For the geoscientist, Alaska is one of the most exciting natural laboratories on Earth. This is in part because it is an exceptionally dynamic place and in part because much remains to be discovered here. There is more to be done than refining the last study of a decade ago. There is an element of exploration to our work.
During the last century, Alaska saw the world’s largest volcanic eruption and second largest earthquake. Together with western Canada, Alaska contains the largest ice mass outside of Antarctica and Greenland. Global warming is not just warming here but melting, with dramatic changes in permafrost, glaciers, and sea ice and attendant impacts on northern and coastal villages. It is also an area of active exploration for and discovery of mineral and energy resources.
Such a place provides an exciting environment for learning. Students have opportunities to engage in geology and geophysics that is at once basic research and also relates to some of the most important themes of the day: natural hazards, natural resources, and human adaptation to and stewardship of a changing environment. Many of these issues can be experienced first hand, rather than “academically”, and that makes for the best possible academic experience.
Because Fairbanks is such an exceptional observation post and expedition base, we have in the geosciences a ratio of researchers - teachers to students that may be unmatched by any other university. Of course, our faculty and students are not limited to research in Alaska. We are also engaged in projects in Japan, Russia, Hawaii, Italy, Canada, Mexico, Antarctica, and Mars. Alaska is ideally suited as a base for these sorts of far-flung efforts too. It is the most international of states, bordering Russia and Canada but not the rest of the US. As for Mars, volcanism and permafrost provide good analogs of the Martian environment, and a warm day on Mars compares favorably with a cold winter day in Fairbanks – both beautiful. Indeed, the Far North beckons the scientist with its primordial, “planetary” aspect.
Source: Department Website August 2016