Current Projects

Changing North Asian Biomes

Biome Mongolia

Collaborative Research: Climate, human and ecosystem interactions in the face of a rapidly changing North Asian biome (NSF-OPP 1737286; $357,202; 9/1/17 - 8/31/22). PI Sarah Fowell.

Researchers from Mongolia & USA will investigate the complex relationship between pastoral nomadic food production, environmental robustness, and climate fluctuation to better understand principles of human organization. Fowell and Bigelow will collect and analyze lacustrine, palynological, and charcoal records from Mongolia. For more information contact Sarah Fowell or Nancy Bigelow.

Integrable PDEs Beyond Standard Assumptions on Initial Data

Tsunami Waves (Image Credits: NOAA)

Integrable Partial Differential Equations Beyond Standard Assumptions on Initial Data (NSF DMS 1716975; $239,583; 9/1/17 - 8/31/20). PI Alexei Rybkin.

This project is concerned with some fundamental problems of soliton theory which deals with nonlinear wave propagation in various media. Solitons are very special solitary waves that move with constant speed without changing their shape; the most prominent example is a tsunami wave. For more information contact PI at

Paleo-Sea Level and Glacier Extent

One of the study sites in GBNPP

Paleo-Sea Level and Glacier Extent as Related to Human Occupation of the Outer Coast of Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve (GBNPP) (NPS; $62,000; 6/16/17 - 12/31/18). PI Daniel Mann.

This project reconstructs the history of relative sea-level changes and glacial extent along the outer coast of the GBNPP during the late Pleistocene, ca. 40,000 calendar years before 1950AD, up to the present day. The research can reveal when the coastal 'ice gates' first opened along the Northwest Coast Route, and will further inform archeological research. For more information contact Dan Mann.

Alaska Alliance LSAMP

Brian Rasley

Alaska - Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) program (NSF HRD-EHR 1712794; $3M; UAF Year 1- $78,662; 7/15/17 - 6/30/22). PI Samuel Gingerich (UAA); UAF Co-PI Brian Rasley; Other Co-PIs Herb Schroeder, Matthew Calhoun, and Michele Yatchmeneff.

NSF has funded ANSEP through the LSAMP program. The grant aimes at broadening participation in STEM and preparing STEM workforce by supporting post-secondary students. The grant will also expand ANSEP in the 3 main UA campuses. For more information read this press release or contact Brian Rasley.

Seismometer to Investigate Ice & Ocean Structure

hardware for instrumentation

Seismometer to Investigate Ice & Ocean Structure (SIIOS) (NASA - Subaward through the University of Arizona; $50,000; 6/1/17 - 12/31/17). PI Erin Pettit.

The icy moons of Europa and Enceladus are thought to have global subsurface oceans in contact with mineral-rich silicate interiors; likely providing water, essential chemicals, and a source of energy needed for life. Pettit and her team will field-test appropriate technology, and develop the analytical methods necessary, to support aseismic study of Europa and Enceladus, thus lowering the risk of using such instruments for planetary exploration. For more information contact Erin Pettit.

Preparing STEM Teachers for Alaska

Steffi Ickert-Bond Teaching

Collaborative for Capacity Building - Preparing STEM Teachers for Alaska (NSF DUE 1660601; $34,117; 4/15/17 - 3/31/19). PI Ute Kaden, Co-PI Stefanie Ickert-Bond.

This grant allows the team to build the plan for a Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program at the University of Alaska. The program will provide full scholarships to support Alaska majors as they earn their teaching certificates to become secondary science, technology, engineering and math teachers. For more information contact Ute Kaden.

Orographic Precipitation and Ice Dynamics

precipitation influences ice dynamics

Collaborative Research: Feedbacks between Orographic Precipitation and Ice Dynamics (NSF OPP 1644277; $164,754; CDR budget $36,377; 2/1/17 - 1/31/20). PI Andy Aschwanden, Co-PI Erin Pettit.

Aschwanden and Pettit will mentor a Ph.D. student and an undergraduate intern to investigate the feedbacks between orographically driven precipitation, ice dynamics, thermodynamics, and basal erosion and uplift over the northern Antarctic Peninsula by coupling an orographic precipitation model to the Parallel Ice Sheet Model. For more information contact Erin Pettit.

Alaska Bats

Alaska Bats

Determination of Causes of Morbidity and Mortality in Bats of Alaska (Alaska Department of Fish and Game; $50,100; 1/1/17 - 6/30/17). PI Molly Murphy.

Dr. Murphy will determine general patterns of disease in bats utilizing archived histological specimens and routine histological stains and microscopy. She will also determine viral and bacterial contribution to tissue lesions in bats provided to the ADFG. Research will involve necropsy of bats and microscopy assessment. For more information contact Molly Murphy.

Alaskan Tundra Fires

Tundra Fire Photo by NPS

Alaskan Tundra Fires in a Time of Rapid Climate Change (BLM; $319,664; 8/25/16 - 7/31/20). PIs Daniel Mann and Benjamin Gaglioti.

This project addresses how warmer climate affect tundra fire regimes; how tundra fires affect the release of organic carbon stored in permafrost; how resilient is tundra vegetation and the insulative peat cover in the face of burning; and how burning affects thermokarsting. Other Co-PIs include Eric Miller, BLM, and Benjamin Jones, USGS Alaska Science Center. For more information contact Dan Mann.

Contaminants in Stellar Sea Lions (Eumetopias jubatus)

Stellar Sea Lions: Photo Credit USFWS

A major multi-grant collaborative research effort at UAF. For more information contact PIs Todd O'Hara or Lorrie Rhea.

  1. Adverse effects of contaminants in Stellar sea lions: Immune and Oxidative Stress Status (NOAA; $305,296 (split: CDR $275,108; INE $30,188); 5/1/16 - 6/30/19).
  2. Tracing pathways of Hg exposure to pinnipeds in the Aleutian Islands and Bering Sea (NOAA $688,198 (split: INE $552,318; CDR $135,880); 7/1/16 - 6/30/19).
  3. Alaskan Pinniped Ecotoxicology. (NOAA $370,462 (split: INE 308,364; CDR $62,098); 2/1/16 - 1/31/18).
  4. Steller Sea Lion Contaminants FY17 (ADF&G $25,469; Awarded to O'Hara).

Disintegration of the Scar Inlet Ice Shelf

Scar Inlet Ice Shelf in Antarctica

RAPID: Observing the Disintegration of the Scar Inlet Ice Shelf (NSF-OPP 1565576; $229,344; 12/1/15 - 11/30/17). PIs Erin Pettit, Martin Truffer, and Ted Scambos.

Researchers propose to observe the current weakened state of the Scar Inlet Ice Shelf (SIIS), and potentially capture data during its anticipated disintegration. SIIS is the southern remnant of the former Larsen B Ice Shelf, which disintegrated in 2002. Cooler conditions than those seen prior to 2006 have reduced the chance of a disintegration in recent years, although a single warm season is likely to be enough to trigger such an event. For more information contact PI Erin Pettit.

Origin of Inupiaq Culture in NW Alaska

Location of Cape Espenberg, Kugusugaruk and major Birnirk sites in Bering Strait region

Collaborative Research: Birnirk prehistory and the emergence of Inupiaq Culture in Northwestern Alaska, archaeological and anthropological perspectives (NSF-PLR 1523160; $527,482; 11/15/15 - 10/31/18). PIs Claire Alix and Nancy Bigelow.

This project will explore the origin of Inupiaq culture in northwestern Alaska at the end of the first millennium AD. Researchers will document the cultural histories, social interactions, population diversity and dispersal, and environmental changes from data collected at Cape Espenberg and in relation to the greater Bering Strait and Arctic regions. For more information contact Claire Alix or Nancy Bigelow.

Preparing Teachers for the Arctic

Geographc region of focus for GeoSTEM teacher training

Collaborative Research: GP-EXTRA: Preparing GeoSTEM Teachers for the Arctic Region (NSF IUSE 1108518; $424,976; 8/15/15 - 7/31/18). PI Ute Kaden, Co-PIs Sarah Fowell, Philip Patterson, Patrick Druckenmiller.

PIs will train and prepare teachers in the Bering Strait and Yukon Koyukuk School Districts (see area oulined in green on map) to effectively teach earth science curricula. The project will also promote interest in geoscience careers among undergraduate and pre-college students. Co-PI Sarah Fowell is responsible for developing and delivering selected parts of the earth science curricula.

Species Tree Inference

Representation of gene and specie trees

Mathematical and computational analysis for species tree inference (NIH R01GM117590; $1,543,627; 8/1/15 - 7/31/19). PIs John Rhodes and Elizabeth Allman.

The representation of evolutionary relationships using trees, or phylogenies, is central to biological understanding. PIs will develop statistically well-grounded methods of species tree inference, and mathematical theories and innovative probabilistic models for understanding the species tree – gene tree relationship. For more information contact John Rhodes or Elizabeth Allman.

Earthscope National Office: Education & Outreach

Nadin leads Earthscope outreach

EarthScope National Office (NSF EAR 1464674; $1,930,791; CDR budget $73,241; 7/1/15 - 6/30/19). PI Jeff Freymueller; EPO lead Co-PI Elisabeth Nadin; Other Co-PIs Jessica Larsen, Carl Tape, and David Fee.

Through the award period, UAF will house the Earthscope National Office. Nadin will lead the Earthscope education and public outreach (EPO) efforts supporting information disemmination through an updated website, speaker series, newsletter, and biannual national meetings. For more information contact Elisabeth Nadin.

Alaska Monitoring and Assessment Program Survey of Estuaries

Estuaries within NPRA

AKMAP Survey of Estuaries within the National Petroleum Reserve, Alaska (BSEE; $250,594; 7/1/15 - 2/28/18). PI Doug Dasher.

This survey assesses the condition of estuarine aquatic resources within NPRA using four indices: water quality (pH, dissolved oxygen, temperature, salinity, nutrients, total suspended solids, light transmittance, chlorophyll a), sediment quality (hydrocarbons, trace metals, total organic carbon), benthic community condition, and fish tissue contaminants. For more information contact

Evolution and Extinction of Horses

Map showing sampling locations for horse fossils

Land Bridges, Ice-Free Corridors, and Biome Shifts: Impacts on the Evolution and Extinction of Horses in Ice-Age Beringia (NSF PLR 1417611; $542,735; 3/1/15 - 2/28/18). PI Dan Mann.

Dan Mann is leading a study on the evolution, migration, and extinction of the caballine horse that inhabited ice-age Beringia, the biogeographic connector between Asia and North America. His team will study how horses were affected by changes involving three different biogeographic barriers/corridors during the last 30,000 years of the ice age. For more information contact

Biomedical Learning and Student Training (BLaST) Program

UAs BLaST program

Biomedical Learning and Student Training (BLaST) Program (NIH BUILD; ~$20M direct; ~$24M total; 9/26/14 - 6/30/19). PIs Karsten Hueffer and Arleigh Reynolds.

BLaST is funded by NIHs Building Infrastructure Leading to Diversity (BUILD) initiative. It is a partnership between UAF, UAS, and Ilisagvik College to increase biomedical research training opportunities for underserved populations in Alaska. BLaST has adopted the “One Health” approach that posits that human, environmental, and animal health are connected, a theme that resonates in many Alaska regions and cultures. For more information visit the BLaST website.

Arctic Coastal Landform Change

Map showing location of coastal study area: Adpated from NPS

Coastal Landform Change in the NPS Arctic Inventory and Monitoring Network (Alaska NPS; $118,801; 9/1/14-10/1/17). PI Dan Mann; Ph.D. student Louise Farquharson.

Supported by this fellowship Louise Farquharson will quantify and understand coastal landform changes occurring along the 370km long shoreline in Cape Krusenstern National Monument and the Bering Land Bridge National Preserve regions in the NPS units of the Arctic Inventory and Monitoring Network (ARCN). For more information contact or

Differential Equations

Metric Tree

Control and Inverse Problems for Differential Equations on Graphs (NSF DMS 1411564; $146,500; 9/1/14 - 8/30/17). PI Sergei Avdonin.

This research will extend the leaf-peeling method for solving inverse problems for differential equations on trees (graphs without cycles), so that the method is also applicable for general graphs which include trees and graphs with cycles. The new method will support important science and engineering applications. For more information contact PI Sergei Avdonin.

Differential Equations

resilience and adaptation

Resilience and Adaptation in Environmental and Natural Sciences: RA'ENS and S-STEM (NSF DUE 1356766; $524,914; 3/15/14 - 2/28/19). PI Lawrence Duffy.

This project aims to increase the number of academically talented students with demonstrated financial need who earn baccalaureate degrees in environmental and natural sciences. 28 upper level undergraduates will directly benefit from this grant. Learn more about the program, faculty advisors, and current and past students from the project website. For more information contact PI Larry Duffy.

Technical support at Amchitka Island Underground Nuclear Test Site

Amchitka Project

UAF technical support at Amchitka Island Underground Nuclear Test Site for the AK Department of Environmental Conservation (ADEC; $230,000; 10/01/13 - 6/30/18). PI Doug Dasher, Co-PI Stephen Jewett.

This five year project provides technical expertise to DEC in its oversight of US Department of Energy assessment for potential radionuclide leakage from the underground nuclear tests conducted at Amchitka in the 1960 to 1970s. For more information contact PI at

Analysis of the Einstein Constraint Equations

General relativity

FRG Collaborative Research: Analysis of the Einstein Constraint Equations (NSF MPS 1263431; $202,173; 8/1/13 - 7/31/18). UAF PI David Maxwell; other PIs Mike Holst (UCSD), Jim Isenberg (U. Oregon), and Rafe Mazzeo (Stanford).

The project strives to further our understanding of the conformal method, and to work on other questions surrounding the construction of initial data in general relativity. To learn more about this project and other research David is involved in, check his website at

Biogeochemistry, Hydrology and Glaciology of Blood Falls, McMurdo Dry Valleys

Field work near Blood Falls, Antarctica

Collaborative Research: MIDGE: Minimally Invasive Direct Glacial Exploration of Biogeochemistry, Hydrology and Glaciology of Blood Falls, McMurdo Dry Valleys (NSF OPP 1144177; $346,679; 7/1/12 - 12/31/17). PI Erin Pettit.

The MIDGE project aims to determine the mechanism of brine release at Blood Falls, evaluate changes in the geochemistry and the microbial community, and assess if Blood Falls waters have a distinct impact on the thermal and stress state of Taylor Glacier - one of the most studied glaciers in Antarctica. Check out the National Geographic article, UAF news column, or contact Erin Pettit.

Evolution of Ice at WAIS Divide, West Antarctica

Location of WAIS divide, Antarctica

Collaborative Research: VeLveT Ice - eVoLution of Fabric and Texture in Ice at WAIS Divide, West Antarctica (NSF OPP 1142167; $571,559; 6/1/12 - 11/30/17). PI Erin Pettit.

The goal of this project is to understand the relation between ice microstructure, impurities, and ice flow and their connection to climate history for the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) ice core site. Research results in improved interpretation of ice core data, blending art and science, and enhancing careers of women in science. Check out the project blog site or contact PI Erin Pettit for more information.

The Rural Alaska Monitoring Program (RAMP)

RAMP rationale concept

Develop RAMP to assess, monitor, model and adapt to the environmental health impact of climate warming in rural Alaska (Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium; $594,672; 9/1/11 - 6/30/18). CDR PI Todd O'Hara.

RAMP is a long-term program designed to monitor the Bering Strait region's climate-impacted human and wildlife environmental health threats. O'Hara and his research team have focused on how Arctic warming, man-made contaminants, and disease-causing organisms interact to threaten several pinnipeds in the Bering Strait. For more on this project see this presentation or contact