Geophysical Institute

Founded in 1948 primarily to study auroral interference with high frequency telecommunication, the Geophysical Institute has become a world-renowned center for the study of a wide range of geophysical phenomena.

The institute's proximity to the Arctic makes it ideal for the study of high-latitude geoscience. In support of the university's general research objectives, the GI has major research programs in tectonics and sedimentation, volcanology, seismology, cryophysics (snow, ice and permafrost), atmospheric science, remote sensing and space physics. The institute 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 the 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. Institute faculty have mentored more than 150 Ph.D. graduates.

Faculty and students also serve the needs of the state and nation by processing geophysical data into information useful for decision-making. Examples include the institute'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. Researchers at the institute have applied 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 of potential threats to Alaska's coastal communities from tsunamis, aiding these communities in developing emergency evacuation plans. The GI provides curricula and educational visits to the institute, as well as the annual six-week public lecture series Science for Alaska.

The institute maintains the 75,500-volume Keith B. Mather Library in support of its research needs. It manages a geodata center, information office, proposal office, machine shop, electronics shop, and computer and design services.

The GI operates permanent field sites throughout Alaska and frequently sends researchers to sites throughout the world. Many of these sites are associated with Poker Flat Research Range, which has launched more than 1,800 meteorological rockets and more than 300 major scientific sounding rockets since it was founded in 1969. For more information, visit or call 907-474-7282.