This year the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) celebrates 100 years. It is a land, sea and space grant university with several rural campi in various little towns in Alaska. The main campus is in College, a city that is adjacent to Fairbanks. In some places, you just have to cross University Avenue and you are in Fairbanks. College also covers a large stretch of College Road.
The UAF campus is on top of a ridge. This ridge is higher to the West than the East, for which it is common to speak of the West Ridge and Lower Campus. On the West Ridge, there are the Geophysical Sciences, Biology and Wildlife, the school of Fish and Ocean Sciences as well as Arctic Health. The eastern part of the campus houses the Fine Arts, Languages, and all kind of Engineering disciplines. In the middle of campus, there are dorms, the Museum of the North, Geology, Chemistry and Physics as well as a beautiful park.
The agricultural experimental farm is at the foot of the ridge in the Tanana Flats. Here also many reindeer/caribou are grazing. They have calves at this time a year. Calves are black at birth to stay warm. The low albedo of their fur heats stronger in the sun than the light fur of the adults. The mom has started shedding already. Note that both male and female caribou have antlers. The farm also has one reindeer that walks on a leach like a dog. It is actually a student job to walk the animal in winter. In summer, it is shows to visitors. To the North of West Ridge is the musk ox farm, another tourist attraction in summer with guided tours.
On the West Ridge, a rocket is displayed. It refers to the World’s only university owned rocket range – the Poker Flat Research Range. This rocket range was built beneath the auroral oval for optimal conditions for aurora research. The range is 30.2 miles away from the main campus. Note that you can also tour the rocket range in summer. Check the Geophysical Institute webpage for times and appointments. When the roads are cleared it is just a 44 minutes drive to the range via AK-2 W and AK-6 N. When the road turns to be a dirt road you are a couple of miles to far.
The term “auroral oval” refers to the oval-like ring across the circumpolar North where auroras usually occur. This means the Fairbanks area is a great place for aurora watching from mid August to mid April. When you come to watch the aurora in these months be prepared to have the right clothes to enjoy the aurora to the fullest. While the aurora also exist during the white nights of summer, it is not visible because of the 24/7 daylight.
Given the elevated location, there are many places on campus from which one has great views. On days with great visibility the Alaska Range can be seen. At some points on campus, one can even see Denali on a clear, dry day. To the southeast one has a view on Fairbanks. To the East, the view is not so great as it is on the dumpsters of one of Fairbanks’ transfer stations. The view over the Taku parking lot to the northeast shows the University Hills.
When you walk over campus in summer you see a lot of flowers. There are also many trees on campus. In winter, some of the trees are decorated with twinkle lights. At the entrances of campus and in the roundabout there are ice sculptures for decoration starting in late February (The ponds need to be frozen to a certain depth to harvest ice for the sculptures.).
The It point to have your photo taken is the eastern entrance on Alumni Drive. Here is a temperature display. On days with temperatures below -40F (-40oC), there is even a queue!
Did you know that UAF also has its own power plant, fire fighters and police?
It is always worth to not only look around, but also up. There are often nice optical phenomena to see like this beautiful halo with arc and sun dogs. Sometimes between May and September you may even see a funnel cloud.
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