SPACE CENTER -
Dr. Alan Shiller, professor of marine science for The University
of Southern Mississippi, will return to the Yukon River in
Alaska next week to determine how climate changes are affecting
the river's relatively pristine environment.
a marine chemist and director of the Center for Trace Analysis
at Southern Miss, last visited the wilderness landscape of
Alaska in September 2002. He will again team with a group
of scientists from the United States Geological Survey (USGS)
to take water samples for trace analysis. Completed over the
course of five years, this process will tell the scientists
about the overall health of the river system and how climate
changes will affect that condition.
large-scale, integrated studies of river basins are so uncommon,
the USGS program provides a rare and valuable opportunity
to conduct a trace element study in a broader hydrological
and hydrochemical context," Shiller said.
1, Shiller will board an airplane bound for Fairbanks, Alaska,
where he will drive roughly 100 miles to "the bridge"
at a section of the Dalton Highway - the only span to cross
the Yukon River in Alaska. There Shiller and the USGS team
will take on the substantial task of sampling water in the
lower 1,000 miles of the Yukon and its major tributaries.
will be getting all, or at least most, of the water samples
and discharge measurements at the 17 sampling locations we've
identified," Shiller said. Last year, the scientists
sampled the middle third of the river and they expect to sample
the upper part of the river next summer. Shiller said that
during the September trip to the Yukon he enjoyed the beautiful
colors of fall in Alaska. This time, he expects to be greeted
by more fauna than flora.
be there at the height of mosquito season," he said.
To meet this challenge, Shiller will take with him a lightweight
but densely woven "bug shirt" that is reputed to
deflect all manner of biting insects.
from successful scientific exploration, Shiller says he will
judge his time well spent in Alaska if he accomplishes three
things: "Survival, limited mosquito bites and bears not
stealing our food."