An introduction

So what is University of Alaska Anchorage doing in the Arctic? Short answer: lots and lots of research, from squirrel studies to climate science. Professor Loren Buck has been a fixture at Toolik Field Station—a research site that attracts scientists from all over the world—since 1992. This year, he’s working with UAA co-principal investigator Cory […]


Meet this week’s team*

Name: Loren Buck, Ph.D. Home university: University of Alaska Anchorage, professor of biologial sciences Background: Loren is the principal investigator on this Team Squirrel project. His research credentials are extensive. He made his first trip to Toolik Field Station in 1992.There's a fighting chance that there are never more than two degrees of separation between […]

Toolik tailgate

Tailgating in the shadow of the Brooks Range

A pickup truck tailgate is the field biologist’s work desk in and around Toolik Field Station (TFS). It’s a great place to assemble your gear, lay out maps to plot a day’s expeditions and, if you’re lucky enough to work within hiking distance of your truck, you can process samples there throughout the day. Converts to picnic seating at lunchtime.

Toolik squirrel cage pre-jump

Tag and release (video link)

The team works in a designated research area, so tagging the arctic ground squirrels and uploading their information to a database is useful, not just for them but for other researchers. Here Jeanette Moore, research technician, and Alicia Gillean, NSF PolarTREC teacher, work together to measure, tag and release an animal.


The life cycle of squirrel knowledge

The Ph.D.s who head up Team Squirrel, Loren Buck, Cory Williams and Brian Barnes, have all fielded a version of this question: “What’s the point?” Whether it’s a casual observer or a potential funder asking, the subtext of the question is usually, “What’s in it for me?”


Meanwhile, back at the lab…

Sometimes it snows in June here in the Arctic. Toolik got a little late-season snowfall on June 9 and 10. Since the arctic ground squirrel enjoys the comfort of a cozy burrow during inclement weather—they’ll peek outside and if it looks nasty, turn right around and head back to bed—these are good days to catch […]


Squirrel brains and master clocks

Toolik Field Station is one of those safe spaces where it’s not unusual to spend dinnertime puzzling out innovative ways to collect whale blow—a plastic bottle on a long stick, a dry ice pop suspended from a helicopter, a drone? You can ask, “Hey, can we talk squirrel brains later?” and get a sincere response.

right whale

Learning about whale poop on the tundra

At last night’s Toolik Talking Shop, Team Squirrel got to shelve their squirrel thinking for an hour while Kathleen Hunt, a research scientist from the New England Aquarium, regaled a Carhartt-and-XtraTuf-wearing scientist crowd in the Toolik Field Station (TFS) community center with amazing stories about whale poop.


Drilling in the Arctic

I met up with another UAA crew today, Team Isotope. They showed me a few things about drilling in the Arctic, like use an extra sharp drill bit. Because under all that saturated moss, about one finger-length down, it’s rock-solid ice this time of year. Rather than oil deposits, though, they’re plying the tundra for […]