University of Alaska Fairbanks Team Biographies

Matthew Sturm, Outreach Team, Project Leader

Matthew Sturm came to Alaska in 1973 with the U.S. Coast Guard, and learned to operate boats in the Aleutian Islands. With the exception of 4 years for college, he has been in Alaska ever since. He is currently a Professor of Geophysics at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, where he studies snow, ice and permafrost.  The author of over a hundred technical articles, as well as several books (including a children’s book) on snow and the Arctic. He is a veteran of more than 25 long winter expeditions that have spanned the state. Boating on the rivers of Interior Alaska has been his passion for more than 30 years, during which time has run everything from a Zodiac with 25 HP outboard to a high performance in-board jet boat.  On the Yukon River journey, he will be running a 20’ North River with 115 HP Yamaha with a stainless steel prop. He has two grown children, and his wife Betsy is a retired 2nd grade teacher. Together with two dogs they live near Fox, Alaska.

Laura Carsten Conner, Research Team, C0-Investigator

Laura Carsten Conner is a Research Assistant Professor of Science Education at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. She studies science learning in formal and informal learning settings, with a special interest in science identity, gender issues. For the permafrost project, she works with postdoctoral researcher Suzanne Perin to investigate the meaning and value of real objects in various learning settings.

Jessica Garron, Outreach Team

Jessica Garron is a Senior Science Consultant with the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and the Geophysical Institute. She has spent over 20 years in understanding the ecology of Alaska’s boreal forest and tundra regions, and enjoys discussing permafrost and the effect of a changing climate on permafrost with her neighbors across Alaska. Jessica’s current research is focused on remote-sensing information integration into oil spill operations and decision-making processes, and its use to monitor climate change in the Arctic.

Margaret Cysewski, Outreach Team

Margaret Cysewski is born and raised in Alaska. She is studying permafrost for her interdisciplinary PhD at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Her dissertation is why permafrost in Alaska is important. She has education experience with a fellowship to co-teach at a Fairbanks' high school, teaching for summer camps, a certificate in Science Teaching and Outreach, and education courses. Margaret's role in the project is making Alaska's traveling displays, creation of the website, running the social media, an permafrost expert, and an educator.

Santosh Panda, Outreach Team

Santosh Panda is a Research Assistant Professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. His research is primarily focused on improving the understanding of rapidly evolving permafrost dynamics in Alaska with an ultimate goal of predicting the response of permafrost to climate change and its effect on the Arctic systems. He uses a variety of techniques to study the complex permafrost dynamics which range from detailed ground observations to ground temperature modeling, and remote sensing of permafrost related landscape change such as changes in surface hydrology, vegetation, forest fires, and wildlife habitats.

Suzanne Perin, Research Team

Suzanne Perin is a Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Her research focuses on understanding and designing for learning in informal science education settings, communication of current scientific research and technologies to public audiences, and fostering connections between in-school and out-of-school contexts by considering community resources as a broad infrastructure for learning. For this project, she is studying the meaning and value of learning with real, replicated and virtual objects in the natural sciences and in museums.