Meet Paul Larson, UAF BLaST March 2022 Scientist of the Month

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By Amy Topkok

Since 2016, the Biomedical Learning and Student Training (BLaST) program at University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) has highlighted scientists from all biomedical fields through its Scientist of the Month articles.

These are shared across all UAF and University of Alaska Southeast rural campuses and with BLaST’s partners: Iļisaġvik College, Fort Lewis College, Diné College, Salish Kootenai College and Alaska Pacific University. For more BLaST Scientist of the Month highlights, visit their website

For more information about this article, please contact BLaST staff Amy Topkok at

BLaST March Scientist of Month: Paul Larson

Paul Larson holds a spectacled eider duck.
Paul Larson holds a spectacled eider duck.


Paul Larson, who is of Yup’ik descent, was a senior pursuing a Bachelor of Science in wildlife biology and conservation. Larson was a second-year BLaST Scholar who also held an officer title in UAF’s Wildlife Society student chapter. He was raised in Napaskiak, Alaska, and is a first-generation college student and graduated in April 2022. He is interested in waterfowl, ecology and population dynamics, and hopes to pursue waterfowl research in graduate school. Larson plans on heading back to the Yukon Delta to give back to his area’s communities through research and management of key migratory species for their subsistence and ecological importance.

Larson’s research interests lie in waterfowl ecology, population dynamics and physiology. He is also interested in the potential impacts of climate change, contaminants and human factors on waterfowl species. Under the guidance of former BLaST Research, Advising and Mentoring Professional (RAMP) Andrew Cyr, PhD, and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Larson was able to examine contaminants in Common Eiders and the Pb levels using published studies. Pb is an extremely clean burning single-base powder commonly used in 12-gauge and 20-gauge shotshells in rural Alaska and the contiguous United States.

Larson collected Spectacled Eider eggshell membranes at Kigigak Island on the Yukon Delta to determine nutrient sources used to make eggs. He is analyzing the stable isotope levels of invertebrates as a reference in the Alaska Stable Isotope Facility (ASIF) Lab.

BLaST Scholar Paul Larson collecting invertebrates, an important food source for waterfowl at breeding grounds at a pond at Kigigak Island.
BLaST Scholar Paul Larson collecting invertebrates, an important food source for waterfowl at breeding grounds at a pond at Kigigak Island.


When asked about why his research is important, he responded, “Furthering my education will have an impact on research activities and decision-making as a wildlife biologist. Having research experience is helping me get the skill set and experience to get one step closer towards my career goal of becoming a scientist. Being a BLaST Scholar has opened a new world of possibilities for me while continuing to improve my skills and the experience needed to be a successful researcher.”

In April, Larson presented at the 2022 Midnight Sun Science Symposium and the 2022 Undergraduate Research and Scholarly Activity (URSA) Research days at UAF. He also attended the 2022 Experimental Biology (EB) conference in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Larson would like to thank the following people who supported him and contributed to his research journey: his BLaST RAMP, Cyr; Dr. Daniel Rizzolo, Micah Miller and Claire Montgomery at the USFWS; Diane O’Brien, PhD, and Matthew Wooller, PhD, faculty at UAF; and many others in the ASIF Lab and at the Alaska Department of Fish & Game.

“Dr. Cyr and Claire with USFWS enhanced my knowledge in contaminants monitoring with an ecological perspective. Drs. Rizzolo, O’Brien and Wooller contributed to the stable isotope research in Spectacled Eiders energy production of eggs that helped me understand the data in the ecological and physiological sense,” Larson said.

“I am fortunate to have awesome mentors who have engaged to help organize my research project. Together as a team, we planned and networked to bring home a project that really matters to me.” 


The Diversity Program Consortium Coordination and Evaluation Center at UCLA is supported by Office of the Director of the National Institutes of Health / National Institutes of General Medical Sciences under award number U54GM119024.
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