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Permafrost in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge
Alaska Science Center researchers Benjamin Jones (Geographer), Lydia Zeglin (Ecologist), and Carson Baughman (Geographer) completed field work on May 16th in which they collected peat cores from relict permafrost within Alaska's Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. The interdisciplinary team collected one deep frozen peat core extending 20 feet below the surface and several shorter cores along a ground thermal regime gradient. The deep peat core will be analyzed to determine the date of formation and resilience of permafrost in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. Understanding the characteristics of Southcentral Alaska's extremely "warm" permafrost may help explain what to expect in cases where permafrost warms in Wildlife Refuges across Alaska's Interior Boreal Forest ecoregion. It is also an excellent archive of past fire events in the region as well as volcanic eruptions. Dr. Zeglin will compare the frozen peat's microbial community to that of nearby peat cores free of permafrost. These comparisons will begin to reveal whether the unique permafrost habitat has promoted growth of microorganisms adapted to stable near-freezing temperatures.