August 31, 2006

UA strengthens commitment to arctic research

For Immediate Release
Thursday, Aug. 31, 2006

Thirteen post-doctoral fellows will spend the next three years at University of Alaska campuses intensely researching everything from arctic tree line seedlings and permafrost to lake sediments and sea ice.

UA President Mark Hamilton announced the hiring of the researchers at a press conference today. The fellows were selected from a pool of 180 international applicants.

The announcement of the new hires kicks off the upcoming International Polar Year, an international period of intensified research focusing on Earth’s polar regions. The research period actually runs over two years, from March 2007 through April 2009.

"Hiring these researchers demonstrates a tremendous investment on the part of UA," Hamilton said. "These people represent the best of the best in young scientists from across the world. It’s very appropriate that they have chosen to conduct their research here, since we are a significant player in this arena."

Alaska is uniquely positioned for polar and arctic research, and the university has gained an international reputation in the areas of global climate change, arctic biology, volcanoes, marine biology, and numerous other areas.

The International Polar Year was first held in 1882-83. The last one, in 1957-58, was known as the International Geophysical Year. It is widely credited as elevating UAF’s  Geophysical Institute, which among other things focuses on atmospheric sciences,  seismology, permafrost, space physics, earthquakes and volcanoes, to international prominence.

This fourth IPY will encourage scientists from across the globe to collaboratively find new ways to address the impacts of climate change and development in the polar regions.  Their work, like that of those involved in earlier IPYs, will leave a legacy of new knowledge and infrastructure. Over 300 institutions from 38 different countries are participating in IPY. Of the 208 clusters of projects endorsed by the IPY International Programme Office, 28 percent of them have participation from the University of Alaska system.  

As the system’s research hub, UAF will host nine of the post-doctoral fellows. Three will be based at UAA; and one will be shared between UAF and UAS, in Juneau. (See complete list of fellows, attached.)

Each researcher will receive a $50,000 annual salary, faculty benefits and $5,000 annual travel allowance.  The money to pay for the researchers comes from the BP and ConocoPhillips charter donations to UA. The charter agreement was reached in 1999 between the state of Alaska under former Gov. Tony Knowles and BP and Arco, later ConocoPhillips. It includes a formula for charitable contributions to UA and other community organizations. Donations to the university since the state and oil companies signed the agreement total $23 million to date.

For more information:

Go to
Or call: Kate Ripley, UA statewide public affairs, at 907/450-8102 or 907/388-3506

Buck Sharpton, UAF vice chancellor for research, at 907/474-5837; Martin Jeffries, UAF IPY outreach coordinator, 907/474-5257

Douglas Causey, UAA vice provost for research and graduate studies, at 907/786-4833

Brendan Kelly, UAS vice provost for research and dean of arts and sciences, at 907/796-6531

International Polar Year, University of Alaska, post-doctoral fellows

University of Alaska Anchorage

Who: Hans Eikaas, aquatic ecology, University of Canterbury, New Zealand
Research: Land use and hydrological change on circumpolar aquatic ecosystems
Principals: Andrew Kliskey and Lilian Naia Alessa, Biological Sciences Department

Who: Kathleen Graves, social work, Smith College, Massachusetts
Research: Develop understanding of dynamic processes that contribute to the ability of Alaska Native peoples to cope effectively with rapid cultural, social, economic, political and environmental change
Principal: Cheryl Easley, College of Health and Social Welfare

Who: Daniel Johnson, plant physiological ecology, Wake Forest University, North Carolina
Research: Seedling establishment and survival at arctic treeline
Principal: Bjartmar Sveinbjornsson and Jeff Welker, Biological Sciences Department

University of Alaska Fairbanks

Who: Amanda Booth, geology, Stanford University, California
Research: Quantitative estimates of climate variability derived from Alaskan lake sediments
Principal: Matthew Wooller, Institute of Marine Science/Water and Environmental Research Center

Who: Sebastian Haugaard Mernild, geography, University of Copenhagen, Denmark
Research: Quantifying environmental changes in the hydrologic cycle that occur in response to climate change, to improve predictions in water and sediment variations in Alaska and Greenland
Principals: Larry Hinzman and Douglas Kane, Institute of Northern Engineering

Who: Amy Tidwell, civil engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta
Research: Integrated climate change impact assessment of water resources and the use of climate modeling in water resource planning and management for cold regions
Principal: Daniel White, Institute of Northern Engineering

Who: Christian Petrich, physics, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand
Research: To improve understanding and modeling of transport process in the sea ice, specifically the redistribution of carbon dioxide by sea ice
Principal: Hajo Eicken, Geophysical Institute/College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics

Who: Sarah Mincks, oceanography, University of Hawaii, Manoa
Research: The biodiversity, behavior and reproduction of animals that live on the arctic seafloor and how those animals may react to climate changes, as well as how they relate to animals in other oceanic realms, including animals on the sea ice and at various depths beneath the surface
Principals: Bodil Bluhm and Katrin Iken, School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences

Who: Olga Lovick, linguistics, University of Cologne, Germany
Research: Impact of ecological and social change in the Upper Tanana Athabascan region and how those changes relate to the language
Principal: Siri Tuttle, Alaska Native Language Center

Who: Guido Grosse, geology, Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in Potsdam, Germany
Research: The degradation of permafrost in the arctic due to climate change, using remote sensing, spatial data analysis and other methods
Principal: Vladimir Romanovsky, Geophysical Institute

Who: József Geml, plant pathology and molecular evolutionary genetics, Pennsylvania State University
Research: Compare arctic fungal species to infer relationship patterns between genes and geography to test the hypothesis that most arctic fungal species survived the last glaciation in the Bering land bridge
Principal: D. Lee Taylor, Institute of Arctic Biology

Who: Katey Walter, biology and wildlife, UAF
Research: Investigate the content of methane—a significant greenhouse gas—in arctic lake ice bubbles using field surveys and remote sensing analysis. This evaluation will be the first circumpolar estimate of methane emissions for arctic lakes
Principal: Syndonia Bret-Harte, Institute of Arctic Biology

University of Alaska Southeast/UAF

Who: Andrew Whiteley, biology and ecology, University of Montana, Missoula
Research:  Neutral and adaptive genetic diversity of sculpin species in recently de-glaciated habitats
Principals: David Tallmon, UAS Department of Natural Sciences; and Tony Gharrett, UAF School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences