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June 6, 2023

Research, workforce development and economic growth news stories and other feature articles from the University of Alaska Anchorage, University of Alaska Fairbanks, University of Alaska Southeast, University of Alaska System Office and the UA Foundation. Compiled by the University of Alaska System Office of Public Affairs.

University of Alaska Anchorage

Researching Microbiology in Antarctica

As part of a research team that included UAA Associate Professor of Biological Sciences Brandon Briggs, Ph.D., Haughn spent a month tent camping across Antarctica’s McMurdo Dry Valleys researching microbial ecology.

Haughn was studying the chemical cycling of microbes in a uniquely isolated natural environment devoid of competing flora and fauna. It’s the closest thing to a controlled laboratory setting in the real world.

Now back in Anchorage, Haughn is looking forward to spending her summer in the ConocoPhillips Integrated Science Building on campus poring over her samples. 

CONTACT: Matt Jardin

Doctoral student and biological sciences alumna Kodi Haughn in Antarctica

Doctoral student and biological sciences alumna Kodi Haughn spent December tent camping across Antarctica’s McMurdo Dry Valleys researching microbial ecology. (UAA Photo)

UAA researcher senses a solution to pipeline corrosion

Oleg Shiryayev, Ph.D., assistant professor of mechanical engineering in UAA’s College of Engineering has developed a solution to prevent corrosion on North Slope pipes.

Shiryayev’s core concept is to use a combination of fiber optic strain sensors and a magnetostrictive material, such as an alloy called terfenol-d, to monitor the magnetic flux that leaks out of a pipe as its walls becomes thinner due to corrosion or other forms of damage. Magnetostrictive materials are any substance that can be mechanically deformed by the presence of an external magnetic field. Magnetic flux is a measurement of the total magnetic field passing through a given area. 

To put this another way, Shiryayev’s fiber optic sensors report any deformities that happen to the magnetostrictive materials. Those deformities can only happen if a pipe is damaged enough that its magnetic field is leaking. For an undamaged pipe, its magnetic field remains almost entirely inside the pipe wall. If the terfenol-d (or other magnetostrictive material) is stretched even a tiny bit, the fiber optic strain sensors will alert technicians, letting them know that it’s time to give that section of pipe a closer inspection, and maybe even replace it. 

CONTACT: Joe Selmont 

Turning the Page: School of Education is writing a new chapter

UAA’s School of Education (SOE) has been hitting the proverbial reset button for the last four years. With the announcement of the B.A. in early childhood education (ECE), the Council for the Accreditation of Education Preparation (CAEP) granting accreditation at the advanced level in 2021 and the recent hire of Tonia Dousay, Ph.D., to serve as SOE dean, the university’s education program is hitting its stride. She was hired in July 2022. 

Dousay spent much of the fall semester relationship-building and surveying faculty and staff to see what holes needed to be filled. She also initiated one-on-one meetings with educational stakeholders from school districts and programs across the state to learn more about educator workforce needs in Alaska. Her boots-on-the-ground approach paid off with renewed enthusiasm and partnerships with SOE.

Within the next four years, Dousay is hopeful that CAEP will reinstate the lost accreditation licenses. She said SOE is currently going through the process to provide state and federal agencies with the correct data and paperwork needed to reinstate those licenses. To put it simply, SOE needs to go back and check all the correct boxes, and once that process is complete, she is fully confident that licensing will not be an issue going forward.

With new programs, partnerships and a new dean willing to roll up her sleeves and keep a “door is always open” policy, UAA’s SOE is back on track and looking forward to welcoming Alaska’s future educators back to their programs.

CONTACT: Catalina Myers

University of Alaska Fairbanks

Polar bears of the past survived warmth

A while ago, analysis of an ancient jawbone led scientists to believe that polar bears survived a period that was warmer than today.

The scientists determined the bear was an adult male that lived and died somewhere between 130,000 to 110,000 years ago, and that bear was similar to polar bears today. 

The evidence of a polar bear from 130,000 years ago showed that the creatures somehow survived conditions warmer than they face today.

CONTACT: Ned Rozell

Polar bear on ice

A polar bear feeds near a pile of whale bones north of Utqiaġvik. (Ned Rozell Photo)

Kuskokwim Consortium Library receives national medal

The Kuskokwim Consortium Library in Bethel, Alaska, has received the 2023 National Medal for Museum and Library Service, an honor given to museums and libraries that make significant and exceptional contributions to their communities.

The Institute of Museum and Library Services, an independent federal agency, has presented the award annually for the past 29 years. The IMLS is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s libraries and museums.

The Kuskokwim Consortium Library is a small public and academic library that serves the University of Alaska Fairbanks Kuskokwim Campus and the community of Bethel. The library is located on the Indigenous and traditional lands of the Yup’ik and Cup’ik peoples in southwestern Alaska.

CONTACT: Marmian Grimes

UAF group receives philanthropic grant to aid Chignik region communities

A University of Alaska Fairbanks coastal organization has received a $590,000 philanthropic grant to map rapidly changing watersheds of the Chignik region on the Alaska Peninsula. 

The project is in part a response to the region’s repeated salmon fishery collapses, which researchers say are partly due to alterations to fish habitat by shoreline changes and other geomorphic factors. 

The region has seen extreme high water levels related to more frequent storm flooding, causing increased erosion that has affected subsistence fishing areas and community infrastructure.

The grant from the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation will also support local workforce development, provide student research opportunities and contribute to expansion of the Chignik Intertribal Coalition, which is co-leading the project. The coalition includes Chignik Lake, Chignik Lagoon, Chignik Bay, Ivanof Bay and Perryville.

CONTACT: Rod Boyce


University of Alaska Southeast

UAS Outdoor Studies Expedition to Juneau Icefield

Ten University of Alaska Southeast (UAS) Outdoor Studies students and two instructors participated in a ten-day expedition to the Juneau Icefield earlier this month. After weathering a storm early on, the group enjoyed ideal spring glacier conditions, climbing, and skiing a variety of peaks on and around the Taku Range, including the named mountains Snowdrift, Rhino, and Emperor.

The course, ODS 245, is a major requirement for ODS programming. 

CONTACT: Keni Campbell

Juneau ODS team in front of helicopter
From left, standing, Eric Mann, Alyson Kenney, Taylor Bentley, John Goekermann, Kevin Krein, Gage Bowman, Sean Price, Tristan Buhler, Forest Wagner, Zoe Bolling, Trevor Layman, Adam Chavez. From left, kneeling, Jessica Whitney, Kieran Poulson Edwards. (Forest Wagner photo)

UAS Names Dr. Carlee Simon as Interim Dean of the School of Education

The University of Alaska Southeast is pleased to announce that Dr. Carlee Simon has been named as the Interim Dean of the School of Education (SOE), and started with UAS on May 8. In her two-year appointment, Dr. Simon will lead the SOE in its mission to work cooperatively with PreK–12 schools and the community, as well as the faculty to identify, prepare, and strengthen effective teachers and administrators for sustained contributions to the education profession in rural and urban settings in Alaska and the nation. She will promote interdisciplinary, multidisciplinary, inter-college, and internal collaboration, cooperation, and research across the UA System and with external partners.

An important part of her appointment will be to lead the School through their accreditation process with the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP). All education programs through the School of Education at University of Alaska Southeast are accredited by the CAEP. This accreditation signifies that the SOE has met the rigorous standards set forth for educator preparation.

CONTACT: Keni Campbell

Illustrating Alaska: Artists Making Children’s Books Exhibit on display at UAS Egan Library

Illustrating Alaska: Artists Making Children’s Books explores the colorful and intriguing process of illustrating children’s books. The exhibit, curated by Sarah Asper-Smith, highlights the process of four different Alaskan illustrators: Jim Fowler, Evon Zerbetz, Michaela Goade, and Mitchell Watley. Each has a unique perspective on creating illustrations for a children’s book. The 10-panels of the pop-up exhibit show the milestones in the process of making a 32-page children’s book.

The exhibit is open to the public during regular library summer hours (M-Th 9:00 AM-7:00 PM, Su 1:00-7:00 PM). Please note, this is not the full exhibit originally displayed at the Alaska State Museum in 2021. Anyone unable to visit the exhibit is encouraged to explore the online exhibit.

CONTACT: Jonas Lamb

UA System Office

University of Alaska Board of Regents approves FY24 Budget, sets priorities focused on Empowering Alaska

Bolstered by growing enrollment and increased financial stability, the University of Alaska (UA) Board of Regents accepted the UA’s System FY24 operating and capital budgets during its May meeting today. The budget reflects UA’s priorities: increasing enrollment through retention in degree programs for Alaska’s workforce, developing a long-term deferred maintenance funding strategy, and maintaining responsible financial stewardship.

CONTACT: Jonathon Taylor

UA President Pat Pitney talks with Regent Jepsen during the May BOR meeting

President Pat Pitney talks with Regent Scott Jepsen during the May Board of Regents meeting. (Monique Musick photo)

UA Foundation

Slivka Joins UA Foundation as CFO

The University of Alaska (UA) Foundation announces the appointment of Alex Slivka as chief financial officer (CFO). He began in his new role on May 1, 2023.

Slivka brings more than 40 years experience in accounting, finance, and investments to the UA Foundation.

Slivka served on the UA Foundation Board of Directors since 2015, and as a member of the board’s investment committee since 2016.

CONTACT: Cassandra Stalzer

Portrait of Alex Slivka

Alex Slivka (photo courtesy UA foundation)

Did You Know?

Did you know that a UAF CTC alumna is a contestant on season 13 of MasterChef: United Tastes of America?

Elizabeth "Lizzie" Hartman, a graduate of the UAF Community and Technical College’s Culinary Arts program, has been on an incredible journey. Hartman’s culinary skills have led her to an opportunity to represent the western region on the hit series featuring Gordon Ramsey, “MasterChef: United Tastes of America.” 

The season premiere of “MasterChef: United Tastes of America” aired Wednesday, May 24 on FOX.  Tune in on Wednesday, June 7 at 7 p.m. to watch Hartman compete. 

CONTACT: Kari Halverson

"Lizzie" Hartman in chef gear holding cake

Elizabeth "Lizzie" Hartman in chef gear holding cake. (photo courtesy UAF CTC)

For more information on the UA Newswire, contact UA Manager of Communications & Marketing Monique Musick at mmusick@alaska.edu