Sustainability Research

Sustainability research at University of Alaska, Fairbanks addresses the integration of cultural, economic, environmental, and energy components and supports projects and perspectives that have positive impacts on future resources, ecosystem health, and human wellbeing. There are six major themes:

Sustainability Research Themes

-Climate change and Adaption

-Culture Sustainability

-Water Quality and Supply

-Ecosystems and Natural Resources Management

-Energy Efficiency and Renewable and Alternative Energy

-Food Security and Agriculture systems

January 2010

As America’s arctic research university, the University of Alaska Fairbanks leads the way in conducting climate change research that affects Alaska and the rest of the circumpolar North.It’s important to recognize that our state needs a lot of attention regarding the very real effects of climate change. There is no organization better poised to do that than UAF; where our world-class faculty and researchers conduct reliable research and use accurate science to identify those effects and how to best deal with them.

     - Brian Rogers, Chancellor, UAF                                                      

UAF Research Inventory 2010

Departments, Centers, and Institutes

The Scenarios Network for Alaska & Arctic Planning (SNAP)

SNAP was initiated by UAF School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences to bridge crucial information gaps in our understanding of long-term trends in changing climate. SNAP is a collaborative network of UAF, state, and federal and local agencies, NGOs, and industry partners, whose mission is to provide timely access to scenarios of future conditions in Alaska for more effective planning by land managers, communities and industry. SNAP’s climate change scenarios and data are openly available to all users, and are already being used not only by Alaska stakeholders but also by the international research community.

Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy (ACCAP)

The Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy at UAF was founded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) in 2007 to develop a regional approach to climate change adaptations. Climate change adaptation is central to the future of the state of Alaska. As an example, ACCAP recently completed a decision-makers guide for communities at risk of flooding or inundation.

Center for Global Change and Arctic Systems Research

The Center for Global Change and Arctic System Research was established in March 1990 to serve as the focal point at the University of Alaska Fairbanks for developing, coordinating and implementing interdisciplinary research and education related to the role of the Arctic and subarctic in the Earth system, and to stimulate and facilitate global change research in this region.

The scientific focus of the Center is on understanding the physical, biological, chemical and social processes of the Arctic that interact with the total Earth system, and the relationship of those interactions to global change. A wealth of field stations, laboratories and other research facilities, including the Arctic Region Supercomputing Center, Geophysical Institute, Institute of Arctic Biology, Biology and Wildlife Department, Alaska Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit and School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences are available at the University of Alaska Fairbanks for use in the integrated study and modeling of the Earth system.

Energy Research

The Alaska Center for Energy and Power (ACEP)

ACEP is an applied energy research program based at the University of Alaska. ACEP was formed in January, 2008 with the goal of meeting Alaska’s unique energy research needs, and operates under a private sector business model within the University system. ACEP has emerged from a long history of applied energy research at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and has projects and researchers located throughout the state. UAF has a solid reputation of being a proven leader in research for Northern latitudes. This gives us the edge in developing and testing technologies for cold climates and remote locations.

The Cold Climate Housing Research Center(CCHRC)

The CCHRC'sbuilding and infrastructure research and testing facility was completed in September 2006. The facility is designed and constructed to meet the exacting standards of the U.S. Green Building Council LEED Gold rating. Every material, building technique and system in the structure, from the foundation to the mechanical systems, is designed for cold climates and is being monitored and evaluated for operational efficiency in all weather conditions.

The CCHRC is a living test center with over 400 monitors built in to assess performance of everything from the moisture content of the walls to the slightest shift in foundation. This research and testing facility, designed to address the challenges faced by northern builders, showcases the latest building materials and techniques. Built on permafrost, the facility demonstrates appropriate design for the North.

TheAlaska University Transportation Center (AUTC)

The AUTCfocuses on “Transportation Safety, Security and Innovation in Cold Regions," a theme selected to complement the mission and direction of the University of Alaska. This focus also meets the needs of the Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities, the Alaska Railroad Corporation, the Alaska Oil and Gas Industry and the Alaska transportation community. AUTC research fills a national gap in addressing transportation needs in cold regions. Alaska’s unique climate, cultural diversity, population density and transportation requirements call for specialized expertise not readily available elsewhere. AUTC’s goal is to develop that expertise through education and outreach programs as well as through research.

Sustainability Research Highlights

Climate Change Research

  • New findings by UAF chemical oceanographer Jeremy Mathis indicate that Alaska's oceans are becoming increasingly acidic, which could damage Alaska's king crab and salmon fisheries. Often referred to as the "sister problem to climate change," ocean acidification is a term used to describe increasing acidity in the world's oceans. "The increasing acidification of Alaska waters could have a destructive effect on all of our commercial fisheries," said Mathis. "This is a problem we need to think about in terms of the next decade instead of the next century."
  • UAF mathematics and statistics professor Ed Bueler and Andy Ashwanden, a post-doctoral fellow with the Arctic Region Supercomputing Center, have developed new ways to understand probable effects of increased coastal erosion on infrastructure and related economic challenges caused by rising sea levels.
  • Two UAF researchers-- David McGuire and John Walsh-- were among key contributors to a recent national report that details visible effects of climate change in the United States and how today's choices stand to affect the future. "Alaska's at the vanguard of climate change and we're seeing the changes here sooner than elsewhere," said Walsh, director of the Center for Global Change and Arctic System Research at UAF's International Arctic Research Center.
  • Katey Walter Anthony, a research assistant professor with the Institute of Northern Engineering, has been recognized internationally for her research on methane and carbon dioxide emissions from arctic and temperate lakes and wetlands. Her research could help scientists understand how current warming might affect atmospheric levels of methane, a gas that is thought to contribute to climate change.
  • Operated through the UAF Geophysical Institute, the Alaska Climate Modeling Program is a comprehensive project for 1,700 Alaska Native students and teacheres in the Bering Strait School District. ACMP offers progressive yearlong science, technology and math instruction that culminates in the creation of computer models simulating possible climate change effects. Students apply knowledge to local problems and decision-making, and gain workforce skills relevant to current arctic climate issues.
  • Institute of Arctic Biology Professor F. Stuart (Terry) Chapin III is the first and only member of the National Academy of Sciences from Alaska. Chapin's current research, which began in Alaska in the late 1960s, focuses on how people affect ecosystems and global processes and the ways in which ecological, cultural and economic processes interact to determine the responses of regions to global change. "Some of the things I have been most excited about are the effects of climate change on Alaska's ecosystems, and what this means for the rural communities of Alaska," said Chapin.

Climate change research highlights courtesy of UAF Marketing & Communications

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