Logo - University of Alaska Fairbanks

1999-2000 Catalog

Research Institutes and Centers


Arctic Biology, Institute of

The Institute of Arctic Biology is the principal research arm for life scientists in the College of Science, Engineering and Mathematics. The institute was established in 1963 through authorization from the Alaska Legislature, following the recommendation of a select committee of nationally and internationally recognized biologists. The original mandate of the institute, the study of physiological adaptations of plants, animals and human beings to past and present climates of the Arctic, has been expanded to include well-developed programs in ecology and systematics. Ecology programs include research on taiga and tundra sites, including community organization, ecosystem structure and function, functional interactions and interdependencies of plants and animals and the way in which environmental and organismal processes modify nutrient cycling and decomposition within systems. These studies on ecosystem research are closely tied to physiological and biochemical processes of microorganisms, plants and animals, emphasizing coevolved responses such as herbivory, which are supported through strong programs such as chemical ecology. Systematics of organisms within arctic and subarctic systems are being studied to establish mechanisms that provide for maintenance of heterogeneity in members of isolated communities. Additional research programs exist in population genetics, freshwater ecology, wildlife diseases, wildlife biology and biochemistry and molecular biology.

The institute is located in the Laurence Irving Building and the Arctic Health Research Building and provides a vivarium, animal isolation facility, surgery and a variety of technical and instrumental facilities and services for coordinated and individual research. Special field sites include a 40-acre experimental biological reserve on campus and the Large Animal Research Station, adjacent to the campus, which houses breeding colonies of musk ox, caribou and reindeer. The institute maintains the only major ecological research station in the Arctic, at Toolik Lake north of the Brooks Range. Research field camps at Cantwell near Denali National Park, and at Homer and Halibut Cove on the shores of Kachemak Bay provide a wide range of ecological diversity for specimen collection and research.