The Alaska Quaternary Center (AQC) is committed to the promotion of interdisciplinary research and the enhancement of interdisciplinary instruction in Quaternary sciences on the University of Alaska - Fairbanks campus. This is accomplished by: (1) providing a visiting professor and visiting scientist program, (2) offering interdisciplinary classes and seminars, both team-taught by members of different departments and by single individuals of various departments, (3) promoting opportunities for Quaternary research and facilitating visits of outside researchers, and (4) in serving as a clearing house and information center for events and research findings of interest to Quaternary specialists throughout the world.
The Alaska Quaternary Center is a campus-wide interdisciplinary organization based within the Department of Geology and Geophysics and the College of Natural Science and Mathematics. The AQC is administered by an appointed Director and nine elected board members. The AQC also has a sister organization at the University of Alaska Anchorage which was established in 1993. Bylaws governing the organization and function of the AQC were adopted in spring 1995.
Alaska is an important natural laboratory for Quaternary research. Glacial and periglacial processes that affected lower latitudes during the ice ages can be widely observed today in Alaska. Evidence of former environments is strikingly well preserved in permafrost. Much of the northern part of the state was never glaciated and holds long records of climatic change. Because high latitudes are considered particularly sensitive to global climatic change, such records are important in understanding earth's climate system. Finally, Alaska was joined to Asia via an exposed continental shelf during glacial periods; this land bridge, which formed the center of the continental region known as "Beringia," contributed to the development of a flora and fauna shared between Alaska and eastern Asia; and presumably allowed the passage of early humans to the Americas. Northern Alaska contains several of the oldest sites of human occupation currently under study.
Alaska is a land of superlatives. Its land area is more than 1.5 million square kilometers; several of its thousands of glaciers are larger than the state of Delaware. Its coastline is longer that of all other 49 states combined. More than 40 of its volcanoes have erupted in historic time, and recent tectonism exerts a strong control on modern processes. More than three million lakes dot the landscape. Climate ranges from strongly continental, with an annual temperature range of 90 degrees C (-55 to 35) and less than 0.3 m annual precipitation, to strongly maritime with more than 7.0 m of annual precipitation near sea level.
The University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) is centrally located, and has strong programs in the natural sciences and northern studies. Unparalleled opportunities for field research in many disciplines make Alaska an exciting place for Quaternary studies.