National Science Foundation awards research grant for $1.1 million to UA Museum

Fairbanks, Alaska, June 29, 2000 -- The National Science Foundation has awarded a $1.1 million research grant to the University of Alaska Museum to create the Arctic Archival Observatory, the first NSF-funded observatory of its kind in the U.S. The grant will also improve access to museum holdings for the global community and enhance hands-on opportunities for graduate students.

The new observatory continues to build on the museum's strong foundation in collecting, cataloging, preserving and studying samples of Alaska's natural history, according to UA Museum Director Aldona Jonaitis.

"With our comprehensive collection of arctic and sub-arctic biological specimens and continued research projects performed in partnership with the University of Alaska Fairbanks, the UA Museum is perfectly suited to serve as a regional observatory for Alaska and the Circumpolar North," Jonaitis said.

With NSF support, the museum entomologist will develop an extensive insect collection, incorporating important Arctic specimens from other collections, to help scientists better understand the physical characteristics and factors that affect the changing climate of the Far North.

"Insects are the most diverse land organisms and are strong indicators of changes in an ecosystem," said UA Museum Chief Curator Joe Cook, who also works as the curator of mammalogy. "The addition of an insect collection will make the museum's collections truly representative of biodiversity in Alaska."

Known throughout the international science community for its world-class holdings in aquatics, botany, mammalogy, ornithology and earth sciences, the UA Museum is home to more than 300,000 specimens from polar dinosaur fossils to migratory birds collected throughout the Arctic and sub-Arctic. In addition, the museum houses more than 700,000 cultural artifacts.

Currently researchers use these specimens to study changes in things like stable isotope ratios, emerging pathogens, population

Contact: Aldona Jonaitis
University of Alaska Fairbanks

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