Effective stress and FDL science

Posted 17 November 2014 by Liz O'Connell

Exposed wall / Image Laura Nielsen

"It's a very dynamic slope," Margaret Darrow said, standing in front of frozen debris lobe -A. FDL-A is a slow landslide; among the frozen debris lobes documented it's the closest to the Dalton Highway and the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. Although the lobes likely began their life as debris left over when Pleistocene glaciers disappeared 10 to 14 thousand years ago, their speed has recently increased. Now when Darrow describes FDL-A she states truly: "It moves so fast that you can watch it... Read more

Temperamental machinery and FDL science

Posted 6 November 2014 by Liz O'Connell

Vivian the differential GPS / Image Laura Nielsen

When the machinery mounted to the man-height pole announced "RTK initialized," the scientists gave a cheer. It was late afternoon and the morning's downpour had finally cleared. They were gathered in a sunny spot discussing what was still on the agenda for the day when the rover – the pole and its paramount differential GPS unit – announced its good news. Geologist Ronald Daanen grabbed the rover and raced to the toe of the lobe, hoping to get the measurement... Read more

Droughts and fish highways

Posted 27 October 2014 by Liz O'Connell

Arctic grayling (Thymallus arcticus) ; this male shows the iridiscent, colored dorsal fin of the species. / Courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

"I grew up on the shores of Connecticut looking into tidal pools and wondering about the plants and animals living there: where they move to when the tide goes out, and from when the tide comes in, and why. Once I even tracked my cat out my 3rd floor window and onto the roof to see how she accessed my bedroom at night. So I’ve always been curious about movement patterns in nature. The whys and hows of nature are... Read more

The chemical map of otoliths

Posted 20 October 2014 by Liz O'Connell

Highly magnified view of an otolith, an Arctic grayling inner ear bone / Image Heidi Golden

It's about the size of a diamond and comes from the inner ear of a fish. This tiny construction holds a treasure trove of information, a calcium carbonate microchip made of bone and accessed by a laser. Let's take a look at the science of otoliths. ... Read more

The Frontier Scientists TV series is premiering October 6th!

Posted 6 October 2014 by Liz O'Connell

The Frontier Scientists TV series is premiering October 6th! Frontier Scientists programs will be featured weekly on 360 North, streaming online at and available in Alaska over the air in Anchorage and Juneau, and on GCI Cable, DirectTV, & Dish Network. Mondays at 8pm {5am UTC} Oct.6th - Dec.8th 2014, catch ten installments of 30 minute Frontier Scientists video programs featuring contemporary scientific discoveries. Real scientists present their work – impactful science underway in one of the last great... Read more

Grayling and the great commute

Posted 5 October 2014 by Liz O'Connell

Arctic grayling / Image Heidi Golden

I remember vivid visuals which manage to compress something immense into the space of seconds: the cosmic force of a big bang flinging matter across the universe, Ice Age glaciers clamoring down from the north then retreating again, time-lapse footage of the tides' rhythmic breathing. Even commuters dancing the stop-and-go of a traffic light. An Arctic grayling (Thymallus arcticus) is a fish; it's also a commuter of sorts. Its entire life is a rhythm of motion undertaken to survive and... Read more

How to catch an Arctic ground squirrel – for science!

Posted 24 September 2014 by Liz O'Connell

Kate Wilsterman releasing an Arctic ground squirrel next to its burrow / FrontierScientists footage

At Atigun River, north of the Arctic Circle, the sandy soil is run through with an interlaced network of burrows. The Arctic ground squirrels which call those burrows home have encountered something mundane to you or me, but no-doubt wondrous to them: big tasty taproots, stunningly orange. Carrots! Trapping squirrels The carrots are bait, placed carefully in wire cage traps by scientists working to learn more about the very unusual Arctic ground squirrel. Cory Williams, postdoctoral fellow at the University... Read more

The abundantly peculiar Arctic ground squirrel

Posted 17 September 2014 by Liz O'Connell

They survive colder core body temperatures than any other known vertebrate, sustaining a temperature below freezing yet not becoming frozen. They emerge from hibernation with clock-like accuracy ... Read more

Arctic ground squirrel videos

Posted 10 September 2014 by Liz O'Connell

Arctic ground squirrel / FrontierScientists footage

Arctic Ground Squirrel Videos The extraordinary life of the Arctic ground squirrel is described by dedicated scientists who study the handsome creatures. In videos: The Perfect Yuppie Pet, In the Field, In the Lab, And the Circadian Clock, the scientists reflect on questions about the Arctic ground squirrel and its unusual lifestyle. Discover what makes these animals so unique by hearing the scientists' newfound insights. In these videos Professor Loren Buck of University Alaska Anchorage, Professor Brian Barnes of University... Read more

Beating hearts in Denali

Posted 3 September 2014 by Liz O'Connell

“It never ceases to amaze me. No matter what the conditions are, what time of year it is, the place still awes me.” ~ Patricia Owen, wildlife biologist, Denali National Park & Preserve Cold nights have prompted the Denali landscape to turn colors; reds and purples are spectacular tundra accents spread across the wild vista. We’re at Denali National Park & Preserve meeting park rangers and scientists; searching for bears. While park visitor numbers are usually calculated to number about... Read more