UA Statewide Briefs

National Science Board held meeting in Fairbanks

The National Science Board held a public meeting on the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus on Monday, Sept. 22, at 8 a.m. in the Globe Room of the Elvey Building.

The NSB, established by Congress in 1950, provides oversight for and establishment of the policies of the National Science Foundation. The 24 member board meets six times each year, usually five times at the NSF headquarters and once in another part of the country. The board selected UAF for its 2008 off-site meeting and retreat so that board members could experience firsthand the NSF-supported facilities in Fairbanks as well as UAF’s participation in science and engineering initiatives.

In addition to the public meeting, NSB members met in closed session to conduct board business as well as tour Caribou Poker Creeks Research Watershed and Poker Flat Research Range. An agenda can be found on the NSB website: www.nsf.gov/nsb.

Due to limited space, the meeting was webcasted to NSB staffers and UAF faculty, staff and students at www.uaf.edu/research/crs-publications/nsbwebcast/index.xml.

Visiting scientist to discuss threat of ocean acidification

One of the world’s preeminent experts on ocean acidification will visit Fairbanks next week and hold a public lecture on the effects of rising carbon dioxide levels in the ocean.

Richard Feely is an oceanographer at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Seattle.

The public lecture will be held at 7 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 24, at the Princess Riverside Lodge in Fairbanks.

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According to Jeremy Mathis, a chemical oceanographer at UAF’s School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, Feely has been a leading expert on ocean acidification for at least 20 years. In his abstract for the talk, Feely says that today’s record high carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are the “direct result of the industrial and agricultural activities of humans over the past two centuries.”

Feely adds that carbon dioxide levels are “now higher than experienced on Earth for at least the last 800,000 years.” Feely believes that these levels will continue to rise.

Feely will discuss the short and long term implications of ocean acidification on marine mammals, fish species and the economies that depend on the world’s marine resources.

“Ocean acidification is probably the most imminent threat to the oceans today,” said Mathis. He adds that ocean acidification is particularly harmful in Alaska, where cooler waters can speed up the rate of acidification.

UA Foundation announces 2009-2010 scholarships

The University of Alaska Foundation has announced the availability of scholarships available to students attending any campus of the University of Alaska during the 2009-10 academic year. The UA Foundation has 58 scholarships offering awards from $500 to $8,000. Requirements vary. Please visit www.alaska.edu/foundation/scholarships/ for specific information about the scholarships. Applications are available at UAOnline.alaska.edu.


Alaska fare from a northern science conference

Some notes from the pad, scribbled during the 2008 Arctic Science Conference held in Fairbanks, Sept. 15 – 17:

 In Eagle, Alaska, the Yukon River has broken up in April rather than May only 12 times in about one century of records. Ten of those early breakups happened between 1989 and 2008, according to Eagle resident and historian John Borg.

 Willows may be responding to crowding pressure from the exotic white sweet clover by producing more tannins, which make willow less tasty to moose. James Sowerwine of the University of Alaska Anchorage also thinks that white sweet clover may already be stunting willow growth on the Nenana River.

 Ted Wu of the USDA Agricultural Research Service at UAF has been gathering up fish guts and heads by the bucketful at Kodiak fish processors and bringing them back to Fairbanks. In the lab, he and his co-workers have ground up the heads and guts of salmon, and the bones, heads, skin, and guts of pollock. They have found that those byproducts of Alaska fisheries are rich in oils that are great sources of polyunsaturated fatty acids and fat-soluble vitamins. The oils, not widely exploited at the moment, could be used for human consumption (in pill form), animal feed, or possibly for biodiesel fuel.

 According to precise dating of bones reported by Dale Guthrie, elk lived in Fairbanks about 260 years ago, and moose have roamed Alaska as long as humans have, for about 12,000 years.

 If climate warming patterns continue, black and white spruce trees will grow better along the western half of the Kuskokwim River than they will on the eastern half of the Kuskokwim River, which has a dryer interior climate, according to Stephen Winslow of UAF. Spruce trees seem to do better in cooler, wetter locations.

 The Tlingit and Haida people of southeast Alaska had gardens more than 200 years ago, and potatoes were one of their most important crops. Old strains of potatoes growing in Juneau and the village of Kasaan, near Ketchikan, are related to potatoes farther south. “These were not brought over by Russians or Europeans,” Elizabeth Kunibe of the University of Alaska Southeast said, who looked at a DNA analysis of the potatoes. “They had to come up from Chile or Mexico.”

The remaining nuggets are from a talk, “What is the future role of wild game in Alaska food systems?” by Tom Paragi of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game:

 Alaska agriculture provides less than 5 percent of the state’s food needs. We import the rest.

 The average rural Alaskan harvests 375 about pounds of wild food per year. The average urban Alaskan harvests about 23 pounds of wild food per year.

 Three game-management units surrounding Fairbanks and Delta Junction account for one-third of the moose taken in Alaska.

 Alaskans harvested about 6,900 moose per year from 2001 to 2005. About one percent of the Alaska population got a moose during that time. During the same period, Alaskans harvested about 27,679 caribou per year and 18,079 deer.

 Eighty-five percent of the red meat Alaskans eat is imported. Six percent of the wild meat Alaskans eat is caribou, five percent is moose, two percent is Alaska beef and pork, and one percent is deer.

The Geophysical Institute, University of Alaska Fairbanks, provides this column as a public service in cooperation with the UAF research community. Ned Rozell is a science writer at the institute.