Geophysical Institute • (907) 474-7282
Founded in 1948 primarily to study aurora interference with high frequency telecommunication, the Geophysical Institute has become a world-renowned center for the study of a wide range of physical phenomena from the sun to the center of the earth.
The institute's proximity to the Arctic makes it ideal for the study of high-latitude science. In support of the university's general research objectives, GI has major research programs in tectonics and sedimentation, volcanology, seismology, cryophysics (snow, ice, and permafrost), atmospheric science, remote sensing and space physics. GI operates two satellite ground stations with data processing and user services, a rocket range for space research, a volcano observatory, an earthquake information center, a climate research center and a geochronology laboratory.
Faculty and students working at GI benefit from the coupled activities of education and research. Undergraduate and graduate students find exciting work in research programs while gaining academic credit toward their degree. Many GI faculty have joint appointments through which they teach courses in the College of Natural Science and Mathematics. Students and faculty are linked through the stimulus of learning while collaborating in research.
Faculty and students also serve the needs of the state and nation by processing geophysical data into decision-making information. One example is the University Partnering for Operational Support project through which the knowledge of GI professors and their students is applied to the needs of the U.S. Army and Air Force. Another example is GI's continuous watch for earthquakes and volcanic eruptions and its system for alerting state and federal agencies of hazards to Alaskans in the air and on the ground. The institute has applied its remote sensing capabilities to help fight forest fires and monitor the health of Alaska's ecosystems. With assistance from the Arctic Region Supercomputing Center, GI scientists developed computer simulation models that indicate potential threats to Alaska's coastal communities from tsunami, which has aided these communities in developing emergency evacuation plans. GI also provides educational opportunities in the form of curricula and visits to the institute for rural Alaska middle-school students, as well as an annual six-week series, "Science for Alaska," in which scientists from Fairbanks, Anchorage and Juneau present lectures to high school students and the general public.
GI maintains the 68,000-volume Keith B. Mather Library in support of its research needs. It manages a geodata center, information office, proposal office, machine shop, electronics shop, computer service and digital design shop.
GI operates permanent field sites throughout Alaska and in Antarctica, Canada and Norway. Many of these sites are associated with Poker Flat Research Range, which has launched more than 1,800 rockets since it was founded in 1969. Some rocket payloads have been built by students as part of their engineering studies.