Fire and Ice Project

Conceptual diagram of Fire and Ice project

Fire and Ice: Navigating Variability in Boreal Wildfire Regimes and Subarctic Coastal Ecosystems (F&I)" is a 5-year, $20 million effort by Alaska NSF EPSCoR to study two major Alaskan regions undergoing climate-driven changes.

F&I researchers will employ remote sensing, fieldwork, lab experiments, and modeling to study the boreal forest, which is experiencing changes to wildfire regimes, and the Gulf of Alaska, where changing physical and chemical conditions are impacting nearshore marine ecosystems and organisms. The project will involve more than 30 faculty members located across the three main UA campuses, as well as five new faculty hires, six postdoc hires, 44 graduate and 45 undergraduate research assistantships. Researchers in the study come from a variety of disciplines across the physical, biological and social sciences.

F&I consists of two major research groups, a Boreal Fires team and a Coastal Margins team. Boreal Fires researchers will identify large-scale climate drivers relevant to fire weather; use hyperspectral remote sensing to better map and measure fuel condition and active fire behavior; and conduct research into the economics of fire management and into impacts of fire on subsistence communities. Coastal Margins researchers will assess impacts of large-scale ocean drivers on the nearshore marine environment; establish how the composition and productivity of nearshore biological communities vary across a spectrum of glacial and non-glacial systems; determine how organisms’ physiological responses to physical drivers vary along these gradients; and study fishers’ and institutions’ responses to changes in availability of key marine species. In addition to research efforts, a Diversity, Education and Workforce Development (DEW) team will partner with researchers to involve more than 1,500 Alaskans in Fire and Ice activities, including K-12 out-of-school programs and teacher workshops; scientific expeditions for high-school girls; and UA mentoring, courses and trainings. DEW will also conduct research into science identity formation in first-generation college students, who will be a focus of F&I diversity efforts, along with women and Alaska Natives.

Other parts of the project include a Communications component that keeps the public informed about project findings and progress; an Economic Development program focused on sponsoring and organizing activities that encourage science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) entrepreneurship; and a Management and Evaluation element that will ensure the project meets its goals and objectives

UAF Provost Anupma Prakash serves as Project Director and Principal Investigator. Co-Principal Investigators for the award are Uma Bhatt, chair of Atmospheric Sciences at the UAF Geophysical Institute, who will co-lead the Boreal Fires group; Brenda Konar, Associate Dean of Research and Administration at the UAF College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, who will co-lead the Coastal Margins group; LeeAnn Munk, Professor of Geological Sciences at UAA; and Allison Bidlack, Director of the Alaska Coastal Rainforest Center at UAS. Pips Veazey of UAF serves as Associate Project Director. UAF Assistant Professor of Wildlife Biology Todd Brinkman and UAF (Juneau) Associate Professor of Fisheries Anne Beaudreau serve as the other co-leads for the Boreal Fires and Coastal Margins teams.

The award runs from October 1, 2018 - September 30, 2023.

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