Alaska News

UAF scientist named head of massive Arctic environment study

It's the million-dollar question: What can we expect from our climate in the future? A new study of Arctic ecosystems aims to help answer just that question and an Alaska professor has been named as the chief scientist for the study.

University of Alaska Fairbanks Professor Vladimir Romanovsky has been named chief scientist for the U.S. Department of Energy initiative titled the Next-Generation Ecosystem Experiments. Romanovsky is a professor of geophysics at the UAF Geophysical Institute.

"The NGEE project represents really good coordination for integrated field campaigns," Romanovsky said in a release. "I don't know of any other project which has this kind of breadth and depth at the same time."

The study will provide data essential to improving climate predictions, Romanovsky said.

"The ultimate goal is to improve climate models," Romanovsky said. "But to make it possible to do that, more data about natural processes in the Arctic that is important for understanding climate need to be incorporated in the models. So, one of the goals of the project is to collect those data."

The study will focus on all areas of the Arctic ecosystem, "from the top of the vegetation canopy to bedrock," the scientists said. It will include experiments and observations related to hydrology, permafrost, vegetation, microbiology and biogeochemistry. Some 140 scientists and four national laboratories as well as UAF and several other universities will be involved.

"Failure to identify and appropriately account for complexities at the landscape scale can compromise climate predictions," wrote Stan Wullschleger, study director, in the original project proposal.


There is significant funding behind the study, which will be conducted over the next decade, as well. The budget is $10 million per year, of which the Alaska university will receive $1 million.

Approximately 20 researchers from the Geophysical Institute, International Arctic Research Center and the Institute of Arctic Biology are participating in the studies.

"If anybody plans to do any (scientific) work in the Arctic, they really need to collaborate with UAF in the project," Romanovsky said. "UAF has experience in organizational logistics, local governments, local people. It's always much easier for external institutions to take advantage of the pre-existing network UAF has developed. That's part of why UAF was so involved in this project from the beginning."

In his role as chief scientist, Romanovsky will provide guidance for questions related to development of proposals, work plans, field work and modeling planning and execution.

Romanovsky is a professor of geophysics and has been affiliated with UAF since 1992. His research interests are in the scientific and practical aspects of environmental and engineering problems involving ice and permafrost.

This story first appeared in The Arctic Sounder and is republished here with permission.