Friday, January 29, 2010

Park research opportunity exists for graduate student

Scenes such as this inside Denali National Park will be viewed by a SNRAS graduate student selected for a research project.

SNRAS is searching for a graduate student to live, work, and study in the Alaska wilderness as a graduate research assistant conducting unique visitor surveys.

The student selected will assist with the backcountry management plan in Denali National Park and Preserve. Ten indicators related to the visitor experience (encounters with people, natural sound disturbance, evidence of modern human use) will be identified and monitored and levels compared to standards. This project, the first measure of the indicators, will survey visitors to the park during summer 2010, and analyze data and report results during fall 2010 and spring 2011. Interviews with park visitors will be conducted and occasional trips into the backcountry to observe the distribution of day hikers might be required. The student will be located in the park throughout the summer; housing will be provided.

The candidate needs to have a B.S. or B.A. in a relevant field such as recreation, parks management, or natural resource management, and needs to be accepted in the natural resources management master's of science program that SNRAS offers. He or she should be comfortable conducting interviews with strangers, and must have strong quantitative and writing skills. Previous experience with the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences is desirable.

If interested, contact Associate Professor Peter Fix.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Delta Farm Forum on calendar

The Delta Farm Forum will be held at the Delta High School small gymnasium on Saturday, Feb. 27 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Speakers will be from SNRAS, the USDA Alaska Farm Service Agency, UAF Cooperative Extension Service, USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service, USDA Agricultural Research Service, and the Alaska Division of Agriculture. The Soil and Water Conservation District speech winner and cooperator of the year, Alaska Farm Bureau – Delta Chapter, will be recognized. A potluck luncheon is planned for noon. Local youth groups and various agricultural resource experts will be involved with many aspects of the farm forum.

SNRAS Research Assistant Bob Van Veldhuizen and Associate Professor Mingchu Zhang will give a presentation on growing grains in the Alaska home garden. To complement that lecture, Kathryn Idzorek of UAF Cooperative Extension Serivce will speak on "the flavor of barley flour." Agricultural Research Service Research Entomologist Dennis Fielding will talk about black grass bugs. Tim Meyers of Bethel will give a talk on community sustainable agriculture.

The 2010 Delta Farm Forum is co-sponsored by UAF Cooperative Extension Service, Delta District and the Salcha-Delta Soil and Water Conservation District. Call 907-895-4215 or 907-895-6279 for more information.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Fairbanks hosts sustainable agriculture conference

The sixth annual Sustainable Agriculture Conference and Organic Growers' School is scheduled for March 17 at the Fairbanks Princess Riverside Lodge in Fairbanks. Last year, more than 200 people from across the state attended. This year’s keynote speaker is Chris Blanchard of Rock Spring Farm (farm pictured at right) in Highlandville, Iowa.

The Blanchard farm has grown organic produce and raised a diverse array of livestock on 80 acres north of Highlandville, Iowa, since 1999. Part of one of the original homesteads in the area, the farm has a rich diversity of landscapes, including fertile bottomlands, forest, pastures, oak savanna, and a clear running stream.

The Blanchards follow strict organic guidelines to grow their produce without the use of chemical fertilizers or pesticides. They take the practice one step further by using composts, beneficial insect habitat, and organic minerals to buffer the effects of pests, diseases, and weather. Blanchard explains the philosophy behind Rock Spring Farm: “Wherever we have gone, we have found that food is the glue that holds relationships together. Whether it's the gleam in a customer's eye when she returns for more of "the best green beans I've ever eaten" or the grace that's said before a meal, food is often how we connect to something deeper in ourselves and others. At Rock Spring Farm, we strive to produce healthy, delicious food that people can build a meal – and a relationship – around. At every turn, we work to ensure that this food is produced in harmony with nature, keeping the creeks and rivers clean, the hawks flying, and the wildflowers blooming.”

The Sustainable Agriculture Conference will feature presenters from communities around Alaska speaking on topics such as energy efficient insulated panel greenhouses, tropic breeze wind machines, season extensions, funding opportunities, chicken ranching, farm soil fertility, and weed suppression. A panel discussion on food security is also planned. SNRAS Professor Meriam Karlsson will give a presentation on fruit and berry crop research results in Alaska.

Commercial growers are invited to a special preconference growers' school March 16 with Blanchard. The workshop will focus on financial and production methods. Preregistration is required.

The conference is sponsored by the Fairbanks Soil and Water Conservation District, USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Western Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education, and UAF Cooperative Extension Service-Tanana District. For information, contact Michele Hébert. For a conference brochure and registration form, contact Ronda Halvarson or call 907-474-2450.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

SNRAS student spends semester teaching in Thailand

Hannah Harrison works with children in Thailand.
Rather than spending her final semester as an undergraduate in the winter wonderland of the UAF campus, SNRAS student Hannah Harrison is working her way along the Chao Phraya River in Thailand. As an intern in the Magic Eyes Barge program, Harrison is teaching Thai youngsters natural resources principles as they travel the river.

"We do many, many activities with the kids while they're on the barge," Harrison wrote on her blog. "Most of the activities focus on ecological principles, such as watersheds, food webs, invasive species, macroinvertebrates, water use, pollution. One of my favorites thus far is an investigation into the water hyacinth, which is an invasive water-lily type plant that grows in the Chao Phraya."

Harrison had completed her undergraduate coursework and sought out the international opportunity, her advisor, Professor Meriam Karlsson, said. "It fits right in with what she wants to do," Dr. Karlsson said. "Hannah is a good student who is very organized and knows where she wants to go."

A lifelong Alaskan raised in Homer, Harrison said she has been very happy with her choice to attend UAF and major in natural resources management. She has served as president of the Alaska state FFA program, worked for the Museum of the North, was an RA in Residence Life, and earned several scholarships, including the Chancellor's Talent Grant. She was an intern for the Alaska State Legislature in the spring of 2009, and was honored last year as the outstanding student in her department. After graduation in May she will likely continue her education by pursuing a master's degree through the SNRAS Master's International Peace Corps program.

At-risk communities face decisions in changing climate

Many communities in Alaska are faced with multiple threats to infrastructure and quality of life due, in part, to projected changes in precipitation, temperature, and related flooding and erosion. Decision-makers must determine how best to manage their community's vulnerability with the knowledge that future environmental change is uncertain. A webinar hosted by the Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy on Tuesday, Jan. 26 from 10 to 11 a.m. will discuss a newly released report "Decision-making for at-risk communities in a changing climate."

The report, prepared by ACCAP, is intended to inform decision-makers relating to climate change and uncertainty, risk management, and relocation planning. Issues addressed regarding the planning process for relocation focus on the steps from planning through execution, perspectives on community engagement, partial relocation, site development costs, and timing. Sustainability recommendations focus on defining sustainability, future energy planning, planning for a changing cost of living, and available transportation corridors.

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

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

SNRAS professor appointed to national energy committee

Assistant Professor Andy Soria
SNRAS Assistant Professor Andy Soria has been appointed to a national energy committee, commissioned by the Department of the Treasury to study the economic and environmental impacts of increasing biofuels production. Dr. Soria is an assistant professor of wood chemistry. He earned a PhD from the University of Idaho. His research focuses on utilization of low value biomass for fuels and chemicals, mostly through thermochemical means (gasification, pyrolysis, supercritical fluids). He works with biomass (composition, makeup, nutraceutical, and pharmaceutical characteristics) and studies the chemical characterization of Alaska's timber and non-timber species, and is involved in forest products development.

The Department of the Treasury commissioned the National Academies’ Board on Agriculture and Natural Resources and Board on Energy and Environmental Systems to conduct the study of current and projected biofuel production, use, and impacts. The study will:
  • Include a quantitative and qualitative description of biofuels currently produced and expected to be produced in the United States, with particular focus on the impacts of the Renewable Fuel Standard and tax and tariff policies.
  • Evaluate how federally mandated levels of renewable fuels and other incentives affect the price and availability of animal feed, food, renewable fuels, and forest products.
  • Analyze the impact of current and projected future levels of biofuels production and use, and the incremental impact of additional production, on the environment and discuss the pros and cons of achieving legislated RFS levels and the barriers to achieving the RFS requirements.
  • Identify policy options, including those available under current legislation, to alleviate the adverse impacts of the RFS on the price and availability of animal feedstocks and food.

The study will be conducted by a committee of 20 members appointed by the National Academies. The committee includes scientists and experts familiar with current basic and applied research on biofuels production, including research on feasible feedstocks, agronomic or biotechnological improvement to feedstocks, biomass conversion, and fuels synthesis; experts in energy, environmental, and agricultural economics, and regulatory and tax policies; experts in environmental science and impact analysis, including impacts of land use change; and experts in animal feed production, silviculture, and forest products.

To inform its analysis, the study committee will seek the input of feed grain producers, food animal producers, producers of other food products, energy producers (renewable and petroleum-based fuel producers, fuel blenders), forest owners and forest products manufacturers and users, individuals and entities interested in nutrition or in the relationship of the environment to energy production, producers and users of renewable fuel feedstocks, users of renewable fuels, and experts in agricultural economics from land grant universities.

Related reading:
Researcher seeks energy answer in biofuels, SNRAS Science & News, Oct. 30, 2008

Friday, January 15, 2010

USDA forum focuses on rural development

Farms such as Rosie Creek Farms near Fairbanks (owner Mike Emers pictured) can play an important role in economic development and food security.
Food systems, climate change, renewable energy, and broadband internet access are the four pillars of the USDA Rural Development economic recovery proposals. On Thursday in Fairbanks, at the first of four forums in the state, USDA representatives listened to experts and took public comments.

Susan Willsrud, farm director at Calypso Farm and Ecology Center, a nonprofit educational working farm near Fairbanks, said, “We are a food insecure state. The need is great; the opportunities are great. We live in a place that can produce a wide range of products on a small scale.”

In the past decade the number of community supported agriculture businesses in Fairbanks has grown from one to at least a dozen, she said, and most CSAs have waiting lists of customers they cannot serve because the demand is greater than the supply. “The opportunity for somebody to grow food and sell it exists.”

The lack of infrastructure is a big challenge for farmers, Willsrud said. “We need planning and food assessments, and to identify needs and opportunities.” She suggested creating food policy councils in each city and village across the state.

Farming is an industry that can provide jobs, she emphasized, but it takes funding to pull a business together.

Danny Consenstein, director of the Alaska Farm Service Agency, said his agency has begun the process of forming a statewide food policy council. Members have not been selected yet. He said, “I’m pretty optimistic about the potential to expand agricultural products in the state but there are some barriers.”

Comments came from rural residents who would like to have community gardens in their villages and citizens concerned about the fragile state of food security in Alaska.

Others stressed the importance of educating young people about food and how the lack of infrastructure inhibits commercial scale agriculture. One farmer from Delta Junction recommended bringing back Gov. Jay Hammond’s agricultural plan from the 1970s.

Jim Nordlund, USDA Rural Development state director, said he is disturbed that children in the Matanuska Valley eat potatoes from Idaho in their school lunches when potatoes grow right outside their classrooms. He suggested the formation of a state farmers’ cooperative that could build and operate processing facilities, with profits returning to farmers.

Even the climate change discussion turned to agriculture with International Arctic Research Center Director Larry Hinzman saying that milder winters may lead to the development of fruit crops in Alaska and that there are more opportunities to raise cattle and reindeer. He also said, “There will be more shipping opportunities through the Arctic,” and he suggested adding support services in Nome, Barrow, and Kotzebue.

Jim Dodson, president of the Fairbanks Economic Development Corporation, said energy is the key factor in economic improvement. Chancellor Rogers said a natural gas pipeline is crucial. Jerry Isaac, president of Tanana Chiefs Conference said the villages are severely stressed by the cost of fuel, with none paying less than $4 per gallon for it. He also emphasized the importance of food security, saying that Alaska would run out of food in six days if incoming shipments of groceries were cut off. “We will best learn from one another with the partnership approach and we should always consult the people who will be impacted the most,” he said. “We have got to figure out ways to do things that are friendly to the climate and friendly to the locals and come up with ways to become independent.”

During the energy discussion, UAF Chancellor Brian Rogers suggested that schools and university buildings around the state could be retrofitted to make them more energy efficient, creating jobs in the short term and energy savings to taxpayers in the long term.

The head table at Thursday's forum.

Sen. Mark Begich was at the forum to announce that federal stimulus money could be on its way to Alaska, helping create jobs and sparking the economy. He also stated that $49 million in federal aid has been allocated to the state for rural water quality improvement projects (PDF).

The USDA will file a report on the forums with the White House in February. Comments may be e-mailed to Gene Kane.

Further reading:

Sen. Begich says more stimulus funds are coming to Alaska, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, by Jeff Richardson, Jan. 15, 2010

USDA hosts economic growth forums, SNRAS Science & News, Jan. 11, 2010

Alaska's State-Funded Agricultural Projects and Policy -- Have They Been a Success? (PDF) UAF SNRAS senior thesis ST 2008-01, by Darcy Denton Davies, May 2007

UAF brings CSAs to the table, SNRAS Science & News, March 24, 2009

A map of Alaska farms with community shared agriculture programs, SNRAS Science & News, April 23, 2009

Thursday, January 14, 2010

High winds cause damage at experiment farm

After a few days of enduring hurricane force winds, the faculty and staff at the Palmer Center for Sustainable Living are breathing a sigh of relief. "It's peaceful and calm now; it's just snowing," said the center's administrator Norman Harris.

With the wind reaching speeds of 87.8 mph, damage was inevitable at the Matanuska Experiment Farm. A trailer (pictured above) that is used to transport a research blimp was overturned by the gusts, resulting in broken lights, and plastic was blown off the hoop houses. Those are easily repaired, Harris said, but an exhaust stack at the center's downtown Palmer office building was seriously damaged. No one was hurt throughout the ordeal. "We have other minor damage but we were lucky that there was nothing more major," Harris said. "It could have been much worse."

The wind picked up Sunday and lasted through Tuesday, with the nearly 90 mph gust blowing an anemometer, which measures wind speed, off the top of a tower.

Related reading:

Winds irritate, but cause little damage, The Frontiersman, Jan. 11, 2010, by Andrew Wellner

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Energy talk kicks off lecture series

At 7 p.m. on Jan. 19, Gwen Holdmann will discuss how Alaska can emerge as an energy leader by pinpointing methods for stabilizing energy prices and reducing its vulnerability. Holdmann’s lecture, “New Energy for Alaska Communities,” is the first installment of the annual Science for Alaska lecture series, and will be delivered at the Westmark Gold Room in Fairbanks. The lecture will then continue on to Anchorage and Juneau Jan. 20 and 21. The lectures are free to the public and each one begins with educational demonstrations at 6:30 p.m., presented by the Science Education Outreach Network.

Holdmann is the director of the Alaska Center for Energy and Power at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. She began her renewable energy work for ABS Alaskan, where she wrote a guide to micro-hydro power for Alaska. She also worked on the development of a renewable and sustainable energy program at Chena Hot Springs Resort.

The Science for Alaska Lecture Series covers a broad range of science topics specific to Alaska and its residents. The Fairbanks series includes six lectures that run every Tuesday evening from Jan. 19 through Feb. 23 in the Westmark Gold Room. Three of the lectures will also be presented in Anchorage, at the Anchorage Museum, and in Juneau, at Centennial Hall, through Feb. 4. An associated continuing education course for teachers is available statewide.

The University of Alaska Fairbanks, the Geophysical Institute and Alyeska Pipeline Service Company sponsor the 2010 series. Anchorage activities are sponsored by the Anchorage Museum’s Imaginarium Discovery Center.

Following is a listing of the lectures coming up in the Science for Alaska Lecture Series 2010. All lectures take place at 7 p.m. in the Gold Room of the Fairbanks Westmark Hotel in downtown Fairbanks. For additional information (including when some of these lectures will be presented in Juneau and Anchorage) call 907-474-7558.

Tuesday, Jan. 19
"New Energy for Alaska Communities"
Gwen Holdmann, director, Alaska Center for Energy and Power, UA

Tuesday, Jan. 26
"Tooth-Walkers: Uncovering the Archaeology of Alaska's Walruses"
Erica Hill, assistant professor of anthropology, UAS

Tuesday, Feb. 2
"Breaking the Barrier: Tobacco's Effect on Lung Architecture"
Cindy Knall, assistant professor of immunology, UAA

Tuesday, Feb. 9
"What's Smoking Now? Fairbanks Air Quality and PM2.5"
Cathy Cahill, associate professor of chemistry, Geophysical Institute, UAF

Tuesday, Feb. 16
"Listening for Magma: How to Forecast a Volcanic Eruption"
Michael West, research assistant professor of seismology, Alaska Volcano Observatory/Geophysical Institute, UAF

Tuesday, Feb. 23
"Surviving Sub-Zero: The Ingenuity of Alaska's Lemmings and Voles"
Ian van Tets, associate professor of biology, UAA

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Fairbanks 4-H team wins national championship

The Starlight Flyers: standing, from left, Molly Callahan and Kira Freeman. Seated, from left, Elly Blake and Hanna Sfraga. (Photo by Curt Freeman, courtesy of UAF Cooperative Extension Service)

Four local high school students, comprising the "Starlight Flyers," took first place in the Western National 4-H Roundup Jan. 9 in Denver. Two of the competitors are SNRAS-related. Elly Blake is the daughter of Assistant Professor Jan Rowell, and Hanna Sfraga is the daughter of Associate Dean Mike Sfraga.

The team earned the national title in the Horse Bowl, an intense competition that resembles "Jeopardy" and tests equestrian knowledge. The girls answered questions about veterinary care, anatomy, and horsemanship. Team coach John Blake (Elly's father and Dr. Rowell's husband) said the girls earned their way to nationals after an undefeated season in which they beat all other 4-H teams during the state competition.

"I think we caught ourselves by surprise this time," Blake said.

Western National Roundup offered leadership workshops, dances, tours, and speakers with fifteen national contests. Students attending had opportunities to establish new friendships with fellow 4-H and FFA members and leaders, participate in social and educational programs, experience and develop greater personal growth, develop leadership and citizenship skills, and reach for new career ideas and cultural development in areas of business, agriculture, science, industry, education, and the arts.

Monday, January 11, 2010

USDA hosts economic growth forums

USDA Rural Development and the Farm Services Agency are hosting four forums on job creation and economic growth.

“These forums will provide an opportunity for residents, business owners, and community leaders across the state to share ideas on creating jobs and economic opportunities, said USDA Rural Development State Director Jim Nordlund. “Government can help lay the groundwork for economic growth, but the best ideas for continued growth and job creation often come from local and community leaders,” said Farm Services Agency Executive Director Danny Consentein.

The schedule for Alaska is:
  • Fairbanks, Jan. 14, 1:30 p.m. at the Alpine Lodge
  • Kotzebue, Jan. 19, 9 a.m. at the Alaska Technical Center
  • Juneau, Jan. 26, 1:30 p.m. at Centennial Hall
  • Anchorage, Feb. 1, 1:30 p.m. at the Millennium Hotel

The forums will include business owners, residents, state and local officials, union members, non-profit organizations, community leaders, economists, and other interested parties. Participants will discuss steps that can be taken to grow the economy and put people to work. The primary focus will be on coming up with ideas to accelerate job growth in rural areas.

Topics to be discussed include:

  • Creating jobs by building Alaska’s rural infrastructure, such as expanded broadband access to rural communities.
  • Expanding Alaska’s agricultural production and building stronger local food systems.
  • Creating jobs by lowering energy costs and developing new renewable energy project.
  • Exploring economic opportunities as a result of climate change.
  • Supporting jbo growth among small businesses.
  • Preparing workers for twenty-first century jobs.
  • Exploring ways to rejuvenate and promote local businesses.

Sen. Mark Begich will be attending the Fairbanks event. One of the featured speakers in Fairbanks is SNRAS Professor Milan Shipka who will be addressing the agricultural components surrounding the issues.

For more information call the USDA at 907-761-7705.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Update from SNRAS Peace Corps student

Matthew Helt, at left, and friend in Paraguay.

Matthew Helt, a SNRAS graduate student who is serving in the Peace Corps in Paraguay, sent this letter for Christmas 2009:

As you know, it's summer in the Southern Hemisphere, and it’s true, the sun does shine brighter in the tropics and sub-tropics. While those of you on the East Coast are digging out of an amazing snow storm (one that I’m jealous of right now) and those in Alaska are frozen to the bone (also a touch jealous) it is incredibly hot and humid here. I can’t believe I’m gone and we get a white Christmas back home! It’s probably in the upper 90s today and of course with what must be 100 percent humidity. While you can put on layers and turn on the heat, I can only take off so much and don’t have AC!

It’s been a while since I last sent out an update e-mail, so there is a lot to fill you in on. Unlike last year, we’ve had rain or an electrical storm nearly every couple of days and my computer cord was fried. You might have seen it in the news. Paraguay co-owns two of the world’s largest hydroelectric dams, Itapú with Brazil and Yacyretá with Argentina. They produce all of the electrical needs of Paraguay with the rest being sold to the co-owners. Well, the Itapú Dam’s electrical distribution system was hit by lightening and blacked out a quarter of Brazil. I actually didn’t even know (power outages are common here) but my Dad called to see if I had power; he’d heard the news on local Virginia radio. Luckily Brazil has gotten their power back and I’ve just found a new cord that works with my computer.

Work continues to be slow coming. My community hasn’t been too receptive to new agricultural practices or tree planting. I enjoy living with my neighbors and believe they enjoy having me around, unless I start talking about green manures, contour planting, or trees. Luckily there are a few people who have taken interest and I can just concentrate on them. We’ve planted green manures with their corn and cassava (the staple Paraguayan starch) and are planning to relay crop another with cotton (the cash crop in my area). In May or June, hopefully hundreds, if not thousands, of trees will be ready to out-plant. Please keep your fingers crossed, pray, or do whatever you do for me. It will be my last planting season and I’d really like to leave a “recuerdo de Mateo.”

The youth group has continued to take trips around Ybycui. We’ve now hiked the nearest and tallest mountain, Cerro San José, and traveled to one of the most remote sections of Parque Nacional Ybycui to see a beautiful set of three 15-foot waterfalls. On the way, they even saw the police collecting money from the illegal loggers in the park. Some of the youth have been invited to a Gender and Development youth camp sponsored by Peace Corps. It’s being held at a nature reserve near one of the hydroelectric dams and will focus on developing future community leaders.

The master’s work is slowly, very slowly, coming along. Not having the computer has put me pretty far behind where I’d like to be. So has the Paraguayan bureaucracy. If you thought our government was big and bureaucratic, you’ve got no idea. To make a request for tree seeds I had to go to Asuncion and ride a bus for an hour to hand deliver a very formal letter, have it stamped, initialed, and numbered by one of the five people who works at the same front desk of the ag school. Then I had to walk another 30 minutes in jeans and a nice shirt (so to look presentable) to take that piece of paper to another lady to pay 20 cents to get a hand written receipt and then take that back to the front desk so that they could then call me when my seeds were ready, only to find out that I could only get seeds for 10 varieties and have to do it all over again in the new year. Mind you, it was well over 100° when doing this. Let’s just say the computers, faxes, and e-mails, which they have but don’t use, are amazing inventions. Of course it was the same weekend as the Daddy Yankee concert in Asuncion. So we were fortunate enough to see the most famous reggaeton artist of the moment. He’s a Puerto Rican and gave a shout out to the Paraguayan soccer team for making the World Cup, and then to his American team. I might have been the only person out of 20,000 to cheer for the US team.

In the month of December, Paraguay becomes very religious. The country is 90 percent Catholic with the other 10 percent being mostly “evangelical” Christians. This term covers everything else, from Church of God to Presbyterian to Mormons (there is a full Mormon Temple topped by a golden angel in Asuncion). Needless to say, each has its own Christmas celebrations. I participated in the two most traditional Catholic pilgrimages, Día de Caacupe (six hours walking ) and Día de Itape (three hours on a bus). They’re a cross between a big party and a religious pilgrimage. Due to the daytime heat, most people start walking in the evening, arriving and celebrating all night long, waiting for the morning mass. Or in the case of my host family, we just bussed, went swimming in the river, and then went to a disco and danced and drank (not me) all night until mass started in the morning. It’s an interesting and truly Paraguayan twist on religion, that’s for sure.

Christmas was much better this year than last. The Korean KOICA volunteer came to my site to celebrate. Paraguayans celebrate on Christmas Eve and recover from the night before on Christmas Day. We baked carrot cake and squash cake to bring to my host families and then distributed toothbrushes to the kids. I’m really trying to push tooth brushing, hand washing, and wearing shoes with the children. We then went back over to relax until midnight dinner. Unfortunately it started raining so we didn’t get to dance all night but we still had a great time and I was invited to visit some relatives in Buenos Aires. For Christmas Day we biked two hours with 50-pound backpacks and had a little Peace Corps Christmas dinner/going away party/birthday party for the people who live near my pueblo.

We’ll I’ve got to get back to my garden, as the watermelons, pineapples, cantaloupes are needing to be picked and the goats fed.

Previous post:
Graduate student assigned to Paraguay, SNRAS Science & News, Dec. 12, 2008

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

SNRAS offers new geography courses for spring

UA Geography Program is offering two special topics courses for spring semester. National Park Concepts will be taught by Associate Professor Ken Barrick and Neogeography Using Google will be led by John Bailey, post-doctoral fellow, Scenarios Network for Alaska Planning.

National Park Concepts (Geography 493) investigates the history of the national park ideal, the evolution of the National Park Service, and the geography of the national park system. Contemporary national park policy and management case studies will be discussed in detail, including the “wicked” (intractable) controversies resulting from competing visions, such as conservation vs. preservation, ecosystem management vs. recreation access, and backcountry (wilderness) vs. frontcountry (roads, hotels, campgrounds).

Course goals are to:
  • Discover the history and evolution of the national park ideal in the United States.
  • Investigate the creation of the first national park, Yellowstone.
  • Place the legislation that created the National Park Service in context with the conservation and preservation movements.
  • Place the national parks within the land use continuum and recreation spectrum.
  • Discover the geography and extent of the current National Park System, and consider the addition of new parks over time (especially in Alaska).
  • Survey important early National Park Service leaders (Mather, Albright) and infrastructure development programs (Civilian Conservation Corps, Mission 66).
  • Consider the impact of park related legislation, including the Organic Act (1916), the Antiquities Act (1906), the Wilderness Act (1964), Alaska National Interest and Lands Conservation Act (1980), the California Desert Protection Act (1994), and others.
  • Consider the spectrum of values attached to national parks (cultural, spiritual, economic, recreational).
  • Consider park visitor demographics and identify underrepresented groups.
  • Discuss classic case studies of competing values and meanings attached to the national parks, including issues like public access and transportation, park appropriate recreation, species reintroduction, and wildlife impacts.

The class is offered Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 1 to 2 p.m. Interested students should use course reference number 38240.

Neogeography Using Google Earth (Geography 493) will be an exploration of the world using Google Earth, Keyhole Markup Language (KML), and SketchUp. Students will learn how to view and create dynamic visualizations using geospatial datasets describing natural hazards and environmental issues.

The course is designed to introduce students to concepts, methods, and tools utilized in the field of neogeography. The primary goal is to encourage students to use Google Earth in order to visualize and better understand the real world. Another goal is to introduce students to natural and social global issues that are best highlighted through the use of virtual globes.

To achieve the course goals, lessons will cover topics within three primary areas of interest:
  • Google Earth - Mapping the Real World: The possibilities and limitations of virtual globes will be demonstrated by exploring all the options and functions that exist in Google Earth. In order to understand how virtual globes evolved, the history of visual geography will be explored through the history of cartography, fundamentals of remote sensing, and the evolution of web-mapping.
  • KML - Creating Content for a Virtual Earth: In order to learn how to create content for Google Earth, students will be taught Keyhole Markup Language. As an Open Geospatial Consortium international standard, Keyhole Markup Language (KML) has become the standard content language for Virtual Globes. Examples of KML's use within the scientific community will be explored with a special focus on datasets of particular relevance in Alaska.
  • SketchUp - Building in 3D: Instruction will be given in the use of Google SketchUp, a popular and intuitive tool used to create 3D objects in Virtual Worlds. The COLLADA format used by SketchUp is supported by KML, allowing seamless integration into Google Earth.

The class is offered Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 9:15 to 10:15 a.m. Students should use course reference number 37843.

Master gardener class offered in Fairbanks

Master Gardeners help out at the Georgeson Botanical Garden, a great way to fulfill the volunteer component of the course.

If playing in the dirt sounds good right now, consider signing up for spring master gardener classes hosted by the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service.

Michele Hébert, Tanana District agriculture and horticulture agent, will lead two sessions of classes at the University Park Building. The first session will meet Feb. 10-March 7, Tuesdays from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. and 6-9 p.m. and Saturdays from noon-3 p.m. The second session will meet April 27-May 8, weekdays from 9 a.m.-1 p.m.

Topics include basic horticulture, plant classification, soils, vegetables, fruit and berry crops, composting, lawn establishment and maintenance, plant diseases and pests, home landscaping, and more.

Classes are limited to twenty students and they tend to fill up quickly. Registration is requested by Jan. 31. The class fee is $75 if participants agree to donate forty hours of gardening-related volunteer service in the community. The fee is $250 without the volunteer commitment. Volunteer hours must be completed within two years of completing the class.

For more information or to register, call the Tanana District Extension office at 907-474-1530 or stop by the Cooperative Extension office in the University Park Building at 1000 University Avenue.