12/19/2012 09:06 pm ET Updated Feb 18, 2013

Alaskan Scientists Zero In On Avian Flu At Temperatures 40 Below

FAIRBANKS -- Chilly weather isn't enough to keep ducks out of open areas of the Chena River, which means it's not enough to keep scientists out either.

Despite temperatures in the Interior Alaska city of 30,000 dipping toward 40-below zero Saturday, scientists waded into the slushy Chena River, nets in tow, collecting a handful of mallard ducks and bringing them back to a makeshift lab in downtown Fairbanks.

In taking blood and fecal samples, the scientists hope to understand how avian influenza moves through a bird population.

The Chena River birds are ideal, according to Mark Lindberg, wildlife ecologist and project leader from the University of Alaska Fairbanks' Institute of Arctic Biology. The open water keeps the usually migratory birds in Fairbanks instead of bound for warmer climates farther south. That gives scientists like Lindberg the chance to see how the flu moves through the population, something that's generally a hard prospect considering migratory birds tendency to, well, migrate.

But the Chena birds stay. Exactly why is debated. A group in Fairbanks has taken to feeding the birds each ...

Read the complete story and see photos from the Chena River project only at Alaska Dispatch