Past Projects

Coastal Archeological Sites

Map showing general location of KEFJ and WRST in Alaska

Rescue and Protect Irreplaceable Archeological Sites on Eroding Coasts at Two Parks (NPS CA Number P15AC00503; $19,856; 07/01/15-09/30/16). PI Christopher Maio.

PI will conduct field schools, compile GIS data, and increase law enforcement ranger aerial survey and boat capacity in parts of the Kenai Fjords National Park (KEFJ) and Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve (WRST). He will also assess coastal vulnerability, and create a book from existing coastal archeological data collected by the Smithsonian InstitutionÂ’s Arctic Studies Center for KEFJ. For more information contact

Middle East Air Quality Assessment

High aerosol concentrations in Iraq

Analysis of Substrates Deployed in the Middle East by Measuring Deposited Aerosol Concentration (US Army Research Laboratory; $43,528; awarded on 10/20/14; Duration 5 months). PI Christopher (Chris) Iceman.

PI will use X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy and Beta gauge techniques to analyze aerosol samples collected using a cascade impactor unit placed and operated at military sites in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait. Air quality is of concern for health of US troops and equipment operations in the Middle East. For more information contact

Partial Differential Equations and Hankel operators

Rogue Waves (Credits: Wikimedia Commons)

Integrable PDEs and Hankel operators (NSF DMS 1411560; $213,000; 09/01/14-08/31/17). PI Alexei Rybkin.

PI and students will study inverse scattering transform (IST) for solving completely integrable PDEs. IST can be extended to wider classes of initial data than currently known. They will explore deep connections between soliton theory and the theory of Hankel operators. Results can help to understand eg. rogue waves, soliton propagation, tidal waves, propagation of coherent structures etc. For more information contact PI at

Vegetation of Ice Age Refugia

Typical landscape around the Alexander archipelago. Source: wikimedia commons

Vegetation of Ice Age Refugia in Southeast Alaska (National Geographic Society CRE; $21,930; 08/24/2014 - 08/23/2015). PI Sarah Fowell. Other participants: Paul Wilcox, Dan Mann, James Baichtal (USDA).

This project will reconstruct Late Pleistocene and Holocene paleoenvironments in parts of SE Alaska's Alexander archipelago through collection, radiocarbon dating, and sedimentalogical and palynological analysis of lacustrice and peat cores. The study has the potential to explain the arrivals on humans in S. America well after the last glacial maxima. For more information contact PI at

Northern Fur Seals

Northern Fur Seal. Source: Wikimedia commons

Northern Fur Seals (Callorhinus ursinus) as Sentinels for Contaminant Exposure in the North Pacific Ocean (Colorado State University; $9,399; 05/01/14 - 12/01/14). PI Todd O'Hara. Co-PI Lorrie Rea, Staff Maggie Castellini.

The team will characterize the nature and concentration of contaminants in Northern Fur Seals (NFS) tissues collected during the Aleut community NFS harvest on St. Paul Island, Alaska. Data and analysis results will contribute to an integrative health monitoring program for the North Pacific Ocean. For more information contact PI at

Lead and Antimony Speciation in Shooting Range Soils

Contamination from Firearms. Source Wikimedia Commons

Pb & Sb Speciation in Shooting Range Soils: Molecular Scale Analysis, Temporal Trends & Mobility (DoD–SERDP; $626,277; 03/01/14 - 02/29/16). PI Tom Trainor.

Bullets and ammunitions include lead (~90% in bullets), antimony, arsenic, bismuth, silver, copper and nickel. Ammunition remains weather, oxidise, and release aqueous metal(loid) species into soils, which can move into ground waters and cause public health concern. This project will, among other things, investigate metal(loid) transport and bioavailability in range soils, rates of oxidation, weathering, and dispersion. Read more here or email

Susitna River: Paleoenvironment and Landscape

Map showing. Adapted from Wikimedia Commons

Holocene landscape and paleoenvironments of the Middle and Upper Susitna River (Northern Landuse Research, Inc. (AEA); $113,314; 01/01/14 - 12/31/14). PI Nancy Bigelow.

The goal of this project is to reconstruct the Holocene landscapes and paleoenvironments of the middle and upper Susitna River, especially as it relates to the humans living there. The team will collect and analyze sediment cores from three to five lakes or bogs as they continuously record changes in the surrounding landscape. Here is a 'must read' story about Nancy Bigelow and her research.

Offshore Oil/Gas Wastewater Study

MODIS image of the Bering Sea

Alaska Monitoring and Assessment Program (AKMAP) Offshore Oil/Gas Wastewater Study (ADEC; $323,508; 07/01/13-06/30/16). PI Doug Dasher.

This research focus is on conducting an assessment to provide information to improve marine science information for use in ocean discharge criteria necessary for permitting offshore oil and gas exploratory activities in the Beaufort Sea. Data is being collected to evaluate the fate and effect of pollutants by sampling ambient waters, sediment and biology in targeted areas near facilities with oil and gas wastewater permits. For more information contact PI at

Project STEAM

Colors or Nature

Collaborative Research: Project STEAM: Integrating Art with Science to Build Science Identities Among Girls (NSF DRL-1224020; $1,222,382; 9/12-8/16). PI Laura Conner, Co-PIs Mareca Guthrie, Stephen Pompea, Carrie Tzou.

This project, also popularly known as colors of nature, researches how our arts-based approach supports girls in forming science identities. Besides other activities, the project offers summer science academies, and a popular series of science cafes. Learn more at

Exploring Intrasite Variability at Upward Sun River

Upward Sun River Excavation Site

Exploring Intrasite Variability at Upward Sun River (Xaasaa Na'), a terminal Pleistocene site in central Alaska: foraging behaviors and paleoenvironmental contexts (NSF PLR 1223119; $456,856 with CDR portion being $17,053; 12/15/2012 to 08/31/2015). PI Ben Potter; Co-PI Nancy Bigelow.

This project consists of exploration of Upward Sun River, a deeply buried site in central Alaska, associated with the earliest human remains and residential structure in the Arctic or Subarctic of North America (~11,500 years old). Photo credit: Ben Potter. See more pictures on his personal webpage.

Understanding Hg Variability in Alaska Halibut

Pacific Halibut Range

Understanding Hg Variability in Alaska Halibut (ADEC; $300,000; 07/01/12-06/30/15). PI Todd O'Hara.

The Alaska Dept of Environmental Conservation is interested in contaminants concentrations (especially mercury) and why they vary in Alaska halibut. The research team is assessing mercury in the fish samples related to measures of chemical feeding ecology, age (size), and location harvested. Recently, the project was extended to include fish from Oregon and Washington. For more information contact PI at

Alaska Pinnipeds Contaminants Ecology

Stellar Sea Lions

Alaska Pinnipeds Contaminants Ecology (ADFG, Division of Wildlife Conservation Steller Sea Lion Research Program; $116,541; 09/01/11-06/30/16). PI Todd O'Hara, Collaborator Lorrie Rea.

The project is to study the chemical feeding ecology and exposure to mercury in Steller sea lions and it supports student training. This research continues and expands on preliminary studies that indicated relatively high concentrations of Hg in Steller sea lions pups in portions of the Aleutian Islands. For more information contact PI at

Girls on Ice

Girls on Ice

Girls on Ice: Using Immersion to Teach Fluency in Science (NSF PLR- 1063649; $299,870; 01/11-12/14). PI Erin Pettit, project evaluator Laura Conner.

The project uses an innovative "science immersion" approach by taking a group of about 18 teenage girls per year to glacial sites in the Cascades and Alaska. Evaluation results show that participating girls undergo increases in physical self-confidence, interest in science, interest in stewarding the Earth, and leadership self-confidence. Learn more at

Changing Alaska Science Education (CASE)

CASE photo

New GK-12 program: The CASE (Changing Alaska Science Education) for enhancing understanding of climate change (NSF DGE-0948029; $2,814,698; 4/10-3/15). PI Laura Conner, Co-PIs Richard Boone, Kevin Winker.

This project continues to support UAF graduate students (40 thus far) who incorporate inquiry-based and hands-on science activities into K12 schools (38 local and 2 rural thus far). Learn more at