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tree log leaves

Our Research Team

Interested in joining the team? Click here for opportunities

Jessie Young-Robertson

Dr. Jessie Young-Robertson

Lab Co-Director

Research Associate Professor of Boreal Forest Ecology in the Institute of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Extension (IANRE)

Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station (AFES) research unit leader


Co-founder of Alaska Voices with Dr. Bob Bolton (ORNL)


B.S. Biology, Fort Lewis College, Summa cum laude, Valedictorian
M.S. Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, University of Arizona
Ph.D. Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Minor Global Change, University of Arizona 
M.Ed. Clinical Mental Health Counseling, University of Alaska Fairbanks

I study the ecophysiological and ecohydrological responses of ecosystem carbon and water cycling processes to climate and environmental change. My research since 2008 has focused on boreal and arctic (to a lesser extent) ecosystem dynamics, including vegetation water use, stress, and productivity. I seek to understand how increased deciduous cover in the boreal forest, including shrub encroachment, will change the cycling of water and carbon.

Click here for info on my dissertation & ​postdoctoral research

I am also a Master's level counselor part-time at Turning Point Counseling in Fairbanks, Alaska. My mental health knowledge helps me contribute to UAF DEIA efforts in a meaningful way, including contributing to understanding psychologically inclusive approaches in STEM fields.

David Valentine

Dr. Dave Valentine

Lab Co-Director

Professor of Forest Soils

Duke University, Ecosystem Ecology, 1990, Durham, NC, Ph.D.

Duke University, Forest Ecology, 1984, Durham, NC, M.S.

Wittenberg University, Biology, 1981, Springfield, OH, B.A.

Matt Robertson

Matt Robertson

Research Professional

Agriculture and Forestry Experiment Station (AFES) in IANRE

B.S. Biology, University of New Orleans


Matt has worked at UAF in the Forest Soils Lab since 2008. He's the lead research technician, and he has a myriad of things he does, including operating and maintaining lab analytical equipment, engineering new research and sensor solutions, programming and troubleshooting dataloggers, installing and managing multiple research sites, data management, and maintaining vehicles (ATV's, snowmachines, lab vehicle). He utilizes 3-D printing to develop novel solutions for sensor installations and housings. Matt is also a licensed UAV pilot and am developing skills in processing and managing data collected with UAV sensors.​

Sam Dempster at AGU 2022

Sam Dempster

Research Technician

Agriculture and Forestry Experiment Station (AFES) in IANRE

B.S. Biology in progress, University of Alaska Fairbanks

Sam worked for Young-Robertson 10 years ago, and re-joined the lab in 2021. He primarily works as a field technician on the Forest Health Project. Sam is learning to operate the mass spectrometer and conduct other lab analyses. Sam has mastered the tall pole pruner to access Aspen canopies.

Nathaniel Bolter

Nathaniel Bolter

Research Technician

Agriculture and Forestry Experiment Station (AFES) in IANRE

B.A. Literature & Philosophy, University of Chicago, 2021

Nathaniel joined the lab in 2023 with an interest in getting a Masters degree in Natural Resources Management at UAF. He is the primary field technician on the Dendrochronology Project and has attended the University of Arizona Tree Ring Summer Course.

Nathaniel is interested in using tree rings to evaluate the boreal forest's resilience to a changing climate. His work integrates methods from dendrochronology, quantitative wood anatomy, and stable isotope analysis to track the links between tree physiology and novel environmental conditions like rising temperatures and shifting precipitation patterns. 

Although he received a B.A. in Literature & Philosophy, he has traded Foucault for forestry upon graduating, spending time in California's Shasta-Trinity National Forest before heading north. Other interests include regenerative farming, rock climbing, and trying to convincing his dog that it's fun to pull him on skis.

Summer hires - 2024

We have a great team for the coming summer field season. Kat Mahon has already joined us to help with lab work until the summer field season starts. She worked for NEON last summer and is ready to do boreal plant phys work!

Chris Mayer recently graduated from UAF with his undergraduate degree in Biology, and he is eager to start applying his degree to his job.

Taylor Pearson has a lot of experience with assisting animals in giving birth to their young (sheep and reindeer). She will be joining us to gain some new experience with boreal forest physiology field work. She has experience working on car engines and can help us maintain our ATVs!

Maddie Wonderlich is finishing her sophomore year at UAF and will start her first summer of field work with our team!

We're happy to have all this help and have a fun and productive summer.

Former employees

Helene Darrow
Helene Darrow - Oct 2021 - March 2024 (research technician)
ATVs carrying field supplies
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