Friday, September 22, 2017

Alaska climate change documentary to air in the state

Chien-Lu Ping works with students in his 2015 Arctic soils field tour.
Texas Tech Public Media photo

Free screenings of a new documentary that highlights climate change in Alaska will be offered Sept. 27-30 in Fairbanks, Palmer, Anchorage and Kotzebue.

“Between Earth and Sky: Climate Change on the Last Frontier” will be shown in Kotzebue Sept. 27, at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Sept. 28, in Anchorage Sept. 29 and in Palmer Sept. 30.

Texas Tech Public Media produced the documentary, which was released in March and has been shown at environmental film festivals, more than a dozen universities in the Lower 48 and in Europe and on public broadcasting stations.

Katey Walter Anthony and her husband, Peter Anthony ignite methane
on a frozen lake. Texas Tech Public Media
The documentary mixes interviews with Alaska scientists and climate change experts with the stories of Alaska residents affected by climate change. Scenic footage from across the state provides a backdrop as people talk about the shifting route for the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, receding glaciers, coastal storms and erosion, wildfires and melting permafrost.

Executive producer David Weindorf said the movie was inspired by now-retired University of Alaska Fairbanks soils scientist Chien-Lu Ping and his 33 years of soils research. Ping started an annual Arctic soils field tour in 1989 and his last field trip, in 2015, was documented by the film crew.

Weindorf, a soil scientist and associate dean of research at Texas Tech University, participated in the tour with his students for more than 10 years — and will help teach the class next year. He said the field trip attracted students and scientists from Italy, Japan and across the U.S. who wanted to learn from the soil scientist. Ping also worked with scientists around the world.

“What an international impact Chien-Lu has had,” Weindorf said. “He brought all of those people together.”

Weindorf said Ping’s work was invaluable in defining a new soil order (Gelisols), methods for testing Arctic soils, and he identified many unique features of Arctic soils, including the high percentage of carbon in the soils. Weindorf said that’s important because 40 percent of the world’s carbon is tied up in subarctic and Arctic soils, and as temperatures warm, soils release carbon into the atmosphere, which contributes to the warming.

Weindorf has produced a second documentary that focused exclusively on Ping and on the field tour. “Between Earth and Sky:, An Arctic Soils Perspective” is a more technical film and geared more to students in soils and environmental sciences.

The climate change movie will be shown at 7 p.m. Sept. 27 at the Northwest Arctic Heritage Center in Kotzebue; at 5:30 p.m. Sept. 28 at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Murie auditorium; at 2:30 p.m. Sept. 29 at the Bear Tooth Theatre in Anchorage; and at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 30 at the Glen Massey Theater in Palmer. Weindorf will be at all the screenings and he will answer questions following the shows, joined in some locations by other scientists.

The documentary was directed by Paul Allen Hunton, the general manager of a Texas public television station, who has won three Emmys for his work as a documentary filmmaker.

It is funded by the USDA National Resources Conservation Service, the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Texas Tech Public Media, Soil Science Society of America and the BL Allen Endowment in Pedology. The Fairbanks showing is sponsored by the UAF student group, the Resource Management Society. More information is available on the film’s website,

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