Tuesday, November 27, 2018

United Nations agency to honor UAF weather station

Alan Tonne stands in the Fairbanks Experiment Farm weather station.
He records weather information daily at 8 a.m. UAF photo by J.R. Ancheta
The Fairbanks Experiment Farm operates the longest continuously running weather observation station in Alaska.

The farm has been steadfastly recording weather data since July 1, 1911. The station is unusual because of its long-term record of weather data collected in essentially the same location — a small, fenced area in front of the farm’s old visitor center.

Reliable weather data collected over a long period of time in the same location is valuable to climate scientists and others, says John Walsh, one of several University of Alaska Fairbanks scientists who will speak at a Nov. 30 recognition ceremony for the station.

The station is one of four long-term observing stations in the U.S. the World Meteorological Organization will honor this year. An awards ceremony will take place from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Nov. 30 in Room 501 of the Akasofu Building, on the campus’ West Ridge. The public is invited.

The World Meteorological Organization is a United Nations agency that supports the worldwide collection of reliable weather data for science. In 2017, it started recognizing “centennial stations,” or stations that had collected weather data in one location for more than 100 years.

The maximum and minimum temperatures are collected with a
digital thermometer. All other weather records are gathered
on site. UAF photo by J.R. Ancheta
Walsh is the chief scientist for the International Arctic Research Center and an expert in climate change and sea ice. Relatively few weather stations have that long record because after commercial airports opened, most stations moved to an airport, he said. The National Weather Service in Fairbanks moved from Weeks Field to the Fairbanks International Airport in 1951.

“The station down there is key,” he said of the farm. “The long, consistent record is important when you’re looking at the difference of 1 to 2 degrees over 100 years.”

Walsh has used the station’s records to study changes in snow cover. When the ground gains or loses its snow cover, daily temperatures can change by 10 degrees because snow reflects more sunlight. He studied the records for sudden jumps of temperature that could indicate snow cover or a lack of it.

Rick Thoman, a climate specialist for the university, has used the station’s records to look at changes in the growing season. The growing season at the station has lengthened by 23 days over the last 50 years, from 1969 to 2018, he said. The longer growing season is not as pronounced at the airport, which is only four miles away at a slightly lower elevation. The freeze-free season has only been extended by 10 days.

Glenn Juday, a retired UAF forest ecologist, said experiment stations around the country began collecting weather information because of its importance to farmers. When Fairbanks’ earliest residents arrived, no one really knew what would grow in Alaska’s climate or how long the growing season was.

“It was considered essential data,” he said.

Alan Tonne shows how he records the weather information.
Juday has used the weather records to study how temperature, precipitation and other weather events affect the growth and health of trees of the same year.

“Essentially half of the variability of the growth of the tree is connected to weather parameters,” he said.

Carven Scott, who heads the National Weather Service in Alaska, will present a bronze plaque to Alan Tonne, the farm’s manager and principal collector of weather data over the past 13 years. Tonne takes the weather observations at 8 a.m. each day. Maximum and minimum temperatures are measured electronically, but Tonne measures evaporation and wind volume, precipitation and snow depth on site.

The Fairbanks Experiment Farm took over weather observation duties in 1911 from the Episcopal Church, which had collected weather information beginning in 1904. The experiment farm remained the only weather station in Fairbanks until the U.S. Weather Bureau opened an office in downtown Fairbanks in 1929. The farm’s weather station is now one nine active cooperative observing stations in the Fairbanks area that provide community weather information.

A total of seven stations have been recognized in the U.S. as centennial stations. Others recognized this year are in at the Buffalo Bill Dam in Wyoming; Purdum, Nebraska; and Saint Johnsbury, Vermont.

Hot tea and refreshments will be available at the Nov. 30 event.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Homer to host invasive species workshop Nov. 13-15

Invasive signal crayfish are being harvested on
Kodiak Island for sport and eating. iStock photo
The Alaska Invasive Species Workshop, Nov. 13-15 in Homer, will highlight invasive species management and research statewide and will emphasize marine species.

The theme is “Surf and Turf: Invasive Species Above and Below the Tideline.” The annual event kicks off with a free workshop on invasive species at 5:30 p.m. Nov. 12, followed by a 6:30 p.m. public lecture at the Alaska Islands and Ocean Visitor Center. Matthew Barnes, an assistant professor from Texas Tech University, will talk about the forensic use of environmental DNA to survey for and manage invasive species. Environmental DNA is the DNA of organisms contained in soil or water samples.

The University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service and the Alaska Committee For Noxious and Invasive Pest Management will host the workshop at Land’s End Resort, 4786 Homer Spit Road.

In a keynote address, Barnes will talk about managing invasive species by harvesting and eating them. Several other presentations will be made on “invasivores,” or people who eat invasive species for culinary enjoyment or to help control them. Workshop coordinator Gino Graziano said the management approach is used around the country on the more palatable invasive species, including signal crayfish in Kodiak. Graziano said the invasivore refrain is, “If you can’t beat them, eat them.”

Presentations will cover invasive species in Dutch Harbor and the Pribilof Islands, the European green crab and invertebrate tunicates in Kachemak Bay, and Didemnum vexillum, a highly invasive tunicate found near Sitka. Other topics include partnerships to create awareness about invasive species and the management of species of specific concern, such as elodea, hawkweed, Canada thistle, chokecherry, knapweed and European earthworms.

The agenda and registration information are available at www.uaf.edu/ces/invasives/conference.www.uaf.edu/ces/invasives/conference For more information, contact Graziano at 907-786-6315 or gagraziano@alaska.edu.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Sustainable Agriculture Conference set for Nov. 5-7

An onion field at Vanderweele Farm in Palmer. Edwin Remsberg photo

The Alaska Sustainable Agriculture Conference will take place in Anchorage Nov. 5-7.

More than 80 presentations will cover diverse topics, including seaweed farming, rhodiola production, soil health, marketing, honeybees and pollinators, reindeer husbandry, livestock feeding, farm energy, the cut flower industry, and farming and gardening in rural Alaska. One session will even cover how to use pigs to improve land for farming. Pigs forage on vegetation, loosen soil, clear land and enhance soil fertility.

Casey Matney, an agriculture and horticulture agent for the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service, is coordinating the 14th annual conference.

“It’s about all things agriculture throughout the state,” he said.

Presenters include farmers, researchers, Extension agents, and representatives from agricultural agencies and businesses. Matney said a goal of the conference is to share information and improve the agricultural industry in Alaska.

For the first time, several sessions will focus on mariculture, or aquatic farming, of seaweed and shellfish. Participants will hear about Blue Evolution, which operates a seaweed hatchery in Kodiak. Farmed seaweed is used a variety of ways, including as an ingredient in sushi, seaweed pasta, vitamins and fertilizers for gardening.

“Mariculture is a great opportunity for producers in Alaska,” Matney said.

An all-day session will highlight research and producer experience growing rhodiola, an herb that Alaska farmers have begun cultivating for its roots. Proponents say the plant, which takes several years to mature, helps battle fatigue.

The conference location rotates among Alaska communities. It will take place this year at the BP Energy Center, with some sessions at the SpringHill Suites University Lake Hotel at 4050 University Lake Drive. The Cooperative Extension Service hosts the conference, which is sponsored by the Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program.

An all-day pre-conference workshop on Nov. 4 will focus on Alaska produce safety training to comply with new federal rules. The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation will offer the training. Mel Sikes, coordinator of the Fairbanks Soil and Water Conservation District, will also lead an all-day post-conference workshop Nov. 8 on the Alaska Agriculture in the Classroom program and resources.

Registration and conference information are available at http://bit.ly/AKsareconf. Participants may register by the day or for the entire conference. For more information, contact Matney at camatney@alaska.edu or 907-262-5824.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Registration opens for Sustainable Ag Conference

Hay is harvested at Hollembaek Farms near Delta Junction  in 2014.
Edwin Remsberg photo
Registration is open for the 14th annual Alaska Sustainable Agriculture Conference, which will take place in Anchorage Nov. 5-7.

More than 75 presentations will cover a wide range of agricultural topics, including livestock and rhodiola production, climate, vegetable variety trials, cut-flower production, honey bees, soil health, seaweed farming, integrated pest management, product distribution and marketing. Several agricultural agencies will also provide program updates.

The UAF Cooperative Extension Service hosts the annual conference in different locations in Alaska. The goal is to bring producers, researchers, agencies and others together to share information and to improve the agricultural industry. The conference will take place at the BP Energy Center at 1014 Energy Court, but some sessions will meet at the SpringHill Suites University Lake Hotel at 4050 University Lake Drive.

An all-day pre-conference workshop on Nov. 4 will focus on Alaska produce safety training to comply with new federal rules. The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation will offer the training.

Mel Sikes, coordinator of the Fairbanks Soil and Water Conservation District, will lead an all-day post-conference workshop Nov. 8 on the Alaska Agriculture in the Classroom program and resources.

The conference is sponsored by the Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program. Participants may register by the day or for the entire conference. If individuals register by Oct. 28, the conference and workshop fee is $125 or the daily fee is $50. Fees increase after that date.

More information is available at http://bit.ly/AKsareconf or from conference coordinator Casey Matney, an agriculture and horticulture Extension agent in Soldotna. He can be reached at camatney@alaska.edu or 907-262-5824.

Presentations will come from many agricultural agencies,  organizations and producers. More than 20 SNRE faculty and staff will present at the conference.

SNRE presenters and their presentations are:
Fred Schlutt: Cooperative Extension Service Status and Update
Jodie Anderson, Matanuska Experiment Farm and Extension Center Update
Darren Snyder, Insights from the National SARE Our Farms Our Future Conference
Meriam Karlsson, Growing Under Lights
Julie Riley, Season Extension with Dormant and Late Seedlings: Spinach and Cilantro; Cilantro Variety Trials Using Wide-Row Techniques
Heidi Rader, Variety Trials: Grow and Tell App
Pat Holloway, Taking a Closer Look at Alaska Cut Flower Production
Sarah Lewis, Wild Kitchen Walks in Juneau; Getting Acquainted with Cottage Foods and the Possibilities
Milan Shipka, Feed Needs for Alaska Livestock
Lisa Lunn, Parasite Levels in Alaska Livestock
Art Nash and Mingchu Zhang, Get the Heat Out: Using Wood for Biochar
George Aguiar, Reindeer Husbandry
Art Nash: Growing Well, Off Grid: Considerations for Water Transfer, Heat and Light When You Can't Plug Into a 120 Outlet
Gino Graziano, Invasive Plants in the Field: New Resources for Insect, Plant Disease Recognition Apps/Pest Portal
Phil Kaspari, Do You Need to Be a Certified Applicator?
Heidi Rader and Casey Matney, Agriculture in Remote and Rural Alaska Communities
Steve Brown, Alaska Rhodiola Growers and Research
Kevin Fochs, Update on FFA in Alaska
Lee Hecimovich, Darren Snyder and Cassandra Rankin, Youth Programming Updates from Mat-Su, Southeast and Soldotna

ON THE WEB: http://bit.ly/AKsareconf

Monday, October 8, 2018

Forest Fest brings competitors out of the woodwork

Birling competitors face off in Ballaine Lake.

Experienced and newbie lumberjacks turned out Saturday for one of the warmest Farthest North Forest Sports Festivals on record — with no snow on the ground and a mostly ice-free Ballaine Lake.

The morning competition started in the farm fields across from the Georgeson Botanical Garden with the axe-throwing, sawing, log rolling and pulp toss events. Activities shifted to Ballaine Lake around lunchtime for fire building and birling, which requires balancing on a plastic log floating in Ballaine Lake.
Belle of the Woods Ida Petersen and Bull of the Woods
Vic Anderson pose with their certificates.

The event draws competitors who come year after year and novices, including university students and alumni, curious community members and their friends.

Larsen Hess, a 2009 natural resources management graduate, showed up with his own double-bitted axe in a leather case and his wife, Arisa Sasaki.

“ I love it,” he said. “I grew up with loggers.”

His family has been logging in Oregon for four or five generations, he said. Larsen, an electrician, earned the “Bull of the Woods” title 10 years ago, while competing with his father. He proudly showed off his hand-forged axe, which was made in Sweden.

Anika Pinzner, a UAF graduate student from Germany who is studying snow pollution, appeared to be having a great time. She especially liked throwing axes. “This is the most Alaskan thing I’ve ever done,” she said.

This year’s top male and female competitors, the Bull of the Woods and Belle of the Woods, are relative newcomers to the event. Vic Anderson, who surveys forests for the state and U.S. Forest Service, was competing for the first time and this is the second competition for Ida Petersen, an environmental engineer at Fort Wainwright.

Anderson said while he has never competed, he does like spending time outdoors. The duo also competed on the winning team, the “Beleaguered Beavers,” along with teammates Victoria Smith and Jon Hutchinson, who both placed second overall.

Anika Pinzner lobs an axe at a target.
Most of the other team names reflect a woodsman theme, such as Old Growth, Dirty Woodspeople and Morning Wood. Old Growth was composed of mature competitors, including longtime competitors Pete Buist, his son Jason, Alice Orlich, and Pete Buist’s neighbors, Mark and Sheryl DeBoard, who were recruited to round out the team.

The fire-building event starts with a big chunk of log, which must be split and chopped into kindling and smaller pieces to start a fire. It has to get hot enough to boil water in a tin can. Competing in the Jack and Jill fire-building  event, Victoria Smith leaned in a little too close to the fire at one point to blow on it. “I didn’t need my eyebrows anyway,” she joked.

The event relies on volunteer help from former students, and current and former staff and faculty of the School of the Natural Resources and Extension and the student Resource Management Society. Chief organizer Dave Valentine thanks sponsors Northland Wood for their donation of lumber used in the competition and Fairbanks Stump Grinders for volunteering during the event.

Forest Fest winners include:

Belle of the Woods (overall female winner): Ida Petersen
Second: Victoria Smith
Third: Alice Orlich

Jon Hutchinson and Ida Petersen blow on their fire to get it going better.
Bull of the Woods (overall male winner): Vic Anderson
Second: Jon Hutchinson
Third: Pete Buist

Team Winner: Beleaguered Beavers with Vic Anderson, Ida Petersen, Victoria Smith and Jon Hutchinson

Axe Throw (female):  Alice Orlich

Axe Throw (male): Jon Hutchinson

Birling (female):  Channing Bolt

Birling (male): Vic Anderson

Bow Saw (female):  Ida Petersen

Bow Saw (male):  Jason Buist

Double Buck Saw (female):  Ida Petersen and Victoria Smith

Double Buck Saw (male):  Jason Buist and Pete Buist

Double Buck Saw (Jack & Jill): Vic Anderson and Victoria Smith
The winningest team, the Beleaguered Beavers, displays their certificates.
From left, are Vic Anderson, Victoria Smith, Jon Hutchinson and Ida Petersen.

Fire Building (two-person team): Jon Hutchinson and Ida Petersen

Pulp Toss: Old Growth, including Jason Buist, Pete Buist, Mark DeBoard, Alice Orlich, Michelle Boutin, Sheryl DeBoard and Barbara Michael

Log rolling (female):  Victoria Smith and Ida Petersen

Log rolling (male): Todd Vorlselt and Craig Brennan

Log rolling (Jack & Jill): Victoria Smith and Vic Anderson

Moving logs with a peavy proves challenging.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Farthest North Forest Fest set for Oct. 6 at UAF

A competitor at the 2017 Forest Fest works a bow saw.

Who will be the next Bull of the Woods and Belle of the Woods?

Come to the 21st annual Farthest North Sports Festival on Oct. 6 and find out, or better yet, compete.

Students and community members 18 and older are invited to try their hand at old-time logging sports, such as ax throwing, log rolling, bow saw and crosscut sawing, fire building and birling. Birling involves staying upright longer than your competitor on a floating log in the lake.

Balancing on the plastic birling "log" is a challenge.
The event at UAF is free and beginners are welcomed. People may compete as individuals, but are encouraged to form teams of four to six. At the end of the day, awards will be given to individuals, teams and the top male and female competitors. Observers are welcomed, but pets must be kept on a leash.

Students and faculty with the School of Natural Resources and Extension developed the competition as a way to commemorate old-time logging festivals — and to have a good time.

The Forest Fest begins at 10 a.m. at the Fairbanks Experiment Farm fields, across from the Georgeson Botanical Garden. At 1 p.m., the games move to Ballaine Lake. Refreshments will be available and donations are welcome.  A warming fire and some grilled food will be available at the lake.

Participants are advised to dress warmly and to bring a change of clothes if they want to try birling. For more information, contact Dave Valentine at dvalentine@alaska.edu or 907-474-7614.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Registration opens for Women in Agriculture Conference

Registration is open for the 2018 Women in Agriculture Conference. The one-day virtual gathering on Oct. 27 will take place at four Alaska locations this year — in Fairbanks, Delta Junction, Palmer and Soldotna.

The event will include 34 sites in Alaska, Montana, Oregon, Idaho and Washington. Speakers will address this year’s theme, “Pump up your Financial Fitness.”

The program will begin at 7:30 a.m. in Alaska. The featured speakers will be Robin Reid and LaVell Windsor, who will present “How does your cash flow,” and Sarah Beth Aubrey, whose keynote speech is titled “Attention Women: You are a Valuable Part of Agriculture.” She will talk about prioritizing and about new research that shows the value women bring to the farm.

Register at http://womeninag.wsu.edu/. The early bird fee until Oct. 14 is $30; registration will be $35 after that date. The conference fee includes the workshop, a light breakfast, lunch and conference materials.

Alaska locations will include:

 •  Fairbanks, University of Alaska Fairbanks Murie Building, Room 103-105

 •  Delta Junction, Delta Career Advancement Center, 1696 Clearwater Ave.

 •  Soldotna, Kenai River Center, 514 Funny River Road

 •  Palmer, Matanuska Experiment Farm and Extension Center, 1509 S. Georgeson Drive

SNRE will host the event in Fairbanks and the Matanuska Experiment Farm and Extension Center is co-hosting the event with Alaska Farmland Trust. The Kenai and Salcha-Delta Soil and Water Conservation Districts will host the event in Soldotna and Delta Junction.

This is the fourth year the conference has taken place in Alaska. See the story on the 2017 event. More than 50 women attended at three sites.