Weekly Highlights for 5-31-2012
I. Departmental/Bureau News
A. Upcoming Events
No Upcoming Events highlights for this week
USGS Alaska Science Center research wildlife biologists Todd Atwood and Karyn Rode will be attending the US-Russia Polar Bear Commission meeting under the US-Russia polar bear treaty in Anchorage, Alaska June 25-27. Rode will be giving a presentation on "Body condition, feeding ecology, and reproduction of polar bears in the Chukchi Sea". This is the annual meeting of the Commission in which they make management decisions for the shared Alaska-Chukotka (Chukchi Sea) polar bear population.
Anchorage, AK, (907) 786-7106
USGS biologists David Douglas (Alaska Science Center) and John Takekawa (Western Ecology Science Center) are members of an international team developing new online tools for linking animal movement tracks with weather and land surface data. The team will meet in Alaska June 4-7 to review a prototype of the data portal and to develop the first proof-of-concept studies. The project is funded by NASA and led by Dr. Gil Bohrer of Ohio State University. The portal will be implemented under www.movebank.org—a tracking data archival system maintained by the Max Planck Institute, Germany.
Juneau, AK, (907) 364-1576
This summer, Alaska Pacific University student, Natasha Kozlowski, will work with Alaska Science Center staff and other federal and state agencies and NGO's to organize invasive species information for Alaska into the Biodiversity Information Serving Our Nation (BISON) database, being developed by the Core Science Analytics and Synthesis (CSAS) program of the USGS. Currently, researchers collect species occurrence data, records of an organism at a particular time in a particular place, as a primary or ancillary function of many biological field investigations. These data often reside in numerous distributed systems and formats (including publications) and are consequently not being used to their potential. The BISON database represents an integrated and permanent resource for biological occurrence data from the United States and will leverage the accumulated human and infrastructure resources of the long-term USGS investment in research and data management and delivery of biological and geospatial data.
Anchorage, AK, (907) 786-7094
In an article soon to be published in the journal Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, research geneticists Andrew Hope and Sandra Talbot of the USGS Alaska Science Center, along with colleagues from the Museum of Southwestern Biology at the University of New Mexico and the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, document rapid genetic evolution of small mammals on the North Slope of Alaska in response to historic climate change. Among vertebrates, mice and shrews may be the most diverse, abundant, and have the most rapid reproductive turnover. In addition, unlike many birds and some larger mammals, they are non-migratory so they exhibit responses to local environmental conditions year round. Using molecular analyses and species distribution modeling, the researchers found that some shrew species respond positively to periods of warmer and wetter climate, through expanding geographic ranges and increased population sizes, where as other species show similar population demographics during periods of colder and drier climate such as during the last glacial phase. This Alaska REX DOI on the Landscape and Alaska Science Center Changing Arctic Ecosystems study of historical processes offers valuable insight into the future responses of species to changing environmental trends.
Hope AG, Speer KA, Demboski JR, Talbot SL, Cook JA. (2012), A climate for speciation: Rapid spatial diversification within the Sorex cinereus complex of shrews. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, (In Press)
Anchorage, AK, (541) 738-2112
In a correspondence to be published in the autumn edition of the Northwestern Naturalist, Andrew Hope of the USGS Alaska Science Center highlights the discovery and biogeographic significance of six species of shrew (genus: Sorex) collected at a single location on the Seward Peninsula of Alaska in 2010. Such high sympatric diversity within a single mammalian genus is seldom realized. Field collections as part of the Alaska REX DOI on the Landscape Initiative and Alaska Science Center Changing Arctic Ecosystems Initiative represent sample sites along the boreal-tundra ecotone through northern Alaska and specimens are currently being used to investigate contact zone dynamics as a consequence of contemporary climate shifts.
Hope AG. (2012), High shrew diversity on Alaska's Seward Peninsula: Community assembly and environmental change. Northwestern Naturalist, (In Press)
Anchorage, AK, (541) 738-2112
USGS Alaska Science Center research geologist Richard Lease published a paper in the journal Tectonics. The paper presents work done while Lease was at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Large expanses of mountainous terrain > 4 km in elevation characterize the Tibetan Plateau, the world's foremost example of continent-continent collision. Supporting this high terrain is continental crust whose thickness has doubled during plateau growth. The deformation mechanisms responsible for generating this thick crust, however, are hotly debated. Two contrasting models have emerged: 1) faulting and folding in the upper crust and horizontal shortening below (i.e. pure shear); and 2) "ooze" or flow of lower or middle crust without significant shortening of the upper crust. To help discriminate between these two mechanisms, Lease et al. present a series of structural cross-sections that characterize the magnitude and style of deformation on the northeastern margin of the Tibetan Plateau. Restoration of the cross-sections suggest that Cenozoic faulting and folding alone are sufficient to generate modern crustal thicknesses beneath the plateau, obviating the need for lower crustal flow.
Lease, R.O., Burbank, D.W., Zhang, H., Liu, J., and Yuan, D., 2012, Cenozoic shortening budget for the northeastern edge of the Tibetan Plateau: Is lower crustal flow necessary?, Tectonics, v. 31, TC3011, doi: 10.1029/2011TC003066
Anchorage, AK, (907) 786-7169
II. Press Inquiries/Media
On May 26, Ned Rozell's article about Alaska's "thermokarst" lakes was published in the Anchorage Daily News (Anchorage, AK). A thermokarst is an irregular land surface formed in a permafrost region by melting ground ice. The article "Arctic lakes getting a closer look" describes how USGS Alaska Science Center (ASC) scientists Benjamin Jones and Benjamin Gaglioti (STEP employee at the ASC) traveled over 800 miles on snow machines installing instruments that will collect data for years to help gain an understanding of change over time on the Arctic landscape. To learn more about Cold Region Lake and Landscape Research visit http://alaska.usgs.gov/science/geography/studies/index.php.
Anchorage, AK, (907) 786-7033
On May 29, a photo slide show and audio report by Annie Feidt with Alaska Public Radio News (APRN, Anchorage) featured a story about research being conducted on the Eklutna Glacier, Alaska. The Eklutna Glacier provides Anchorage with most of its drinking water and about 15 percent of the city's electricity, in the form of hydro power. USGS Alaska Science Center Physical Scientist Louis Sass was part of the research group led by Mike Loso, an Alaskan Pacific University (APU) Professor, who has been conducting research on the glacier for the past six years. The story and video may be viewed at http://www.alaskapublic.org/2012/05/28/apu-students-dig-for-answers-on-eklutna-glacier/
Anchorage, AK, (907) 786-7460