Science lecture series offers insight into Alaska

By Jessica Hoffman
Sun Star Reporter

It’s cold.  It’s dark.  There’s not much going on.  So, it’s the perfect time for a little bit of science, according to Amy Hartley.

Hartley is the Program Coordinator for the UAF Geophysical Institute’s “Science for Alaska” lecture series.  Every Tuesday for the next six weeks, lectures will be held in the Westmark Hotel’s Gold Room beginning at 7 p.m.

The first lecture, on Jan. 19, will cover information about the future of Alaska’s energy resources.  Future topics include walruses, tobacco’s effects on the lungs, Fairbanks’ air quality, forecasting volcanic activity, lemmings and voles.

Before each lecture, there will be an educational demonstration pertaining to that night’s presentation.  Hartley recommends arriving at least a half hour before the lecture to see the demonstration and to get the best seats in the house.  “We fill up the whole Gold Room,” said the coordinator, “We usually get, on a good night, anywhere from 300 to 400 people, if you can believe that, for a science lecture.”

Hartley attributes the success of the program to its ability to appeal to an expansive audience.  The presentations are geared for the family.  Everyone from elementary school children to senior citizens are encouraged to attend.  Lecturers are asked to strip their presentations down to the “nuts and bolts.”  This way, attendees can take the information and use it without an extensive background or college degree in any one of the subjects presented. Hartley said that bibliographies for each topic would be available at the Geophysical Institute’s library for individuals wanting to do further research.

Science for Alaska is not limited to audiences in Fairbanks.  Residents of Anchorage and Juneau can also attend lectures in their community. Those in rural areas can view lectures on the Science for Alaska website or iTunes U.

The lecture series began in the early 1990s under the name of “Science for Everyone.”  “The idea was to take the science that’s conducted at UAF and bring it to the community,” said Hartley.  Often times community members not affiliated with the university don’t know the “awesome research” happening here, she explained.  Initially, lectures were only offered to Fairbanks residents at the Noel Wien Library. As the program expanded, it became known as Science for Alaska and lectures were offered in Juneau, Anchorage and online.  Teachers can also earn continuing education credits by attending the lecture series.

Ideas for the topics come from suggestions by past attendees, administrators and faculty on campus and “hot topics” in the news.  This year, a committee, consisting of individuals from the Fairbanks, Southeast and Anchorage branches of the UA system and the Center for Research Services, also “brought ideas to the table” said the coordinator.  She then selected a broad range of topics from the suggestions and submitted her list to the committee for final approval.

The lecture series is only offered during January and February but can be viewed online by individuals unable to attend the live events.  DVDs are also available through the Alaska library system.

For more information you can check out www.scienceforalaska.com or call 907-474-7558.

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