Tanana Valley State Forest was the site where OneTree beganOn July 7, a sixty-seven-foot birch tree was felled in the Tanana Valley State Forest. When the eighty-year-old tree crashed to the ground, scientists, artisans, and craftsmen were standing by, waiting for pieces to call their own. The wood is being converted to spoons, bowls, chairs, shrink boxes, board games, knitting needles, mugs, pitchers, lumber, clothes hooks, etchings, and even a dreamcatcher mobile.
OneTree, a new community outreach and research project coordinated by the UAF Forest Products Program, explores art and science through a connection to a single birch tree. “It’s evolving as we go,” Coordinator Jan Dawe, adjunct forestry professor, said. “Plans are moving forward to incorporate this into school curriculums.”
Mac Levey, 11, makes a mancala board game from a piece of birch
OneTree aims to demonstrate the unique value of wood products. “It’s not just arts and crafts,” Dawe explained. “It’s a way for people to think about our forest resources.” For example, Assistant Professor Valerie Barber will be examining the properties of the tree at the Palmer Research and Extension Center. She and Dawe documented every part of the birch that was distributed to volunteers and will prepare a map of the tree showing each piece and who took it, as well as a history of the birch after Barber studies it.
Over twenty people are already participating and many more have expressed interest, including teachers who want to incorporate OneTree into their classrooms, emphasizing both scientific and artistic aspects of the project. “Teachers can stress timing, seasonality, and life history of the tree,” Dawe said.
By next spring a multimedia public art show will demonstrate the OneTree project to the Fairbanks community. “I’m pleased with the variety,” Dr. Barber said. “I didn’t know how it would play out. It definitely depends on the community. Fairbanks is the perfect place to start this project. Fairbanks is amazing; people jumped right in.”
The tree cutting and wood distribution were held in conjunction with the Week in the Woods camp. Instructor John Manthei said, “OneTree added another dimension to an already existing thing. It’s really neat, and an opportunity for connection. I’m looking forward to the whole process.”
Response to the initial launching of OneTree in Alaska pleased Dawe. “It couldn’t have gone better,” she said.
"UAF project seeks to find out how many uses one birch tree has," Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, by Jeff Richardson, July 8, 2009
"OneTree project begins in Fairbanks," SNRAS Science & News, June 23, 2009