Other National EPSCoR Awards
In addition to the Fire & Ice project, Alaskan researchers also receive support from the national NSF EPSCoR organization through a variety of other awards, including Track-2 awards, Track-4 awards, and co-funding.
Track-2 awards fund researchers to undertake collaborative projects with scientists in other EPSCoR states and territories. Alaska's only current Track-2 awardee is Hyunju Connor, an Assistant Professor with the UAF College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics and the Geophysical Institute, who received $1.94 million for her proposal, “Collaborative Research: Harnessing Big Data to Improve Understanding and Predictions of Geomagnetically Induced Currents.” The four-year award (2019-23) funds Connor to collaborate with researchers at the University of New Hampshire to study geomagnetically induced currents, which are caused by geomagnetic disturbances during space weather events and which can produce power outages, train system failures, and pipeline corrosion.
In addition, UAF faculty Mario Muscarella is involved in a supplement to a Track-2 award entited "Genomics Underlying Toxin Tolerance (GUTT): Identifying Molecular Innovations that Predict Phenotypes of Toxin Tolerance in Wild Vertebrate Herbivores," part of a partnership that also includes EPSCoRs in Idaho, Nevada and Wyoming. UAF's role in the ongoing project is to advance understanding of microbial-mediated toxin tolerance by culturing wild microbes and exposing them to phytochemicals to isolate their functional role in toxin tolerance. UAF will also create microbial cultures and workflows to help train naturalists and bioinformaticians.
Track-4 Awards fund individual scientists to further their research by collaborating with agencies, laboratories and universities across the nation. The awards run for two years. Recent Track-4 awards to Alaska scientists are listed below.
Benjamin Gaglioti, a Research Assistant Professor with the UAF Institute of Northern Engineering Water and Environmental Research Center, received $112,967 for his project, “Does Warming-driven Root Damage Lead to Drought Stress in Declining Yellow Cedar Trees?” Gaglioti was funded to work with the Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research at the University of Arizona, where he’ll use new methods of quantitative wood anatomy to examine the roots of yellow cedar trees. Through the research he’ll examine the hypothesis that root injuries in yellow cedars result in drought stress and eventual tree mortality. The results will provide new insight about climate change and forest dieback and will allow stakeholders to more accurately predict the impacts of frost damage and drought on this important tree species, which has been experiencing widespread dieback in the temperate rainforests of northwestern North America.
Kristen Gorman, a Research Assistant Professor with the UAF College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, received $162,010 for her project, “Using Otolith Geochemistry to Understand the Ocean Ecology of a Changing Alaskan Salmon System.” Gorman was funded to work with researchers from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (Richland, Washington) and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to study variability in oxygen and carbon isotope values in the ear bones, or otoliths, of adult sockeye salmon returning to the Copper River from 2004-2018. These values serve as natural markers of water temperature, metabolic activity, and diet, and will enable the research team to examine the relationships between environmental drivers and responses by Copper River sockeye, and to advance the general knowledge of high-latitude marine ecosystem responses to environmental change.
Tamara Harms, an Assistant Professor of Ecology with the UAF Institute of Arctic Biology, received $126, 218 for her project, “Arctic Nitrous Oxide (N2O): Training and Technical Advances to Quantify Emission of a Powerful Greenhouse Gas." Harms was funded to work with researchers at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, New York to study the production in soils of nitrous oxide, a potent greenhouse gas. Large releases of nitrous oxide have been documented in high-latitude areas subject to permafrost thaw or wildfires, but it remains unclear how this nitrous oxide is produced and how long disturbed soils might generate emissions. This project examines these processes with a goal of contributing to an improved ability to forecast potential N2O emissions under the warmer, more nutrient-rich, and more fire-prone conditions predicted for high-latitude ecosystems.
Ben Jones, a Research Assistant Professor with the Water and Environmental Research Center at the UAF Institute of Northern Engineering, received $295,256 for his project, “PermaSense: Investigating Permafrost Landscapes in Transition Using Multidimensional Remote Sensing, Data Fusion, and Machine Learning Techniques.” Jones and a postdoctoral researcher were funded to train and collaborate with researchers at the University of Connecticut to acquire new data fusion and machine learning techniques. These will increase the capacity of “Permasense,” a project to gather and analyze multidimensional remote sensing data on permafrost degradation.
Patrick Tomco, an Assistant Professor of Chemistry at the UAA Department of Chemistry, received $165,406 for his project, “Formation, Photolysis, and Bioaccumulation of Dissolved Hydrocarbons from Chemically-Herded and Burned Crude Oil at High Latitudes.” Tomco and a graduate student were funded to use specialized equipment at the University of New Orleans and the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory in Tallahassee, Florida to analyze samples of Alaska North Slope crude oil; surface collection agents used to thicken oil spills in order to burn them off; and mussels collected from Resurrection Bay. These experiments will lead to a better understanding of how dissolved residues may form as a result of this type of oil spill remediation, how sunlight may transform these residues, and what impacts they might have on susceptible marine organisms.
Jeff Benowitz, a Research Assistant Professor with the UAF Geophysical Institute, received $220,043 for his proposal “Why are Young Volcanic Rocks Undateable: Chemistry, Environment, or Instrumentation?” The funding supports Benowitz and a graduate student to collaborate with researchers at Oregon State University to determine the age of young volcanic rocks from Alaska’s Aleutian and Wrangell arcs. The project will investigate how the chemistry and environments of samples and the sensitivity and precision of instruments contribute to uncertainties in determining the age of young volcanic rocks. This will enable the development of new methods to more accurately date the rocks.
Eric Collins, an Assistant Professor with the UAF College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, received $187,301 for his proposal, “Advancing Machine Learning in Biological Oceanography through Interdisciplinary Collaborations.” Collins and a graduate student were funded to travel to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Massachusetts to learn the theory and concepts of machine learning, then apply the process to predict distributions of Arctic marine microbes and their use and transformations of metals. They’ll then use this knowledge to design methods for adaptive biological sampling using flow-through systems and ocean profilers. One outcome will be a new UAF course on Machine Learning in the Environmental Sciences.
Ken Tape, an Assistant Professor with the UAF Water and Environmental Research Center at the Institute of Northern Engineering, received $200,382 for his proposal, “Predicting Beaver Colonization of the Arctic and Creation of Tundra Stream Oases.” The award funded Tape and a postdoctoral researcher to spend six months at Northern Arizona University working with experts in satellite image analysis to further his research into the expansion of beaver habitat into arctic tundra. They’ll use satellite imagery from the last half-century to detect the formation of beaver ponds and their subsequent impacts to the tundra environment, as well as to map the current habitat of beavers, moose, and snowshoe hares in the arctic tundra. They’ll combine these with climate and vegetation models to predict the future distribution of beavers and their impacts, as well as moose and snowshoe hares.
Georgina Gibson, a Research Assistant Professor with the International Arctic Research Center (IARC), received $221,867 for her proposal, “Modeling Dissolved Organic Matter at the Arctic Land/ocean Interface.” The award funded Gibson and a graduate student to collaborate with Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico to improve modelling of dissolved organic matter from Arctic rivers in mathematical models of the Arctic Ocean ecosystem.
Co-funding is a process through which the national NSF EPSCoR organization provides funds to other NSF departments so they can help support worthy research projects located in EPSCoR jurisdictions. As of February 2022, NSF EPSCoR was co-funding 3 awards in Alaska for a total of $427,000:
$124,693 for GEOPath Informal Networks: Alaska Aquaculture Science Knowledge (ASK). Principal Investigator Lisa Busch, Sitka Sound Science Center.
$121,844 for Collaborative Research: Unraveling the Structure and Mode of Action of Fungal Ice Nucleators. Principal Investigator Konrad Meister, UAS.
$180,000 for Inferring Species Relationships under the Network Multispecies Coalescent Model: Theory and Practical Methods. Principal Investigator John Rhodes, UAF.