Fire and Ice

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Conceptual diagram of the 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 conduct research into changes to fire risk and behavior in Alaska’s boreal forest, and changes to physical and chemical variables that influence biological communities in the nearshore Gulf of Alaska.

EPSCoR researchers from across the University of Alaska system are employing remote sensing, in situ monitoring, laboratory experiments and modeling to examine these changes, and are using social science methods to gauge their potential effects on local residents. The project is divided into three major components: a Boreal Fires team, a Coastal Margins team, and Diversity, Education and Workforce Development (DEW) team, which helps to share findings and to educate Alaskans in STEM fields. Other aspects of the project include Communications, Economic Development and Management efforts.

The goal of the Boreal Fires team is to increase community resilience to wildfire by improving evaluations of short-term fire risk, predictions of fire behavior, and understanding of fire mitigation strategies and of wildfire impacts on ecosystem services. Researchers are focused on Interior and Southcentral Alaska and use climate modeling, fieldwork, hyperspectral remote sensing, and survey approaches to address their research questions.

The goal of the Coastal Margins team is to evaluate the impacts of large-scale ocean drivers and climate-driven landscape changes on glacial and non-glacial estuaries along the Gulf of Alaska, and to provide information that supports improved resource management and community resilience. Researchers focus on the causes and impacts of changes to freshwater discharge into the Gulf, which have major effects on coastal ecosystems and key economically and culturally important species. They combine fieldwork in Kachemak Bay and Lynn Canal with climate modeling, laboratory work, surveys and analysis of existing data to address their research questions.

A Diversity, Education and Workforce Development (DEW) team partners 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 also conducts research into science identity formation in first-generation college students, who are a focus of F&I diversity efforts, along with women and Alaska Natives.

Other elements 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 structure that ensures the project meets its goals and objectives.

Alice Veazey of UAF serves as Project Director and Principal Investigator of the project, which 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. The award runs from October 1, 2018 - September 30, 2023.

For more information see the Fire and Ice Strategic Plan, as well as one-page summaries of the Boreal Fires, Coastal Margins and DEW components.