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Article Archive

Browse the ACRC news archive for current and past news articles.

ACRC welcomes new research faculty member, interdisciplinary scientist Jim Powell

As a center dedicated to interdisciplinary science in support of resilient communities and ecosystems, we are excited to announce the addition of UAS assistant professor of public administration Jim Powell to the ACRC team. Powell brings his decades of experience in natural resources and adaptive governance to our group, with a focus on how local governments are adapting to climate change.

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eagle beach scientists

How do landslides impact the carbon balance of Southeast Alaska?

The Tongass National Forest in Southeast Alaska is the greatest carbon reserve in North America, capturing carbon from the atmosphere and storing it in plants and soil. But natural and human disturbances, like erosion and logging, affect carbon stocks by moving organic material out of the forest, into streams and eventually coastal waters.

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landslide-seak

ACRC researcher John Harley awarded University of Alaska coronavirus response grant

As the novel COVID-19 virus disrupts life across the nation and world, many companies, organizations, and individuals are pivoting from their work to aid in response efforts. Dr. John Harley, a postdoctoral researcher at ACRC, hopes to fill a critical information need for COVID-19 vulnerability in Alaska. Though his work using environmental data to predict harmful algal blooms is unrelated to the current public health crisis, Harley saw an opportunity to use his background managing and visualizing large datasets to provide a valuable resource for COVID-19 response planning.

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ACRC welcomes new postdoctoral researcher, oceanographer Mariela Brooks

ACRC is excited to announce the addition of oceanographic researcher Mariela Brooks to our team. She joins us following her doctoral studies in Marine Chemistry at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UCSD. 

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AK Coastal Ocean

Local climate data for Southeast Alaska

For the better part of a year, supercomputers at the University of Alaska Fairbanks have been running nonstop to produce a novel dataset of climate information for Southeast Alaska. Rick Lader, a postdoctoral fellow with the Alaska Climate Adaptation Science Center, is working with a team of stakeholders to create highly detailed climate projections for the region that will help managers at the USFS Tongass National Forest, Alaska Department of Natural Resources, National Weather Service, and the Alaska Department of Transportation prepare for the rapid changes in climate Southeast Alaska faces.

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Sunrise Mountains

For salmon, glacier retreat will have mixed effects

When it comes to retreating glaciers, researchers predict there will be benefits and costs for western North American salmon populations over the coming decades. Alaska Coastal Rainforest Director Allison Bidlack and University of Alaska Southeast researcher Eran Hood are authors on a recent multidisciplinary study led by Kara Pitman at Simon Fraser University.

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Coho Underwater

Backcountry enthusiasts take to the slopes to improve snow models

For scientists collecting data deep in Alaska’s backcountry, there are few access roads and even fewer weather stations to be found. There are, however, dedicated winter recreationists traversing the landscape by ski, snowshoe, and snowmachine. These backcountry enthusiasts are being recruited by scientists to contribute to a growing dataset of snow depth observations that are improving our understanding of snow distribution in remote locations. 

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Snow-covered Mountains

Juneau students work with ACRC scientist to measure water quality

A steady curtain of rain falls over the banks of the Mendenhall River, but you’d never know it from the high spirits of Thunder Mountain students who have been working in the drenching conditions for over an hour. The students collect water samples in chest-high waders, armed with small vials and temperature probes. A group onshore inspects sediment and invertebrates collected from the stream bed. They are part of an ongoing program led by science educators Adriana Northcutt and Kristen Wells to engage eleventh- and twelfth-grade biology students in studying the Mendenhall watershed and impacts of water quality on salmon habitat. 

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Dead trees could bring new life to southeast Alaska lumber mills

As climate change rapidly alters conditions in southeast Alaska, lower snowpack levels have caused a massive decline of yellow-cedar trees. Without an insulating blanket of snow, the shallow roots of yellow-cedar trees freeze during late spring cold snaps. Left behind is a growing expanse of “ghost forests” of dead yellow-cedars, affecting roughly 678,000 acres (nearly the area of Yosemite National Park). The decay-resistant properties of yellow-cedar allow the trees to remain standing for decades after death. ACRC director Allison Bidlack, and collaborators Brian Buma, Sarah Bisbing, and Brian Vander Naald, set out to determine whether these ghost stands might provide an economic opportunity for small lumber mills in Tongass National Forest.

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ACRC Researcher Jason Fellman Awarded EPSCoR Seed Grant

Jason Fellman (UAS) and Gwenn Hennon (UAF) were awarded an Alaska EPSCoR Seed Grant to investigate microbial community composition and productivity in nearshore waters in Lynn Canal. Using filtered water from two rivers (one heavily glaciated, one largely forested) and natural marine microbial communities collected in Lynn Canal in May 2020, they will test the hypothesis that riverine dissolved organic matter source influences the dynamics of the marine microbial community.

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Waterfall

Coastal research in a changing landscape

What does the future of the Gulf of Alaska look like in a changing climate?

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Jason at Montana Creek

Paralytic shellfish toxins spike amidst new research

Shellfish harvesters and beachcombers wandering the shores around Juneau might have made an odd discovery this summer– a small white hunk of plaster under the water, strapped to a neatly labeled brick. These contraptions are part of an effort to better monitor and predict paralytic shellfish poison (PSP) levels, which were almost ten times higher this summer than at any time in the last three years.

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Shellfish Clod Cards

Can yellow-cedar recover from climate-driven declines?

Across the temperate rainforest of Southeast Alaska, a change is taking root. Warming winters are reducing snowpack in the region and causing a massive decline in a culturally, economically, and ecologically important tree species; yellow-cedar. Yellow-cedar trees are adapted with fine, shallow roots that allow them to respond to early spring warming and get a head start on growth over other species. Once an advantageous adaptation, it has now made the species susceptible to freezing when early snowmelt and frosts can be fatal to mature yellow-cedar trees. In Alaska and British Columbia, yellow-cedar is declining across 400,000 hectares and ten degrees of latitude.

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Yellow Cedar Research

Unique drainage event at Suicide Basin causes minor flooding in Juneau

As smoke from distant wildfires clouds the skies above Southeast Alaska, Juneau residents have a much closer hazard on their minds. Warm weather sped up water collection in Suicide Basin, a glacier-dammed lake adjoining Mendenhall Glacier that has generated outburst floods regularly over the last decade. On Sunday, July 7th, the basin water level reached a point where it began to overtop the Mendenhall Glacier ice dam, flowing along the side of the glacier towards Mendenhall Lake. Almost one week later, on July 13th, the basin began draining beneath the glacier. At Mendenhall Lake, the water level rose to 8.62 feet (just under minor flood stage) and peaked just after 8 P.M. – earlier and lower than predicted.

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Suicide Basin Overflow2

Is glacier tourism changing the chemistry of the Juneau Icefield? ACRC supported graduate student wins National Geographic Society grant to find out.

Visiting graduate student Megan Behnke spent her last summer in Juneau deep in the mud, looking at how dissolved organic matter moves from wetlands into streams. This summer, she has something a few degrees cooler in store. Behnke was awarded a prestigious National Geographic Early Career Grant to investigate ancient carbon and the impacts of fossil fuels from tourism on the Juneau Icefield.

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helicopter_icefield

Dim Future: Black carbon and dust are speeding up glacial melt on the Juneau Icefield

Are tiny, heat-absorbing particles accelerating the melt of the Juneau Icefield? A recent study led by UAS Assistant Professor of Geology and ACRC collaborator Sonia Nagorski found that dust and black carbon particles darkening the snow surface are speeding up snowmelt on the Icefield by days, or even weeks each year. The study also included UAS faculty Eran Hood and Jason Fellman, Susan Kaspari from Central Washington University, and McKenzie Skiles from the University of Utah.

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What does drought look like in Southeast Alaska?

The term drought brings to mind cracked earth, forest fires, and empty river beds, but at the Southeast Alaska Drought Workshop held in Juneau this week, a different type of drought was discussed.

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ACRC work highlighted in a New York Times article on glacial retreat

ACRC director Allison Bidlack, alongside USFS collaborators Ryan Bellmore and Adelaide Johnson, was featured in an interactive New York Times article on the disappearance of glaciers from the Pacific Northwest.

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Fish Traps Herbert River

By Rope, Raft, and Air: A season of research on glacier-dammed lakes

Rappelling down rock cliffs, rafting across glacial lakes, and traversing icy crevasses, all in the presence of a massive, ever-changing glacier – it's all part of the job for glaciologists monitoring glacial outburst floods (also known as jökulhlaups) in Alaska.

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Thinking Deep: Land, sea, and soil connections at the Coastal Rainforest Margins Research Network Workshop

In March, over 30 scientists from across the US, Canada, and as far as Germany stood on the soggy wetlands of Juneau’s Douglas Island during the third Coastal Rainforest Margins Research Network workshop.

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RCN group at wetlands site

Salmon density exacerbates low dissolved oxygen in Southeast Alaska streams

Stand above a salmon spawning stream in Southeast Alaska come late summer, and the sheer quantity of fish is impressive. Maneuvering through water sometimes barely higher than their gills, salmon are powerful ecosystem engineers that disturb sediment and fertilize rivers. This fall, a study published in Aquatic Sciences led by ACRC researchers Jason Fellman, Eran Hood, and Sonia Nagorski looked at how salmon may be changing the chemistry of streams they travel in.

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Salmon_Montana

Uncharted Waters: Streamflow modeling project in Southeast Alaska kicks off with stakeholder meetings

An effort to model the watersheds of southeast Alaska is coming to life as one of the AK CASC pilot projects.

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Herbert Stream Gauge