Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Researchers talk climate change in Venetie

Residents of Venetie welcomed ten researchers from the UAF Bonanza Creek Long Term Ecological Research program on Nov. 21 for an open discussion about climate change and its implications to rural villages and their subsistence livelihoods.

Nearly 35 people showed up for the forum in Venetie, located on the East Fork of the Chandalar River, 45 miles northwest of Fort Yukon. The population of Venetie is 181. Community leaders from several neighboring villages of the Yukon Flats region also attended, including Fort Yukon, Circle, Beaver and Arctic Village.

“We went to hear about climate change by learning from local residents who have a rich knowledge of the land and animals of that region,” said Gary Kofinas, associate professor at UAF’s School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences and Institute of Arctic Biology. Kofinas is also the director of UAF’s Resilience and Adaptation Graduate Program. LTER researchers presented findings in Venetie about their research on fire and moose ecology, rural-urban moose hunting and climate change scenarios .

“Those of us from UAF were impressed with the firsthand observations on climate change by local harvesters, and pleased at the excellent exchange of ideas between researchers and residents.” Kofinas said. “People were hungry for information and eager to share their stories.”

The project with Venetie began last year when 19 active subsistence harvesters from the community were interviewed to document local observations on climate change and how people are responding to it. The session began with a presentation of the results from those interviews. Two UAF research projects will continue with Venetie for at least the next three years.

The Bonanza Creek LTER, a National Science Foundation LTER program site, focuses on the importance of understanding long-term consequences of changing climate and disturbance regimes in Alaska’s boreal forest. LTER is moving toward a greater focus on the human dimension in its efforts, Kofinas stated. “Climate change requires that we consider the challenges and opportunities it presents to people. If we are going to make that link, we have to study how social and ecological systems interact.”

Friday, November 21, 2008

Alaska Division of Agriculture strategic plan

The state Division of Agriculture has just released its draft strategic plan for public comment until 15 December. The plan, "Challenges and Opportunities for the Future While Meeting the Needs of Today" (PDF), covers ten strategic goals and means:
• Agricultural development and marketing
• Board of Agriculture & Conservation
• Plant Materials Center: facilitating the development and sustainability of appropriate plant materials for Alaskan agriculture
• Agricultural Revolving Loan Fund
• Sustainable agricultural resources and services
• Outreach, education and recruiting
• Planning: encouragement of best practices
• Existing and emerging technology and research
• Energy
• Infrastructure
This is your opportunity to comment on community-based local production, sustainable practices, policy on genetically modified organisms, food security and supply vulnerability, etc. Send comments to: Lora.Haralson@alaska.gov

Monday, November 17, 2008

Geier releases study of missile defense economics

Research and Extension Instructor Hans Geier recently released a study (PDF) which states that missile defense work in Alaska added $246 million to the state's economy in 2007. Missile defense locations are at Fort Greely near Delta Junction and on the Aleutians. Geier conducted the research for the Boeing Co., the prime contractor for missile defense in Alaska. The figures include $52 million in payroll and $9.6 million in state and local government tax revenue. For the most part, the benefits are felt in rural areas where career opportunities are limited. Boeing is a major contractor for the U.S. Missile Defense Agency's Ground-based Midcourse Defense program, the nation's defense against long-range ballistic missiles. Fort Greely is home to twenty-two interceptors in underground silos. By 2014 the MDA plans to have forty interceptors in place in Alaska.
Further reading:
• Anchorage Daily News article, "Missile defense site bolsters economy"
• Fairbanks Daily News-Miner article, "Boeing missile work funding Alaska's economy"

Friday, November 14, 2008

Career advice shared with students

Graduate student Ellen Trainor chats with Steven Krohn of ExxonMobil at the career fair

According to a panel of experts at the Natural Resources, Fisheries, and Sciences Career Day Nov. 13 at UAF, the top two things employers in those areas prize are field work and excellent communication skills.

The ability to handle critters while working out of a remote camp is also a plus.

While computer skills are definitely crucial to any science position, it’s also valuable to employers to know that a person has good decision-making skills and some work experience. Charles Swanton, Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Sport Fish Division, said, “We’re looking for motivated people with strong outdoor skills, who know about fishing, boat handling and have the ability to swat mosquitoes in field camp.”

ABR’s Steve Murphy advised the students at the session to complete their master’s degrees. “That is our entry level,” he said. “We are looking for people with good field skills. If they have spent all their time in front of a computer it won’t work. They need to be able to identify plants and animals.” Strong analytical skills, computer expertise, and good writing and speaking techniques are also strongly valued, he said.

National Park Service representative Carol McIntyre echoed the importance of hands-on experience. “They can’t be hesitant to go into the wilds and work at remote camps for weeks at a time with grizzly bears nearby. I can’t overemphasize how important field skills are.”

Internship opportunities were discussed, as well as long-term careers in natural resources, fisheries, and sciences. Students interested in researching the options should contact UAF Career Services and register with UAF Career Connect (simply log in with student ID number).

Over 30 exhibitors participated in the career fair, including government agencies, private businesses, Native corporations, and educational representatives. SNRAS Director of Enrollment Management Dave Veazey manned a booth, and the statewide and collegiate FFA program was represented by Research Professional Jeff Werner.

Friday, November 7, 2008

UA geography student earns research award

Kristen Shake in the chemical oceanography lab (photo by UAF School of Fisheries & Ocean Sciences)

Senior geography student Kristen Shake has been awarded a Flint Hills Resources undergraduate research award of $2,300 for her work in oceanography. Shake, who grew up in Anchorage and Girdwood, has had a lifelong interest in natural sciences. She chose UAF after being accepted at several other universities because she was so impressed by the faculty.

“This is what students can do at UAF,” she said. “You can work within schools, figure out what you want to do and do it.” For Shake, this meant conducting ocean and fisheries research even though she is a geography student. Her undergraduate research, under the direction of Jeremy Mathis, assistant professor of chemical oceanography, is about carbon profiling in the Gulf of Alaska. It is titled, “Synthesize Carbon Data Using two Analysis Systems to Better Understand the Carbon Biochemistry of the Gulf of Alaska.”

In the spring Shake worked on an oceanographic cruise in the Gulf of Alaska, collecting carbon biogeochemistry data. She hopes to travel to the Bering Sea next summer. “That’s the best part of learning, going out there and submerging yourself in what is going on,” Shake said. She plans to pursue a master’s degree in chemical oceanography at UAF after graduation in May, and eventually to earn a doctorate, then teach, and do research.

In her free time Shake enjoys soccer, cross-country and downhill skiing, sledding, snowmachining, hiking. She was on the UAF volleyball team her freshman year.

Shake’s is one of ten undergraduate awards presented to UAF students by Flint Hills Resources. Recipients will present their findings at a research symposium in April 2009. The top three presenters will receive cash awards.

The UA Geography Program is part of the UAF School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

SNAP makes climate prediction maps available to public

Alaskans can now access the same statewide maps of future climate scenarios that the Governor’s Climate Change Subcabinet is using to assist statewide planning efforts. This same data is also being used to develop best management practices for community relocation planning under a National Commission on Energy Policy effort spearheaded by UAF’s Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy.

These new maps use the free global mapping program Google Earth to display data from the Scenarios Network for Alaska Planning, a collaborative network that includes the University of Alaska, state, federal, and local agencies, non-governmental organizations and industry partners. SNAP is the policy and research component of the University of Alaska Geography Program, under the umbrella of the UAF School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences.

Available maps and data include projections of average summer and winter temperatures by decade, as well as month-by-month projections for every year from 1980 to 2100. Maps are available for three different greenhouse gas emission scenarios representing low, midrange and high emissions. All maps are at 2 kilometer resolution, which allows users to pinpoint regions and communities at an unprecedented fine scale. Google Earth features allow users to select scenarios, zoom in and out, pan across the landscape and animate selected time series.

These data represent scaled-down model outputs from models used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. SNAP’s goal is to assist in informed decision-making by applying new or existing research results, integrating and analyzing data, and communicating information and assumptions to stakeholders. Further information on SNAP as well as climate scenarios in Google Earth (KML) or GIS (ASCII) format are available at SNAP's website.

Further reading:
Fairbanks Daily News-Miner article, "Mapping 21st century climate change in Alaska"

Monday, November 3, 2008

Career Day set for Nov. 13

Natural resources, fisheries, and sciences Career Day is Thursday, Nov. 13 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the UAF Wood Center. Anyone interested in learning more about exciting career opportunities in these fields is welcome. Summer jobs and internship opportunities will also be discussed. Bring a resume and be prepared to talk to federal, state, and private employers. For more information, visit UAF Career Services ,call 474-7596, or email jackie.debevec@uaf.edu. The event is sponsored by Career Services, College of Natural Science and Mathematics, School of Natural Resources & Agricultural Sciences, School of Fisheries & Ocean Sciences and the UAF Alumni Association.

A workshop featuring a panel of employers is planned for 1 to 2 p.m.

Seniors give thesis presentations

Senior thesis presentations are scheduled for Nov. 14, 21, and Dec. 5. Sessions are held from 2:15 to 4:15 p.m. in room 183 of the Arctic Health Research Building.

Friday, Nov. 14
Larsen Hess: Non-destructive Testing of Alaska Birch Stems for Decomposition Using Acoustics

Matthew Sprau: Estimating Stand Heights for the Boreal Forest Using Airborne Light Detection and Ranging and Conventional Field Methods

Friday, Nov. 21
Jennifer Kapla: Rumen Microbial Proprionate Production as an Intermediary Toward Ethanol Production Using High Cellulose Feedstocks

Nicole Swensgard: A Sustainable Off-Grid Greenhouse Design for Interior Alaska

Cody Maxwell: Growth of Hydroponic Lettuce After Pre-Treating Seedlings with CO2

Friday, Dec. 5
David Ellsworth: Long-term Effects of Reindeer Grazing on Vegetation Species Composition and Soil Characteristics of Grassland Pastures

Mia Peterburs: Recent Trends in Furbearer Management, Trapping Participation, and the Fur Industry of Interior Alaska

Jessica Guritz: Mapping of 14 Non-native Plant Species and Recommended Management Strategies for the UAF Campus

For more information, call 474-7188.