Friday, December 18, 2009

UA Geography takes lessons to local high school

Dave Veazey teaches geography at Effie Kokrine Charter School
Students at Effie Kokrine Charter School are getting more than grades in their geography class. Thanks to a new partnership with the UA Geography Program, high schoolers are able to earn college credits for the course, “Local Places, Global Regions: An Introduction to Geography.”

The class, offered for the first time in a local high school this semester, was taught by instructor Dave Veazey. “The university has a responsibility to provide educational opportunities to K-12 students in the community,” he said.

Veazey teaches the students about essential concepts and approaches of geographic studies, exploring physical, political, economic, and cultural geography of major world culture regions and examining each region in relation to others, and in context of global economic, political and environmental change.

“We want to make geography a norm in this building,” the school’s early college site coordinator, Sue McCullough, said. “It’s important to know where you are on the planet. It’s good to get out the globe and talk about where you are in relation to other places.”

McCullough said that offering college courses to the students at Effie Kokrine can create “a pipeline of Alaska Native students to UAF.” She added, “It helps them see why they need to get an education.”

Effie Kokrine Principal Linda Evans is also excited about the program. “I like it; it’s good for the kids,” she said. The students like it so much that one fall afternoon when the school was hosting a volleyball match during geography, they opted to leave the gym and head to class.

Calling the project a new model, Veazey said it may be non-traditional but it works. “There are tenth graders in our school who are ready for college and we have a responsibility to provided that education for kids who are ready. Well-prepared students suffer by not being challenged if the university doesn’t step up.”

He hopes the program can expand to other high schools in the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District. “Going exactly through the steps of kindergarten to twelfth grade has no magic to it. We need to individualize education.”

Taking college courses in high school can be challenging for some students. “There is less hand-holding in college,” Veazey said. “Some are ready for that and some are not. Those who are prepared do exceptionally well. For the most part it’s a good experience for them.”

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Anthropologists study Alaska food security

Alaska has a long way to go toward food security, UAF anthropologists stressed at a lecture Dec. 11.

Doctoral student Philip Loring and anthropology assistant professor David Fazzino based their talk on an article they wrote for the National Association for the Practice of Anthropology Bulletin, entitled From Crisis to Cumulative Effects: Food Security Challenges in Alaska. “What leads up to disaster is ongoing effects,” Fazzino said. Their work was spurred by the recent global food crisis and the spike in oil and transportation costs. During that time an elder of Emmonak wrote a letter to the editor about the shortage of food and fuel in his community, sending it to politicians, a food bank, a Native corporation, and rural newspapers. Alaska Newspapers, Inc., published his letter and the story was picked up by bloggers and the national media. “Alaska has no food security mechanisms,” Loring said. “We don’t know what to do if the planes stop flying. You’ve all seen Fred Meyer’s empty shelves when the trucks break down.”

Fazzino defined food security as access at all times to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food, including preferred and culturally-appropriate foods. He estimated that agricultural industry in Alaska provides less than 5 percent of the state’s food needs. “The most interesting thing is that we don’t know,” Loring said. “Subsistence foods and country foods are another thing to quantify.” Salmon, the state’s most important subsistence food, is heavily regulated due to international treaties with Canada. This year, king and chum salmon runs were smaller than expected. When subsistence foods aren’t available, people in the Bush become more dependent on store-bought food, then become more vulnerable to hunger and malnutrition because they decrease their self-reliance and increase health risks associated with processed and culturally unfamiliar foods.

Also there are economic factors, as food in the Bush costs two to three times that in cities. Even in urban areas food costs 25 percent higher than the national average. While Loring said rural areas are dependent on Fairbanks and Anchorage, those two hubs are heavily dependent on the Lower 48 for food supplies.

Fazzino wondered what happens to people who move to Fairbanks from the village, and surveyed the local food bank and rescue mission to find out. “Most people were relatively happy with the food assistance given, but some commented there was not enough Native or country foods available.” He noted that no one knows how much food is bought at fast food restaurants in Fairbanks.

Effects of unhealthy foods include cancer and heart disease, the top two causes of death in Alaska. Obesity and diabetes are other concerns. With health and food concerns the state should move from crisis response to a more preventive approach, Fazzino said. “We need durable solutions that are long-term and place based.”

Loring said he is not arguing for solely local food sources, but for ways people can be self-reliant, control their health, and still be a part of what is inevitably a globalized world.

“We need a thorough analysis of how food is produced, distributed, and consumed,” Loring concluded. “We need to come to the conclusion that we want healthy communities and design the system.”

Further reading:

Letter tells personal side of Emmonak fuel crisis, Anchorage Daily News, Jan. 15, 2009, by Kyle Hopkins

Rural energy crisis isn't a surprise, Alaska Dispatch, Jan. 20, 2009, by Les Gara

Community sustainability forum: food security, SNRAS Science & News, Nov. 12, 2009

Food Security for Alaska: A Letter to Governor Palin, Organic Consumers Association website, by Kim Sollien, co-founder of Alaska Trust Foods Network

Food security in Alaska a big issue in recent local foods news stories, Sitka Local Foods Network website, Nov. 23, 2009

Recent broadcasts on food, farming, and food security and sustainability, Alaska Community Agriculture, Nov. 4, 2009, by Deirdre Helfferich

Fish and Frustration on the Yukon – A Native Leader’s Perspective, by Myron Naneng, President of the Association of Village Council Presidents, June 5, 2009

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Watch for new peony varieties at botanical garden

Itoh peony "Bartzella"
by Pat Holloway director of the Georgeson Botanical Garden and SNRAS horticulture professor

Last season, we were contacted by a Canadian company, Plantek International, Inc., whose specialty is tissue culture propagation of plants. Since tissue culture is a very expensive method of producing plants, it is often used for high value plants such as orchids and slow-to-grow plants such as ferns. Plantek International grows a wide variety of plants including terrestrial orchids and peonies – not just any peonies, but the fancy, and very expensive ones called Itoh hybrids.

Itoh hybrid peonies are not a group of plants that most Alaskans have tried because they are expensive ($30 to well above $100 per root), and they are not considered hardy. The peony types most Alaskans grow are classed as herbaceous hybrids. They are mostly selections of Paeonia lactiflora from China and sometimes P. officinalis from Europe. China is also home to tree peonies, interesting bushy species with woody stems.

The tree peony is the most revered peony in all of China but is not hardy in any but the warmest microclimates in Alaska. The name Itoh hybrid peony honors Japanese breeder, Toichi Itoh, who was the first person to successfully hybridize herbaceous and tree peonies. According to Harvey Buchite, American Peony Society, the plants exhibit the habits of both tree and herbaceous peonies. The foliage and flowers resemble the tree peony, but, most of their stems die back to the ground in winter like herbaceous peonies. Since Itoh’s first success, hybridizers have created new flower colors including pink, orange tones, striped, splashed, flared patterns, and varieties that change color from dark pink to yellow as the flower ages.

Plantek International would like to claim that their Itoh hybrids from tissue culture are as hardy as herbaceous peonies. They searched the internet to find the coldest location where peonies could grow and found us. They sent us 145 peony roots, eight different cultivars, more than $7,000 worth of peony roots, to test in the botanical garden and at Lilydale Farm in North Pole. They were planted in the perennial trial plots in mid- September, and now we wait.

This winter hasn’t been too bad, temperature-wise so far. But the insulating snow cover is a bit skimpy. In a year or so, if you see a yellow peony in the trial plots, you’ll know the answer to their question.

This article is reprinted from the Georgeson Botanical Garden Review.

Related reading:

An Introduction to Harvesting and Selling Alaska Cut Flower Peonies, AFES MP 2008-03, April 2008, by Jim Auer and Pat Holloway

Peony-A Future crop for Alaska? AFES MP 2004-01, January 2004, by Doreen Fitzgerald

Production and Transportation Considerations in the Export of Peonies from Fairbanks, Alaska, senior thesis by Marie A. Klingman, April 2002

Monday, December 14, 2009

SNAP delivers climate change data to public’s fingertips

The above graph is a sample of the information available for Alaska communities, via the SNAP website.

Nearly every community in Alaska now has access to climate change data focused on their own backyard, thanks to a new, user-friendly tool created by UAF’s Scenarios Network for Alaska Planning.

SNAP, housed within the UA Geography Program, collaborates with policymakers and land managers throughout the state, including serving in an advisory capacity to the Governor’s Sub-cabinet on Climate Change.

“These new community charts allow people to get in touch with climate change at the local level,” explained SNAP Director Scott Rupp. “It can be hard to digest the big picture on a global or even a statewide scale but this method makes it easier to relate to, in a way that is specific to how changes can impact specific locations.”

Over 350 places in Alaska are included in the community charts. Data is presented at low, medium, and high future greenhouse gas levels. Concentration of the gases has a direct impact on how the Earth warms. Average temperature and precipitation figures are presented by month for a late-twentieth century baseline, and are projected for every decade out to 2100. The website allows users to compare various communities and consider how the changing climate may affect their own activities such as gardening or hunting or more public concerns, including drought, forest fire, or permafrost melt.

SNAP staff used Google tools and technology to create the charts, based on research by John Walsh, chief scientist of the International Arctic Research Center, and the SNAP team to provide the most accurate climate predictions for Alaska.

“This is our first effort to link communities in Alaska with basic climate scenario methods,” Rupp said. “This makes it easy to look at how precipitation and temperature will change throughout this century.”

Friday, December 11, 2009

Connecting Alaska landscapes into the future

Alaska marmots, trumpeter swans, reed canary grass, caribou, and entire biomes such as the Arctic and the Aleutians were featured in a presentation addressing the future of Alaska’s landscapes Dec. 8.

Scenarios Network for Alaska Planning Coordinator Nancy Fresco and Karen Murphy of the US Fish and Wildlife Service talked about their research in a collaborative project involving many state and federal agencies and other nongovernmental partners. Project leaders also include Falk Huettman, UAF, and John Morton, USFWS. Goals were to identify areas in Alaska that likely serve as landscape-level migration corridors currently and into the future given climate change, and to identify strategies that will help maintain landscape-level connectivity by focusing conservation efforts, minimizing redundant research and monitoring, and sharing data and information.

For this project, SNAP provided climate projections representing precipitation and temperature for June and December for selected decades from the 2000s to the 2090s. Dr. Huettman created models that linked current species and biome distributions to recent climate conditions, and then used SNAP projections to map potential shifts in biomes and species ranges. Fresco stressed that these maps represent only potential change, and that the plant species that characterize these biomes would be unlikely to move so rapidly. “Still, there are likely to be some fairly radical shifts,” Fresco said. The most noticeable differences predicted include movement of Interior climate north into much of what is currently Arctic, and potential biome instability in the western part of the state. The maps also show resiliency--places in the state where changes are most and least likely to occur.

Recommendations included in the report include focusing on better modeling, delineation, and monitoring of both refugia and regions of extreme change. Further work will focus on adding species distributions and populations to the analysis. Each species’ ability to migrate and tolerate temperature may be charted. Adding permafrost and sea ice data will make the maps “a sharper tool,” Murphy said.

The map predictions show the Trumpeter swan population spreading northward and westward in coming decades, reed canary grass (an invasive species) spreading widely across the state, and Alaska marmots thinning and shifting northward. Caribou, a generalist species, proved difficult to model using the above techniques.

These results will be presented in a report that will be approved by the various partners before being officially released. Project participants hope that the report will serve as a jumping-off point for future research as well as an aid to all Alaskans with a stake in landscape management. A podcast of the presentation and the slide show are available at the Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy website. ACCAP hosted the webinar.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Seminar connects Alaska landscapes into the future

Nancy Fresco, coordinator of Scenarios Network for Alaska Planning, a service provided by the UA Geography Program, and Karen Murphy, US Fish and Wildlife Service, will present a climate webinar Tuesday, Dec. 8 from 10 to 11 a.m. The presentation is titled "Connecting Alaska landscapes into the future."

Understanding how climate change will affect biodiversity and traditional subsistence is a common challenge faced by federal, state, Native, and private land managers. The Connecting Alaska Landscapes into the Future project was a consensus-based effort that included the US Fish and Wildlife Service and University of Alaska researchers, as well as state and federal agency and non-profit partners. The project’s goal was developing the methodology and thought processes to identify a network of lands that support ecosystem functions to ensure landscape-level connectivity within Alaska.

In order to model projected changes in statewide biomes and in potential habitat for key species, the researchers gathered data on existing conditions and linked these to models of future conditions, using climate projection data from SNAP, input from project participants, and complex statistical models. With feedback from participants, the models were refined and used as the basis for creating maps of potential future statewide connectivity.

The results in the report are preliminary and are not intended to be proscriptive, but rather to serve as a guide for planning and as a jumping-off point for synergy and further research an Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy spokesperson said. ACCAP hosts the webinars.

Pre-registration is encouraged. To register please fill out the web-form, or contact Brook Gamble, ACCAP outreach and education specialist, (907) 474-7812.

To attend in person visit the SNAP and ACCAP offices at 3352 College Road, Fairbanks.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

From farming to floorball: Erin Carr

It’s a long way from digging in the dirt at the Fairbanks Experiment Farm to the 2009 World Floorball Championships in Sweden— but graduate student Erin Carr (pictured at left) will be there. From Dec. 5-12 Carr and her teammates will be competing against international teams for the world championship.

Raised in Seward, Carr earned a B.S. in wildlife biology from UAF in 2005. She has been doing graduate studies with Associate Professor Mingchu Zhang and expects to earn her master’s degree in natural resources management in 2011. She works as a research technician for the USDA Agricultural Research Service, testing soil samples at the Fairbanks Experiment Farm and assisting USDA ARS Research Agronomist Steven Seefeldt with his research.

Carr started playing floorball with a recreational team at UAF and when she saw that the USA Floorball team was seeking members she applied. She held fundraisers and sought sponsors to pay for her travel to Vasteras, Sweden, for the competition. An offensive player, Carr enjoys the fast pace of the game. She explained that floorball is similar to floor hockey but instead of a puck a Whiffle ball is used, and the players can’t use their hands.

Carr’s graduate research focuses on controlling weeds in organic farming, both at the experiment farm and Rosie Creek Farm. She is comparing the use of cover crops to mechanical tillage to control weeds. Her emphasis is studying the impact of the different methods on soil properties.

Erin Carr works in the field at Fairbanks Experiment Farm in the autumn of 2008.

Carr and her father built a cabin for her to live in while she attends school. She enjoys gardening and playing with her dog. Her career goal is to continue doing agricultural research for the government.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Great Carbon Debate

The Sustainability Campus Task Force student group is presenting a discussion/debate on whether carbon dioxide emissions and should be capped, tonight at 6 pm in the Wood Center Ballroom.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Outgoing borough mayor shares tips with students

From left, SNRAS graduate students Tracy Rogers, Benjamin Rance, Leah Roach, former borough mayor Jim Whitaker, Yosuke Okada, and Tina Buxbaum examine Whitaker's files.

When former Fairbanks North Star Borough Mayor Jim Whitaker arrived at the UAF campus Nov. 19 to be the guest speaker for the SNRAS graduate seminar he did not show up empty-handed.

During his four years as a state representative and six as the borough mayor, Whitaker had accumulated forty-three bankers’ boxes of files. He randomly selected one from his garage to take to the seminar and as he talked to the students about policy he grabbed papers from the box and read excerpts. Each file had a story behind it. Items he pulled out brought forth tales of Bill Allen of VECO, former Sen. Ted Stevens, former Gov. Frank Murkowski, BP price fixing, and proposed legislation.

“Public policy is frustrating as hell,” Whitaker said. He urged the students to imagine what it would be like if they weren’t able to trust the people who make public policy. “We expect people to be honest and we should require them to be so,” he said.

“It’s easy to be cynical and it’s appropriate to be critical. The system works because of all the components.”

Whitaker advised the audience to look at lands in the context of global warming. He said Alaska is in an uncomfortable position right now. “Maybe we will get a slap in the face from Washington, D.C. Maybe it’s OK we are moving in that direction, away from Ted Stevens having all the power. Things are changing and we have to recognize that. We can’t have old set values; we know so much darn more now.”

As much planning as there has been in Alaska for a gas pipeline Whitaker predicted the state would be lucky to have one by 2054 if counting on Outside assistance. “We need to find a way to do a gas pipeline ourselves or find alternative energy. If we don’t take care of our energy needs we are at risk.”

He said public policy works best when people get involved. “It’s slow; it’s cumbersome and I’m proud to be part of it,” Whitaker said. “The system works; I didn’t say it was perfect.”

Serving the public has been the most rewarding experience of his life, Whitaker said. His advice to anyone considering running for office is to put others ahead of themselves, tell the truth, and to be straightforward, thoughtful, and considerate.

“If I were young and idealistic like you I would ask why aren’t things better,” Whitaker said. “My invitation to you is to change it. This is one of the few places in the world where you can do it.”

Since leaving the mayor’s office in mid-November, Whitaker said he will shy away from anything political for a while and is looking forward to going to back to school.

Related reading:
Former mayor says borough needs to solve its own problems, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Nov. 21, 2009, by Amanda Bohman

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Sfraga named vice chancellor

University of Alaska Fairbanks Chancellor Brian Rogers has named Mike Sfraga (pictured at right) UAF’s new vice chancellor for students.

Sfraga is currently the director of the UA Geography Program and associate dean of the School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences. As vice chancellor, he will oversee a broad range of departments that serve UAF’s students, including admissions, the registrar’s office, financial aid, student activities, and residence life.

"Dr. Sfraga has the background and experience UAF needs to build its reputation as a student-focused research university,” Rogers said. “Mike has shown that he takes the ‘for students’ part of the new title seriously."

Sfraga’s career at the university has spanned nearly twenty-five years. During that time, he has served in a variety of student services and academic positions, from his first job at UAF as a residence hall director to associate vice president for student and enrollment services at UA statewide. He assumed his current duties in 2005.

Sfraga earned his bachelor’s degree and a doctoral degree in geography and northern studies from UAF. He also holds a master’s degree from Bowling Green State University.

Sfraga said he hopes to provide a supportive and responsive atmosphere for students.

"I am honored to lead a division of committed professionals who work hard each day to foster a student-centered university,“ Sfraga said. “I'm excited and motivated to be a part of this institutional commitment."

Sfraga replaces Tim Barnett, who left UAF in June to take a position as vice chancellor for student affairs at the University of Illinois at Springfield. Jake Poole, vice chancellor for advancement, has filled the position in the interim. Sfraga will start his new job on Jan. 1.

SNRAS/AFES Dean and Director Carol Lewis said, "This is an opportunity to have an important voice for research on the chancellor's cabinet."

Monday, November 23, 2009

Alaska Farm Bureau lauds SNRAS researcher

Radishes are just one crop Jeff Werner grows at the Fairbanks Experiment Farm.

The Alaska Farm Bureau selected SNRAS Research Professional Jeff Werner as the 2009 recipient of the Ag Appreciation Award. The award is presented annually to someone who makes continuous contributions to Alaska’s agricultural community. In addition to his horticultural work for UAF, Werner serves as the state FFA advisor and partners with local businesses to provide jobs for youth and extend UAF research to the community.

Werner said he is fortunate to serve Alaska as the FFA advisor. “I had such great experiences as a young person in FFA,” he said. He works with middle and high school students as well as members of the UAF collegiate chapter of FFA.

Werner began partnering with Chena Hot Springs Resort six years ago when owner Bernie Karl requested help. “His generosity and enthusiasm have driven the success of the project that has provided an example of year-round large scale greenhouse production for Alaska,” Werner said. The cooperation with Pike’s Waterfront Lodge greenhouse originated as an opportunity to employ young people in the Fairbanks area, and has evolved to become an additional research site for small scale short season community greenhouse production.

Throughout his tenure with FFA and agriculture in Alaska, Werner said he has enjoyed working with farmers, producers, agency people, and young people of Alaska. “I hope that the work that I have been involved with, and will continue to be involved with, is beneficial to the people of the Alaska,” he said.

As an advocate of Alaska’s agriculture Werner said he “will continue to strive to make a difference in the lives of Alaskans through service at the university, the FFA, and as a friend.” He said he owes thanks to everyone who has been a part of his career, including the pioneers of Alaska’s agriculture who employed his parents, such as Max Sherrod, Paul Dinkens, and Bud Barnhardt, and to his UAF instructors Jim Drew, Jay McKendrick, Fred Husby, and Meriam Karlsson.

Werner could not be present to accept the award at the Farm Bureau annual meeting in Anchorage Nov. 13. He was in Japan at an international greenhouse lighting conference, presenting the research from Chena Hot Springs, and looking forward to returning with more information to benefit Alaska’s greenhouse industries.

Werner’s family moved from Michigan in the late 1960s, settling in the Palmer area, raising nine children and working primarily in sawmills.

As a student at Palmer High School, Werner was active in FFA and was a member of the Alaska Farmers and Stockgrowers Association. He spent much of his time helping others harvesting hay, digging potatoes, and milking cows. He also raised his own beef and pigs and started and operated a landscape management business. Mowing lawns became a new pastime, and flowers became a passion. FFA was a big part of his high school career. He served as a state officer for the Alaska FFA from 1983 to 1985, and has attended most of the ag symposiums since 1983.

Werner graduated from UAF in 1993 with a degree in natural resources management with an emphasis in plant science and fisheries. In 1996 he was employed with the Cooperative Extension Service working in water quality. In 1997, he became a SNRAS research professional and has spent the past twelve years working with Professor Meriam Karlsson in controlled environment, greenhouse crop, and commercial field crop opportunities, discovering new and innovative techniques for crop production.

Related posts:

Who says you can't grow corn in Alaska? SNRAS Science & News, July 30, 2009

Growing opportunity: UAF hydroponics and the FFA at Pike's Waterfront Lodge, SNRAS Science & News, June 10, 2009

Fair garden showcases SNRAS research, SNRAS Science & News, June 12, 2009

Friday, November 20, 2009

"Eating Alaska" to be shown at UAF Tuesday

What happens to a vegetarian who moves to Alaska and marries a commercial fisherman and deer hunter? Find out by watching the film Eating Alaska Tuesday, Nov. 24 at 7 p.m. at UAF's Schaible Auditorium in the Bunnell Building, 303 Tanana Loop East.

Join Ellen Frankenstein on a wry search for a sustainable, healthy, and ethical meal. Women try to teach her to hunt, teens gather traditional foods, vegans give cooking lessons, she fishes for wild salmon, scrutinizes food labels with kids, and finds toxic chemicals getting into wild foods. With humor and compassion, the documentary Eating Alaska shows Natives and non-natives trying to balance buying industrial processed foods with growing their own and living off the land. Made by a former urban vegetarian now living in Sitka, the movie is a journey into regional food traditions, our connection to where we live, and what we put into our mouths.

Eating Alaska has been shown at the Mendocino Film Festival, American Conservation Film Festival, Food for Thought Film Festival, National Food Security Conference, UC Sustainability Conference, Alaska Public Health Summit, and Slow Food Boston.

There is no fee to see the movie, which is being hosted by the Fairbanks Community Cooperative Market. At UAF parking is free in the evenings.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

More films on food and farming

Palmer is holding its inaugural Local Food, Local Harvest Film Fest from Thursday, November 19th through Sunday, November 22nd. This brings more movies to Alaskans on local eating and food growing.

Aside from movies profiled before on this blog, a few more (not necessarily at the film fest) include:

Alaska Far Away is a movie about the Matanuska Colony.

Good Food, a film on sustainable food and farming in the Pacific Northwest. From the website:
Something remarkable is happening in the fields and orchards of the Pacific Northwest. Small family farmers are making a comeback. They're growing much healthier food, and lots more food per acre, while using less energy and water than factory farms.

For decades Northwest agriculture was focused on a few big crops for export. But to respond to climate change and the end of cheap energy, each region needs to produce more of its own food and to grow food more sustainably.

Good Food visits producers, farmers’ markets, distributors, stores, restaurants and public officials who are developing a more sustainable food system for all.

Ingredients is a documentary on local food. From the website:
At the focal point of this movement, and of this film, are the farmers and chefs who are creating a truly sustainable food system. Their collaborative work has resulted in great tasting food and an explosion of consumer awareness about the benefits of eating local.

Attention being paid to the local food movement comes at a time when the failings of our current industrialized food system are becoming all too clear. For the first time in history, our children’s generation is expected to have a shorter lifespan than our own. The quality, taste and nutritional value of the food we eat has dropped sharply over the last fifty years. Shipped from ever-greater distances, we have literally lost sight of where our food comes from and in the process we've lost a vital connection to our local community and to our health.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Community sustainability forum: food security

Sustainability has many faces: economic, industrial, social, environmental, agricultural, political. The definition used by the Sustainable Community Action Network for Fairbanks is “the ability to meet everyone’s needs without compromising the ability for future generations to meet their needs.” SCANFairbanks hosted a forum on this topic Nov. 4 at the Noel Wien Library in Fairbanks.

The Natural Step

Suzy Fenner of SCANFairbanks introduced speakers Ritchie and Mike Musick, who used the example of the port city of Göteborg, Sweden, to explain the concepts of the Natural Step for Communities. Mike Musick, a Fairbanks North Star Borough assemblyman, carpenter, and former contractor, has had a longstanding interest in green and northern building techniques and recycling. Several years ago the Musicks went to Sweden and attended a conference in Göteborg, learning how the city has incorporated recycling, renewable energy, urban agriculture, waste heat recapture, public transportation, and other systems into its aim to become a zero-environmental impact municipality. The couple also traveled elsewhere in the country, looking at how Sweden manages its forests.

The Natural Step is a science-driven framework of guiding sustainability principles that outline the conditions essential for life on the planet. This became national policy in Sweden, which plans to become carbon-neutral by 2050. The Natural Step is now an international organization with offices in 11 countries. As shown on the Natural Step website, the basic conditions and principles derived from the program are:

The Musicks pointed out that Sweden’s culture and government are different than that of the US, and that therefore a different approach to implementing these principles in Alaska is appropriate.

Food security for Alaska

Food security and sustainable agriculture in Alaska were the other forum topics, speakers Gary Currington and Hans Geier. Currington described his interests in energy efficiency and gardening: he is experimenting with various mulches (shredded newspapers, etc.) and hydroponics, has a water catchment and cistern system, a composting toilet, and a wood stove.

Hans Geier spoke on the imminent establishment of the Fairbanks Community Cooperative Market. Geier, who is a board member of the FCCM, is also a Cooperative Extension Service agent, an instructor with SNRAS, and a farmer. The FCCM will concentrate on selling locally produced goods and food. He described one of the difficulties in getting Alaska-grown food into the hands of consumers, saying that most Alaska seafood in the state’s supermarkets has been first shipped to distributors in Seattle and then shipped back up to Alaska. The market will try to establish direct shipping from Alaska businesses, such as seafood cooperatives, farmers’ cooperatives, the two dairies (Matanuska Creamery and Northern Lights Dairy), Alaska-grown oyster producers, and so on.

Many villages and towns in Alaska have created plans to improve the sustainability of their communities, and a frequent feature of this endeavor is encouraging local food production. This does not always come as a result of seeking environmental or economic sustainability. For example, the Sitka Health Summit wanted a healthier populace; as a result, the city now has the Sitka Local Food Network, which features a farmers’ market and a community garden, farm, and greenhouse. Sitka is working to reinvent itself as a bicycle friendly community, and is organizing to build a community health and wellness center. Villages such as Chickaloon are building community greenhouses or establishing community gardens.

The audience engaged in a discussion about state and local policy toward agriculture, zoning and agricultural development, the effect of rationalization of fisheries (it’s now safer, but can be permits can be very expensive because of the limited number of shares of catch, so it is harder for new fishermen to enter the fishery), and support available for growers and consumers (such as the Alaska Farmers’ Markets Association, the Alaska Farmers’ Union, the Alaska Cooperative Development Program, and the like). Geier gave an example of the isolation of Alaska agriculture through such policies as restrictions on importing livestock: cattle cannot be trucked through Canada from the Lower 48—they can be flown in to Alaska (which is of course prodigiously expensive), or cattle already resident in the state can be artificially inseminated with imported semen. Still, he explained, there is good potential for agricultural expansion in Alaska: “Only about 10 percent of the designated farmland in the state is actually being used. There’s plenty of demand, plenty of land, just not enough farmers.”

During the course of the discussion, Tom Paragi, a wildlife biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish & Game, described the results of a study he and others did on the relative proportions of red meat imported, produced in-state, or from Alaska game: 85 percent of red meat from hoofed animals came from Outside. Paragi estimated that there is a ten-day reserve supply of food in most of the state, but only a three-day supply in Fairbanks.

SNRAS professor on agenda for TEDx Anchorage

UA Geography Program Director Mike Sfraga (pictured at left) is one of the featured speakers at TEDx in Anchorage Nov. 14.

TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share their passions. TEDx is based on the TED Concept (Technology, Entertainment, Design--elements that are shaping the future). Attendees have called it “the ultimate brain spa.” At international TED events, the diverse audience of CEOs, scientists, creatives, philanthropists is almost as extraordinary as the speakers, who have included Bill Clinton, Bill Gates, Jane Goodall, Frank Gehry, Paul Simon, Sir Richard Branson, Philippe Starck, and Bono. TED is an annual event where some of the world’s leading thinkers and doers are invited to share what they are most passionate about.

At the Anchorage seminar, Sfraga will speak on climate change modeling, highlighting the research being conducted by the SNAP program. Other speakers include storyteller Jack Dalton; Chris Rose, executive director, Renewable Energy Alaska Project Clean Energy Opportunities for Alaska; poet Kima Hamilton; George Martinez, founder/president of Global Block Foundation Sustainable Americas: A Global Block Perspective; Phil Klein, founder Pen & Pexil; Mead Treadwell, chair of the US Arctic Research Commission. Speaking via video will be Bill Clinton on rebuilding Rwanda and Bill Gates on mosquitoes, malaria, and education.

TEDx is free to the public, with limited seating. Registration is required. TEDx will be held Saturday, Nov. 14 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., with a reception following. The location is the Sydney Laurence Theatre, Alaska Center for the Performing Arts, 621 W. 6th Ave., Anchorage.

UA Geography takes giant map to Alaska schools

Fifth graders at Woodriver Elementary in Fairbanks learned geography skills Nov. 12 when UA Geography's Katie Kennedy visited with the Giant Map of North America.
The state's first tour of the Giant Map of North America is off to a great start, according to Katie Kennedy, education and outreach coordinator of the UA Geography Program. More than a dozen school gyms around Alaska will become geographic learning labs as Kennedy takes the map to selected locations.

Children kick off their shoes and traverse the map, following Kennedy's instructions for geography games--all the while learning about population centers, longitude and latitude, physical features of the land, and much more. The map is part of UA Geography's involvement in Geography Awareness Week. Following is the map's itinerary for the coming weeks.

Giant Map of North America schedule:

Thursday, Nov. 12, Fairbanks, Woodriver Elementary
Friday Nov. 13, Fairbanks, Woodriver Elementary
Monday, Nov. 16, Fairbanks, Weller Elementary
Tuesday, Fairbanks, Two Rivers Elementary (Also there will be Family Geography Night with the giant map, a GIS activity, and a geography jeopardy game. The activities occur from 5:30 to 7 p.m. This is for Two Rivers students and their families.)
Thursday, Nov. 19, Eagle River, Ravenwood Elementary
Friday, Nov. 20, Eagle River, Homestead Elementary
Monday, Nov. 23, Anchorage, Chester Valley Elementary
Tuesday, Nov. 24, Anchorage, Ursa Major Elementary
Wednesday, Nov. 25, Eagle River, Fire Lake Elementary
Monday, Nov. 30, Juneau, Harborview Elementary
Tuesday, Dec. 1, Douglas, Gastineau Elementary
Wednesday, Dec. 2, Juneau, Mendenhall River Community School
Thursday, Dec. 3, Juneau, Floyd Dryden Middle School
Friday, Dec. 4, Juneau, Riverbend Elementary

Related post:
Geography knowledge spreads around Alaska, SNRAS Science & News, Nov. 9, 2009

Monday, November 9, 2009

Geography knowledge spreads around Alaska

This photo provided by the National Geographic Society demonstrates the impressive size of the Giant Map of North America.

In celebration of Geography Awareness Week (Nov. 15-21), the UA Geography Program will transform school gyms around Alaska into geographic learning labs. Thanks to the National Geographic Society, the gym floors will temporarily be covered by the Giant Map of North America, a 26-foot by 35-foot cartographically accurate map modeled after the National Geographic Atlas of the World.

From Fairbanks to Juneau and points in between, UA Geography Program Education and Outreach Coordinator Katie Kennedy will take the map to elementary and middle schools for lessons on the map (literally) and family geography nights. Along with the map, the evening events feature GIS activities and a geography jeopardy game. Kennedy makes the map lessons memorable and fun by incorporating age-appropriate explorations, traversing the continent from Alaska’s Aleutian Islands to the Panama Canal and from Iceland to Baja. The children identify common land and water forms, learn cardinal directions, locate the largest cities, track population growth, compare carbon dioxide emissions, and explore major watersheds. All the activities incorporate physical movement and games to teach students place names, physical geography, and cultural geography as well as map reading skills.Appropriately, the theme for Geography Awareness Week is “Get lost in mapping: Find your place in the world.” The site offers games, activities, and lessons about mapping, along with a blog-a-thon and a daily mystery location quiz.

The UA Geography Program works with teachers and students around the state to further geographic knowledge of the Earth. In addition to offering a bachelor of arts degree, three bachelors of science degrees, and a master’s degree, the geography program reaches thousands of kindergarten through twelfth graders with its various outreach programs.

In Fairbanks, Kennedy will take the giant map to five elementary schools from Nov. 10-17. Hunter and Two Rivers schools will host family geography nights. She will visit three schools in Eagle River and two in Anchorage, Nov. 19-25, one in Douglas and four in Juneau Nov. 30-Dec. 4.

Related reading:

Video of giant map of Africa in action, SNRAS Science & News, Jan. 27, 2009

Giant map of Africa tours local schools, SNRAS Science & News, Jan. 9, 2009

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

USFWS interviewing UAF students

The US Fish and Wildlife Service will visit UAF to interview students and alumni about various jobs Nov. 5, 6, and 9.

Employees/interns perform a variety of tasks such as wildlife and vegetation surveys, environmental education and outreach, fish tracking, weir and sonar operations, invasive species monitoring and control, and habitat restoration.

Possible summer jobs include:
  • biological science technician positions (GS-4 thru GS-7) in fields of plants, birds, wildlife, and fisheries
  • administrative clerks
  • interpretive/education staff.

Since no specific positions are currently advertised for the summer season, US Fish and Wildlife staff will speak to students and alumni about the types of positions usually available and will conduct informal interviews to identify potential job placements. US Fish and Wildlife staff will provide their hiring officials with an interview summary of qualified applicants. Sample cover letters and resumes should be brought along. Students/alumni do not have to have a complete resume to participate, but should provide a draft resume.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service works to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, and plants. Programs within the service include national wildlife refuges, fisheries assessment, federal subsistence, fisheries management, project planning, endangered species, migratory birds, law enforcement, outreach, and habitat restoration. Internships and summer jobs are typically available for students as biological science technicians in the fisheries, wildlife, and plants disciplines.

The Student Temporary Employment Program is designed to introduce talented students to the advantages and challenges of working for the federal government, to provide opportunities for students to combine academic study with work experience, and to provide opportunities for students to earn money while continuing their education. Although US Fish and Wildlife positions require US citizenship, international students may want to explore volunteer opportunities.

Questions about this interview process may be directed to UAF Career Services at 907-474-7596.

Friday, October 30, 2009

UAF hosts natural resources career day

SNRAS Forest Soils Lab Field Technician Matthew Robertson tests carbon dioxide in the forest floor. Careers such as this will be discussed at the natural resources career day on Nov. 4. (Photo by Todd Paris, UAF Marketing)
Students interested in careers in natural resources are encouraged to attend the UAF Natural Resources, Fisheries, and Sciences Career Day Wednesday, Nov. 4 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Wood Center.

In addition to nearly forty career information booths there will be panel discussions from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. and from 1 to 2 p.m. Participants are Heather Knudsen, US Fish and Wildlife Service; DeAnne Stevens, Alaska Division of geological and Geophysical Surveys; Matt Evenson, Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Sport Fish Division; and Steve Murphy, ABR Inc.

Students attending the fair will learn what qualities, skills, education, and experience employers look for; the wide range of possible educational, employment, and internship opportunities available; and whether or not a graduate degree is helpful in a particular field.

The event is sponsored by UAF Career Services, SNRAS, UAF Alumni Association, College of Natural Science and Mathematics, School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences.

SNRAS professor publishes views on climate change

SNRAS Professor Glenn Juday (pictured at right) was the featured author in the latest issue of Witness the Arctic online newsletter. Witness has an audience of over 14,000 arctic scientists, educators, agency personnel, and policymakers. Published by Arctic Research Consortium of the United States, the newsletter requested scientists to submit articles on how their personal thinking about their research has changed over time. In Juday’s article, titled, “Coincidence and Contradiction in the Warming Boreal Forest,” he details the forestry research he has been conducting since the 1970s, highlighting the warm seasons Alaska has experienced.

About the beginning of his work Juday wrote, “...I considered global warming from human-caused increases in greenhouse gas as an explanation, something as dramatic as global-scale climate and ecosystem change seemed like a distant prospect, not something likely actually to be important in my career.”

As the years passed and national interest in climate change waxed and waned, Juday decided to focus on the potential effects of warming on boreal tree growth and forest health. In the late 1980s he learned tree ring analysis. He plotted ring-width sample data against Fairbanks climate data, expecting to see no relationship, but found out his assumption was wrong.

Following is a short excerpt from the article.

As I analyzed the Alaska temperature data, the pile of squiggly lined graphs grew higher and higher, and nearly all displayed a sharp upswing at the far right of the page, representing the high temperatures of the most recent years. Again, this sounds elementary today, but at the time it was a noteworthy trend—seeing the hard data at so many stations going up to such high levels was compelling.
My results also showed a strong cyclic feature in the record, which was partly related to the solar cycle and to El Niño, as a few others had suggested earlier. In addition to giving a summary perspective on about 80 years of climate data, I was looking for a reasonable and specific test that would address the question of greenhouse gas warming. I concluded that "if, as expected, CO2 begins to overwhelm the natural range of climate variability between now [1982] and the end of the century, Alaska would experience a stairstep increase in temperatures, the peaks of which would reach unprecedented highs." That basically describes what happened, but, of course, I wasn't certain at the time.

Related posts:

"Forestry professor included in new climate change book," SNRAS Science & News, Dec. 19, 2008

"The Case of the Missing Budworms," SNRAS Science & News, Oct. 16, 2008, by Glenn Juday

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Public input sought on Alaska forests

An all-day workshop addressing climate change impacts on Alaska’s forests is planned for Thursday, Nov. 5. Registration is due by Friday, Oct. 30.

Hosted by the Scenarios Network for Alaska Planning (SNAP) and the USFS Pacific Northwest Research Station, the workshop will be held via video conference from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Nov. 5 in Fairbanks, Anchorage, Juneau, and Sitka. The goals of the climate change impacts on forested ecosystems of Alaska project are to review and synthesize existing knowledge, provide a baseline and scenarios of change, and identify data gaps and uncertainties.

The workshop is an opportunity to engage with the core research team to let them know what issues are important and how the issues can be addressed so the report is relevant and useful. For more information e-mail Angie Floyd or call 907-474-2424.

In Fairbanks the location is on the UAF campus, room 204 Butrovich Building, 910 Yukon Drive. In Anchorage, it is the Gordon W. Hartlieb Hall, AV Lab 103 on the UAA campus. In Juneau, it is the UAS Egan Library, room 113. The Sitka location is 1332 Seward Ave., Room 206.

Presenters/facilitators will be SNAP Director Scott Rupp, SNAP Stakeholder Liaison Sarah Trainor, and Teresa Hollingsworth, a research ecologist for the USFS Pacific Northwest Research Station and an affiliate assistant professor for SNRAS.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Experts take close look at AMSA recommendations

From left, Shiji Xu (Chinese Arctic and Antarctic Administration),Carl Uchytil (US Coast Guard), Denise Michels (mayor of Nome), Pablo Clemente-Colon (US National Ice Center), examine the AMSA report.
For three days last week, an international group of scientists, policymakers, military and government officials examined ways to implement the seventeen recommendations of the Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment. Participants in the University of the Arctic Institute for Applied Circumpolar Policy came from the US, the United Kingdom, Norway, Denmark, Canada, China, and Japan.

“This is a subject that touches all citizens of the north,” said UAF Chancellor Brian Rogers in the opening session of the AMSA workshop, hosted by the UA Geography Program and held in Fairbanks Oct. 22-24. “The arctic is a place of challenges and opportunities where people have lived and thrived for ages. We need to discover a roadmap forward.”

Mead Treadwell, chair of the US Arctic Research Commission, said the AMSA report brought together the eight arctic nations for the first time in hundreds of years. “We asked how do we do it right,” he said. “We looked at what shipping is in the arctic as well as what it can be.” The three key words the Arctic Council used in forming the AMSA were: safe, secure, and reliable, Treadwell said.

Denise Michels, mayor of Nome, said marine traffic is very important to her city. “We’re doing our best to accommodate all this traffic,” she said. In 1990 Nome had 34 port calls and in 2008 there were 234, including four cruise ships. Michels said she sees maritime activity as Nome’s next economic focus. “We’re trying to be very proactive,” she said. “These policies affect us immediately and they need to work for all of us who live in Alaska.”

The attendees broke into three groups for the workshop, making recommendations on: enhancing arctic marine safety, protecting arctic people and the environment, and building the arctic marine infrastructure. The groups were charged with identifying primary stakeholders who should be involved, developing roadmaps for each recommendation (what actions are required), naming sources of funding, and establishing a timeline. The findings will be published in a report and distributed widely to arctic communities.

“Nearly every square mile of the Arctic Ocean has been traversed by ships,” said Lawson Brigham, a lead author of the AMSA report and a UA Geography Program professor. “We decided with all this marine traffic maybe we should take a look at protecting the Arctic Ocean and its environment and people. After holding over a dozen major workshops and fourteen town hall meetings, the report was approved by the eight arctic states April 29. “This goes well beyond climate change. It is about interplay of marine use. AMSA is a message of the arctic states to the world.”

Brigham said research opportunities abound, including arctic sea ice, arctic routes and boundaries, pipelines, marine ecosystem responses to arctic sea ice retreat, socio-economic responses to global climate change, noise, emissions, mapping, and effects of cold region spill response technologies.

The workshop brought an international group of experts to explore in-depth the way forward for AMSA, Brigham said. “We held rich discussions. We focused on the issue of protecting the arctic people and the place. The meetings were successful because they brought the right mix of actors and stakeholders together.”

Monday, October 26, 2009

Conference examines invasive species

Scientists, experts, and citizens’ groups concerned about invasive plants and animals will gather in Ketchikan Oct. 27-29 for two conferences.

The tenth annual Committee for Noxious and Invasive Plants Management Workshop will meet Oct. 27-28. The fourth annual Alaska Invasive Species Working Group Conference will follow on Oct. 29. The UAF Cooperative Extension Service will host both conferences at the Cape Fox Lodge.

Conference organizer Michele Hebert, an agriculture and horticulture agent with Extension’s Tanana District, said participants will include teachers, the public, and representatives from state and federal agencies who hope to raise awareness of the invasive species problem and to coordinate research and prevention efforts. Both conferences are in Ketchikan for the first time and include special sessions on marine invasive species.

A variety of speakers will discuss control efforts involving invasive plants and animals around Alaska. Gino Graziano, invasive weeds and agricultural pest coordinator from the Alaska Division of Agriculture, will provide an update on the Alaska strategic plan for invasive weeds and agricultural pest management. Margaret Brady of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will talk about aquatic invasive species and federal legislation. University of Washington professor Sarah Reichard will talk about the ecological impact of knotweed, an aggressive plant that can damage spawning areas. Gary Freitag, an Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program agent, will discuss marine invasive species sampling in Ketchikan. Reichard and Freitag will also speak at a public lecture from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 26, at the Forest Service Discovery Center at 50 Main Street.

Other conference events will include a teacher-training workshop from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. Oct. 26. The public is invited to a poster session from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 27.

To register, visit UAF Cooperative Extension Service's website.

(One of Alaska's many invasive plants, the Common Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare), is pictured above.

Related reading:
"Alaska Invasive Species Conference coming up" SNRAS Science & News, Oct. 6, 2009

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Workshop addresses Arctic Ocean issues

Sea ice off the coast of Greenland.

Scientists, military leaders, and government and non-governmental organization representatives will gather in Fairbanks this week for a three-day workshop on policies for the future of the Arctic Ocean.

The University of the Arctic Institute for Applied Circumpolar Policy workshop will run Oct. 22-24 at the Fairbanks Princess Riverside Lodge and will focus on the Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment, an interdisciplinary report approved by eight arctic states.

As sea ice thins and arctic maritime travel becomes more predominant the future of arctic shipping becomes an increasingly important topic, said Lawson Brigham, a UAF geography professor who helped produce the assessment. “It’s not a question of whether maritime industry is coming to the Arctic. The global maritime industry has already come.”

SNRAS Associate Dean and UA Geography Program Director Mike Sfraga will lead the sessions. Participants will identify future action in each of the assessment’s three main arenas: enhancing arctic marine safety, protecting arctic people and the environment and building the arctic marine infrastructure. Following the session, a report will outline the participants’ recommendations.

“This is a first broad attempt to consider a roadmap forward,” Sfraga said. “Others will take this work and build on it.”

Among the guest speakers are Brigham; UAF Chancellor Brian Rogers; Mead Treadwell, chairman of the US Arctic Research Commission; Denise Michels, Nome mayor and representative of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference; Lars Kullerud, University of the Arctic president; Ross Virginia, director of the Institute of Arctic Studies at Dartmouth College.

Further reading:
Arctic Council Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment 2009 Report (PDF)

Monday, October 19, 2009

SNRAS doctoral student wins national award

David D'Amore is pictured in the field.
SNRAS doctoral student David D’Amore has been named the National Field Soil Scientist of the year by the US Forest Service. D’Amore, a soil scientist at the Pacific Northwest Research Station in Juneau, collaborated with land managers and researchers in his efforts to scientifically understand the cause of the die-off of yellow cedar in Southeast Alaska and the development of an adaptive management strategy for yellow cedar conservation and restoration. He also advanced a mitigation strategy for carbon management in the carbon dense coastal temperate rainforest and is developing mitigation strategies to limit exported carbon and nitrogen into aquatic ecosystems.

D’Amore accomplished his goals through extensive collaboration with land managers and numerous research facilities across the country. Though resources have been limited, he was able to leverage those resources with partners to achieve common goals. In his job, D’Amore’s primary research projects have focused on wetland hydrology, hydric soils, wetland delineation, and tree growth in forested wetlands. He served on an interdisciplinary team developing hydrogeomorphic models for wetlands in Southeast Alaska.

D’Amore’s advisor, Associate Professor David Valentine, said D’Amore’s association with SNRAS reflects the mutual desire of the US Forest Service and UAF to collaborate on issues related to the temperate rainforests of Southeast Alaska. For his dissertation, D’Amore is examining soil properties in streams draining through watersheds and how soils in temperate rainforests are influencing the carbon balance.

After earning a B.A. from the University of Virginia, D’Amore served in the Peace Corps in West Africa as a forestry and soil conservation specialist for four years, and then earned a master’s degree from Oregon State University.

Further reading:
"Doctoral student focuses on forest future," SNRAS Science & News, Dec. 10, 2008, by Nancy Tarnai

"Silviculture and Ecology of Southeast Alaska Team," 2008 Science Accomplishments, various reports by David D'Amore

Friday, October 16, 2009

Student group promotes resources knowledge

From left, Joe Kendall, RMS prime minister, Karl Holt, vice prime minister, and Dawn Holt, treasurer, sell plants to raise funds for the club.
Members of one of the oldest student organizations at UAF, the Resource Management Society, seek to spread knowledge about managing natural resources.

In addition to fun activities such as camping and hiking, the group does volunteer work. Conducting educational projects with children at Bunnell House, adopting a mile on the Parks Highway, hosting professional forums, and assisting with the Farthest North Forest Sports Festival are among the activities.

RMS welcomes new members, whether undergraduate or graduate students. The club meets on alternate Fridays at 6 p.m. in O’Neill Building, room 356, and holds Wednesday study sessions at 5 p.m. in the O’Neill third floor computer lab. Advisors are Associate Professor Peter Fix and Associate Professor Susan Todd.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Pilot project focuses on fire science communication

A consortium to communicate the results of northern latitude and boreal forest fire science to federal and state land and fire managers is forming. Funding for the pilot Joint Fire Information Consortium was recently given by the Joint Fire Science Program to the Scenarios Network for Alaska Planning and Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy at UAF. The consortium is being created in collaboration with the U.S. Geological Survey, Bureau of Land Management – Alaska Fire Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, and the Fire Research and Management Exchange System. The consortium will work with land and fire managers to optimize modes and methods of fire science communication.

Two upcoming events of interest to fire service and land management professionals are:
• Fire Science Technology Transfer Workshop. Friday, Oct. 16, 8:30 a.m. to noon in the conference room, National Park Service, 4175 Geist Road, Fairbanks.
• Webinar on Interagency Fuels Treatment Decision Support System by Stacy Drury, SonomaTech. Tuesday, Oct. 27, 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. To sign up contact Sarah Trainor.

Trainor, SNAP research assistant professor, said agencies are mandated to use the best available science, yet managers often don’t know what information is already available or the quality and applicability of that research to their management plans and projects. "Another problem is the research may not be integrated in a context meaningful to management," Trainor said. "And while the research may be of the highest quality and peer-reviewed, demonstration of science findings in the field is often lacking. The Joint Fire Science Program seeks to accelerate the awareness, understanding, and adoption of wildland fire science information by federal, tribal, state, local, and private stakeholders within identified regions. Their vision is a national network of regional consortia comprised of interested management and science stakeholders working together to tailor and actively demonstrate existing information to benefit management of a large ecologically similar region.”

A proposal to the Joint Fire Sciences Program in February 2010 will seek to implement an annual, in-person Alaska-wide workshop and tutorial for fire science delivery, institute a fire science newsletter and statewide fire science teleconference/webinar series, conduct information transfer workshops in remote hub-communities, staff an Alaska fire science help desk, update and coordinate existing fire science delivery products, develop innovative fire prediction tools, and evaluate methods.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Flying Axes: forest sports festival results

Double Buck Saw event, Fairbanks Experiment Farm, Oct. 3, 2009. UAF photo by Maureen McCombs

The 12th Annual Farthest North Forest Sports Festival, held Saturday, October 3, saw contestants pitching logs, building fires, and falling in the ice-cold water of Ballaine Lake in this traditional logging and forestry skills competition. "Weather and turnout were great," said Dr. David Valentine of the event. Teams (4- and 2-person) included AWGPT, Benthos, Crumb Buns, Dark Horse, Dutch Oven, the Expired Tags, Jersey, No Shamin' LadyJacks, No Team (and No Team!), Paxon, the Strangers, Spiklets & Slivers, Team Green, Team Hangover, the Tree Toppers, Watershed & Co., Whatever, and the Wood Chuck'rs. (For several of these teams, curiously--or perhaps not so curiously--no names are listed on the score sheet.) Winners in the various events were:
Belle of the Woods (overall female winner): Kristen Shake

Bull of the Woods
(overall male winner): Jamie Hollingsworth

Team Winner: Paxon
(including John Hogue, Patrick Pritchett, Amy Rath, and Kristen Shake)

Axe Throw (female): Kim Curtis

Axe Throw (male): Raymond Johnson

Birling (female): Lisa Beatie

Birling (male): Matt McAnder

Bow Saw (female): Kristen Shake

Bow Saw (male): Chris Garber-Slaght

Double Buck Saw (female): Amy Rath and Kristen Shake

Double Buck Saw (male): Jamie Hollingsworth and Tom Malone

Double Buck Saw (Jack & Jill): Jamie Hollingsworth and Kristen Shake

Fire Building (two-person team): Chris Garber-Slaght and Danny Jenson

Pulp Toss (four-person team): the Tree Toppers (including Adrian Baer, Brenden Bruns, Chris Garber-Slaght, and Gabe Peasemadore)
One of the participating teams. UAF photo by Maureen McCombs

The October 6, 2009 Sun Star has a full center spread of photos from the festival.

Highlights from some of the previous forest sports festivals:
2008: "Farthest North Forest Sports Festival participants show off their skills in contest," Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Oct. 5, 2008. See also this award-winning photo by UAF photographer Todd Paris.

2007: News-Miner photo from the 10th forest fest fire-building event, and the cover story from the October 9 Sun Star. See also this birling photo by Todd Paris (brrr!).

2005: "Farthest North Forest Sports Festival," by Tav Ammu, Sun Star, Oct. 4, 2005. Photos by Todd Paris from this year are also available.

2004: UAF photo by Todd Paris from the 7th festival.

2003: rules and links for the 6th annual festival.

2002: Dr. Scott Rupp's faculty page features a PowerPoint slideshow download of the 5th forest sports festival.

1999 Photos from the 2nd Annual festival.

1998: the first year! Harry Bader, Jamie Hollingsworth, and John Fox, along with a few others, came up with the idea and put it into action.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Alaska Invasive Species Conference coming up

The 2009 annual Alaska Committee for Noxious and Invasive Plant Management (CNIPM) conference (Tuesday October 27th & Wednesday October 28th) will be held in conjunction with the annual Alaska Invasive Species Working Group (AISWG) conference on Thursday October 29th. Activities around the jointly held conference extend from Monday, Oct. 26 through Oct. 29. A free public lecture by Gary Freitag of the Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program and Dr. Sarah Reichard of the University of Washington, titled "Ketchikan: Gateway to an Invasion Free Future," will be given Monday night, October 26th, starting at 7 PM, at the Discovery Center in Ketchikan.

An Invasive Plant Curriculum Workshop will be held Monday, October 26th, from 12:30 to 4:30 PM. The workshop will be held at the Discovery Center. The workshop is free and open to any interested educators.

A poster session will be held Tuesday night at the Cape Fox Lodge, free and open to the public, from 5 PM to 7:30 PM.

Sessions on Wednesday will focus on spotted knapweed, impacts on natural resources, and plans of action.

See the agenda for full conference events. Contact information is available on the conference website. Early registration ends after Oct. 10, 2009. Registration forms are available here. (PDF)

Friday, October 2, 2009

Lecturer pleads for US to halt aid to Israel

Alison Weir visits with students Trevor Borseth, left, and Alex Kellerhals Oct. 2 in Cary deWit's Geography of Europe class.
“Come to Palestine with me and see how your tax dollars are spent,” urged Alison Weir, founder of If Americans Knew, in a lecture at UAF Oct. 1.

At the invitation of the UA Geography Program and sponsorship by the Alaska World Affairs Council, Weir presented her findings concerning the conflict in Israel. “We are supplying the weapons that are destroying lives,” Weir said. “Weep with me for our victims and our guilt and then say no more.”

Weir, on her first trip to Alaska, warned the audience at the beginning, “This is not going to be a fun, entertaining lecture. It’s a serious topic.”

Nine years ago she knew very little about Israel and Palestine, she said. “The Middle East seemed distant to my daily life,” she said. “I skimmed headlines and accepted the confusion I found.” In 2000 she decided to seriously follow the news coverage for that area of the world. “Quickly I noted as a journalist that we were getting one-sided coverage. We were hearing from and about Israel, as we should. I expected to hear about Palestine too but that news came much less frequently. I felt we weren’t getting the whole story.”

Her organization conducted two-year studies of the New York Times, the three major television news networks, Associated Press, and regional newspapers to determine coverage of children’s deaths in Israel and Palestine. Major news outlets reported on Israeli deaths at a rate fourteen times that of Palestinian children. “This bizarre pattern is what we found again and again,” she said. Regional newspaper coverage was worse. She even found on one occasion that the San Jose Mercury News had “reversed” the news, claiming that the number of Palestinians killed actually applied to the Israelis, and vice versa. “I was astounded,” Weir said. “What if they had reported the Super Bowl backwards? These reversals had to do with life and death and no one noticed.”

When they studied National Public Radio there were surprising results. “Many pro-Israeli people accused NPR of being pro-Palestinian,” she said. Weir found NPR to be “distorted” in its coverage of the conflict, but the distortion was again pro-Israeli in nature. Seth Ackerman of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting wrote an article about this called “The Illusion of Balance.”

Calling the coverage “manipulative reporting,” Weir said, “The suicide bombings in Tel Aviv are reported. The Palestinian rockets we know about. We should also know about Palestinian children being killed. Eighty-two Palestinian children were killed before one Israeli child was killed. Many Americans think the chronology is reversed.”

She said Americans are getting half-truths in the news. “A major phenomenon in Israel is going virtually unreported,” she said. “The most significant omission is that American taxpayers are sending $7 million per day to Israel.” She urged the audience to be informed about issues they are involved in. “We are involved,” she said. “Our country has insufficient money for programs here and we are sending money to one of the smallest countries and one of the richest countries. This is not being reported.”

Her main point about the history of the region was that when the Zionists decided to claim Palestine’s “uninhabited” land as their own, it was already heavily populated. “This is an ancient crossroads of civilization,” Weir said.

She has visited Israel and the Gaza Strip, which she labeled a prison, many times, becoming more and more astounded and outraged. In her travels she busted many myths. She discovered that the Palestinians welcomed her, invited her to stay in their homes, and told her their stories. She visited hospitals and attended funerals; she even endured gunfire in one home. “I have no doubt the Israeli soldiers saw me and wanted me to go. They have killed journalists before.”

To sum up, Weir stated, “I saw a people and a land being destroyed. That’s newsworthy, especially since I am paying for it.”

The day after the lecture when asked what Americans can do to help, she said educating other people about the issue is the first priority. “Tell your friends. Write letters to the editor. Contact your elected representatives. Tell them you want policies that are rational and moral and based on American principles and American needs. End all aid to Israel immediately.”