Alaska scientists present research at AGU fall meeting

December 16, 2008

Dozens of researchers from the University of Alaska Fairbanks will be among presenters at the 2008 American Geophysical Union fall meeting in San Francisco this week. Following are synopses of several presentations:

Computer model defines planetary landscapes
Wednesday, Dec. 17 at 8 a.m. in Moscone Center North Exhibit Hall D
John Chappelow, a postdoctoral fellow with the Arctic Region Supercomputing Center and the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, is developing a computer program, called CRATERZ, to describe the shapes of surface craters on celestial bodies millions of miles away.

The program uses a new technique that determines the diameter, depth and overall shape of other planets' surface craters from shadows visible in images captured from probes traveling through the Milky Way. The shapes of impact craters are used to infer planetary surface properties and compositions, crater ages, and impact conditions. Chappelow's method, and the computer program CRATERZ, currently is the only way to decipher impact crater shapes and UAF is the only place it can be done.

Chappelow will present on this topic at a poster presentation, "Simple Impact Crater Shapes From Shadows--The Sequel" on Wednesday, Dec. 17 at 8 a.m. in Moscone North Exhibit Hall D. It is a continuation of a talk he provided at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Houston, Texas in March 2008.

New tools allow countries with data to support their claim to resources
Wednesday, Dec. 17 at 1:40 p.m. in the Moscone Center North Exhibit Hall D
An ice-free Arctic has the potential to unlock a wealth of resources that have long been inaccessible, buried beneath the ocean floor. This year, Russia nabbed a slew of attention for its claim that the Lomonosov Ridge is simply an extension of the Siberian continental shelf, an area believed to be rich in oil and gas reserves.

Bernard Coakley will share how underwater mapping tools have improved dramatically in recent years at a poster session at 1:40 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 17 in the Moscone Center North Exhibit Hall D. Coakley, an associate professor with the Geophysical Institute and the College of Natural Science and Mathematics at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, contends that today's tools provide more precise morphology of the ocean floor and can be used to establish a plausible claim for countries hoping to access submarine resources. Betsy Baker, a visiting associate professor at the Vermont Law School, will join Coakley to present "Mapping for Advocacy--Using Marine Geophysical Data to Establish the Limits of Extending Continental Shelves Under the Convention on the Law of the Sea."

UA Geography, Google team up at AGU conference
Thursday, Dec. 18 at 8 a.m. in Moscone Center Exhibit Hall E (virtual globes and KML)
Thursday, Dec. 18 at 5:45 p.m. in Moscone Center Room 3014 (Google 101)
Friday, Dec. 18 at 10:35 a.m. in Moscone Center Room 3008(K-12 outreach)

Mike Sfraga and John Bailey of the University of Alaska Geography program will join with representatives from Google to highlight their growing collaboration in K-12 outreach and higher education during several sessions Thursday and Friday. The sessions will include technological demonstrations.

One session will highlight a new three-credit course the UA Geography Program offers, "Exploring the Virtual Earth," which introduces students to neogeography tools such as Virtual Globes, Google SketchUp and Second Life, and demonstrate how these applications can be used to visualize geoscience datasets.

In a poster and demonstration session, UA Geography and Google will show KML-based science lessons that were used in Alaska high schools. The focus of Google's Geo Education outreach efforts is on helping primary, secondary and post-secondary educators incorporate Google Earth and Sky, Google Maps and SketchUp into their classroom lessons.

The third seminar details a trip to Barrow, Kotzebue and Nome that Google and UA Geography made in September. Educators were taught how to incorporate Google Earth and Sky, Google Maps and SketchUp into their classroom lessons. The UA Geography Program is part of the UAF School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences.
CONTACT: Marmian Grimes, UAF public information officer, at 907-474-7902 or via e-mail at

NOTE TO EDITORS: Reporters at the AGU meeting who need assistance contacting UAF researchers can contact Ned Rozell in the AGU Press Room or via e-mail at

University of Alaska Fairbanks

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