Cooperative Institute for Alaska Research

News from CIFAR

New Paper on Evolution and Salmon Bioenergetics

March 3, 2015

Mike Garvin
Photo courtesy of Mike Garvin

We are pleased to report that the “Editor’s Choice” paper in the February 2015 issue of the Journal of Zoological Systematics and Evolutionary Research is a direct result of CIFAR’s support of a UAF Global Change Student Research Grant Competition award. The paper, which focuses on mitochondrial DNA analysis, describes research that followed a surprising find made by first author Michael Garvin as he began work on his CIFAR-funded student grant project.

Changes in mitochondrial DNA over time can be used to describe the genealogies of populations or species (like a family tree) and also as a clock to date different events along the branches of the tree. For instance, this information has been used to determine which groups of humans migrated out of Africa and when. For his CGC project, Mike planned to do this type of analysis with populations of chum salmon to determine when and how they colonized Western Alaska. As a first step he tested to make sure that mitochondrial DNA behaved “neutrally,” i.e., that the changes in the DNA were not part of the evolutionary process.

“To my surprise, the tests I ran determined that one site in particular had undergone ‘positive selection’ and was very likely important for the evolution of different species of Pacific salmon.” Read full story.

CIFAR-funded Student Grant Awardee Kyle Dilliplaine Profiled

February 12, 2015

Kyle Dilliplaine
Photo by Marc Oggier

UAF master's student Kyle Dilliplaine, funded by CIFAR through the 2014 Global Change Student Research Grant competition for his project “Sea ice meiofauna in an ice free Arctic summer; who is present and where will they go?," is the most recent student awardee to be highlighted on the UAF Center for Global Change website. CIFAR is pleased to be a key funding partner in this highly competitive annual program. Read Kyle's profile here.

Bowhead Outreach Film Now Available for Online Viewing

January 23, 2015

The final version of “Arctic Currents: A Year in the Life of a Bowhead Whale” can now be viewed online, with narration in either Inupiaq, St. Lawrence Island Yupik, or English. Follow the links from the UA Museum of the North’s Exhibits & Digital Media - Arctic Currents page.

To learn more about the film, read the articles below:

Bowhead Whale Outreach Film Has Public Debut (October 29, 2014)

Innovative Outreach Film Featuring CIFAR Research Nears Completion (July 10, 2014)

The film will also be available for download in the near future.

Mathis Joins CIFAR Fellows

December 10, 2014

Jeremy Mathis
Photo courtesy of Jeremy Mathis.

We are pleased to announce that ocean acidification expert Jeremy Mathis has accepted an invitation to join the CIFAR Fellows. After five years as a faculty member and CIFAR principal investigator at UAF, Mathis joined the NOAA Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory (PMEL) in June 2012, while maintaining an affiliation with UAF where he coordinates ocean acidification research activities around Alaska. In addition to Mathis, this past year CIFAR has welcomed Denby Lloyd, Executive Director of the North Pacific Research Board, and Katrin Iken, Professor of Marine Biology, UAF, as new Fellows, and Kathy Crane, NOAA Arctic Research Program Manager, and Aimee Devaris, National Weather Service Alaska Division Director, as new members of CIFAR’s Executive Board. We look forward to working with all of them in the coming years.

Bowhead Whale Outreach Film Has Public Debut

October 29, 2014

Hannah Foss
Hannah Foss. Photo by Susan Sugai.

Thursday, October 23, 2014, marked a milestone for CIFAR as the “beta version” of an exciting new animated outreach film (“Arctic Currents: A Year in the Life of the Bowhead Whale”– see article below from July 2014) based in part on CIFAR PI Steve Okkonen’s collaborative and interdisciplinary research, and produced by the University of Alaska Museum of the North (UAMN), debuted at the annual meeting of the Alaska Federation of Natives.

Film animator Hannah Foss described her feelings on this occasion as “a little nervous and a lot excited. Nervous because I have asked and listened to people whose whole life has been all about these whales, and it makes me nervous acting as a third party to represent these groups and their knowledge.” But on the flip side, “when the same people respond positively or remarked on something being right—it gives me confidence that we’ve tapped into that genuine essence. That the film garners enthusiasm, approval and excitement from professionals who have been around these whales most of their lives—that makes me feel happy and relieved.”

Before the end of 2014 Hannah plans to travel to the communities of Gambell and Savoonga on St. Lawrence Island (SLI), as well as Nome, to show the SLI Yupik-language version and get feedback from audiences there. She will also travel to Barrow to get feedback on the Iñupiat-language version.

Film poster
Photo by Hannah Foss.

Once the feedback from these audiences has been digested and a few other tweaks made to the film, all three language versions will be available for download from the UAMN website. The film will also be among those shown regularly to Museum visitors. Other uses, including possible incorporation into school curricula, are in the planning stages.

Steve is extremely pleased with the film and notes that the UAMN production team, led by Roger Topp, have done an amazing job weaving traditional knowledge and contemporary science into a compelling story with beautiful visual images.

A trailer for “Arctic Currents: A Year in the Life of the Bowhead Whale” can be viewed at

Contact: CIFAR PI Steve Okkonen

CIFAR Fellow Heads Major New Arctic Marine Monitoring Effort

October 22, 2014

Katrin Iken
Katrin Iken. Photo by Raphaelle Descoteaux

CIFAR PI and Fellow Katrin Iken, a professor of marine biology in the School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, will lead a newly funded $6 million project to establish the Arctic Marine Biodiversity Observing Network (AMBON), a multi-institutional data collection and integration effort focused on the U.S. Chukchi Sea.

AMBON was one of three proposals competitively selected under a NOAA initiative to develop a demonstration project through the National Ocean Partnership Program (NOPP) as a first step toward developing an operational Marine Biodiversity Observation Network (BON) in the U.S. In addition to NOAA, funders include the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and the Shell Exploration and Production Company.

Besides UAF, AMBON collaborators are from the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, the University of Washington Applied Physics Lab, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, NOAA, and the Alaska Ocean Observing System.

The $6 million, 5-year initial phase of AMBON will begin in November 2014 and includes three years of data collection followed by two years of data integration, synthesis and refining of the observing network.

As part of the overall AMBON effort, two PhD students will be supported with funding through CIFAR. The education and training of these students through the AMBON/CIFAR graduate traineeships will be valuable to NOAA’s strategic needs in both climate services and ocean resource management, and follows CIFAR’s priority of graduate student education and outreach.

Read more about AMBON in this UAF press release:

Contact: AMBON PI Katrin Iken or CIFAR Director Susan Sugai.

New CIFAR-funded Student Grant Awardee Featured - Kimber DeGrandpre

October 20, 2014

Kimber DeGrandpre
Photo courtesy of Kimber DeGrandpre

Kimber (Tweet) DeGrandpre, a UAF master's student in geophysics whose project “Relative sea level change in western Alaska as constructed from repeat tide gauge and GPS measurements" was selected for support with CIFAR funds through the 2014 UAF Global Change Student Research Grant competition, is currently featured on the UAF Center for Global Change website. CIFAR is a long-standing funding partner in this prestigious annual competition. Read Kimber's profile here.

Innovative Outreach Film Featuring CIFAR Research Nears Completion

July 10, 2014

Steve Okkonen
Steve Okkonen. Photo by Bill Kopplin.

Several years ago, CIFAR PI Steve Okkonen of the UAF School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences (SFOS) had an inspiration for a unique outreach project.

He wanted to incorporate traditional knowledge, earlier published research, his own ongoing CIFAR-funded research and that of many colleagues from different agencies and institutions (funded by NOAA and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management/BOEM) to illustrate aspects of bowhead whales’ life history related to their annual migration through the Bering, Chukchi, and Beaufort Seas. The annual nature of the migration itself suggested a calendar as an organizing and presentation format.

This highly successful 2013 calendar, produced and distributed with CIFAR outreach funds, then became the basis for an animated film project funded through the University of Alaska Coastal Marine Institute with support from BOEM, SFOS and the UAF Center for Global Change. The film, “Arctic Currents: A Year in the Life of the Bowhead Whale,” is in the final stages of production by a talented young team at the University of Alaska Museum of the North, who have kept a fascinating blog about the experience.

An engaging scientific storyline relates biological, oceanographic and behavioral aspects of the bowhead whales’ lives that are brought to life through 3-D photorealistic animation. The Museum’s animation team received valuable editorial assistance from and facilitated by the North Slope Borough Department of Wildlife Management. The film will be released with Iñupiat, St. Lawrence Island Yupik, and English narration tracks.

Steve, his research colleagues, the many people who have contributed in large and small ways to the film, along with all of us at CIFAR, are anticipating with great excitement its scheduled premiere this October at the Alaska Federation of Natives annual meeting in Anchorage, Alaska.

For more information, contact CIFAR PI Steve Okkonen.

CIFAR to Support Eight Awardees from the 2014 Global Change Student Research Grant Competition

May 13, 2014

Results from the 2014 UAF Global Change Student Research Grant competition have been released, and CIFAR, a long-standing funding partner in the competition, will be supporting eight of the 14 projects that were selected for funding from a total of 26 submitted. These eight projects address a variety of issues related to CIFAR’s research themes, on topics from sea level change to the impact of climate change on marine organisms and shorebirds. CIFAR’s ongoing partnership in this competition reflects a deeply held commitment to support student research on issues relevant to NOAA and the Alaska region. The 2014 CIFAR-funded students and their projects, along with students and projects funded by CIFAR in prior years, can be found here.

CIFAR-supported Student Grant Awardee Profiled - Lauren Bell

May 13, 2014

Lauren Bell
Lauren Bell. Photo by Julia Dissen.

CIFAR-supported student Lauren Bell is currently featured on the UAF Center for Global Change website. Lauren, who is pursuing a master’s degree in marine biology at UAF, was awarded funding for her project “Lower trophic level food web structure on the Beaufort Sea slope” through the 2013 UAF Global Change Student Research Grant competition. CIFAR is a long-standing funding partner in this annual competition. You are invited to read Lauren's story here.

CIFAR Leadership Transition

December 9, 2013

After nine years at the helm of the Cooperative Institute for Alaska Research, John Walsh retired this fall. Associate Director Susan Sugai has been appointed as the new director. Congratulations to Susan, and best wishes to John in his retirement!

For more information, contact CIFAR Director Susan Sugai.

New paper: Does calving matter? Evidence for significant submarine melt

November 20, 2013

Tim Bartholomaus
Tim Bartholomaus. Photo by Nathan Rice.

For many glaciers that flow into the sea, including some in southern Alaska and most of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, the loss of ice to the ocean can dwarf that which is lost to melt beneath the sun’s rays or warm skies. But the exact fate of the ice that reaches the sea is uncertain, and the relative importance of icebergs breaking off the terminus in a process called calving, compared to ice melting in contact with warm ocean water, is unknown at nearly all glaciers. Several recent studies, including some in Alaska, have shown that submarine melt rates can equal, and sometimes exceed, calving rates, but few studies have examined mass loss at glacier termini, and the geographic extent over which rapid submarine melt occurs is not yet clear.

The question of mass loss was addressed by Tim Bartholomaus, a Ph.D. student at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and colleagues in a recent paper (October 2013) in Earth and Planetary Science Letters. Tim’s work was partially supported by a UAF Global Change Research Grant awarded in 2010 with funding from CIFAR. Read full story.

CIFAR-funded Student Grant Awardee Featured - Greg Deemer

August 27, 2013

Greg Deemer
Greg Deemer

UAF Atmospheric Sciences graduate student Greg Deemer, whose proposal “Towards improving operational sea-ice forecasts: Serving commercial and societal needs in the North Pacific” was funded by CIFAR through the 2013 Global Change Student Research Grant Competition, is currently the featured student on the Center for Global Change website. See story here.

CIFAR Begins New 5-year Cooperative Agreement

August 16, 2013

As of July 1, 2013, the Cooperative Institute for Alaska Research (CIFAR) is operating under a new 5-year cooperative agreement (NA13OAR4320056), a renewal of the original 5-year agreement (NA08OAR4320751) that established CIFAR in 2008. This renewal is based on the “outstanding” rating CIFAR received during its program review in July 2011. For more information on the new cooperative agreement, contact CIFAR Associate Director Susan Sugai.

CIFAR Research Used by National Weather Service to Better Predict Flooding

August 8, 2013

Galena flooding 2013
Flooding in Galena, Alaska, May 2013. National Weather Service photo.

Severe late-spring flooding this year along the Yukon River dramatically underscored the importance of accurately predicting snowmelt and river ice breakup in Alaska, when residents of Galena were evacuated with only a moment’s notice as their community was inundated with water and ice on Memorial Day weekend.

CIFAR researchers Katrina Bennett and Jessica Cherry have been working with the National Weather Service’s Alaska-Pacific River Forecast Center (APRFC) to improve the accuracy of snowmelt processes in the models used by the APRFC. Read full story.

Six Global Change Student Research Grants Funded by CIFAR through 2013 Competition

April 29, 2013

Once again CIFAR is pleased to announce their support of student research proposals selected for funding through the UAF Center for Global Change’s annual student research competition. Twenty-six proposals from a variety of disciplines were submitted to the 2013 competition; the review panel recommended 13 of them for funding. Six projects focused on CIFAR themes will be supported by CIFAR task I education and outreach funds. In addition CIFAR will fund the second year of a two-year project from the 2012 competition. CIFAR’s long-time role as major funding partner in this competition reflects our ongoing commitment to support student research that addresses issues relevant to NOAA and the Alaska region. A list of the 2013 CIFAR-funded students and their projects can be found here.

2012 RUSALCA Field Season Successfully Completed

scientists working on a ship
Lauren Bell and Bodil Bluhm work with samples on the RUSALCA research cruise. Photo by Katrin Iken, University of Alaska Fairbanks.

October 22, 2012

During the first leg of the summer 2012 RUSALCA research cruise, scientists retrieved three moorings that had been left in the Russian waters of the Bering Strait for two years. The multidisciplinary second leg successfully concluded on September 17, 2012, when Russian and American scientists and their extensive sample collections made their way home after two and half weeks in the Bering Strait and Chukchi Sea. In spite of bad weather and sea ice, most research objectives were achieved. Additional information on the 2012 RUSALCA cruise and findings is available on the RUSALCA website and will be included in the next CIFAR annual report.

See earlier news items in the

CIFAR news archives

More about CIFAR

Founded in 2008, the Cooperative Institute for Alaska Research (CIFAR) conducts ecosystem and environmental research related to Alaska and its associated Arctic regions, including the Gulf of Alaska, Bering Sea, Chukchi/Beaufort Seas, and Arctic Ocean. Read more about CIFAR.


In the Alaska region, where rapid environmental and socio-economic changes are occurring, CIFAR places priority on education and two-way outreach between scientists, managers, communities, and local stakeholders. Read more about education.

Research Priorities

CIFAR research focuses on a number of high priority issues for the Alaska region, specifically, marine ecosystems, coastal hazards, and climate change and variability. Read more about research.


Submitting a proposal to CIFAR? Find out useful information to help in preparing your proposal. Read more about proposals.

Funding Opportunities

There are no funding opportunities available at this time.