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Concept: Alaska


The timing of the first entry of humans into North America is still hotly debated within the scientific community. Excavations conducted at Bluefish Caves (Yukon Territory) from 1977 to 1987 yielded a series of radiocarbon dates that led archaeologists to propose that the initial dispersal of human groups into Eastern Beringia (Alaska and the Yukon Territory) occurred during the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM). This hypothesis proved highly controversial in the absence of other sites of similar age and concerns about the stratigraphy and anthropogenic signature of the bone assemblages that yielded the dates. The weight of the available archaeological evidence suggests that the first peopling of North America occurred ca. 14,000 cal BP (calibrated years Before Present), i.e., well after the LGM. Here, we report new AMS radiocarbon dates obtained on cut-marked bone samples identified during a comprehensive taphonomic analysis of the Bluefish Caves fauna. Our results demonstrate that humans occupied the site as early as 24,000 cal BP (19,650 ± 130 14C BP). In addition to proving that Bluefish Caves is the oldest known archaeological site in North America, the results offer archaeological support for the “Beringian standstill hypothesis”, which proposes that a genetically isolated human population persisted in Beringia during the LGM and dispersed from there to North and South America during the post-LGM period.

Concepts: Whitehorse, Yukon, Pleistocene, Radiocarbon dating, Yukon, Archaeology, Canada, Alaska, North America


The difficulties associated with detecting population boundaries have long constrained the conservation and management of highly mobile, wide-ranging marine species, such as killer whales (Orcinus orca). In this study, we use data from 26 nuclear microsatellite loci and mitochondrial DNA sequences (988bp) to test a priori hypotheses about population subdivisions generated from a decade of killer whale surveys across the northern North Pacific. A total of 462 remote skin biopsies were collected from wild killer whales primarily between 2001 and 2010 from the northern Gulf of Alaska to the Sea of Okhotsk, representing both the piscivorous “resident” and the mammal-eating “transient” (or Bigg’s) killer whales. Divergence of the 2 ecotypes was supported by both mtDNA and microsatellites. Geographic patterns of genetic differentiation were supported by significant regions of genetic discontinuity, providing evidence of population structuring within both ecotypes and corroborating direct observations of restricted movements of individual whales. In the Aleutian Islands (Alaska), subpopulations, or groups with significantly different mtDNA and microsatellite allele frequencies, were largely delimited by major oceanographic boundaries for resident killer whales. Although Amchitka Pass represented a major subdivision for transient killer whales between the central and western Aleutian Islands, several smaller subpopulations were evident throughout the eastern Aleutians and Bering Sea. Support for seasonally sympatric transient subpopulations around Unimak Island suggests isolating mechanisms other than geographic distance within this highly mobile top predator.

Concepts: DNA, Vitus Bering, Beached whale, Whale, Alaska, Aleutian Islands, Killer whale, Pacific Ocean


Although North American hospitals are switching from tuberculin testing (TST) to interferon-gamma release assays (IGRAs), data are limited on the association between occupational exposure and serial QuantiFERON-TB Gold In-Tube (QFT) results in healthcare workers (HCWs).

Concepts: Alaska, United States, Health insurance, Patient, Healthcare, North America, Health care provider, Health care


Direct primary care (DPC) is an emerging practice alternative that (1) eliminates traditional third-party fee-for-service billing and (2) charges patients a periodic fee for primary care services. We describe the DPC model by identifying DPC practices across the United States; distinguish it from other practice arrangements, such as the “concierge” practice; and describe the model’s pricing using data compiled from existing DPC practices across the United States. Lower price points and a broad distribution of DPC practices were confirmed, but data about quality are lacking.

Concepts: U.S. state, Alaska, Oregon, Marketing, Primary election, Pricing, Price, United States


The El Niño-Southern Oscillation is the dominant mode of interannual climate variability across the Pacific Ocean basin, with influence on the global climate. The two end members of the cycle, El Niño and La Niña, force anomalous oceanographic conditions and coastal response along the Pacific margin, exposing many heavily populated regions to increased coastal flooding and erosion hazards. However, a quantitative record of coastal impacts is spatially limited and temporally restricted to only the most recent events. Here we report on the oceanographic forcing and coastal response of the 2015-2016 El Niño, one of the strongest of the last 145 years. We show that winter wave energy equalled or exceeded measured historical maxima across the US West Coast, corresponding to anomalously large beach erosion across the region. Shorelines in many areas retreated beyond previously measured landward extremes, particularly along the sediment-starved California coast.

Concepts: Alaska, San Diego, Weather, Marine debris, United States, San Francisco, Ocean, California


Finding employment is becoming increasingly difficult for smokers. Twenty-nine U.S. states have passed legislation prohibiting employers from refusing to hire job candidates because they smoke, but 21 states have no such restrictions. Many health care organizations, such as the Cleveland Clinic and Baylor Health Care System, and some large non-health care employers, including Scotts Miracle-Gro, Union Pacific Railroad, and Alaska Airlines, now have a policy of not hiring smokers - a practice opposed by 65% of Americans, according to a 2012 poll by Harris International. We agree with those polled, believing that categorically refusing to hire smokers is unethical: it . . .

Concepts: Union Pacific Railroad, Massachusetts, Nebraska, Oregon, U.S. state, Employment, Alaska, United States


Bowhead whales (Balaena mysticetus) have a nearly circumpolar distribution, and occasionally occupy warmer shallow coastal areas during summertime that may facilitate molting. However, relatively little is known about the occurrence of molting and associated behaviors in bowhead whales. We opportunistically observed whales in Cumberland Sound, Nunavut, Canada with skin irregularities consistent with molting during August 2014, and collected a skin sample from a biopsied whale that revealed loose epidermis and sloughing. During August 2016, we flew a small unmanned aerial system (sUAS) over whales to take video and still images to: 1) determine unique individuals; 2) estimate the proportion of the body of unique individuals that exhibited sloughing skin; 3) determine the presence or absence of superficial lines representative of rock-rubbing behavior; and 4) measure body lengths to infer age-class. The still images revealed that all individuals (n = 81 whales) were sloughing skin, and that nearly 40% of them had mottled skin over more than two-thirds of their bodies. The video images captured bowhead whales rubbing on large rocks in shallow, coastal areas-likely to facilitate molting. Molting and rock rubbing appears to be pervasive during late summer for whales in the eastern Canadian Arctic.

Concepts: Stratum corneum, Skin, Foxe Basin, Canada, Whaling, Alaska, Bowhead whale, Inuit


Twentieth century warming has increased vegetation productivity and shrub cover across northern tundra and treeline regions, but effects on terrestrial wildlife have not been demonstrated on a comparable scale. During this period, Alaskan moose (Alces alces gigas) extended their range from the boreal forest into tundra riparian shrub habitat; similar extensions have been observed in Canada (A. a. andersoni) and Eurasia (A. a. alces). Northern moose distribution is thought to be limited by forage availability above the snow in late winter, so the observed increase in shrub habitat could be causing the northward moose establishment, but a previous hypothesis suggested that hunting cessation triggered moose establishment. Here, we use recent changes in shrub cover and empirical relationships between shrub height and growing season temperature to estimate available moose habitat in Arctic Alaska c. 1860. We estimate that riparian shrubs were approximately 1.1 m tall c. 1860, greatly reducing the available forage above the snowpack, compared to 2 m tall in 2009. We believe that increases in riparian shrub habitat after 1860 allowed moose to colonize tundra regions of Alaska hundreds of kilometers north and west of previous distribution limits. The northern shift in the distribution of moose, like that of snowshoe hares, has been in response to the spread of their shrub habitat in the Arctic, but at the same time, herbivores have likely had pronounced impacts on the structure and function of these shrub communities. These northward range shifts are a bellwether for other boreal species and their associated predators.

Concepts: Deer, Tundra, Köppen climate classification, Finland, Canada, Norway, Alaska, Moose


The United States spends more than any other country on health care. The poor relative performance of the US compared to other high-income countries has attracted attention and raised questions about the performance of the US health system. An important dimension to poor national performance is the large disparities in life expectancy.

Concepts: Nationalism, Louisiana, Alaska, Medicine, Barack Obama, Massachusetts, Health care, United States


We describe the first diagnostic dinosaur fossil from Washington State. The specimen, which consists of a proximal left femur, was recovered from the shallow marine rocks of the Upper Cretaceous (Campanian) Cedar District Formation (Nanaimo Group) and is interpreted as pertaining to a large theropod on the basis of its hollow medullary cavity and proximally placed fourth trochanter. The Washington theropod represents one of the northernmost occurrences of a Mesozoic dinosaur on the west coast of the United States and one of only a handful from the Pacific coast of Laramidia during the Cretaceous. Its isolated nature and preservation in marine rocks suggest that the element was washed in from a nearby fluvial system. If the femur pertains to a tyrannosauroid, which seems likely given its size and the widespread occurrence of the group across Laramidia during Late Cretaceous times, then it would represent an earlier occurrence of large body size than previously recognized (complete femur length estimated at 1.2 meters). Uncertainty surrounding the latitude of deposition of the Nanaimo Group (i.e., the Baja-British Columbia hypothesis) precludes assigning the Washington theropod to either of the putative northern or southern biogeographic provinces of Laramidia.

Concepts: Late Cretaceous, Alaska, Plesiosaur, Oregon, Washington, Cretaceous, Dinosaur, United States