Research Fellowship Recipients: 2010

Research fellowships offered by Alaska Geographic and Denali Education Center through the Murie Science and Learning Center help scientists conduct field research in Arctic and subarctic Alaskan national parks.

Discover Denali 2010 Research Fellowship:

Joe Bickley, Alaska Backcountry Consulting
Denali National Park and Preserve
Glacier terminus surveys and photo documentation in the Kichatna Mountains, Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska

Joe Bickley of Alaska Backcountry Consulting will be studying glaciers in the Kichatna Mountains of southwestern Denali National Park and Preserve. Specifically he will study the Tatina, Cul-De-Sac, and Shadows glaciers, taking accurate measurements of where the ice ends (glacier terminus) in order to begin monitoring these three glaciers over time--are they retreating and how fast? His study will complement other glacier monitoring in the park, because he will use the same protocols. Of special interest, in the face of a warming climate, is whether these three glaciers, which had a significant layer of Mt. Redoubt ash deposited on them, may have a higher rate of terminus retreat than other park glaciers without the dark ash layer. Bickley will establish photo points for photographing each glacier's terminus in order to document glacier retreat or advance over time. He will also reproduce any historical photographs taken of other nearby glaciers at their termini.

Discover Denali 2010 Research Fellowship:

John Blong, Texas A&M University
Denali National Park and Preserve
Prehistoric upland use in Denali National Park: a proposal to conduct archaeological field research along the Savage River

John Blong, a graduate student at Texas A&M University in the Department of Anthropology, will be conducting archaeological field research in Denali National Park and Preserve in 2010. In collaboration with his advisor and two undergraduate field assistants, Blong plans to relocate and redocument nine prehistoric sites in the Savage River drainage, to systematically search for other unrecorded archaeological sites in the drainage, and to conduct subsurface testing of three buried sites along the Savage River to document what cultural artifacts they may yield. Embarking on this Savage River study will be the first step in a larger research project with the goals of piecing together the regional picture of prehistoric upland landscape use in the central Alaska Range, and of describing and explaining the geographic variation in stone-tool use (projectile points versus stone microblades) by prehistoric cultures over time.

Murie Science and Learning Center 2010 Research Fellowship:

Caitlin Hicks, University of Florida
near Denali National Park and Preserve
Carbon cycle changes in warming Alaska: do plants or soil microbes drive changes in ecosystem respiration?

Caitlin Hicks, a graduate student at the University of Florida, will be studying thawing permafrost near Eight Mile Lake outside of Denali National Park and Preserve in the summer of 2010. As climate warms, the permafrost underlying tundra ecosystems is thawing, causing changes to the carbon cycle of tundra ecosystems. Permafrost thaw can increase the soil organic carbon being released as CO2 by soil microbes or can increase plant growth, which takes CO2 out of the atmospheric via photosynthesis. The relative responses of soil microbes and plants to permafrost thaw determines whether the ecosystem adds CO2 to the atmosphere (microbial response), a positive feedback to climate change, or whether the ecosystem takes CO2 from the atmosphere (plant response), a negative feedback to climate change. The main objective of her research is to quantify the response of four components of ecosystem respiration (aboveground plant structures, belowground plant structures, surface soil microbes, and deep soil microbes) to permafrost thaw in order to determine whether plants or microbes are dominating the tundra's changing carbon cycle. Hicks' research will investigate the relative contribution of soil microbes and plants to carbon fluxes by tracking the CO2 leaving the ecosystem using carbon isotopes whose values differ among plants and soils.

Murie Science and Learning Center 2010 Research Fellowship:

Shelby Anderson, University of Washington
Western Arctic Parklands
Late prehistoric social change in northwest Alaska: a study of ceramic procurement, production and distribution in the Arctic

Shelby Anderson, an archaeology graduate student at the University of Washington, is examining the emergence of social complexity in the peoples of Northwest Alaska over the past 2000 years. In this span of time, Northwest Alaska witnessed the development of organized whale hunting, aggregated coastal villages, wealthy burials, and warfare. On both sides of the Bering Strait, ethnic groups formed strong regional identities that led to marked differences in material culture styles from sub-region to sub-region. She is studying the changes in the social relationships and interactions of these groups through a study of the pottery found in archeological sites from the coast of Kotzebue Sound and the adjacent river corridors. In the summer of 2010, Anderson will collect geologic raw clay “source” samples from the Seward Peninsula and the Kobuk River drainage to compare to the pottery samples found at the archaeological sites. The degree of movement of the pottery from the sources of clay will serve as a proxy for social interaction and movement in the past. This research is also funded by a National Science Foundation Dissertation Improvement Grant. For more information, visit Anderson’s website: http://students.washington.edu/shelbya/index.html