2019 RID Awards

PROJECT: Using geospatial data to analyze variations in seal habitat

PI: Jason Amundson, Associate Professor, UAS

Tidewater glacier fjords are highly dynamic environments that are affected by several glaciological and oceanographic processes: (i) subglacial discharge creates upwelling plumes that drive an estuarine flow and promote submarine melting of glacier termini and icebergs, (ii) iceberg calving, which is affected by submarine melting, is a stochastic energy source that mixes near-glacier waters and produces waves that crash on shore and causes icebergs to capsize, and (iii) motion of icebergs and fjord waters are affected by winds, tides, and subglacial discharge. Biologists and glaciologists working in fjords have not traditionally worked together, and consequently little is known about the impact of these processes on fjord ecosystems. Numerous species reside in tidewater glacier fjords, including harbor seals, which seasonally congregate in fjords and use ice habitat for critical life functions including pupping, molting, and foraging. Seals that haul-out on icebergs during the pupping and molting seasons take longer and deeper dives for feeding than those that use terrestrial haul-outs, but may acquire higher quality food. Additionally, icebergs do not flood during high tide, which increases the amount of time that seals can remain hauled-out and that pups can spend nursing, thus increasing energetic intake. Many basic questions remain unanswered, however, such as the energy cost of coping with a constantly evolving landscape. This project aims to address these questions by using high-rate time-lapse photography (that is orthorectified with the ArcticDEM and ICESat-2 data) and aerial photography in order to investigate the temporal and spatial variability of seal habitat at Johns Hopkins Inlet, Glacier Bay. In doing so, the project will also be an impetus for further interdisciplinary studies on glacier-ecosystem interactions.

PROJECT: Atmospheric Corrosion Monitoring in Cold Arctic Climate using Modular Corrosion Test Racks

PI: Raghu Srinivasan, Assistant Professor, UAA

Atmospheric corrosion is a complex process that involves chemical, electrochemical, and physical changes to the metal alloys exposed. It is an important form of corrosion because many structures and systems are used in natural environments. Very little corrosion data are available for metal alloys exposed to cold arctic conditions. The atmospheric corrosion rate depends on environmental parameters such as rainfall, humidity, temperature, chloride and sulfate ion deposition rates, and time of wetness (TOW). With the urbanization of Anchorage, Alaska and its close proximity to the marine environment, it is an interesting outdoor test station in a harsh arctic environment. The angle of exposure affects snow/ice retention and this leads to the formation of varying thicknesses of moisture on metal surfaces. This NASA Research Infrastructure Development (RID) proposal focuses on monitoring the weather parameters in arctic climate and correlating the weather parameters to corrosion rates of various metals and alloys (e.g., carbon steel, stainless steel, aluminum, copper). Three modular corrosion test racks have already been designed and installed at the University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA) and the angle of exposure can be changed to 0, 30 and 45-degrees to the horizontal. This will allow us to test the metals alloys exposed to different angles for the same exposure period and study the effect of snow/ice retention on top of the metal surface. This project directly aligns with NASA Kennedy Space Center’s Mechanical and Environmental Test Laboratory and complements their facility in Florida. The preliminary project results will help us understand the corrosion mechanisms of metals in cold arctic environments.

PROJECT: Remotely sensing historic and future potential lake drainage patterns, pathways, and processes in Arctic Alaska

PI: Benjamin Jones, Research Assistant Professor, UAF

Lakes are vulnerable to catastrophic drainage in arctic permafrost lowlands. Better understanding historic regional-scale lake drainage patterns, pathways, and processes is important for anticipating future potential lake drainage and landscape evolution in Arctic regions experiencing climate and land use changes. I propose to reconstruct lake drainage events for the western Arctic Coastal Plain of northern Alaska between 1955 and 2018 using USGS Topographic Maps, Landsat MSS, Landsat TM, Landsat ETM+, and Landsat OLI datasets. Observation of historic lake drainages through time series remote sensing data will provide information on drainage mechanisms and pathways that can inform an effort to identify future potential lake drainages in Arctic Alaska using a 5 m resolution IfSAR digital surface model (DSM). This assessment of lake drainage magnitude, mechanisms, and identification of potential future lake drainages provides information for studying how arctic lowland landscape may respond and evolve in the coming decades to centuries.

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