Thursday, April 30, 2009

PhD student wins film award

When the UA International Polar Year Young Researchers’ Network asked students “What’s Your Alaska?,” doctoral student Archana Bali (pictured at left) had an answer. “Voices of the Caribou People,” a film Bali shot in collaboration with indigenous communities, was the first place winner of the IPY video contest, and will be shown during the UAF student film festival.

Bali said she undertook the project because she wanted to document the knowledge of indigenous people who have a long relationship with caribou as part of her dissertation research on the cumulative effects of climate change, industrial development, and disturbance to caribou herds. Bali said, “I wanted to collect information from local people who are making local observations of change, using their own words.”

She found that the indigenous people she talked to were eager to share their knowledge and observations. “They wanted to contribute,” Bali said, “and I was lucky to be in the right place.”

Anaktuvuk Pass in Alaska; Old Crow, Yukon Territory; LutselK’e and Wekweeti in the Northwest Territories; Arviat, Nunavut; Kawawachikamach, Quebec, were the locations Bali visited over a four-month period in the summer of 2008. She traveled alone and found the journey enjoyable and the people she met kind and extremely hospitable. “These are wonderful people and because of them, it was a great learning experience,” she said.

When starting the work Bali had no film experience, so she took a two-week film course at UAF. Also, Assistant Professor Maya Salganek of the theater department was a big help. Bali developed the project with her advisor, Associate Professor Gary Kofinas. Funding was provided by the CircumArctic Rangifer Monitoring and Assessment Network, a program of the International Polar Year.

Bali grew up in India and arrived in Alaska in September 2007 to start her studies as a student of UAF’s Resilience and Adaptation Program. She has a bachelor’s degree in computer science and a master’s in wildlife biology and conservation from the National Center of Biological Sciences and the Center for Wildlife Studies in India. She came to UAF as the George Schaller Fellow in conservation studies, and is working on an interdisciplinary PhD in wildlife conservation and natural resources management. Her past work experience includes a stint with Greenpeace.

Before coming to UAF, Bali had no experience with caribou but was interested in climate change and conservation. She has since become fascinated with caribou research, including the impact of climate change on wildlife habitats. “I didn’t know anything about the conditions and I wasn’t able to appreciate them,” she said. “As a way of getting grounded and starting my research I decided to go to the communities and understand why the caribou are so important.” Using video she was able to capture their words exactly the way people wanted to say them.

In some communities the elders did not speak English and she had to work through interpreters. While caribou hunting with local residents, she found herself in the midst of a large caribou herd. “It was very exciting to see caribou moving all around me,” she said. “It was incredible.”

After shooting 108 hours of video, Bali created a short version of her work—twelve minutes—which she entered in the contest. “Reviewing the tapes and editing the file was a slow process,” she said. She doesn’t plan to let the rest of the footage go to waste, and will create a short film based on interviews in each village and produce a final consolidated documentary that can be used to communicate people’s voices to researchers and decision makers. All the interviews will be made available in public domain via the internet, for people interested in the human-caribou systems of the North. “Video is a powerful tool to reach out to the outside world,” Bali said.

Winners of the “What’s Your Alaska?” video contest will be shown Saturday, May 2 at 2 p.m. during the UAF Theater and Film Department’s student film festival. Photo contest winners will be displayed in the Great Hall from 2 to 7 p.m. The event will also include a reception for the winners from 4 to 7 p.m. in the Great Hall. For more information, call 474-7931 or 474-6264 or e-mail.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

2nd CSA roundtable

SNRAS is facilitating a second Community Shared Agriculture Roundtable, to be held Thursday, April 30, room 417, the International Arctic Research Center (IARC) on West Ridge., from 9 to 10:30 a.m.

Mike Emers of Rosie Creek Farm is coordinating this roundtable for northern area growers, while Anne-Corinne Kell of Spring Creek Farm is coordinating for the Matanuska-Susitna area and elsewhere. Please contact them for more information on the agenda. This meeting is open not only to those operating CSAs, but all those involved in small-scale community oriented agriculture.

The first CSA Roundtable was held March 19 and covered topics such as labor costs, agricultural infrastructure, supporting businesses, and supporting organizations. A loose group of CSA operators has been formed. To join their e-mail list, please contact the SNRAS Information Office, Mike Emers, or Anne-Corinne Kell.

More reading on CSAs in Alaska:
"Outdoor Education Finds Food at its Roots in Alaska," by Eleanor Hagan, The Georgetown Independent. 4/26/09

It's spring; sign up for Valley produce delivery, by Steve Edwards, Anchorage Daily News. April 14th, 2009

“Community Supported Agriculture offers shareholders a tasty payout”, by Mary Beth Smetzer, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. March 26, 2009.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

School honored for supporting Peace Corps

Left to right are Eileen Conoboy of the Peace Corps; Carol Lewis, dean of the School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences; Jennifer Carroll, acting vice chancellor for Rural, Community and Native Education; and UAF Chancellor Brian Rogers. 
UAF and SNRAS were praised by visiting Peace Corps regional manager Eileen Conoboy April 24. Presenting a plaque to Chancellor Brian Rogers, Conoboy extolled the support that SNRAS and Rural, Community, and Native Education have shown the Master’s International program.

SNRAS has had one student, Erin Kelly, complete the program, with another, Matthew Helt, in Paraguay. The rural program has two students in the field. The Master’s International program combines graduate study with Peace Corps volunteer service.

The degree offered by SNRAS is a master of science in natural resources management, and may focus on horticulture, soil science, agronomy, animal science, forest ecology, silviculture, resource economics, land planning, parks and recreation management, or resource policy. Students accepted into the program complete two semesters of coursework, then receive a two-year Peace Corps volunteer assignment. Courses are selected by the student and his or her advisory committee based on undergraduate experience, degree requirements, and particular interests of the student.

“This is not just a resume builder,” said Tony Gasbarro, UAF professor emeritus and the campus coordinator for Master’s International. “The student has to have a sincere interest in helping the poor in the underdeveloped world. They need compassion for people in the Third World.”

Natural Resources Associate Professor Susan Todd, academic contact for the Master’s International program with SNRAS, said, “Having some courses in a graduate program focused on international issues is a good thing since Americans tend to know very little about foreign countries. This program takes the coursework a step further by placing students in another country for two years. With globalization everything is connected. Even if we ignore the rest of the world it does affect us.” Todd is glad that interest in the program is growing.

Gasbarro is also pleased. “International experience only helps students,” he said. The host country gets the technical experience of graduate students, and also becomes more aware of what Americans are like. “It’s a cultural interchange,” Gasbarro said. Often it’s outside of work that volunteers make the best connections. “They can provide so much—English courses, soccer games, community involvement, sharing other skills.”

The program helps students develop skills for the global marketplace and gain job placement support, Gasbarro said.

Further reading:
“Salvadoran challenges,” December 2007, by LJ Evans, UAF Newsroom

Friday, April 24, 2009

Geography senior receives top honor

Alice Orlich is this year's recipient of the Marion Frances Boswell Memorial Award, which recognizes the outstanding graduating senior woman at UAF. Orlich will receive a bachelor’s degree in geography May 10 at the UAF commencement ceremony. She is known among her UA Geography Program professors not only for her academic abilities but also for her leadership among fellow students and her willingness to help her peers understand academic concepts. Orlich has received multiple awards and scholarships during her undergraduate career, in addition to working as a student research assistant. She is the author of a chapter on field logistics and safety in a book, Handbook of Sea Ice Field Research Techniques, which will be used in future UAF courses.

Orlich came to Alaska in 1993 as a volunteer for the US Forest Service. Hailing from Milwaukee, Alice spent the years after high school traveling the world, including five trips to Antarctica, and she has lived in remote areas of Alaska, including Stevens Village, Anaktuvuk Pass, and Wiseman. Geography was her chosen field because it encompasses her various interests. “I enjoy traveling and working in the field in polar regions yet I also like to study human interactions,” she said.

Orlich has worked for two years as a student research assistant with Dr. Jennifer Hutchings, International Arctic Research Center. Orlich studied ice caps during the summers of 2007 and 2008, collecting field data on the sea ice extent, distribution, type, and thickness at several locations along the track followed by Canadian Coast Guard Service Louis S. St. Laurent Icebreaker in the Beaufort Sea. She is currently considering graduate school, and hopes to find a project involving research in both polar regions, climate change, and the cryosphere. She loves one-way ticket traveling, diving, testing her survivalist skills, and learning how to do anything new.

Orlich and other outstanding students are honorees at the UAF awards breakfast April 25. In addition to the Boswell award, Orlich was chosen "outstanding student" for her department and received the NASA Alaska Space Grant Program fellowship.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

A map of Alaska farms with community shared agriculture programs

View CSAs in Alaska in a larger map

Student examines growing degree days

High Latitude Agriculture student Ellen Hatch (pictured at right) will spend the summer of 2009 studying and mapping growing degree days in the Fairbanks North Star Borough.

“It’s a question as old as agriculture itself,” Hatch said. “What should be planted when?”

Current USDA Alaska zone delineations are based on extremes, and Hatch decided to obtain more accurate information. Working with her advisor, Dr. Nancy Fresco, Hatch relied on projections provided by the Scenarios Network for Alaska Planning. She wants to discover how accurate the predictions are. “I’m going to take another swing at mapping things,” she said, pointing out obvious problems such as Prudhoe Bay and Fairbanks showing the same zones on the USDA map.

In current maps, micro-zones are based on minimum extreme temperatures, which only pertains to overwintering plants and perennials. Hatch plans to tackle growing degree days based on heat requirements for plants to develop physiologically, taking into account Alaska’s long daylight hours. She will use historical climate data from the Climatic Research Unit, projections of future Alaska climates based on the five best global circulation models, multiple scenarios based on optimistic, midrange, and pessimistic emission predictions, and scaled down historical and projected data with local topography information. She will also incorporate data from ten weather stations in the borough. Hatch hopes her new maps will benefit farmers by providing information on potential crop production zones, the potential future of crops and growth zones based on predicted climate change, and make possible diversification of the produce market in the borough.

The research will concentrate on annual plants that are directly seeded (not transplanted). She will begin with standard Fairbanks crops such as spinach, beans, beets, kale, and expand to experimental crops, including cilantro, apples, and new cultivars.

“I’m more interested in finding out what the farmers can grow, not what they are not able to grow,” Hatch explained.

Hatch, who was selected as “outstanding student of the year” by the High Latitude Agriculture faculty, became interested in this topic after hearing Dr. John Walsh lecture on climate change and Nancy Fresco discuss SNAP. “Climate change in the future will have some serious implications for agriculture around the world, and these effects can potentially be examined right here at home in the North Star Borough,” Hatch said.

She took into consideration the larger agricultural community – scientists, growers, potential growers, people thinking about buying land in Alaska – when selecting her thesis subject. “I hope my project will prove useful,” she said. “More exploration in the usefulness of the growing degree day increment to Alaska agriculture is certainly needed and my project and the ground truthing I plan to do this summer will hopefully provide another point of insight.” The accuracy of the maps will be the key to the work’s value to farmers, she said.

Knowing what areas of the borough are cooler or warmer will likely be of interest to prospective land buyers and farmers should find the trends and increments of increase in growing degree days of interest, she said. Hatch plans to visit local farmers with a set of interview questions and follow up by phone or e-mail throughout the summer. She also intends to spend lots of time at the Tanana Valley Farmers’ Market. Any growers interested in the project should contact Hatch.

Hatch has spent her college years at UAF except for exchange studies she did in Hawaii, Norway, and Scotland. She plans to pursue master’s and doctorate degrees and ultimately attend medical school. She is greatly interested in helping Alaska become more independent in food production. Her other passions are geothermal energy and climate change. In free time, Hatch enjoys mountaineering, ice climbing, backpacking, soccer, ultimate Frisbee, jazz music, and reading.

“I am so grateful to my professors in High Latitude Ag who have provided intellectually stimulating classes and inspired me with their enthusiasm,” she said.

Nancy Fresco, Hatch’s advisor, said, “It's great to be working with a motivated student who is taking advantage of the climate projections that SNAP offers. This project is both timely and important; it has the potential to assist farmers and gardeners across the borough as they fine-tune their agricultural capabilities and plan for change.”

Thursday, April 16, 2009

SNRAS faculty meet with Mark Begich

After Sen. Mark Begich (pictured at right) gives a lecture at UAF Friday, April 17 on the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and how it stands to affect Alaska, the Interior, and the university, he will talk with ten UAF researchers to get the nitty gritty about how stimulus funding could further each one’s work.

Organized by Virgil Sharpton, UAF vice chancellor for research, the session will highlight UAF scientific efforts, particularly in light of climate change, but not limited to it. Two SNRAS faculty are involved, Scenarios Network for Alaska Planning Director Scott Rupp and Professor of Forest Ecology Glenn Juday.

Rupp said he is going to the presentation with a positive outlook. “I’m not sure what will come out of it,” he said, “but the senator is clearly interested in finding out how our delegation can help entities like UAF and UA take advantage of stimulus funding.” During his few minutes to talk to Begich, Rupp said he hopes to impress upon the senator the value of the work that SNAP does and the fact that it can be applied across Alaska and in a larger framework too. “I hope he will learn that SNAP is the place to come for anyone in Alaska who is trying to understand what the future will look like,” Rupp said. Examples he gave were if BP were considering building an ice bridge, SNAP could help with projections, or if Homer’s government wanted to know how climate change would impact tourism and fisheries.

Glenn Juday will address the US Geological Survey’s attempt to launch the Yukon Basin Initiative. Juday is the university representative in the partnership. The USGS National Research Program and the Alaska Science Center have been cooperating to collect baseline and process-based water quality data in the Yukon River Basin (2001-2005) as part of a research-based study to understand the basin’s response to climate change. Climatic warming of the Yukon River Basin is resulting in lengthening of the growing season, melting of permafrost, and deepening of the soil active layer. These and related processes are anticipated to result in changes in water and sediment chemistry and discharge in upcoming decades. A better understanding of baseline trends and processes controlling the water quality of the Yukon River and its tributaries will facilitate the proper management of resources as conditions change in response to environmental change. As a first step in understanding these changes, the USGS is monitoring water discharge and making water and sediment chemistry measurements on the Yukon River and all of its major tributaries. “We need to collect reliable information,” Juday said. “And then move on to maintenance.”

FFA members gather for Alaska state convention April 22-24

FFA members from across Alaska will meet April 22 to 24 at the historic depot in Palmer for the Annual State FFA Convention. This is the capstone of the academic year for the Alaska state FFA. The convention theme is “Step Up and Stand Out to Feed, Fuel, and Finance Alaska.” The convention will be held in Palmer to recognize the accomplishments of the colonists who arrived in the Matanuska Valley in 1935 and the fiftieth anniversary of the first Alaska FFA program at Palmer Central High School. Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell is scheduled to attend the convention on Earth Day, a special day on which the Alaska FFA hosts the Alaska Envirothon, a natural resources competition for high school students.

Students from FFA chapters in Palmer, Anchorage, Fairbanks, North Pole, Delta Junction, Kodiak, Homer, and Wasilla will gather for contests, elections, workshops, and awards. In addition to Envirothon, students will compete in leadership and skill events. The winners of the contests will receive awards during the banquet at the end of the convention.

Riley Branch, of Texas Tech University, the western region vice president of the National FFA Organization, will present the keynote address and workshops. The current state officers will give retiring addresses and the new officer team will be elected, introduced, and installed.

Since its inception, FFA has prepared young people for opportunities and successful careers in agriculture and natural resources by providing educational programs, scholarships, and work experience. FFA operates on local, state, and national levels, providing students with a well-rounded and practical approach to learning. FFA helps students develop leadership skills by participating in public speaking, chapter meetings, career development events, recognition programs, and community projects. FFA also motivates young people to make a positive contribution to their schools, homes, communities, and country. Nationally there are nearly 510,000 members; Alaska has over 150 members ranging from 12 to 21 years old.

SNRAS and the Palmer Research and Extension Center are proud to host this event, along with many local and state agency and industry partners and sponsors. For more information, contact Jeff Werner, FFA advisor, 907-474-6932.

UAF students host Earth events

Unofficial Earth Day flag, Wikipedia
Earth Day will be commemorated across the world in many ways. At UAF, this year’s celebration involves everything from a recycled art show to an organic recipe contest.

Sponsored by the Sustainable Campus Task Force, the main Earth Day event will be Saturday, April 18 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Lola Tilly Commons. A barbecue, live music, games, and informational booths are on the agenda. The celebration kicks off with a recycled art contest. Artists should take their entries to the Lola Tilly Commons between 11 a.m. and noon on April 18. Art will be judged by attendants of the fair between noon and 5 p.m. Prizes will be awarded to the top three winners.

The UAF Geography Club will hold the first Race Around the World from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., with prizes awarded at 3:30 p.m. The entire race will occur on the patio of the Lola Tilly Commons. The object of the event is to visit all seven continent stations and play a game or academic challenge at each in order to gain a visa stamp in the Geography Club Passport. Participants who visit all seven continents or cross over the International Dateline can win prizes for top scores. Finishers who complete a GeoQuiz will be entered in a prize drawing.

Home Agriculture Night is Tuesday, April 21 from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Wood Center multi-level lounge, with workshops on home brewing, raising ducks and goats, worm composting, and home canning. A locally grown organic recipe contest will precede the showing of the film, The Future of Food. To enter a recipe, call 322-9163 or e-mail Nina Schwinghammer.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Bumblebees to berries: GBG research happens all over the state

Georgeson Botananical Garden, on the UAF campus, in full bloom

Here at the Georgeson Botanical Garden, an amazing amount of research occurs each year, and the horticultural discoveries extend far beyond the garden’s boundaries.

For example, in the upcoming growing season, research projects scattered around the state will provide useful information for many people seeking answers to a bevy of questions. Blueberry pickers will be out in force collecting stem cuttings for propagation of plants with the best berries. Anyone interested in having a blueberry patch in their own yard or who is interested in growing our wild blueberries for their fabulous antioxidants will be interested in this research. Graduate student Tina Buxbaum will be starting a project to identify the native pollinators of wild blueberry, and will import bumblebee hives to study how they affect fruit productivity.

Graduate student Sean Willison will head north to Prudhoe Bay to see if any of the cottonsedge or water sedge seeds sown last year will sprout and provide a way for oil companies to revegetate old gravel pads.

GBG is continuing its research on peonies, helping support the new Alaska Peony Growers Association. Planting times, root size, and other aspects of growing peonies will be studied. A network of trial sites is being developed from Fairbanks to Homer and Juneau. This will help determine how peonies grow and bloom for the commercial cut flower export markets.

Of course the annual flower and perennial trials will include hundreds of varieties, and we’ll also experiment with coriander as a seed crop and study heirloom vegetables versus the modern hybrids.

I am predicting a terrific, exciting summer at the garden. Everyone is welcome to come to our plant sale on May 16. Contact us to volunteer to help or call 474-6921. To view the gardens, simply stop by from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. May through October. There is a $2 fee (children under six free). Guided tours are offered Fridays at 2 p.m. June through August.

—By Patricia S. Holloway, professor of horticulture and director of the Georgeson Botanical Garden

For further reading:
Annual flowering plant trials AFES Variety Trial 2009-01, March 2009 (PDF)

Annual Vegetable Trials AFES Variety Trial 2009-02, March 2009 (PDF)

An Introduction to Harvesting and Selling Alaska Cut Flower Peonies AFES Miscellaneous Publication 2008-03, April 2008, by James D. Auer and Patricia S. Holloway (PDF)

Managing Wild Bog Blueberry, Lingonberry, Cloudberry, and Crowberry Stands in Alaska Natural Resource Conservation Service publication, August 2006, Patricia S. Holloway contributor (PDF)

Car conversion course offered

Photo of Michael Golub by Tom Moran, courtesy of EPSCoR
The Matanuska Experiment Farm will host an electric car conversion course May 1-3. The one-credit course is taught by UAF mechanical engineering student Michael Golub.

Students will learn how to convert a gasoline-powered engine to one that operates on electricity. Golub has taught the class through UAF Summer Sessions and the Wintermester. He taught himself to do the conversion by practicing on his 1986 Toyota pickup. The work cost him about $6,000 in parts but price varies according to the vehicle, Golub said. A Subaru he converted cost only $1,000.

“I think anyone could do it,” Golub said. “It’s a matter of convincing yourself.”

The finished result is a vehicle with an electric motor that plugs in to recharge when not being driven. “It’s a cleaner way to drive a car,” Golub said. “And it’s more efficient. It puts you in a better position, or at least it’s a step in the right direction.”

Golub and the students will convert a 1985 Toyota Tercel during the weekend session in Palmer. This course is being offered through the UAF Bristol Bay Campus, with three ways to register. Call 800-478-5109 to get a registration form.
  • To pay by credit card fax to: Front Office at 907-842-5692.
  • To pay by check, fax the form to hold a seat, indicate a check is being mailed, and mail original with check to: Bristol Bay Campus, Front Office, P.O. Box 1070, Dillingham, AK 99576.
  • By e-mail:
Total cost is $137 ($134 tuition and $3 UA fee). The Matanuska Experiment Farm is a research facility of UAF’s School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences and the Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station. The farm has already converted one of its tractors to electric power.

Further reading:
"Charging ahead with nature-powered wheels," Bristol Bay Times, Jan. 22, 2009, by Tammy Judd
"Fairbanks engineering students build award-winning electric snowmachine," Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, April 4, 2009, by Tim Mowry
"New York native, engineering student builds electric car," The Alaska Post, Feb. 6, 2009, by David Bedard

Addendum May 8, 2009:
"Gasoline-powered car now runs on batteries," Anchorage Daily News, May 5, 2009, by Rindi White

Monday, April 6, 2009

Aurora magazine features biofuel research

In the ongoing quest for viable alternative energy, biofuel is more than a buzzword or a trend. It is the topic of ongoing research at UAF, recently highlighted in the Spring 2009 issue of Aurora Magazine.

Three SNRAS faculty are included in the Aurora cover story about biofuels. Professor Stephen Sparrow and Associate Professor Mingchu Zhang were interviewed about their research on shrubs, grasses, and grains for potential energy use. Sparrow details his work on supplemental energy sources including willow for western Alaska and the Seward Peninsula. Canola is one of the crops Zhang is working with as a viable alternative that Alaska farmers could grow for fuel. The article also highlights Assistant Professor Andy Soria’s woody biomass research at the Palmer facility of UAF’s Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station.
More information:

Video: Mingchu Zhang on Canola as a Rotational Crop, by Megan Otts, UAF Marketing & Communications
Video: Bob Van Veldhuizen on the Process of Crushing Canola, by Megan Otts, UAF Marketing & Communications
"Researcher seeks energy answer in biofuels," SNRAS blog, Oct. 30, 2008

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Matanuska Experiment Farm introduces new superintendent

Judson Scott, pictured at right, first fell in love with Alaska when he did research here as a college student. He volunteered in 1993 for a summer internship with the Student Conservation Association through the Kenai Fisheries Office of the US Fish and Wildlife Service. He conducted surveys of anadramous fish populations in each of forty streams and rivers on the island of Naval Station Adak. He took electroshock samples, gill net samples, conducted visual counts, and did rod and reel surveys. He collected water quality data for each stream, recorded GPS data for the mouth and upper barrier of each stream, took species, sex, weight, length data, and took otolith bone samples from fish, aged fish from otoliths, and recorded geographic data on the streams themselves. He also conducted sonar topography mapping of several lake bottoms on the Kenai Peninsula.

When the Matanuska Experiment Farm opened up a position for farm superintendent, Scott, who had been living in Colorado but keeping his eye on the potential for work in Alaska, applied for the job, and was hired. “I am thrilled to be here,” Scott said. The farm position is a good fit for him because he has long been fascinated with agricultural research.

He is responsible for the field operations, physical plant operations, and administrative functions necessary to meet the needs of research, instruction, and outreach at the farm.

Raised in Wyoming and Colorado, Scott earned a B.A. in environmental conservation at the University of Colorado at Boulder and a B.S. in landscape horticulture with an emphasis in turfgrass management at Colorado State University. His career has focused on golf course construction, maintenance, and management, including a six-year stint at Settlers Bay Golf Course in Wasilla. While there, he helped with turfgrass variety trials and installed two research putting greens. In cooperation with the Palmer Research and Extension Center, he constructed two putting greens at Settlers Bay, both used for variety trials research of northern latitude adapted turfgrass species. Up to sixteen varieties of turfgrass have been in the green at one time, and the plots are still being utilized for research today. He also worked two years on the North Slope.

His goals are for the farm to continue to diversify its research to match the changes occurring in Alaska and to “really bring the valley to know and support the work we’re doing here.”

Scott and his wife Tanya have two children. In his free time Scott enjoys hunting and fishing and would like to get back to flying bush planes as soon as time allows.

The Matanuska Experiment Farm was established in 1917 and became part of UAF’s Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station in 1931. With 260 cultivated acres and 800 acres of forest, it is used for research in sustainable agriculture, land reclamation, and environmental issues.

Soil research and managing crops for sustainable agriculture emphasize:
• Plant breeding, especially developing small grain varieties adapted to northern latitudes
• Forage quality including developing alternative forages with superior nutritional qualities for high latitudes
• Soil science involving classifying arctic and subarctic soils, carbon cycling in arctic soils in relation to global change, cooperative Russia-Alaska research on permafrost-affected soils in Alaska and eastern Siberia
• Range science and research ecology on reclaiming and revegetating lands disturbed by oil and mining development

Horticulture research focuses on:
• Evaluating potato varieties suitable for Alaska's growing conditions
• Assessing and controlling potato diseases
• Evaluating alternative organic fertilizers
• Evaluating lettuce varieties for disease and tip burn resistance
• Evaluating alternative vegetable crops

Agriculture marketing conference

The Alaska Division of Agriculture will host the Agriculture Direct Marketing Conference at the Palmer Train Depot in Palmer April 15-16.

The guest speaker is Darren Schmall, nationally recognized, award-winning agritourism expert from The Pizza Farm in California. His topics will address direct marketing, agri-tourism, and agri-tainment. Other speakers include Steve Brown, Palmer Cooperative Extension Service, Kim Sollien, Alaska Root Cellar, Ruby Holenbaek, Alaska Interior Game Ranch. Panel sessions will be presented by agritourism operators and community supported agriculture businesses.

Contact Amy Pettit for further information, 907-761-3864. Register by April 10.

Highlights of SARE conference recalled

Over 210 people from around the state attended the Fifth Annual Sustainable Agriculture Conference and Organic Growers School March 17-18 in Fairbanks. The conference started with folks yelling out where they came from “Skagway, Haines, Bethel, Ruby, Igiugig, Nenana, Juneau, Anchorage, Palmer, North Pole, Homer, Fritz Creek, Trapper Creek, Fort Yukon, Galena, Ester, Two Rivers, Wasilla, Delta Junction, Copper Center, Talkeetna, Healy, King Salmon, Denali, Chickaloon, Soldotna, and of course Fairbanks.”

A highlight of this year’s conference was national speaker George DeVault, newly appointed president and executive director of the Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah, Iowa. The Seed Savers Exchange is a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of heirloom varieties of vegetables, fruits, flowers, and herbs, and agricultural biodiversity in general. DeVault’s position represents the pinnacle of a career that has included farming, mentoring farmers, and writing about farming. He is also a volunteer fire chief, W.K. Kellogg Foundation Food and Society policy fellow and soon-to-be grandfather.

In addition to the keynote national speaker, the SARE conference featured presenters from around Alaska sharing information on topics such as University of Alaska research on fruit and berry production and fish waste composting; farm soil fertility; weed suppression; year-round CSA’s in Alaska; egg and poultry production for local market; and two panel discussions on composting and value-added agricultural products. Two favorite presentations were Tim Meyers’ “They told me you could not grow this in Bethel” and Allie Barker’s “Food Security and the Modern Day Homestead in Chickaloon.”

There was a unique hands-on demonstration where participants got to get dirty. Tom Zimmer from Calypso Farm and Ecology Center brought a tape and wet soil and got folks involved in soil blocking, an innovative seed starting technique. New this year were three special pre-conference activities that took place March 16. Participants had the option to tour Chena Hot Springs Resort to see the geothermal energy projects and year-round greenhouses, attend a grant-writing workshop, and tour the UAF Cold Climate Housing and Research Center.

The Fairbanks Soil and Water Conservation District, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Western Sustainable Agriculture and Research and Education Program, and the Cooperative Extension Service sponsored this year’s conference.

SNRAS speakers at the conference were Research Professional Jeff Werner talking about controlled environment research and Associate Professor Mingchu Zhang and Assistant Professor Jeffrey Smeenk discussing composting research.

Contributed by Michele Hebert, the Tanana District agriculture and horticulture agent for the Cooperative Extension Service, a part of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, working in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Naming of the calves to begin

Reindeer calves are a sure sign of spring in Alaska

Schoolchildren are invited to help attach monikers to reindeer calves born this spring at the Fairbanks Experiment Farm. Over thirty calves are expected to begin arriving by mid-April. It's an exciting time for the UAF Reindeer Research Program, and perusing the proposed names is part of the fun.

Some examples posted so far are Chewy, Diego, and Boots for the males and Button, Dora, and Hibbie for the females. Any child can visit here, select "the farm" and then "name our calves." Not all submissions are selected, but a sure way to "lose" is to suggest any name affiliated with Santa's reindeer, so forget about Donner, Blitzen, and Rudolph.

The RRP staff have been hosting the naming contest for the past seven years, with children across the US participating. The calves are actually given numbers when they are born and receive their names in July once they are weaned from their mothers.

Since 1981, RRP has taken an active role in the development and promotion of the Alaska reindeer industry. Research projects range from herd management and animal health to nutrition and meat quality, but something all the projects have in common is their direct applicability to reindeer herders and producers. The mission of RRP is to further develop and promote the production of reindeer in the state of Alaska through research and collaboration with producers and local communities.

Addendum (April 8, 2009):
"First reindeer calf of the spring at UAF needs a name, not just a number," Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, April 8, 2009, by Dermot Cole

First calf of the season was photographed at the Fairbanks Experiment Farm April 7, 2009

David & Rachel Hopkins Fellowship opportunity

The Alaska Quaternary Center is offering this year's David and Rachel Hopkins Fellowship, designed to support UA graduate students who are conducting interdisciplinary research focusing on the Quaternary of Beringia. Previous awardees have examined alpine biogeography, regional chronologies of spruce tree growth, reconstruction of past temperatures using insect chitin, and populations of balsam poplar in the Arctic.

To be eligible for the fellowship, graduate students must:
• Be enrolled full-time and in good academic standing at UAF, UAA, or UAS
• Conduct interdisciplinary Quaternary research over historic or geologic time scales.
• Work on a project located in or relevant to Beringia or the North Pacific Rim
• Deliver a completed application (as a computer file) to the AQC by 5 pm, Monday, April 27