• Airborne hyperspectral imaging for wetland mapping in the Yukon Flats, Alaska

      Graham, Patrick Ryan; Prakash, Anupma; Rosselló, Jordi Cristóbal; Gens, Rudiger (2020-05)
      This study involved commissioning HySpex, a hyperspectral imaging system, on a single-engine Bush Hawk aircraft; using it to acquire images over selected regions of the Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge; establishing a complete processing flow to convert raw data to radiometrically and geometrically corrected hypercubes, and further processing the data to classify wetlands. Commissioning involved designing a customized mount to simultaneously install two-camera systems, one operating in the visible and near infrared region, and the other operating in the shortwave infrared region. Flight planning incorporated special considerations in choosing the flight direction, speed, and time windows to minimize effects of the Bidirectional Reflection Distribution Function (BRDF) that are more dominant in high latitudes. BRDF effects were further minimized through a special processing step, that was added to the established hyperspectral data processing chain developed by the German Space Agency (DLR). Instrument commissioning included a test flight over the University of Alaska Fairbanks for a bore-sight calibration between the HySpex system's two cameras, and to ensure the radiometric and geometric fidelity of the acquired images. Calibration resulted in a root mean square error of 0.5 pixels or less for images acquired from both cameras at 1-meter spatial resolution for each geometrically corrected flight line. Imagery was radiometrically corrected using the ATCOR-4 software package. No field spectra of the study areas were collected due to logistics constraints. However, a visual comparison between current spectral libraries and acquired hyperspectral image spectra was used to ensure spectral quality. For wetlands mapping, a 6-category legend was established based on previous United States Geological Survey and United States Fish and Wildlife Service information and maps, and three different classification methods are used in two selected areas: hybrid classification, spectral angle mapper, and maximum likelihood. Final maps were successfully classified using a maximum likelihood method with high Kappa values and user's and producer's accuracy are more than 90% for nearly all categories. The maximum likelihood classifier generated the best wetland classification results, with a Kappa index of about 0.90. This was followed by the SAM classifier with a Kappa index of about 0.57 and lastly by the hybrid classifier that achieved a Kappa index of only 0.42. Recommendations for future work include using higher-accuracy GPS measurements to improve georectification, building a spectral library for Alaskan vegetation, collection of ground spectral measurements concurrently with flight image acquisition, and acquisition of LiDAR or RGB-photo derived digital surface models to improve classification efforts.
    • Alaska's shrinking glaciers: integrated glaciological research for hydrological, ecological, and environmental education applications

      Young, Joanna; Pettit, Erin; Arendt, Anthony; Conner, Laura; Hood, Eran (2020-05)
      As air temperatures in Alaska are rising, glacier melt is accelerating and affecting hydrological resources and downstream ecosystem function. The extent to which glacier loss may change hydrological regimes in coastal climates, and how that may impact nearshore marine conditions, is uncertain. Moreover, from a social-ecological standpoint, many citizens today are disconnected from these types of environmental changes, in part due to isolation from visible climate change impacts. This dissertation addresses the dual need for examining recent Alaska glacier changes and resulting hydrological and marine impacts, and for exploring education strategies that leverage glacier changes for environmental identity development. In Chapter One, I present a conceptual framework that links the physical and social sciences research herein as equal components of a social-ecological system. In Chapter Two, I use a glacio-hydrological model to uncover that coastal glaciers of the Juneau Icefield have yet to pass `peak water' delivery. I also find that between 1980 to 2016, glacier ice melt increased annually (+10%, p = 0.14) and in spring (+16%, p = 0.05), leading to changing freshwater composition. In Chapter Three, I compare modeled Mendenhall River discharge to nearshore oceanographic measurements, finding that salinity and density in the upper 15 m are strongly glacially-inuenced (10 to 30 PSU and 1010 to 1023 kg m⁻³), and that glacier runoff exerts a stronger control (r² = 0.66) than total runoff. Large, signicant trends are also detected for 1997 to 2016 August modeled glacier runoff (p = 0.02, + 15%) and observed salinity (p = 0.01, -3.2 PSU), linking these phenomena and revealing ongoing changes. Finally, in Chapter Four, I analyze social science data from youth participants in a science outreach program in a climate-impacted glacier landscape. I find that better understanding ecosystem linkages and seeing the scale of glacier loss first-hand promote environmental identity development by building relatedness and pro-environmental motivation. Together, the glaciological and environmental education research herein provides diverse perspectives on improving both scientic and citizen understanding of glacier mass loss in a changing climate.
    • Analysis and interpretation of volcano deformation in Alaska: Studies from Okmok and Mt. Veniaminof volcanoes

      Fournier, Thomas J.; Freymueller, Jeffrey; Larsen, Jessica; Cervelli, Peter; Christensen, Douglas; McNutt, Stephen (2008-12)
      Four studies focus on the deformation at Okmok Volcano, the Alaska Peninsula and Mt. Veniaminof. The main focus of the thesis is the volcano deformation at Okmok Volcano and Mt. Veniaminof, but also includes an investigation of the tectonic related compression of the Alaska Peninsula. The complete data set of GPS observations at Okmok Volcano are investigated with the Unscented Kalman Filter time series analysis method. The technique is shown to be useful for inverting geodetic data for time dependent non-linear model parameters. The GPS record at Okmok from 2000 to mid 2007 shows distinct inflation pulses which have several months duration. The inflation is interpreted as magma accumulation in a shallow reservoir under the caldera center and approximately 2.5km below sea level. The location determined for the magma reservoir agrees with estimates determined by other geodetic techniques. Smaller deflation signals in the Okmok record appear following the inflation pulses. A degassing model is proposed to explain the deflation. Petrologic observations from lava erupted in 1997 provide an estimate for the volatile content of the magma. The solution model VolatileCalc is used to determine the amount of volatiles in the gas phase. Degassing can explain the deflation, but only under certain circumstances. The magma chamber must have a radius between ~1and 2km and the intruding magma must have less than approximately 500ppm CO2. At Mt. Veniaminof the deformation signal is dominated by compression caused by the convergence of the Pacific and North American Plates. A subduction model is created to account for the site velocities. A network of GPS benchmarks along the Alaska Peninsula is used to infer the amount of coupling along the mega-thrust. A transition from high to low coupling near the Shumagin Islands has important implications for the seismogenic potential of this section of the fault. The Shumagin segment likely ruptures in more frequent smaller magnitude quakes. The tectonic study provides a useful backdrop to examine the volcano deformation at Mt. Veniaminof. After being corrected for tectonic motion the sites velocities indicate inflation at the volcano. The deformation is interpreted as pressurization occurring beneath the volcano associated with eruptive activity in 2005.
    • Analyzing tree distribution and abundance in Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve: developing geostatistical Bayesian models with count data

      Winder, Samantha; Short, Margaret; Roland, Carl; Goddard, Scott; McIntyre, Julie (2018-05)
      Species distribution models (SDMs) describe the relationship between where a species occurs and underlying environmental conditions. For this project, I created SDMs for the five tree species that occur in Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve (YUCH) in order to gain insight into which environmental covariates are important for each species, and what effect each environmental condition has on that species' expected occurrence or abundance. I discuss some of the issues involved in creating SDMs, including whether or not to incorporate spatially explicit error terms, and if so, how to do so with generalized linear models (GLMs, which have discrete responses). I ran a total of 10 distinct geostatistical SDMs using Markov Chain Monte Carlo (Bayesian methods), and discuss the results here. I also compare these results from YUCH with results from a similar analysis conducted in Denali National Park and Preserve (DNPP).
    • Anisotropy in the Alaska subduction zone: shear-wave splitting observations from local and teleseismic earthquakes

      Richards, Cole; Tape, Carl; West, Michael; Freymueller, Jeffrey (2020-05)
      Shear-wave splitting observations can provide insight to mantle flow due to the link between the deformation of mantle rocks and their direction dependent seismic wave velocities. We identify shear-wave anisotropy in the Cook Inlet segment of the Alaska subduction zone by analyzing splitting parameters of S phases from local intraslab earthquakes between 50 and 200 km depths and SKS waves from teleseismic events. These earthquakes were recorded from 2015-2017 (local S) and 2007-2017 (SKS) by stations from SALMON (Southern Alaska Lithosphere and Mantle Observation Network), TA (EarthScope Transportable Array), MOOS (Multidisciplinary Observations Of Subduction), AVO (Alaska Volcano Observatory), and the permanent network. Automatic phase picking (dbshear) of 12095 local earthquakes (Ml ≥ 1.5) recorded at 84 stations yielded 678 high-quality splitting measurements (filtered 0.2-1 Hz). Teleseismic SKS phases recorded at 112 stations with 26,143 event-station pairs resulted in 360 high-quality SKS splitting measurements (filtered 0.02-1 Hz and 0.01-1 Hz). Measurements for both datasets were made using the SC91 minimum eigenvalue method with software package MFAST. We compare local S and SKS splitting patterns both from previous studies and our own analysis and find that they are most similar in the far forearc, at the Kenai Peninsula, below which there is no mantle wedge. Anisotropy in the subducting Pacific lithosphere and subslab asthenosphere is likely here as both S and SKS display plate convergence fast directions and SKS measurements exhibit delay times too long (∼2 s) to be explained solely by lithospheric anisotropy. Large splitting delay times (∼0.5 s) for local measurements that mainly sample slab further indicate that the Pacific slab lithosphere contains significant anisotropy. We also observe anisotropy in the mantle wedge indicated by an increase in delay time as focal depth increases for stations with ray paths dominantly sampling wedge. These measurements display trench-perpendicular and plate convergence fast directions consistent with 2D corner flow in the mantle wedge. Both datasets show trench-parallel splitting directions in select areas of the arc/forearc that overlie parts of the mantle wedge and nose. B-type olivine in the mantle nose, subslab asthenospheric flow, flow around the slab edge, and anisotropy in the Pacific lithosphere all could be invoked to explain this pattern. While we are unable to distill the anisotropy to a single responsible structure, the sharp transition in the local S data splitting pattern from trench-perpendicular in the backarc to trench-parallel across the arc suggests B-type olivine in the mantle nose. For an overall model, we favor 2D corner flow of A-type olivine in the mantle wedge induced by downdip motion of the slab, B-type olivine in the nose, and plate convergence parallel anisotropy in the subslab asthenosphere and subducting Pacific lithosphere to explain the observed splitting patterns. It is clear that the subducting slab's structure and motion are the dominant influence on anisotropy and mantle flow regimes here. The differences in local S and SKS splitting results motivate further study on frequency dependence of splitting measurements and emphasize the need for a better understanding of which earth structures are responsible for the observed splitting patterns globally. This study constitutes the first comprehensive local splitting study in Alaska and refutes the common interpretation of along arc flow in the mantle wedge proposed by many previous splitting studies in Alaska.
    • Applicability of synthetic aperture radar for investigating river breakup on the Kuparuk River, Northern Alaska

      Floyd, Angelica L. (2012-12)
      A combined use of remote sensing techniques and field measurements is a pragmatic approach to study Arctic hydrology, given the vastness, complexity, and logistical challenges posed by most Arctic watersheds. This study investigates the use of synthetic aperture radar (SAR) to define spring breakup of the Kuparuk River on the North Slope of Alaska. A time series (years 2001-2010) of SAR images was assembled at the river mouth on the Arctic Coastal Plain. A statistical analysis was used and was limited to three variables: image brightness, variance in brightness over the river length, and a rank order analysis accomplished by segmenting the river and ranking segments in order of relative brightness. Variance was the only reliable breakup indicator of the three tested. A shorter one year temporal stack was assembled at the river's headwaters for a visual interpretation, which had limited success. Results from both analyses were calibrated with in-situ stream gauge data. River ice breakup is a highly complex process which may be defined differently by the remote sensing community and hydrologists, due to the sensitive nature of SAR, which may indicate surficial changes on the river before any discharge is recorded.
    • Application of environmental DNA-based occurrence data in modeling wood frog (Rana sylvatica) distribution in Interior Alaska

      Spangler, Mark A.; López, J. Andrés; Huettmann, Falk (2017)
      Knowledge of wood frog distribution in Alaska is incomplete due to insufficient baseline occurrence data. A short season of activity and difficult access to remote areas restrict implementation of consistent monitoring efforts. Detecting the presence of species in aquatic landscapes using environmental DNA (eDNA) assays is increasingly applied as a monitoring method in wildlife surveys. However, uncertainties regarding the technique’s sensitivity to environmental variables and human error have thus far prevented its widespread adoption in studies of species distribution. Predictive models built on machine learning algorithms can help provide precise descriptions of species distribution using eDNA occurrence data, but they will require ground-truthing efforts to confirm accuracy in under-sampled landscapes. Here we assess the ability of wood frog eDNA occurrence data to inform species distribution models under five criteria for data use. We sampled 60 wetlands for eDNA in the Fairbanks North Star Borough during summer 2015. Samples were processed using a species-specific quantitative PCR assay. Wood frog presence at each site was inferred from the PCR results. This data was used to construct four different wood frog distribution models. From each model we produced a predictive distribution map encompassing the Fairbanks North Star Borough. We assess the performance of each model using available wood frog presence data. Our highest performing model achieves moderate predictive accuracy (Area Under the Curve = 0.74). Weak signals in eDNA occurrence data are important in revealing species presence at low abundance, but strict lab hygiene, quality control practices, and detailed metadata are needed to retain confidence in the results. We show a powerful new way to study wood frog distribution by combining eDNA occurrence data with machine learning techniques. Wider implementation of eDNA surveys and increased availability of high resolution GIS data will help to refine these models.
    • Arctic fox winter movement and diet in relation to industrial development on Alaska's North Slope

      Lehner, Neil S.; Person, Brian; Kielland, Knut; O'Brien, Diane; Hunter, Christine (2012-12)
      I examined winter movement and diet of Arctic foxes (Vulpes lagopus) in the Prudhoe Bay oilfields and an adjacent undeveloped area (National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPR-A)). Movement metrics were compared between these areas using data from satellite collars. Daily travel rate was approximately 5 times greater in the undeveloped area than in Prudhoe Bay. Four adult foxes collared in NPR-A used the sea ice for extensive time periods. One of these foxes traveled 338 km in three days while another traveled to Banks Island (Northwest Territories, Canada), over 1050 km from its capture location. Prudhoe Bay foxes did not make these long distance movements and remained near their summer capture location throughout winter. I used stable isotope analysis and a mixing model (SIAR) to estimate the contribution of marine, terrestrial, and anthropogenic foods to fox diet. Based on muscle tissue, the average contribution of anthropogenic foods to Prudhoe Bay fox diet was more that 50%. Marine foods were utilized in NPR-A, but not in Prudhoe Bay. Results demonstrate that anthropogenic foods are heavily utilized by foxes that overwinter in the oilfields and this food source is likely responsible for reduced winter movements of Prudhoe Bay foxes. Therefore, industrial development strongly affects winter movement and diet of foxes.
    • Arctic sea ice trafficability: new strategies for a changing icescape

      Dammann, Dyre Oliver; Eicken, Hajo; Mahoney, Andrew R.; Meyer, Franz J.; Bhatt, Uma S.; Meek, Chanda L. (2017-08)
      Sea ice is an important part of the Arctic social-environmental system, in part because it provides a platform for human transportation and for marine flora and fauna that use the ice as a habitat. Sea ice loss projected for coming decades is expected to change ice conditions throughout the Arctic, but little is known about the nature and extent of anticipated changes and in particular potential implications for over-ice travel and ice use as a platform. This question has been addressed here through an extensive effort to link sea ice use and key geophysical properties of sea ice, drawing upon extensive field surveys around on-ice operations and local and Indigenous knowledge for the widely different ice uses and ice regimes of Utqiaġvik, Kotzebue, and Nome, Alaska. A set of nine parameters that constrain landfast sea ice use has been derived, including spatial extent, stability, and timing and persistence of landfast ice. This work lays the foundation for a framework to assess and monitor key ice-parameters relevant in the context of ice-use feasibility, safety, and efficiency, drawing on different remote-sensing techniques. The framework outlines the steps necessary to further evaluate relevant parameters in the context of user objectives and key stakeholder needs for a given ice regime and ice use scenario. I have utilized this framework in case studies for three different ice regimes, where I find uses to be constrained by ice thickness, roughness, and fracture potential and develop assessment strategies with accuracy at the relevant spatial scales. In response to the widely reported importance of high-confidence ice thickness measurements, I have developed a new strategy to estimate appropriate thickness compensation factors. Compensation factors have the potential to reduce risk of misrepresenting areas of thin ice when using point-based in-situ assessment methods along a particular route. This approach was tested on an ice road near Kotzebue, Alaska, where substantial thickness variability results in the need to raise thickness thresholds by 50%. If sea ice is thick enough for safe travel, then the efficiency of travel is relevant and is influenced by the roughness of the ice surface. Here, I develop a technique to derive trafficability measures from ice roughness using polarimetric and interferometric synthetic aperture radar (SAR). Validated using Structure-from-Motion analysis of imagery obtained from an unmanned aerial system near Utqiaġvik, Alaska, I demonstrate the ability of these SAR techniques to map both topography and roughness with potential to guide trail construction efforts towards more trafficable ice. Even when the ice is sufficiently thick to ensure safe travel, potential for fracturing can be a serious hazard through the ability of cracks to compromise load-bearing capacity. Therefore, I have created a state-of-the-art technique using interferometric SAR to assess ice stability with capability of assessing internal ice stress and potential for failure. In an analysis of ice deformation and potential hazards for the Northstar Island ice road near Prudhoe Bay on Alaska's North Slope I have identified a zone of high relative fracture intensity potential that conformed with road inspections and hazard assessments by the operator. Through this work I have investigated the intersection between ice use and geophysics, demonstrating that quantitative evaluation of a given region in the ice use assessment framework developed here can aid in tactical routing of ice trails and roads as well as help inform long-term strategic decision-making regarding the future of Arctic operations on or near sea ice.
    • Arthropod communities and passerine diet: effects of shrub expansion in Western Alaska

      McDermott, Molly Tankersley; Doak, Pat; Breed, Greg; Handel, Colleen; Mulder, Christa (2017-08)
      Across the Arctic, taller woody shrubs, particularly willow (Salix spp.), birch (Betula spp.), and alder (Alnus spp.), have been expanding rapidly onto tundra. Changes in vegetation structure can alter the physical habitat structure, thermal environment, and food available to arthropods, which play an important role in the structure and functioning of Arctic ecosystems. Not only do they provide key ecosystem services such as pollination and nutrient cycling, they are an essential food source for migratory birds. In this study I examined the relationships between the abundance, diversity, and community composition of arthropods and the height and cover of several shrub species across a tundra-shrub gradient in northwestern Alaska. To characterize nestling diet of common passerines that occupy this gradient, I used next-generation sequencing of fecal matter. Willow cover was strongly and consistently associated with abundance and biomass of arthropods and significant shifts in arthropod community composition and diversity. Key nestling prey items were positively associated with both willow and ericaceous shrubs. Diet composition varied significantly among bird species and spatially within species, however, I found that temporal variability in prey abundance did not have a strong relationship to the probability of consumption. I predict that the wide temporal window of prey availability and high diet diversity may protect these birds against negative impacts from climate-driven shifts in prey phenology and abundance. Taken together, my results suggest that shrub expansion could result in a significant shift in Arctic food-web structure and an increase in food availability for insectivores, although future ecosystem change in the Arctic is likely to be heterogeneous as shrub types are expanding at different rates and in different places across the Arctic.
    • Assessing effects of climate change on access to ecosystem services in rural Alaska

      Cold, Helen S.; Brinkman, Todd J.; Hollingsworth, Teresa N.; Brown, Caroline L.; Verbyla, David L. (2018-12)
      Across the planet, climate change is altering the way human societies interact with the environment. Amplified climate change at high latitudes is significantly altering the structure and function of ecosystems, creating challenges and necessitating adaptation by societies in the region that depend on local ecosystem services for their livelihoods. Rural communities in Interior Alaska rely on plants and animals for food, clothing, fuel and shelter. Previous research suggests that climate-induced changes in environmental conditions are challenging the abilities of rural residents to travel across the land and access local resources, but detailed information on the nature and effect of specific conditions is lacking. My objectives were to identify climate-related environmental conditions affecting subsistence access, and then estimate travel and access vulnerability to those environmental conditions. I collaborated with nine Interior Alaskan communities within the Yukon River basin and provided local residents with camera-equipped GPS units to document environmental conditions directly affecting access for 12 consecutive months. I also conducted comprehensive interviews with research participants to incorporate the effects of environmental conditions not documented with GPS units. Among the nine communities collaborating on this research, 18 harvesters documented 479 individual observations of environmental conditions affecting their travel with GPS units. Environmental conditions were categorized into seven condition types. I then ranked categories of conditions using a vulnerability index that incorporated both likelihood (number of times a condition was documented) and sensitivity (magnitude of the effect from the condition) information derived from observations and interviews. Changes in ice conditions, erosion, vegetative community composition and water levels had the greatest overall effect on travel and access to subsistence resources. Environmental conditions that impeded travel corridors, including waterways and areas with easily traversable vegetation (such as grass/sedge meadows and alpine tundra), more strongly influenced communities off the road network than those connected by roads. Combining local ecological knowledge and scientific analysis presents a broad understanding of the effects of climate change on access to subsistence resources, and provides information that collaborating communities can use to optimize adaptation and self-reliance.
    • Assessing seasonal trends in harbor seal (Phoca vitulina) diet using stable isotope analysis along the whisker

      Smith, Justin Arthur; O'Brien, Diane; Horstmann, Larissa; Breed, Greg; Karpovich, Shawna (2017-12)
      Harbor seals (Phoca vitulina) that use tidewater glaciers in the summers to molt, pup, and breed have declined in recent years, which could be attributed to reduced prey availability caused by regime shifts in the coastal marine environment. Recording seasonal dietary trends of harbor seals in different years could improve our ability to test if regime shifts caused these declines. However, such analysis has not been possible, because wild harbor seals are difficult to recapture. Stable isotope analysis of serial sections of growing whiskers (mystacial vibrissae) can be used as a tool to assess diet over different seasons, but uncertainty about whisker growth status and shed dates have prevented accurate estimates of stable isotope deposition date in the past. In Chapter 1, I characterized harbor seal whisker morphology to improve estimates of stable isotope deposition date. First, I measured 567 whiskers collected from wild harbor seals in the Gulf of Alaska from 2003 to 2012. Measurements included the length of a smooth root section (SRS), the length of the bumpy section, and the distance between each bump (inter-bump length; IBL). I found that the SRS was longer for spring-collected whiskers than fall-collected whiskers and matched the length of fully-grown, shed whiskers. These results suggest that the SRS can be used to differentiate whisker shed and growth status, and can be used to determine the sequence of whisker shedding by cohort in summer-captured seals. I also found that the mean IBL was correlated with whisker length and provides a proxy for whisker growth rate. I compared stable carbon isotope ratios along the three longest whiskers from 10 harbor seals and found that intra-individual patterns of whisker stable carbon isotope ratios became more synchronous when expressed by deposition date rather than by position along the whisker. In Chapter 1, I proposed a method to improve deposition date estimates by applying individually adjusted growth rates and better estimates of shed date to wild harbor seal whiskers. In Chapter 2, I analyzed stable isotope ratios from serial sections of whiskers of 32 harbor seals from a population that uses tidewater glacial habitats in southeast Alaska. I used a mixed-effects repeated-measures model to determine the characteristics that influence stable isotope ratios over time. Mean stable carbon and nitrogen isotope ratios differed significantly among size classes (p < 0.005), with no effect of sex. Seals were then grouped by size to describe isotopic differences between different demographic groups using Standard Ellipse Corrected Area (SEAc). Larger seals (>1.4 m) exhibited a broader isotopic niche in the fall, winter, and spring relative to smaller seals (< 1.4 m), but had a similar niche width in the summer. These results suggest that seals using tidewater glacial habitat share common prey base in the summer, while larger seals diversify their diets throughout the rest of the year. Overall, the results of this thesis suggest whisker morphometric characteristics can be used to improve the ability to make longitudinal inferences using serial sections of the whiskers, which reveal differences in prey utilization by size class in harbor seals that merit further study.
    • Assessment of LiDAR and spectral techniques for high-resolution mapping of permafrost on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, Alaska

      Whitley, Matthew Allen; Maio, Christopher V.; Frost, Gerald V.; Jorgenson, M. Torre (2017-05)
      The Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta (YKD) is one of the largest and most ecologically productive coastal wetland regions in the pan-Arctic. Formed by the Yukon and Kuskokwim Rivers flowing into the Bering Sea, nearly 130,000 square kilometers of delta support 23,000 Alaskan Natives living subsistence lifestyles. Permafrost on the outer delta commonly occurs on the abandoned floodplain deposits. Ground ice in the soil raises surface elevations on the order of 1-2 meters, creating plateaus on the landscape. Better drainage on the plateaus supports distinct Sphagnum-rich vegetation, which in turn protects the permafrost from rising air temperatures with low thermal conductivity during the summer. This ecosystem-protected permafrost is thus vulnerable to disturbances from rising air temperatures, vegetation mortality, and inland storm surges, which have been known to flood up to 37 km inland. This thesis assesses several novel techniques to map permafrost distribution at high-resolution on the YKD. Accurate baseline maps of permafrost extent are critical for a variety of applications, including long-term monitoring. As air and ground temperatures rise across the Arctic, monitoring landscape change is important for understanding permafrost degradation processes (e.g. thermokarst) and greenhouse gas dynamics from the local to global scales. This thesis separately explored the value of Light Detection And Ranging (LiDAR) and spectral datasets as tools to map permafrost at a high spatial resolution. Furthermore, this thesis sought to automate these processes, with the vision of high-resolution mapping over large spatial extents. Fieldwork was conducted in July 2016 to both parameterize and then validate the mapping efforts. The LiDAR mapping extent assessed a 135 km² area (~15% permafrost cover), and the spectral mapping extent assessed an 8 km² area (~20% permafrost cover). For the LiDAR dataset, the use of a simple elevation threshold informed by field ground truth values provided a permafrost map with 94.9% accuracy. This simple approach was possible because of the extremely flat terrain. For the spectral datasets, an ad-hoc masking technique was developed using a combination of texture analysis, principal component analysis, and morphological filtering. Two contrasting workflows were evaluated with fully-automated and semi-automated methods with mixed results. The highest mapping accuracy was 89.4% and the lowest was 79.1%, though the error of omission in mapping the permafrost remained high (7.02 - 59.7%) for most analyses. The spectral mapping algorithms did not replicate well across different high-resolution images, raising questions about the viability of using spectral methods alone to track thermokarst and landscape change over time. However, incorporating the spectral methods explored in this analysis with other datasets (e.g. LiDAR) has the potential to increase mapping accuracies. Both the methods and the results of this thesis enhance permafrost mapping efforts on the YKD, and provide a good first step to monitoring landscape change in the region.
    • Bayesian predictive process models for historical precipitation data of Alaska and southwestern Canada

      Vanney, Peter; Short, Margaret; Goddard, Scott; Barry, Ronald (2016-05)
      In this paper we apply hierarchical Bayesian predictive process models to historical precipitation data using the spBayes R package. Classical and hierarchical Bayesian techniques for spatial analysis and modeling require large matrix inversions and decompositions, which can take prohibitive amounts of time to run (n observations take time on the order of n3). Bayesian predictive process models have the same spatial framework as hierarchical Bayesian models but fit a subset of points (called knots) to the sample which allows for large scale dimension reduction and results in much smaller matrix inversions and faster computing times. These computationally less expensive models allow average desktop computers to analyze spatially related datasets in excess of 20,000 observations in an acceptable amount of time.
    • Black bear denning ecology and habitat selection in interior Alaska

      Smith, Martin E.; Follmann, Erich; Dean, Fred; Hechtel, John; Bowyer, Terry (1994-12)
      To identify conflicts between existing black bear (Ursus americanus) management and human activity on Tanana River Flats, Alaska, we monitored 27 radio-collared black bears from 1988-1991. We compared denning chronology, den characteristics, den-site selection, and habitat selection across sex, age, and female reproductive classes. Mean den entry was 1 October and emergence was 21 April, with females denned earlier and emerging later than males. Marshland and heath meadow habitats were avoided, and willow-alder was selected for den-sites. Eighty-three percent of dens were excavated, 100% contained nests, 18% were previously used, and 29% had flooded. Black bears selected black spruce-tamarack and birch-aspen significantly more, and marshland and heath meadow significantly less than available. Marshland and birch-aspen were used significantly more in spring than autumn. Marshland was used less than available by all bears in all seasons. Special habitat or den-site requirements are not critical for management of Tanana River Flats black bears.
    • Causes and consequences of coupled crystallization and vesiculation in ascending mafic magmas

      Lindoo, Amanda N.; Larsen, Jessica F.; Freymueller, Jeffrey; Izbekov, Pavel; Trainor, Tom (2017-08)
      Transitions in eruptive style and eruption intensity in mafic magmas are poorly understood. While silicic systems are the most researched and publicized due to their explosive character, mafic volcanoes remain the dominant form of volcanism on the earth. Eruptions are typically effusive, but changes in flow behavior can result in explosive, ash generating episodes. The efficiency of volatiles to degas from an ascending magma greatly influences eruption style. It is well known that volatile exsolution in magmas is a primary driving force for volcanic eruptions, however the roles vesicles and syn-eruptive crystallization play in eruption dynamics are poorly understood. Permeability development, which occurs when gas bubbles within a rising magma form connected pathways, has been suspected to influence eruption style and intensity. Numerous investigations on natural eruptive products, experimental samples, and analog experiments have extended the understanding of permeability development and fragmentation processes. However, these studies have focused on silicic, high viscosity, crystal-poor magmas. Little progress has been made in understanding fragmentation mechanisms in mafic or alkali magmas. Mafic systems involve lower viscosity magmas that often form small crystals, also known as microlites, during ascent. Because the merging of bubbles in magma is mitigated by melt viscosity, it is predicted that permeability development in mafic magma will occur at lower bubble volume fractions than in silicic magma. However, no study has been performed on experimental samples to provide evidence for this hypothesis. Furthermore, it is unknown how microlites affect the degassing process in terms of facilitating or hindering permeability development. This thesis employs experimental petrology to: 1) experimentally observe how melt viscosity alone affects permeability development, 2) Understand the effects of syn-eruptive crystallization in vesiculating mafic magmas and synergizes these results to 3) relate experimental findings to the 2008 eruption of Kasatochi volcano.
    • Cenozoic tectono-thermal history of the southern Talkeetna Mountains, Alaska: multiple topographic development drivers through time

      Terhune, Patrick J.; Benowitz, Jeffrey; Freymueller, Jeffrey; Gillis, Robert (2018-08)
      Intraplate mountain ranges can have polyphase topographic development histories reflecting diverse plate boundary conditions. We apply ⁴⁰Ar/³⁹Ar, apatite fission track (AFT) and apatite (U-Th)/He (AHe) geochronology-thermochronology to plutonic and volcanic rocks in the southern Talkeetna Mountains of Alaska to document regional magmatism, rock cooling and inferred exhumation patterns as proxies for the deformation history of this long-lived intraplate mountain range. High-temperature ⁴⁰Ar/³⁹Ar geochronology on muscovite, biotite and K-feldspar from Jurassic granitoids indicates post-emplacement (~158-125 Ma) cooling and Paleocene (~61 Ma) thermal resetting. ⁴⁰Ar/³⁹Ar whole rock volcanic ages and AFT cooling ages in the southern Talkeetna Mountains are predominantly Paleocene-Eocene, suggesting that the Range is partially paleotopography that formed during an earlier tectonic setting. Miocene AHe cooling ages within ~10 km of the Castle Mountain Fault suggest ~2-3 km of vertical displacement that also contributed to mountain building, likely in response to the inboard progression of the subducted Yakutat microplate. Paleocene-Eocene volcanic and exhumation ages across interior southern Alaska north of the Border Ranges Fault System are similar and show no N-S or W-E progressions, suggesting a broadly synchronous and widespread volcanic and exhumation event that conflicts with the proposed diachronous subduction of an active west-east sweeping spreading ridge beneath south-central Alaska. To reconcile this, we propose a new model for the Cenozoic tectonic evolution of southern Alaska. We infer that slab breakoff sub-parallel to the trench and subsequent mantle upwelling drove magmatism, exhumation and rock cooling synchronously across south-central Alaska and played a primary role in the development of the southern Talkeetna Mountains.
    • Characterizing wintertime aerosol composition and sulfate formation in Fairbanks, Alaska

      Davey, Ragen; Mao, Jingqiu; Simpson, William R.; Guerard, Jennifer J. (2020-05)
      The citizens of Fairbanks, Alaska are exposed to high levels of air pollutants throughout the winter months, causing the city to violate the Fine Particulate Matter (PM₂.₅) National Ambient Air Quality Standards set in place by the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Previous studies have shown the significant amount of sulfate aerosols particles observed in Fairbanks winters, but the formation mechanism of aerosols containing sulfate in the atmosphere is still unknown. While sulfate aerosol particle formation is commonly driven by oxidants including ·OH, H₂O₂ and O₃, these photochemical species are limited in Fairbanks winter months. This indicates sulfate aerosol particle formation may occur through a nontraditional pathway, and this project investigates one proposed mechanism in which transition metals may catalyze sulfate aerosol particle formation. We collected twelve full diurnal cycles over the winter months of 2019, using a particle-to-liquid sampler (PILS) at hourly time resolution. This PILS instrument creates an aqueous extract containing only the water-soluble components of the aerosol particles. These aqueous extracts were analyzed offline for inorganic and metal concentrations by ion chromatography (IC) and inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS). This hourly dataset provides new insights in emissions, chemical processing and their coupling with boundary layer dynamics. We find a strong correlation between hourly sulfate and PM2.5 mass concentrations, but we do not find the strong evidence of transition metal ion (TMI) catalysis on sulfate formation. We also collected twelve sets of aerosol filters using Micro-Orifice Uniform Deposit Impactor (MOUDI) throughout the winter of 2019. These size-resolved filter samples suggest the presence of hydroxymethane sulfonate (HMS) in submicron particles when temperatures are below -30 °C (-22 °F), suggesting a new reservoir for sulfur compounds in Fairbanks winter and warranting further investigation.
    • Common ravens in Alaska's North Slope oil fields: an integrated study using local knowledge and science

      Backensto, Stacia Ann (2010-05)
      Common ravens (Corvus corax) that nest on human structures in the Kuparuk and Prudhoe Bay oil fields on Alaska's North Slope are believed to present a predation risk to tundra-nesting birds in this area. In order to gain more information about the history of the resident raven population and their use of anthropogenic resources in the oil fields, I documented oil field worker knowledge of ravens in this area. In order to understand how anthropogenic subsidies in the oil fields affect the breeding population, I examined the influence of types of structures and food subsidies on raven nest site use and productivity in the oil fields. Oil field workers provided new and supplemental information about the breeding population. This work in conjunction with a scientific study of the breeding population suggests that structures in the oil fields were important to ravens throughout the year by providing nest sites and warm locations to roost during the winter. The breeding population was very successful and appears to be limited by suitable nest sites. The landfill is an important food source to ravens during winter, and pick-up trucks provide a supplemental source of food throughout the year. Further research will be necessary to identify how food (anthropogenic and natural) availability affects productivity and the degree to which ravens impact tundra-nesting birds.
    • Constraining the H₂O/CO₂ molar ratio, the volume fraction of exsolved volatiles, and the magma compressibility of the 2006 Augustine eruption, Alaska

      Wasser, Valerie; Lopez, Taryn; Izbekov, Pavel; Larsen, Jessica; Anderson, Kyle; Freymueller, Jeffrey (2019-08)
      Geodetic modeling of volcano deformation can be used to estimate the volume of magma presumed to be mobilized within a volcanic system. These geodetically modeled subsurface reservoir volume changes are commonly much smaller than simultaneous eruptive volumes, where the eruptive volume is estimated based on geological mapping of units, their thicknesses, and their densities. This discrepancy is thought to be at least partially due to magma compressibility, which describes the phenomena where the volume of a given mass of magma changes as pressure increases/decreases primarily due to the presence of highly compressible exsolved volatiles. In this study, I combine deformation, volcanic gas, and petrologic constraints acquired prior to and during the 2006 eruption of Augustine volcano, Alaska, to estimate the amount of exsolved volatiles present in the magma storage region prior to the eruption and calculate the resulting compressibility of the magma. By doing so, I am able to constrain the H₂O/CO₂ molar ratio of the syn-eruptive gas emissions to between 24 and 59, with my best estimate of 28. My results suggest that for the specific parameters of Augustine's magmatic system, including a pressure of 120-170 MPa, a temperature of 880 ± 13 °C, and 40 ± 2% phenocrysts by volume, an exsolved volatile phase of about 8.2 vol% and a magma compressibility of ~7.1 x 10⁻¹⁰ 1/Pa are required to explain the observed eruptive volume to deformation volume ratio equal to three. The exsolved volatile volume and magma compressibility values determined here agree with results of previous studies of volatile-rich volcanic systems. This study reiterates that magma compressibility is an important factor that must be considered when interpreting deformation data within volatile-saturated volcanic systems.