange is unique among granular materials in that it contains exceptionally large clasts (10s to 100s of meters in scale in all directions), is constrained to flow in a quasi-two-dimensional setting, and floats in its own melt. Seasonal variations in ice mélange motion and extent are well-correlated with seasonal variations in iceberg calving rates, suggesting that ice mélange is an important control on outlet glacier and ice sheet stability. The dynamics, energetics, and oceanographic consequences of ice mélange are essentially unexplored. The research teams aim is to study ice mélange by combining analysis of field observations with laboratory experiments and numerical modeling. Satellite imagery, along with previously collected time lapse photography and terrestrial radar data, is analyzed to produce ice mélange velocity fields and quantify iceberg-size distributions. This work provides new insights into ice mélange kinematics and composition, and serves as a benchmark for laboratory and numerical modeling experiments. In addition, experiments are conducted in which synthetic icebergs in a water tank are pushed by a model terminus. These experiments study jamming of particles that model icebergs during and between calving events to investigate stress transmission through ice mélange. Finally, numerical experiments are performed in which ice mélange is simulated using discrete particle and continuum models adapted from previous work on granular materials. The model rheology can be adjusted to find a description of ice mélange that is consistent with field observations and laboratory experiments.
Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: ECOSYSTEM STUDIES | Award Amount: 97.92K | Year: 2016
Coastal margins are dynamic zones at the interface between land and ocean, where fresh water and nutrients, like carbon, iron and nitrogen, flow downstream from coastal watersheds into the nearshore marine environment. The links between terrestrial and marine ecosystems are especially tight in the coastal temperate rainforests of Alaska and British Columbia. Abundant rainfall moves nutrients held in glaciers, dense forests, and wetlands to estuaries and fjords, supporting productive fisheries and robust marine mammal populations. This region includes the largest remaining old-growth forests in North America; has among the highest rates of glacier melt on the planet; supports billion-dollar fishing and tourism industries; and is home to tens of thousands of people who depend on natural resources for their livelihoods. Because the movement of fresh water and nutrients plays a key role in these linked ecosystems, climate-driven changes in this flow may impact coastal ecosystems and the human communities that depend on them. The Coastal Rainforest Margins Research Network is an international research collaborative that will facilitate a better understanding of these processes and impacts. This Network will establish a core community of scientists and stakeholders to function as an information and guidance resource for ecosystem management and community adaptation into the future. An improved understanding of this ecosystem will help build resilience in local communities and ecosystems in a warming and increasingly variable climate. Additionally, it will provide a foundation for understanding climate-driven changes within coastal temperate rainforests and coastal margins worldwide.
The Coastal Rainforest Margins Research Network will be composed of research communities organized within key disciplines, including hydrology, forest ecology, soil science, biogeochemistry, and near-shore marine ecology. These disciplinary communities will address critical information gaps, develop regional collaborations, and synthesize knowledge regarding water, carbon, and nutrient fluxes in a landscape where intense transformations and rapid transfers between terrestrial and freshwater environments control the delivery of these materials to the coastal ocean. The Network will achieve these goals through three main activities: 1) structured information exchanges among Network participants, including regular teleconferences, research webinars, field site visits, web-hosted meetings, and annual multi-day workshops that bring the entire Network together; 2) creation of working groups to develop data collection, management and sharing protocols; and 3) development of outreach products useful to Network members as well as policy-makers and resource managers.
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: SEES Hazards | Award Amount: 479.12K | 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: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: ARCTIC NATURAL SCIENCES | Award Amount: 111.75K | Year: 2013
This proposal addresses the feedbacks between glacier erosion and glacier dynamics. It does so by measuring the spatial and temporal patterns of sediment erosion, properties of basal till, basal water pressure, basal motion, ice deformation, surface velocities, surface mass balance, and changes in surface elevation and terminus position. This will be accomplished through a comprehensive observational program using radio echo sounding, reflection seismics, borehole observations, GPS, satellite remote sensing, and airborne LiDAR and digital photogrammetry. All observations will be interpreted with the help of numerical models that explore the effects of changing boundary conditions and the longer term evolution, taking into account the effects of sediment excavation. The work will be carried out at Taku Glacier, Southeast Alaska where all relevant processes are currently active. This project will impact model studies on glacier and ice sheet evolution, as well as interpretations of sedimentary records from past glaciations.
This proposal will be closely coordinated with activities of the Juneau Icefield Research Program, an annual educational program for high school and college students on the Juneau Ice field.
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: PHYSICAL OCEANOGRAPHY | Award Amount: 498.48K | Year: 2015
Recent and on-going retreat of many Northern hemisphere marine-terminating glaciers is contributing significantly to sea level rise. It is driven by poorly understood processes occurring at the ice-ocean interface, such as subglacial discharge into the ocean, turbulent plume dynamics, submarine melting, and iceberg calving. These processes are (1) inherently interdisciplinary, requiring expertise in both glaciology and oceanography and (2) difficult to observe, requiring innovative field techniques and careful site selection. This project will address the relationship between subglacial discharge, turbulent plume dynamics, and submarine melting through a comprehensive field campaign at LeConte Glacier, Alaska, supplemented by a state-of-the-art modeling effort. The field site is ideal because it spans a wide range of forcings on daily to seasonal time scales and because the near-terminus fjord environment is accessible year round. A successful project will provide a unique data set and improved models for projecting contributions to future sea level rise.
This interdisciplinary project, at the interface of the the fields of glaciology and oceanography, provides support for an early-career principal investigator (PI) (Amundson) from a predominantly undergraduate institution (University of Alaska Southeast) and an additional early career PI at University of Oregon. More mature PIs at Oregon State University and University of Alaska Fairbanks Campus will mentor the younger team members, promoting workforce development. Additional workforce development will be promoted through interaction with high school students and at the participating universities. The team of PIs will entrain select students from a local Alaska high school to participate in aspects of the field work and engage with the school to integrate their observations into the curriculum. The project will also provide support for the training two graduate students and a post-doctoral scholar. The associated mentoring plan is very good. Outreach to the general public will be enhanced by leveraging the PIs? home institutions? activities. The PIs will continue established interactions with the National Park Service and the US Forest Service. These include public lectures, as well as training for interpretive rangers who can reach a broad cross-cut of the public. Finally, they will develop a brochure concerning their work to further enhance their public outreach.
This project will develop a parameterization of a plume, driven by subglacial discharge, as it interacts with the face of a marine-terminating glacier. This is a goal that has been endorsed by the international community. It will be accomplished by conducting three intensive field campaigns to
i. sample the upwelling plume directly with manned and autonomous vessels,
ii. measure the downstream impact of the plume on near-terminus fjord circulation,
iii. determine subglacial discharge and submarine melt rates, and
iv. survey associated changes in glacier terminus dynamics.
Subglacial discharge and ambient water properties in the proglacial fjord will be monitored throughout the project in order to provide
i. important context for the intensive field campaigns, and
ii. a range of parameter space to be explored by a turbulence-resolving hydrodynamic plume model.
Data from the intensive field campaigns will be used to validate the plume model, which will then be used to explore the wider range of parameter space that is provided by long-term measurements. The latter will allow investigation of the impact of submarine melting on glacier dynamics over seasonal timescales.