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Research Spending & Results

Award Detail

Awardee:UNIVERSITY OF ALASKA FAIRBANKS
Doing Business As Name:University of Alaska Fairbanks Campus
PD/PI:
  • Sarah J Fowell
  • (907) 474-7810
  • sjfowell@alaska.edu
Co-PD(s)/co-PI(s):
  • Matthew J Wooller
  • Christopher V Maio
  • Nancy H Bigelow
Award Date:07/30/2021
Estimated Total Award Amount: $ 1,721,614
Funds Obligated to Date: $ 1,721,614
  • FY 2021=$1,721,614
Start Date:08/15/2021
End Date:07/31/2024
Transaction Type:Grant
Agency:NSF
Awarding Agency Code:4900
Funding Agency Code:4900
CFDA Number:47.078
Primary Program Source:040100 R&RA ARP Act DEFC V
Award Title or Description:Submarine Basins, Steppe, and Sea Ice: Paleoclimate and Paleoecology of the Late Pleistocene and Holocene Bering Sea Shelf
Federal Award ID Number:2117052
DUNS ID:615245164
Parent DUNS ID:048679567
Program:ANS-Arctic Natural Sciences
Program Officer:
  • Colene Haffke
  • (703) 292-0000
  • cohaffke@nsf.gov

Awardee Location

Street:West Ridge Research Bldg 008
City:Fairbanks
State:AK
ZIP:99775-7880
County:Fairbanks
Country:US
Awardee Cong. District:00

Primary Place of Performance

Organization Name:University of Alaska Fairbanks Campus
Street:West Ridge Research Bldg 008
City:Fairbanks
State:AK
ZIP:99775-7880
County:Fairbanks
Country:US
Cong. District:00

Abstract at Time of Award

This award is funded in whole or in part under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (Public Law 117-2) The Bering Land Bridge served as a migration corridor for plants, animals, and humans passing between Eurasia and North America during glacial stages of the Quaternary period (the last ~2.6 million years). During interglacial stages, rising sea level floods this land bridge, creating a marine gateway that connects the Pacific and Arctic oceans and modulates the global climate system. Although the Bering Sea shelf is the only place on Earth where fluctuations in Quaternary sea level repeatedly opened and closed such a gateway, sediment cores for the purpose of paleoenvironmental reconstruction have never been collected from the central and southern portions of the submerged land bridge. To determine how the most recent glacial/interglacial transition affected the ecology and climate of the Bering Land Bridge, the project team will collect, analyze, and archive terrestrial and marine sediment preserved in sedimentary basins across the Bering Sea shelf. Because these basins occupied topographic depressions on the Bering Land Bridge, they were likely to have been sites of freshwater lakes and terrestrial sediment deposition during glacial stages. Researchers will use a suite of traditional and cutting-edge paleoclimate proxies, including pollen, diatoms, and stable isotopes, to reconstruct the vegetation of interior and coastal sites on the Bering Land Bridge and evaluate the relationship between sea ice extent and aridity during and after the last glacial stage. Results will address longstanding questions regarding migration patterns of plants and animals, resources available to human populations, and the role of the marine gateway during the most recent past episode of global warming. Cores of Late Pleistocene and Holocene sediment will be collected from transects of five submarine basins located between the Bering Strait and the southern shelf edge: Norton Basin (64 N), St. Matthew Basin (62.5 N), Navarin Basin (62 N), St. George Basin (55.5 N), and the North Aleutian Basin (56 N). Existing US Geological Survey and industry seismic data suggest significant accumulation of Holocene and Pleistocene sediment fill in these basins. To maximize sediment recovery, the team will deploy a variety of coring apparatus, including a multicore system, a vibracorer, and gravity corers. New Chirp sub bottom data will be used to provide high-resolution imaging of the basin fill and subsurface topography in order to refine selection of both sites and apparatus. Pollen analysis of the Pleistocene section will permit reconstruction of the vegetation of the central and southern Bering Land Bridge and test the hypothesis that relatively humid conditions in low elevation, coastal regions provided a refugium for woody plants. Identification and dating of the transition between terrestrial and marine sediment will serve to constrain the rate and timing of Holocene sea-level rise. Micropaleontological and geochemical analyses of marine sediment will permit reconstruction of sea ice extent, primary productivity, and organic matter source. Comparison of marine records from sites near the shelf edge with coeval terrestrial records from the inner shelf will allow identification of terrestrial-marine linkages. These data will be used to test the hypothesis that when sea ice retreats during deglaciation, primary productivity on the Bering Shelf increases in sync with humidity on the Beringian continent. Results of this project will further our understanding of ocean circulation, the effect of sea ice on global climate, and the paleoecology of the migration corridor. The Beringian Standstill hypothesis suggests that ancestors of all Native Americans were isolated from Eurasian populations for thousands of years prior to migrating to North America. Fossil pollen records from terrestrial sites on the Bering Land Bridge are thus crucial to assessing the resources available to Late Pleistocene inhabitants of Beringia. Because the results of this project are likely to be of interest to Alaska Natives, the project team will collaborate with the Shared Beringian Heritage Program, the Bering Land Bridge National Preserve, and the Alaska Regional Office of the National Park Service. A PolarTREC teacher will design activities and lesson plans to promote understanding of land bridge paleoecology, and the Alaska Teen Media Institute will create video, web, and social media products during the science cruise. Curricula will be delivered in Alaskan schools, and results will be disseminated to stakeholders via public presentations and a traveling museum exhibit. This project will also provide training for multiple undergraduate and graduate students at sea, in university laboratories, and at international conferences. This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

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