From ocean floors to ocean shores: Civil engineering alumnus and graduate student explores the nooks and crannies of Alaska’s waters
For New Mexico native Garrett Yager ’09, it was always a dream to come to The Last Frontier. What better place to pursue a career in port and coastal engineering than in Alaska, with its nearly 34,000 miles of coastline, and millions of lakes and rivers to explore?
Yager earned his first undergraduate degree in geography from Western Washington University, and spent five years working for Palmer-based TerraSond, a company that specializes in ocean floor mapping. An interest in the technical aspects of his job and his curiosity of coastal engineering led Yager to UAA to further explore his interests.
He earned his Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering in May 2009, and is currently enrolled in the Master of Science in Civil Engineering program.
During his time as an undergraduate, Yager was involved with the Alaska Native Science & Engineering Program (ANSEP), where he worked as a recitation session leader. “You really don’t fully understand something until you teach it,” said Yager. “It was neat to be a part of ANSEP; I was surrounded by students with different backgrounds from all over the state.”
During his studies, Yager connected with his mentor, civil engineering associate professor Dr. Tom Ravens, who has similar interests in sediment transport, coastal engineering and environmental fluid mechanics.
“Garrett is a very smart, hardworking and insightful graduate student,” said Ravens. “On top of all that, he is engaged in all kinds of outreach activities in support of students, UAA and the world generally. He is really a great guy, and we are very fortunate to have him as a grad student.”
This summer, Yager supervised a group of student researchers on a project to assess hydrokinetic energy potential in streams and rivers surrounding select rural villages. He has also assisted on two coastal research projects on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta and Sag Delta involving sediment transport, geomorphic change, climate change impacts and the impacts of engineered structures.
“Opening the doors to research in renewable energy will benefit Alaska by encouraging students to pursue science and engineering degrees locally rather than traveling out of state,” said Yager.
Yager won the 2008-09 Dr. Alex Hills Engineering and Civil Engagement Award, which enabled him to study sediment basins in Anchorage, and how to make them more effective in removing small particles which have been attributed to degrading salmon habitat.
His graduate thesis will focus on studying the effects that offshore structures have on natural sediment deposition at the mouth of rivers on Alaska’s North Slope.
“UAA offers a lot of opportunities for non-traditional students, like myself,” said Yager. “I never felt like I was alone here; there were a lot of people at the same point in their lives as me, coming back to college after the decision to make a career change. The mix of younger students with older, more experienced students brings a lot of different perspectives to the classroom.”