Climate Scholars Program Intensives

What is a Climate Intensive?

Climate Scholars Program Intensives are opportunities to study with expert faculty in some of Alaska’s most unique ecosystems. We invite you to the remote places in Alaska where you will integrate theoretical knowledge with practical experiences to gain new skills in environmental data analysis, visualization, and effective advocacy while gaining a new perspective and context for Earth Systems.


Current Intensives

Experience climate change field research at ground zero. In Alaska, rapidly warming temperatures are thawing permafrost, changing vegetation, and increasing wildfires at unprecedented rates. This 8-day program immerses students in research on the impacts of climate change. Students will gain experience in ecological fieldwork, lab procedures, and data analysis while designing their own research projects alongside professional climate change scientists. This intensive includes field excursions to research sites such as the Permafrost Research Tunnels, operational reindeer farm and geothermal energy facility, and Denali National Park.

The NASA and NSF-sponsored National Eclipse Ballooning Project (NEBP) immerses teams from a wide range of higher education institutions in an innovative NASA-mission-like adventure in data acquisition and analysis through scientific ballooning.

The University of Alaska team, comprised of engineering students and Climate Scholars, travels to eclipse viewing sites across the country, makes frequent observations by launching hourly radiosondes on helium-filled weather balloons, works with atmospheric science experts throughout the project, and publishes results in peer-reviewed academic journals.

As the fourth largest waterway in North America, the Yukon River is an ecologically critical artery through Alaska, home to multiple Indigenous nations. It is a landscape alive with history, roiled by present change. This course is an environmental history of the Yukon, focused on how natural systems intersect with and shaped human lives. With an emphasis on storytelling and thinking with modes past and contemporary, students will travel from Eagle to Circle by canoe, visiting communities and sites key to understanding human-river relationships. The course will be led by Dr. Bathsheba Demuth, an environmental historian at Brown University currently researching a history of the Yukon River watershed, in conjunction with faculty from UAF and local and Indigenous experts along the river.

With integrated wind and hydropower systems, Kodiak Island receives over 99% of its electricity from renewable energy sources. In this Intensive, students travel to Kodiak to meet with local stakeholders and organizations that have helped the island transition to fossil-fuel free energy production, while reducing the cost of electricity. Participants in this incredible Intensive opportunity spend six days exploring Kodiak Island while learning about renewable energy sources and the application of microgrid technology.

Adina Preston Photography

Find your voice in the climate movement with this summer intensive focused on climate change communication and advocacy. The serene and rugged Tidelines campus provides an unparalleled setting for students to learn about and reflect on the societal and cultural transformations that are needed to address the climate crisis. Students engage in living within a smaller ecological personal footprint, exploring what’s possible in micro renewable energy, wild foods gathering, and small-scale agricultural and composting systems. Students who complete this intensive will be better equipped to actively participate in climate action, communication, and advocacy.

Climate research suggests that decisive action must be taken to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions in the next 10-15 years to avoid some of the worst projected impacts. Action on this scale will require intentional involvement at all levels of government. This Climate Intensive takes place in Washington, DC and investigates the interface of climate science and policy at the federal level. Students will have the opportunity to meet with US legislators, federal agencies, and other key climate policy stakeholders to advocate for a more sustainable future.

In November 1973, after the nation's first environmental pipeline battle, Congress and President Nixon approved the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS). Called the "largest private capital project in world history", the $9 billion petroleum transportation system transformed so many aspects of ecology and economics in Alaska. This course offers an environmental history of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System, from its impact on oil drilling in the Arctic, to the construction of the Dalton Highway, to how it changed the economy of Fairbanks and the State of Alaska, to the devastating Exxon Valdez oil spill, and finally to the dialectical relationship between TAPS and the climate crisis. Students will travel along the route of the 800-mile pipeline, learning about the impact of the TAPS on people and landscapes from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez.

Gath & K'iyh, a series of workshops organized by Native Movement, Fairbanks Climate Action Coalition, Association of Interior Native Educators, and the UAF Climate Scholars program, uses “Listen to Heal” as a framework to understand the experiences of the Gath and K’iyh* due to climate impacts, address climate grief, and come to a place of hope and action.

This Intensive approaches the goal of climate healing using multiple artistic mediums (such as birch bark and tanned salmon skin), traditional stories from Indigenous Elders, research from UAF climate scientists, experiential exercises, musical exploration, and personal reflections from participants.

*Gath is King Salmon and K’iyh is Birch in Benhti Kokhut’ana Kenaga dialect

Upcoming Intensives

Every year, hundreds of researchers from all over the world convene at Toolik to initiate and continue research activities in the far north. Students will have the opportunity to interact with climate scientists and tackle real-world aspects of climate change with innovative approaches. Equal emphasis will be placed on the contributions of social science, natural science, and humanities disciplines. Students who complete this intensive will be better equipped to communicate and collaborate to solve problems using the aggregate energy and knowledge of multiple participants.

Farming in Alaska? In a state where winter lasts for nearly six months of the year, growing vegetables isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. However, agricultural in Alaska is on the rise. This intensive offers a deeper understanding of expanding regenerative agriculture practices in the state, accompanied by a hands-on harvesting experience at the only commercial farm in Western Alaska. At Meyers Farm in Bethel, Tim and Lisa Meyers have spent the past twenty years honing their ability to grow thousands of pounds of organic vegetables, shipping them to villages down the Kuskokwim River and alleviating food insecurity in the region one produce box at a time. Students will be asked to reimagine how agriculture is currently conceptualized in Alaska and in the lower 48, analyzing how farming can be approached sustainably in their own home communities.

Art has been used throughout millennia as a powerful tool for activism. For a subject that is deeply politically divisive like climate change, art too can be used as a tool to reach across the partisan divide and communicate how rising global temperatures will impact shared important cultural events. This intensive offers student participants an interdisciplinary approach to understanding and communicating how climate change is impacting one of the largest trademark events in the state: the Iditarod. Over the course of a week, students will use an ethnographic and interview-based approach to learn about community perceptions of the Iditarod in a warming world. Students will hone their ability to communicate climate change through various artistic mediums while building their toolkit to engage in arts activism.

From 2019-2020, UAF researchers were involved in one of the largest international polar research expeditions in history, the MOSAiC Expedition. The researchers were based on a ship that was frozen in the ice for a year, drifting throughout the Arctic Ocean to collect samples of ice and water to better understand the changing Arctic. During this Intensive, planned for spring break 2025, students will work with scientists from the expedition to learn techniques for ice research on Interior Alaska’s frozen ponds, work with sea ice samples and data collected from the Arctic, and design their own research projects with mentoring from professional cryosphere (ice and snow) scientists. Students who complete this ~1-week Intensive will gain firsthand research experience, ask and answer questions about our frozen environment, and be better equipped to talk about our changing sea ice and the Arctic.