Local and Statewide campus news briefs

Students meet famous fossil finder

Donald C. Johanson presents “Lucy,” a 3.2 million-year-old human fossil.

He discovered Lucy in Ethiopia in 1974, and it changed how scientists view human evolution.

Johanson recently spoke with the public and UAA Honors College students about his discovery and ways to find success.

In an exclusive interview with The Northern Light, Johanson said it was his first time visiting UAA.

“I love talking about Lucy,” he said. “I think Lucy, when I announced her as a new species in 1978, prompted a major rethinking of the human family tree.”

Lucy shows humans closely resembled apes more than 3 million years ago, because of their long arms, large cranial cavities and ability to walk upright, he said.

He compared arguments against evolution to arguments against the existence of gravity.
Arguments posed by creationists, Johanson said, “oppose fact.”

Justice Center gets new leadership

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UAA’s Justice Center changed faces.

Andre Rosay is the new interim director of the Justice Center at UAA.

Robert Langworthy, former director of the Justice Center, left to chair the Department of Criminal Justice and Legal Studies at the University of Central Florida.

Arctic water index tool developed by UA

A new water vulnerability assessment tool created by UA researchers may help Alaska’s communities protect their water resources, according to reports released by UAA this summer.

The tool, the Alaska Water Resource Vulnerability Index, is the culmination of a five-year project to collect and house existing data in one database.

The tool is the first comprehensive water assessment tool to focus on the Arctic.

UA campuses fight to protect environment

The UA Mat-Su campus is following the eco-friendly trend set by UAA by recycling 1,100 yards of its old carpet.

UAA, which installs 35 percent recycled carpet, is one of 300 universities to have signed the Talloires Declaration. The declaration shows the university’s commitment to sustainability.

The UAA student government’s recycling program recently won the 2006 Outstanding Recycling Program award presented by Alaskans for Litter Prevention and Recycling.

In January 2007, former Chancellor Elaine Maimon became a charter signatory to the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment, pledging UAA to take a leadership role in setting trends to address global warming.

WWAMI Science in Medicine lecturer named

Dr. Brian McMahon, an affiliate professor of the Alaska WWAMI Biomedical Program, was selected as the Wyoming, Washington, Alaska, Montana and Idaho Science in Medicine Lecturer for 2007-08.

McMahon, director of the Viral Hepatitis Program for the Alaska Area Native Health Service, is a staff physician and clinical hepatologist at the Alaska Native Medical Center.

The WWAMI Science in Medicine Lectureship recognizes accomplished WWAMI faculty professors whose research programs lead to new scientific discoveries.

WWAMI is Alaska’s Medical School. Alaska WWAMI students complete their first year of medical school at UAA. More than 100 clinical clerkships instruct WWAMI medical students in their third and fourth years in Alaska.

Nearly $3 million goes to UAA prison, disease research

The National Institute on Drug Abuse is helping fund UAA research that examines the ethics of studying HIV and AIDS in prisons.

The institute awarded $2.96 million to UAA’s research for five years.

UAA’s Dr. Gloria Eldridge and Dr. Mark Johnson will lead a national investigation with collaborators from the Medical College of Wisconsin, the University of Alabama Birmingham, George Washington University and Centerforce, a prisoner advocacy group.

With 80 to 95 percent of prisoners having drug abuse histories and with HIV/AIDS rates in prisons three times higher than in the general population, correctional systems provide ample room for researchers to study ways to stem HIV/AIDS.

Scientists will explore the ethical challenges of conducting HIV research in correctional settings.

Researches get paid for studying Arctic sustainability

Yup’ik and Chukchi communities in western Alaska and Russia’s far east are being forced to adapt to changes in the availability of subsistence salmon resources.

As a result, UAA researchers were paid $750,000 by the National Science Foundation to study how those communities are developing local management systems to sustain future harvests.

The project involves fieldwork in Yup’ik, Cup’ik and Chukchi communities and research in UAA’s new Experimental Economics Laboratory.

It offers research opportunities for Alaska Native undergraduate students from participating communities, who will take part in fieldwork and produce reports for their communities.

University of Alaska statewide news

Scientists: Polar ice clouds probable climate change symptom

FAIRBANKS – Bands of wispy, luminescent clouds – noctilucnet clouds – shining across Fairbanks’ skyline have UAF scientists reporting that the upper atmosphere may be showing symptoms of climate change.

Dozens of scientists from around the world gathered at UAF before the semester began to discuss their findings on noctilucent clouds and other phenomena of the earth’s upper atmosphere.

Noctilucent clouds appear in the summer, when solar radiation is most intense. The clouds could serve as an indicator of climate change, because an increase in carbon dioxide causes heating in the lower atmosphere and cooling in the upper.

Discussions at UAF included the latest ground-based and satellite data on the mesopause region, an area of the atmosphere 50 miles above Earth’s surface and the site of the coldest atmospheric temperatures.

Mine training center opens

JUNEAU – Entry Level Mine Training at the University of Alaska Southeast starts Oct. 15.

The Alaska Department of Labor & Workforce Development provided funding to the University of Alaska Mining and Petroleum Training Services program based at UA Anchorage’s Kenai Peninsula College.

The program is branching out through UAS to make the training available in the Southeast region.

This offering is in direct response to the mining industry’s request for better trained entry-level employees.

The program includes Entry Level Mine Labor Training, Mine Safety and Health Administration, and Entry Level Underground Miner class.