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Alaska Science Pod

Author: UAF Geophysical Institute

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Science writer Ned Rozell has accompanied researchers all over Alaska and given firsthand accounts of discoveries, triumphs and pitfalls of field work conducted in the Last Frontier. Through in-depth conversations, Ned gives voice to research stories ranging from volcanoes, earthquakes and auroras to climate change, anthropology, paleontology and wildfires. Any natural phenomena in Alaska and the people who study them are fair game. Ned has spent more than 25 years writing hundreds of science stories for the UAF Geophysical Institute's weekly column, the Alaska Science Forum: New episodes drop on the first Tuesday of the month.
11 Episodes
At the height of summer in 2021, Ned accompanied University of Alaska Fairbanks ecologist Ben Gaglioti to a ghost forest a glacier had run over in Southeast Alaska. Ned and Ben spent about two weeks near La Perouse Glacier, the one that ran over the trees during a cold period called the Little Ice Age. The story begins with the pair standing on a lonely beach about 100 miles south of Yakutat after a bush pilot dropped them off. (28:10)
Permafrost researcher Vladimir Romanovsky, professor emeritus at the Geophysical Institute, reflects on his career and surprising changes to Alaska's permafrost during his 30-year career. This episode is part 2/2 of  a conversation with Romanovsky starting in the previous episode . (38:51)
Vladimir Romanovsky is retiring after 30 years of studying permafrost at UAF's Geophysical Institute. He enters professor emeritus status while seeing changes in Alaska's frozen ground he never anticipated when scientists spoke of a new ice age in the 1970s. Romanovsky talks about why these discoveries of rapidly thawing ground are hard on roads and houses built over permafrost — frozen ground that has survived the heat of two summers — but are fascinating to him as a researcher. Part 1 of 2.
Bird biologist Dan Ruthrauff of the USGS Science Center in Anchorage describes the bar-tailed godwit, a bird that every fall flies from Alaska to New Zealand without stopping. That’s a week to nine days straight in the air!
Hannah Myers is a graduate student and a killer whale linguist. She has listened to hundreds of underwater recordings from which she can identify distinct families of whales. Myers and other researchers found that killer whales hang offshore of the Gulf of Alaska even during winter, when salmon are no longer headed for their birth streams.
Martin Truffer is a glaciologist at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute. He reports that the Malaspina Glacier is more than three thousand feet deep in some places, describes how his research group is monitoring its progress and speculates about future changes to this massive glacier in Southcentral Alaska. (29 minutes)
Randy Brown is a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Fairbanks. For years, he lived off the land in Alaska on a tributary of the upper Yukon River. In this episode, Randy describes the detective work he and others used to learn more about a tasty Alaska fish, the Bering cisco. (37 minutes)
Roger Smith is a space physicist who moved to Alaska from London in the 80s. He became the director of the Geophysical Institute in 2000. Roger describes what the early days at the GI were like and why the institute has endured for 75 years. (47 minutes)
Sherry Simpson, one of the best descriptive writers in Alaska — and  possibly the world —  died in 2020 of a brain tumor. Science writer Ned Rozell worked with Sherry at the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, where he soon noticed that no one could write quite like her. Here, Lee Zirnheld of Fairbanks, Alaska, reads aloud Sherry’s essay, Telling Raven Stories. (25 minutes)
In this episode, seismologist Carl Tape transforms into both historian and detective to investigate the strongest earthquake on the planet in the year 1900, somewhere near Kodiak, Alaska. (30 minutes)
Cathy Cahill directs the Alaska Center for Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute. Her fleet of vehicles encompasses those too intelligent to call “drones” to tiny aircraft fitting in one hand, to gas-powered, 16-foot dual-engine ships that may soon deliver snowmachine parts to rural Alaska villages. Alaskans like Cahill and her team are constantly innovating — now using unmanned aircraft to monitor whale populations and pipelines, and complete other jobs too dirty, dull or dangerous for human pilots. (40 minutes)
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