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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 Williams, Ph.D., and Professor Brian Barnes, co-principal investigator from University of Alaska Fairbanks, and a team of research associates to study squirrel chronobiology.

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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 Loren and anyone conducting biological research in Alaska. He moved from UAF to UAA in 2006 and continues to work closely with colleagues at both universities.

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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.

A typical tailgate seats three hungry researchers plus sizable brown bag lunches, which may include some treats from the TFS candy bar. You’ll find it next to the ice cream freezer.

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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?”

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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 water, identifying the isotopes as part of a study examining the movement of water through the Arctic ecosystem.

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