Brown bear close encounter caught on video: Drew Hamilton, a fish and wildlife technician with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, filmed a close encounter he had with a brown bear while working in the field this summer, according to a video recently uploaded to YouTube. The video, shot at Southcentral Alaska's McNeil River State Game Sanctuary and Refuge, shows a brown bear amble up to Hamilton, stand for a moment and sit down just a few feet away from where Hamilton is sitting. The video was uploaded to YouTube on Sunday and had been viewed more than a quarter-million times by Wednesday morning. The McNeil River is a well-known viewing site for brown bears, which congregate at the river to catch salmon. As many as 74 bears have been observed at the river at one time, according to the Department of Fish and Game.
Northern Gateway pipeline gets approval: A pipeline connecting Alberta's tar sands with British Columbia's Pacific coast at Kitimat received approval from federal regulators in Ottawa Tuesday, the New York Times reports. The pipeline, known as the Northern Gateway project, is to be built by Calgary-based Enbridge and constitutes something of an alternative to the controversial Keystone XL pipeline. The pipeline would be used to send bitumen to the coast for shipment to Asia, though a report in Toronto's Globe and Mail from a Beijing-based correspondent notes that news of the project's approval received mixed reactions there. Alaska oil exports to Asia ended in 2004, though some observers predict that -- because of a Clinton-era exemption from the U.S. oil export ban -- Alaska's oil could be among the first U.S. oil to be sent abroad in the near future.
The color spectrum of fish flesh: For many Alaskans there's nothing quite like the deep glow of a filleted wild salmon. But how about the pale blue of some lingcod? Or the near colorlessness of halibut? Those colors can tell you a lot about a fish, from genetics to behavior, reports NPR's food blog, The Salt. The bright colors of fish such as tuna come from being robustly active predators (something they share with land-based animals), while the lack of color in halibut points to the opposite -- their "life of languid swimming and idleness." Salmon, as many Alaskans know, get their orange color from krill, one reason farmed fish pale -- literally -- beside their wild cousins. But other fish eat krill too, and don't turn deep orange. That's because salmon have a gene that let's the color show in muscle tissue (most do anyway; the piece devotes a paragraph to white or "ivory" kings, which, lacking the gene, have white flesh).
Meltwater ponds could help with sea ice forecasts: Computer models used to predict a variety of climate-related changes in sea ice have proven accurate in predicting longer-term trends, but less useful in capturing the year-to-year variations within those bigger trends. Now a team of British researchers believes it's found a way to make much more accurate predictions, the BBC reports -- by using meltwater ponds. These ponds, which form atop the sea ice as it melts, are darker than ice and therefore absorb more sunlight. The British scientists have found "a strong correlation between the fraction of the floes covered by pond water in May and the eventual sea-ice extent seen in September," the BBC report notes. Such models could be useful for Arctic shipping, for which reliable short-term ice forecasts could prove invaluable. The team published its findings in the journal Nature Climate Change.