Thursday, July 31, 2008

UA Geography Program to host Association of Pacific Coast Geographers Conference

The UA Geography Program is hosting the 2008 APCG Annual Conference; the meeting will be held at the Westmark Fairbanks Hotel & Conference Center, Fairbanks, Alaska, October 8th - 11th. Keynote speakers will address many of the dynamic geographic, historical, and political issues unique to Alaska and the Circumpolar North, among them:

• Wednesday October 8, Opening session. Keynote address by Dr. Terrence Cole, Professor of History, University of Alaska Fairbanks, “Crooked Past: The History of Fairbanks, Alaska, A Frontier Mining Camp.”

• Thursday October 9, lunch and keynote address by President Mark Hamilton, University of Alaska System, “Alaska’s Role in the Circumpolar North and Pacific Rim.”

• Thursday October 9, APCG Evening at the University of Alaska Museum of the North (reception and museum tour), and keynote address by Dr. John Walsh, Director, Center for Global Climate Change and Arctic Systems Research, “Climate Change in the Circumpolar North.”

• Friday October 10, lunch and keynote address by Mr. Mead Treadwell, Chairman, United States Arctic Research Commission, “US Arctic Science Policy in a Time of Change and Challenge.”

• Friday October 10, Awards Banquet and Presidential Address, and an “Evening with Pamyua: Tribal Funk in the Last Frontier” - a unique blend of traditional Alaska Native music with a twist of a cappella funk.

Field trips are planned for the Large Animal Research Station, the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, and Chena Hot Springs. Information on the Call for Papers is available at the UA Geography website. Paper abstracts are due August 10 and poster abstracts are due September 7, 2008. For more information, please contact the UA Geography Program.

At the Tanana Valley State Fair

SNRAS and AFES staff and faculty, including Dean Carol E. Lewis, are manning a UAF booth at the Tanana Valley State Fair this year on August 2, Saturday, from noon to 10:00 pm, at the UAF booth in the Borealis Pavilion.

Come meet us and find out more about our research, classes, and degree programs. We'll have free copies of our research magazine, Agroborealis (covering topics ranging from fire management, birch syrup, peony production, morels, reindeer husbandry, agriculture history, climate change, carbon cycling, Alaska tourism, mined lands revegetation, GIS mapping, and more), other publications, and informational brochures about the school—plus free seed packets and other goodies to give away.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Alaska woody biomass

In Alaska, the search for alternatives to petroleum and fossil fuels has researchers looking at the potential of a variety of raw sources, everything from fish to oilseed crops to landfills to trees. While much of the news surrounding this research focuses on the source material's utility for biofuel (such as biodiesel or biogas), petroleum is immensely valuable as a source for complex hydrocarbon compounds, from which we extract or produce high-value, specialty chemicals or substances (fertilizers, lubricants, medicines, resins, polymers, plastics, etc.). Chemical analysis of petroleum alternatives may show alternatives for these as well.

The major categories of alternative biomass resources are: agricultural (energy crops, crop residues, agricultural biosolids); forest (woody biomass crops, logging slash, wildland fuel reduction, right-of-way clearing, sawmill leftovers); urban (solid waste, wastewater and biosolids, landfill waste); and fisheries (bycatch, harvest residues). Research at SNRAS has touched on many of these.

Woody biomass, i.e., trees and other plants, is plentiful in Alaska. We have millions of acres of trees and shrubs. However, we know little about the chemical characteristics and composition of the biomass available to us.

Andres Soria, assistant research professor of wood chemistry at SNRAS, is investigating the chemical composition and characteristics of alder, birch, hemlock, yellow cedar, Sitka spruce, red cedar, white spruce, and aspen. "Depending on the origin of the woody biomass," writes Soria, "from hardwood or softwood for instance, the chemical makeup…can be completely different."

Working with kiln-dried wood provided by the Ketchikan Wood Technology Center, Soria produced bio-oil (created through supercritical methanol liquefaction) from each species. The different species produce different liquid fractions, ranging from 96% for aspen to 89% for hemlock or red aspen, and averaging 90% liquid content by weight. The advantage of using this method is that it allows for a high liquifaction rate, and the complex of biomass chemicals remain in solution (131 to 190 different compounds with boiling points less than 250˚C depending on the species tested).

The economic potential of these resources could be enormous and could help Alaska break its economic dependence on imported processed hydrocarbons, by providing a better understanding of the resources available and their suitability to specific niche markets. Deeper knowledge of our resources and the costs and benefits to using them in new ways could generate local enterprises or new agricultural or forestry industries that could increase the state's economic and environmental sustainability.

A few publications, articles, and websites regarding the potential for biomass in Alaska are available:
Arctic Vegwerks, a blog "promoting the biodiesel and vegoil community in Alaska".
Biomass Energy, Alaska Energy Authority webpage on energy from biomass, including links and references on biodiesel, municipal waste, and wood and wood waste.
Alaska Wood Energy Conference, 2007; schedule and links to presentations.
"Bioenergy Potential, from Brazil to Alaska," by Brian Yanity, Insurgent49, October 13, 2006.
•"Biomass for biofuels: not all trees are created equal," by J. Andres Soria, Agroborealis 39(2), winter/spring 2008 (PDF), p. 7.
"Fueling the Future," by Charles Westmoreland, Capital City Weekly, July 16, 2008.
Sitka Wood Utilization Center, Pacific Northwest Research Station, US Forest Service.
Wood Energy Resources, CES Rural Development wood energy link list.
Wood Utilization Research Centers, a USDA special grant program, of which SNRAS is a member center.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Graduate research assistantship in forest biometrics and modeling

The Department of Forest Sciences at UAF is seeking highly motivated PhD or MS students who can work both independently and as part of a team to conduct research on the dynamics of Alaska’s coastal and boreal forests. The assistantships provide each incumbent a stipend commensurate with qualifications, a full tuition waver, plus health insurance. Summer internships are also available.

The students will be expected to work closely with the advisor to: 1) analyze forest inventory data; 2) calibrate forest growth and yield models; 3) compare the these models with existing models in terms of accuracy and plausibility; 4) construct computer simulation programs based on the developed models; and 5) write research papers and annual reports.

A BS or MS degree in forestry or closely related field. Knowledge of data collection and entry procedures, and computerized spreadsheets and databases. Ability to work with Minitab, R (or SAS), and Matlab. Good writing skills. In addition, the ideal candidates will have a strong statistics background, and will be able to do computer programming with C or Visual Basic.

For further information contact:

Dr. Jingjing Liang
Assistant Professor of Forest Management
Phone: 001-907-474-1831

P.O.Box 757200
University of Alaska Fairbanks
Fairbanks, AK 99775

Friday, July 18, 2008

SNRAS scientists' work featured on Science News

Studies by Glenn Juday, Martin Wilmking, and other scientists on the interactions of tree growth, forest ecology, and climate change in northern regions have been featured in a recent article by Janet Raloff in Science News, "Forest Invades Tundra…and the new tenants could aggravate global warming." The article provides useful references to peer-reviewed journal articles and other publications by forest ecologists and climatologists, including Chapter 14 (PDF) of the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment, to which many SNRAS scientists contributed or consulted on. Raloff writes,
Ecologists and climatologists are concerned because emerging forest data suggest that the albedo, or reflectivity, of large regions across the Arctic will change....The threat of tundra displacement by trees has largely escaped notice, Juday says. And indeed, boreal forest advances in Alaska have been modest, at best. One reason: Seeds don’t normally travel far in the Arctic, and even when they land on tundra, its dense mats resist implantation.
Except, as Raloff points out, when the tundra surface has been disturbed by fire, shrubbification, or other intrusion.

Raloff's article brings together the work of many scientists across the United States, Canada, and Europe in a succinct, readable piece that describes different aspects of these changes occuring in tree posturing and ecosystem transformation, and what it could mean for soil warming and carbon emission.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Alaska Climate Change Strategy meetings

The Alaska Climate Change Mitigation Advisory Group met on Tuesday at the Geophysical Institute Globe Room to go over policy options lists in the following areas:
• Forestry, Agriculture, & Waste Management
• Cross-Cutting Issues
• Energy Supply & Demand
• Oil & Gas
• Transportation & Land Use
Today, the Adaptation Advisory Group met, going over these catalogs of policy options:
• Public Infrastructure
• Health & Culture
• Natural Systems & Associated Economic Activities
• Other Economic Activiities
These meetings are part of the Alaska Climate Change Sub-Cabinet's efforts to come up with a list of policy options for adapting to and mitigating the effects of climate change in Alaska. These lists, or catalogs, will be prioritized and from them a set of recommendations developed for the governor to form a climate change strategy that will function, in the words of Larry Hartig, Sub-Cabinet chair, as "a living document reflecting the best knowledge on the effects of climate change in Alaska. It will be of great use to Alaskans by conveying state plans for adaptation to warming as well as presenting realistic approaches to mitigating the root causes of climate change."

The Scenarios Network for Alaska Planning is actively involved in these efforts.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Services for Jim Drew

James V. Drew, former Dean & Director of the School of Natural Resources & Agricultural Sciences / Agricultural & Forestry Experiment Station, passed away July 10. Services will be held for him at the Georgeson Botanical Garden Monday, July 21st at 4 pm.

Born September 21, 1930, Drew grew up on a small dairy farm in Cresskill, New Jersey. He studied agriculture with a pre-forestry option at Rutgers University. In 1952, he joined the United States Air Force and later served in the Air National Guard for twenty-four years.

He first came to Alaska in 1955 as a graduate student to do a soil survey on the North Slope. In 1956, Drew married Marilyn Smith of Powell, Wyoming, and in 1957 he graduated from Rutgers with his PhD. The couple moved west when Dr. Drew joined the agronomy faculty at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. While at UNL his research in soil science led to his election as a Fellow in the American Society of Agronomy, the Soil Science Society of America, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Drew also served as dean of UNL's graduate college.

In 1975 Dr. Drew packed up his family—Marilyn, Lisa, Kelly, and Michael—and returned to Alaska as the newly hired director of the Alaska Agricultural Experiment Station. In 1976 he was appointed dean of the then-School of Agriculture and Land Resources Management, continuing in that capacity until his retirement in 1995.

(condensed biography taken from "Harvesting a career", by Donna Gindle, Agroborealis v. 27 n. 2, Fall 1995)

Addenda 7/16/08: obituary in Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the Drew Outdoor Amphitheater at the botanical gardens. Donations may be sent to: UAF Georgeson Botanical Garden, c/o UAF Development Office, P.O. Box 757530, Fairbanks, AK 99775; by phone at 474-2619; online

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Alaska peony production

Georgeson Botanical Garden researchers have been working for the past six years to study the potential for a new, international export crop for Alaska: peonies. Peonies bloom in Alaska in June, July, and August, months when they are not available from the world's main sources of these showy flowers, New Zealand, Israel, and the contiguous United States. Federal grants have enabled the School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences to explore the market and horticultural potential for peonies in Alaska.

The results are encouraging:

• Thirty cultivars were evaluated in test plots at the Fairbanks Experiment Farm to determine which ones had the most potential for a peony cut flower industry in the 49th state. Three of these, Sarah Bernhardt, Duchess de Nemours, and Red Charm (pictured above) are recommended for beginning cut flower growers.

• Volume sales will likely mostly be in wholesale export and to East Coast buyers, although small local markets and other options are available. Double blooms are in higher demand than single blooms in national markets.

• Growers should concentrate on the proper harvesting stage specific to the individual cultivar, appropriate post-harvest handling and packaging, marketing and cold chain management, and careful examination of the costs and benefits of selling flowers in available markets.

• Best practices are being established as a result of the research in progress, and an Alaska Peony Growers Association has been formed. The first Alaska peony conference was held in February.

Several publications and articles regarding peony growing in Alaska are available on line:
"Next great crop in Alaska is a beauty", by Victoria Naegle. Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman, June 5, 2008.
An Introduction to Harvesting and Selling Alaska Cut Flower Peonies (PDF), by James D. Auer and Patricia S. Holloway. AFES Misc. Pub. 2008-03, April 2008.
"Peonies, through an Alaskan window", by Julie, Human Flower Project, September 22, 2006.
"Researchers study money-making flowers", by Rosie Milligan, Sun Star, September 12, 2006.
Peonies for Field Cut Flower Production (PDF), by Patricia S. Holloway, Janice T. Hanscom, and Grant E.M. Matheke. AFES Research Progress Report No. 44, July 2005.
Peonies for Field Cut Flower Production, Second Year Growth (PDF), by Patricia S. Holloway, Janice T. Hanscom, and Grant E.M. Matheke. AFES Research Progress Report No. 43, April 2004.
Peony--A Future Crop for Alaska? (PDF), by Doreen Fitzgerald. AFES Misc. Pub. 2004-01.
Peonies for Field-Cut Flower Production, First Year Growth (PDF), by Patricia S. Holloway, Janice T. Hanscom, and Grant E.M. Matheke. AFES Research Progress Report No. 41, October 2003.
Production and Transportation Considerations in the Export of Peonies from Fairbanks, Alaska (PDF), by Marie A. Klingman. SNRAS Senior Thesis 2005-01, April 2002.
Welcome to the World of Peonies (PDF), by Judith Wilmarth.
"Growing Peonies in Alaska", by Judith Wilmarth. Alaska Master Gardeners.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Garden Faire fundraiser

The Georgeson Botantical Garden Society is having a fundraiser on Saturday, July 19, to raise money to build the James V. Drew Outdoor Amphitheater at the GBG. The Garden Faire will have quilt and art shows, various family activities, demonstrations, and vendors selling arts and crafts.

The amphitheater is still under construction, but is now useable by the public. Fundraisers over the years have slowly helped expand and improve it. The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner has more on its history:
Construction of bench seating and a raised platform began in 1995, but funding ran out before a roof could be built for the structure.

From 2002-2006, the UA College of Fellows hosted “Goodies in the Garden,” an annual dessert party to raise money for the roof fund, but the fundraiser has since dissolved.

...[T]he project, which...will take another $30,000 to complete, will create a space that can be used for concerts, educational programs and other events that are currently unfeasible.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

PhD in Natural Resources and Sustainability

In April, the Board of Regents approved a new UAF doctoral program in natural resources and sustainability. This degree centers around three thematic areas: i) resource economics, ii) resource policy and sustainability science, and iii) forest and agricultural sciences. It is a joint PhD program with the School of Management and the School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences, and builds on existing several university and national initiatives, including the Resilience and Adaptation Program, EPSCoR (Phase 3) Resilience and Vulnerability of a Rapidly Changing North, the Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy, and the Scenarios Network for Alaska Planning project.

The doctoral program is accepting students; please contact Dr. Joshua Greenberg for more information.

Joshua Greenberg, Associate Professor of Resource Economics
Phone: 907.474.7189
E-mail: ffjag [at ]

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Energizing the West: July 6-9, 2008

The University of Alaska Fairbanks School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences, the Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station, and the Alaska Cooperative Extension Service are hosting the 2008 Western Region Joint Summer Meeting in Fairbanks, Alaska, July 6-9, 2008.

The Western Regional Joint Summer Meeting brings together deans, directors, academic heads, program chairs, CARET representatives, and others associated with land grant mission leadership in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wyoming and the insular islands of the American Pacific. "Energizing the West" is this year's conference theme. The conference will offer networking opportunities and discussions of policy relevant to issues important to the land grant universities as they diversify their participation in instruction, research, and outreach to a rapidly changing population profile in the west.

This conference is being held jointly with the Western Region Mid-Managers Conference, "Energizing Extension in the West". The conference is designed to provide professional development and networking opportunities for Cooperative Extension professionals with administrative responsibilities.

For questions or other information, please contact:

Carol Lewis, Dean & Director
Marilyn Childress, Administrative Assistant
School of Natural Resources & Agricultural Sciences
Phone: (907) 474-7083
Fax: (907) 474-6567

Pete Pinney, Interim Director
Sarah Hetrick, Administrative Assistant
Cooperative Extension Service
Phone: (907) 474-7246
Phone: (907) 474-6971