Frontier Scientists

Photo by Astronaut Jeff Williams, NASA Earth Observatory

The Frontier Scientists blog is for travelers, teachers, students, aspiring scientists, and anyone interested in scientific discovery in the Alaskan arctic.

Come here for videos, photos and summaries that put you in the front row for breaking scientific news in the Far North. Research by our team of Alaska-based scientists includes 10,000-year-old archeological finds, photos of active Cook Inlet volcanoes taken from the space station, climate change, Denali Park’s grizzlies, the nexus of Russian and native artistic traditions, and more.

Come along as scientists themselves are startled by the unexpected in field locations so remote researchers are often the first modern visitors to set foot in them.

Contact Liz O’Connell at

What I learned this Earth Day, 2014 - 4/22/2014 7:16 pm

Predicting the effect of anomalous sea ice loss and increasing sea surface temperatures on global storm systems - 4/15/2014 8:48 pm

The ground changing under our feet – Thermokarsts - 4/8/2014 2:24 pm

Snowy Owl Irruption - 4/2/2014 7:40 am

Tram Powered International Tundra Experiment - 3/25/2014 5:40 pm

Modeling shifting oceanscapes; a collective pursuit - 3/18/2014 6:29 pm

Iditarod sled dogs’ fat burning capabilities - 3/12/2014 11:04 pm

68 million ton landslide in Alaska: Mount La Perouse - 3/5/2014 7:34 pm

Tram Powered International Tundra Experiment

Liz O'Connell for Frontier Scientists

Multiple instruments, configured along a tram-like platform, sense the tundra below and gather detailed data while traveling along a 50 meter transect.  “We are gathering measurements that we don’t know exactly how they will be used,” said Steven Oberbauer, professor of biological sciences at Florida International University.

The high resolution information is more detailed than that gained by a satellite or by a meteorological station that is situated in one spot. In the video [ITEX: Tram powered], Nathan Healey, post-doctoral research associate at Florida International University, describes in detail the instruments and types of data they gather.

(((scroll down for videos)))

In a more detailed study, masters student Jose Luciani in video [ITEX: Node to Node] digitizes the growth variation of individual plants.  Luciani wants to know if it is more advantageous for plants to grow horizontally or vertically in the changing Arctic environment.

Oberbauer said: “We collect the data, we post the data.  They are going to be in a national archive, so 50 years from now, if somebody wants to come back, they can look at a 3D image, a 3D movie of the transect.  They can look at specific plants that are there over the years, over the days.  That’s the object of the project, to establish a baseline of high resolution measurements.”

project ITEX


project Iditarod

Meanwhile in the winter when snow usually blankets the Arctic, dog mushing enthusiasts run their dogs over tundra environments in races like the Iditarod Great Sled Race.  You can watch these 3 videos – [Ceremonial Start, Dog Handling, Mike Santos] – about Mike Santos, owner of Wolf’s Den Kennels in Cantwell, Alaska to find out more about the Iditarod as well as the capabilities of sled dogs and dog handlers.

Frontier Scientists: presenting scientific discovery in the Arctic and beyond

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