University of Alaska Fairbanks Team Biographies

Matthew Sturm, UAF, Outreach Team, Project Leader, Boat Captain

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.

Jessica Garron, UAF, 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, UAF, 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, UAF, 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.

Victoria Coats, OMSI, Outreach Team

Victoria Coats is Manager of Exhibit Research & Development at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) in Portland. She has over 31 years of experience in informal science education, project collaboration and exhibit development, including major exhibition projects on environmental issues, natural history, and human biology. Vicki is conceptual lead for the project’s traveling exhibition, Under the Arctic: Digging into Permafrost. In her free time she looks after her 4 guys, 3 chickens, and one cat and experiences her deep love of water in daily bubble baths.

Allyson Woodard, OMSI, Outreach Team

Allyson Woodard is an exhibit developer at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) in Portland, where she is bringing her skills in multimedia storytelling and environmental communication to OMSI’s traveling exhibition Under the Arctic: Digging into Permafrost. When not at OMSI, it’s a safe bet that she’s either playing roller derby or photographing strangers’ pets.

Jon Holmgren, Jon's Machine Shop, Boat Captain

I was born in the Midwest,  but my father had hay fever from corn pollen so we moved to Alaska when I was four years old. He worked as an electrical engineer at the Geophysical Institute. I was raised in Fairbanks then attended the University of Alaska, graduating with a with a BS in Geophysics in 1984. After college I went into placer mining for a few years then ended up running an auto repair shop when I built a shop building and bought a bunch of tools one fall which didn't leave enough money to make it through the winter. In 1989 I started work at CRREL working with Dr Matthew Sturm studying snow during the winters and running the shop in the summers. I bought a small metal lathe one day and one thing led to another and now I own and operate a machine shop specializing in scientific equipment (and anything else that comes in the door). I am married to Jill and have three kids; Tupper who was my little brother in the Big Brothers program, and Adam and Erika now in their mid twenties. I have always had an interest in things with motors; cars, snowmobiles, motorcycles and boats. Fixing and building mechanical things is what I do.

John Manthei, The Folk School, Boat Captain

I’ve been in love with water since I was a very young child. Much of this I attribute  to my father and his love of fishing and his willingness to take me along even when I was too small to “sit still and stop scaring the fish”. I still love water and just about everything associated with it. Over the past 40 plus years I have spent countless joyful hours exploring, hunting, fishing and gathering along the Tanana River and it’s tributaries. I can’t imagine a summer without a river and a self made boat to float on it. I can’t imagine a river without mud, sun, wind, a dramatic big sky, solitude and fresh fish. When not on the river I am a carpenter, furniture maker and teacher and one of the founders of the Folk School.