Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Delta Farm Bureau offers agriculture tour

Delta Junction is known for its beautiful farmland.
See Alaska agriculture in action during the Delta Farm Bureau's annual farm tour Thursday, July 15, in the Delta Junction area.

The tour begins at Russ and Jeannie Pinkelman's hog operation. The next stop will be at the Delta Research Site (Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station) where tour participants will learn about the current research, including grains, weeds, and insects.

Lunch will be at the Snowhook Club, featuring locally grown foods. The menu includes buffalo burgers, steak fries, potato salad, tossed salad, rhubarb crisp, and ice cream. Lunch is included in the registration fee.

The Peterson's Insanity Acres grain farm is next on the itinerary. This grain farm has a new high tunnel, and folks will learn about financial assistance with the purchasing and operation of a high tunnel. The tour continues with Scott and Connie Plagerman's farm where participants will see the irrigation system and learn about the practices and automation on a large-scale hay operation.

The last farm visited will be Phil and Mary Kaspari's yak farm where livestock management practices will be discussed. The tour ends with a visit to Delta Meat and Sausage. This USDA slaughter facility sells a variety of local meats such as beef, pork, elk, yak, and buffalo. They also process summer sausage, meat sticks, brauts, and hot dogs. Tour-goers will enjoy the treats on the sample trays and have the opportunity to make a purchase, if desired.

This year, tour participants will enjoy the luxury of riding in a motor coach – the infamous school bus is not making the trip. The bus will leave the Cooperative Extension Service office at 1000 University Ave. in Fairbanks at 7:30 a.m. There will be complimentary juice and sweet rolls to enjoy on the ride to Delta.

The bus will leave Delta Junction promptly at 9:30 a.m. from the Jarvis Office Building at Mile 1420.5 of the Alaska Highway (next to the state troopers office). Registration with coffee and doughnuts will begin at 9 a.m. for the Delta area people. The tour bus will return to the Jarvis Office Building at 4:30 p.m. The bus will then leave from there at 5 p.m. for the trip back to Fairbanks.

Tour participants will be outdoors most of the day and walking is involved. Comfortable shoes, layered clothing, and water bottles are recommended. Young children should not attend for their own safety as well as for the enjoyment of others. Preregistration is required by July 10. For a registration form, call the at 895-4752. The trip is $45, plus $10 to ride the bus from Fairbanks.

Friday, June 25, 2010

University plants trees to honor Viereck, Wheeler

Bev Wheeler helps plant a birch tree in honor of her late husband, Robert Wheeler.

David Klein, Teri Viereck, and Ritchie Musick stand in front of a white spruce planted in memory of Leslie Viereck.

Leslie Viereck and Robert Wheeler thought the world of trees so it is appropriate that the University of Alaska Fairbanks chose trees to memorialize both men.

A tree planting and dedication ceremony was held June 25 at West Ridge Plaza, with a birch grove established in honor of Wheeler and a Siberian fir and white spruce planted for Viereck.

Bob Wheeler taught forestry classes for SNRAS, including “NRM 452 Forest Health and Protection.” As a forester he traveled extensively, visiting many South Pacific and Southeast Asia countries. In Hawaii he developed a fast growing variety of the tree, Leucaena, which is now grown and used throughout Indonesia, South America, Mexico, and Australia. Since 1997 he worked for the UAF Cooperative Extension Service as a forestry specialist. His last project was developing cold tolerant apple trees that would grow and thrive in the Interior. He died in 2009.

Viereck was a respected botanist and forest ecologist who died in 2008. A research professor of forest ecology with BECRU and an affiliate professor with SNRAS, Viereck was the first president of the Alaska Conservation Society. He founded the Bonanza Creek Experimental Forest research program in the mid 1980s and retired as principal plant ecologist from the U.S. Forest Service’s Institute of Northern Forestry in Fairbanks in 1996 but continued on as emeritus scientist.

At the Friday ceremony Deborah Horner, university planner, noted that the new birch grove is on the site of a former parking lot. “Bob talked a lot about creating a birch grove,” Horner said. A representative of the Yukon River Chapter of the Society of American Foresters presented Wheeler’s widow, Bev Wheeler, with a plaque naming Bob Wheeler forester of the year for 2009.

CES Energy Specialist Richard Seifert said since his office was close to Wheeler’s the two became good friends. “We exchanged a lot of public information, scholarly information, and technical information,” Seifert said. “It was a very stimulating relationship.” As he was speaking, Seifert noted that a butio flew out of a nearby tree. “Maybe that’s symbolic,” Seifert said.

Wheeler would have been pleased with the new trees on campus, Seifert said. “He wanted the university to reflect what we do best and use the landscape to reflect that too.

“He went too early,” Seifert said. “This is a profound way to memorialize him. Trees were a huge part of his life.”

For Viereck, the Fairbanks Arbor Day Committee representative Ritchie Musick said Viereck was a mainstay in forestry. “We all have his guide to trees on our shelves,” she said. (Viereck was co-author of Alaska Trees and Shrubs, a popular and time-tested guide.)

David Klein, UAF professor emeritus, recalled how he and Viereck started their graduate studies in 1951 at the Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit. Both men had roots in the Northeast and both arrived in Alaska in Model A Roadsters. “We fell in love with Alaska,” Klein said.

“Les was in love with all mountains, the tops as well as the valleys. He was interested in glaciers and how they created mountains, and he was fascinated with the vegetation of the Alaska Range and Denali National Park. He loved alpine flora.”

Horner said the trees are an excellent addition to the campus and that they will fit nicely into a proposed “greenway,” that will consist of a trail system extending from the Fairbanks Experiment Farm to Cornerstone Plaza.

Related posts:

Services planned for Robert Wheeler, SNRAS Science & News, July 6, 2009

Memorial service for Dr. Leslie Viereck, SNRAS Science & News, Sept. 2, 2008

Lecture: Sustainability in garden systems

SNRAS representatives will present a free lecture, "Sustainability in Garden Systems," June 30. The lecture will examine companion planting, composting, integrated pest management, and recycled art in a garden setting.

Professor Pat Holloway (pictured at left), Research Technician Katherine DiCristina, and Jenny Day of Facilities Services will lead the talk. Holloway is director of the Georgeson Botanical Garden and a horticulture professor. The free lecture is part of the "Discover a Sustainable Alaska" summer series, presented by UAF Summer Sessions and Lifelong Learning.

The lecture is at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Schaible Auditorium. Call 474-7021 for details.

Friday, June 11, 2010

SNRAS alum named UAF women's basketball coach

SNRAS alumnus Cody Burgess (pictured at left) has been named the new head coach for the Alaska Nanooks women’s basketball program. Burgess will take over as the eleventh head coach in program history.

"Cody has the plan, passion, and broad support necessary to provide the foundation that Nanook women's basketball has been missing,” said UAF Director of Athletics Forrest Karr. “She is an emerging leader that brings integrity, trust, stability, and coaching ability to the job, and I cannot imagine a better candidate for this position."

Burgess was a power forward for the Nanooks from 2002-2005. She brings nine years of combined playing and coaching experience at a diverse range of college levels, and hands on knowledge of Fairbanks and UAF to the position.

"This is an exciting time in my life to be coming back to coach at Alaska,” said Burgess. “My playing experience was positive and memorable. I hope to offer that same experience to the young women I will be coaching.”

This season she was an assistant coach at Moberly (Mo.) Area Community College of the National Junior College Athletic Association (Division I). She helped guide the Lady Greyhounds to a 17-14 record. While Burgess’ main role with MACC was as the recruiting coordinator, her other responsibilities included developing practices, coordinating the competition schedule, website maintenance and media relations, fundraising, and monitoring the student athletes’ academic progress.

Prior to MACC, Burgess spent two seasons as an assistant coach at William Woods University of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (Division I) and the American Midwest Conference. In 2008-09 Burgess helped lead the Owls to a 21-10 record, a NAIA tournament bid and a conference championship title. The season was a huge turnaround success on the laurels of a dismal 4-23 campaign in 2007-08.

After closing out her collegiate career Burgess spent one season as the girl’s basketball assistant coach for North Pole High School, helping to guide the Patriots to a second place finish at the Alaska state championships in the 4A division.

"It’s obvious that Cody has learned a great deal during her post-graduate studies and coaching experiences,” said Karr. “More importantly, however, she conveys a wholesome, holistic view of intercollegiate athletics reflective of the view of education through athletics versus education for athletics. She has a vision, a commitment to make it happen, and a willingness to keep learning and improving."

During her time at Alaska, she was selected Daktronics First Team All-West Region in 2005 and Second Team All-Great Northwest Athletic Conference in 2003 and 2005. She led the GNAC in scoring during the 2003 and 2005 seasons and was a team captain for the Blue and Gold as a senior (2004-05). She holds career records in the GNAC for her scoring average in all games (19.3) and in league games (20.0) as well as the all-time records for free throws made (188) and attempted (225), which were set during the 2004-05 campaign.

Before playing at UAF, Burgess played two seasons at Wenatchee Valley College, where she was named First Team All-Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges in 2002, as well as team MVP.

"Cody was a junior college recruit who had a skeptical view of UAF and Alaska, and then fell in love with both,” Karr said. “She leads by example and even recovered from a serious knee injury to earn First Team All-West Region in 2005. Cody knows the importance of in-state recruiting and she also has Pacific Northwest and Midwest recruiting connections. She has a unique background to be able to convince young women to come to UAF."

Burgess received her bachelor of science in natural resources management (forestry option) from UAF and a master's in education in athletic administration at William Woods University.

“There is a lot of work ahead for all involved,” added Burgess, “but I am confident that I can lead the program in the right direction. I am blessed to have this opportunity and look forward to the journey ahead."

Further reading:

Alaska Nanooks pick women's hoops coach," Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, June 11, 2010, by Renee Thony

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Why do boreal forests matter?

Boreal forest
SNRAS faculty are teaching the popular Summer Sessions course “Why do boreal forests matter?” Professor David Valentine and Associate Professor John Fox relate the importance of Alaska’s forests environmentally and economically.

Timber resources, environmental, and industrial pressures on boreal forests, and fires and the resulting nutrient cycling will be topics of discussion. Presentations by scientists and professionals will be given. There will also be readings and first-hand observations of components and processes at work in the forest. The course is geared for non-forestry professionals and non-forestry majors.

The one-credit course is perfect for K-12 teachers seeking recertification. It will be offered June 25-27 and includes field trips. Students should be prepared to walk short distances over rough, uneven, wet terrain. The fee is $110.

Dr. Valentine is a professor of soil science whose research focuses on the role of soils in non-agricultural ecosystems in generating or consuming gases that control the earth’s climate. Dr. Fox is an associate professor of land resources, specializing in the hydrological effects of land use changes and the planning and decision making involved in forest management.

Register for course NRM F595P-F01, CRN 51428 at Summer Sessions.

Alaska Soil Geography Field Study: Soils Affected by Permafrost will be taught by Professor Chien-Lu Ping July 5-13. The class will study permafrost-affected soils along the Elliot and Dalton Highways from Fairbanks to Deadhorse. Review soil-forming factors of the subarctic and arctic regions of Alaska, including parent material, vegetation, climate, topography, and time. Soil classification, wetland delineation, and land use interpretations of cryogenic soils will be studied.

NRM F380 is a prerequisite unless permission is obtained from the instructor. Students provide their own camping gear, appropriate clothing, and foot gear. They need to be physically fit for field work, long days, and walking on uneven or rocky ground through the forest. The fee is $750. Register for NRM F489-F01 at Summer Sessions. Dr. Ping is a professor of soil sciences. His research focuses on permafrost-affected soils and carbon cycling .

Other courses of interest this summer include:

Introduction to Macro and Micro Mushrooms: Get a unique view of the world Aug. 13-15 through the lens of the fruiting body of a fungal mycelium (mushroom). Learn how to collect and prepare wild mushrooms for museum specimens. The course is taught by Gary Laursen, senior research professor with the UAF Institute of Arctic Biology. He specializes in the collection and study of nonvascular plants and fungi.

Week in the Woods: July 12-16 live in the woods and learn on-site woodworking from the masters.

Invasive Plants of Alaska: From July 23-25 teachers will learn to make invasive plant study fun for students. Join Katie Spellman and Christine Villano as they provide information and strategies for teaching Alaska-based K-12 invasive plant curriculum. The course covers biological and societal impacts of invasive species, problematic invasive species of Alaska, and methods for invasive plant control. Hands-on lesson plans are included. Fee is $140.

Introduction to Lichens in Alaska: Join Toby Spribille Aug. 13-15 for an introduction to form, function, ecology, chemistry, and diversity of lichens, with an emphasis on species present in Alaska. Learn to identify lichens through field collection, microscope, and micro-chemical techniques. Spribille, doctoral student at the University of Graz in Austria, will teach the course.

Introduction to Field Entomology: Learn how to collect and identify insects from an anthropod expert. Students will be introduced to the professional procedures and techniques used to process insects for museum acquisition. The course is taught July 30-Aug. 1.

Registration details are available at Summer Sessions.

June 24, 2010, The boreal forests class has been canceled and the soil field study class is at maximum capacity.

Friday, June 4, 2010

SARE-funded project focuses on soil improvement in rural Alaska

Would-be gardeners in seven remote Alaska communities will learn how to prepare soil with local ingredients, thanks to a special $48,500 Western Sustainable Agriculture and Research Education grant to UAF’s School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences.

Jodie Anderson, (pictured above working on a composting project) SNRAS researcher and instructor, said more and more people around the state are interested in growing their own food. “And you’ve got to start with soil,” she said.

Producers in an island off of Juneau, in Naknek, Minto, Galena, and Kotzebue will participate in the project, dubbed “Building Alaska Garden Soils from the Ground Up: Local Soils Research and Demonstration Projects.”

“Many Alaska communities have stated an interest in food production, but perceive that a lack of adequate soils inhibits gardening,” Anderson said. Alaskans frequently encounter soil problems, such as thin root zones, nutrient-poor soils with low organic material content, and issues with permafrost. Despite the high cost of shipping people often import potting soil, not realizing that many of the necessary soil components can be found locally. Compost is one key ingredient that is often neglected or overlooked.

The project will address perceived gardening barriers during two community workshops. The research component will compare the nutrient availability throughout the growing season in locally built and amended soils with locally built synthetically fertilized soils, and will compare vegetable yields, using potatoes as the common crop. Producers in each location will build four raised beds and fill them with locally prepared soils. Two beds will be fertilized with local organic nutrient sources and two beds with synthetic fertilizer.

The soils project is designed to get Alaskans growing food in raised beds and to motivate and educate local producers by teaching them how to build garden soils from locally available materials.

Videos emphasizing coastal areas and river locations will be produced to share with other rural communities.

“I hope this will teach people that they have all the soil components they need in their own area and they can make their own garden soils to grow their own veggies,” Anderson said.

Other contributors are Associate Professor Mingchu Zhang, Assistant Professor Jeff Smeenk, and UAF Cooperative Extension Service Agents Heidi Rader and Darren Snyder.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

New FFA officers start leadership training at UAF

From left, FFA Blastoff facilitator Seth Heinert, FFA treasurer Lindsey Seneff of Homer, FFA secretary Darien Cooke of Palmer, FFA vice president Lydia Shumaker of Palmer, FFA President Kevin Rowe of Homer, and FFA state advisor Jeff Werner are pictured at UAF June 2.
Alaska FFA officers participating in leadership training at UAF June 2-4 paused briefly June 3 to participate via videoconferencing in the UA Board of Regents meeting. The regents, meeting in Anchorage, heard a presentation from Rachel Kenley, past Alaska FFA president and current national officer candidate.

Representing Alaska FFA, Kenley thanked the regents for supporting FFA and 4-H programs throughout the state. FFA is a K-12 outreach program of UAF School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences and 4-H is run by UAF Cooperative Extension Service. "You make a positive difference through agriculture education and growing a positive workforce for Alaska to feed, fuel, and finance our great state," Kenley said. She expressed gratitude to UAF for supporting natural resources education. "Because of the university, FFA and 4-H students are able to reach their goals in leadership and become prepared for career success," she said.

Kenley presented a plaque of appreciation to Dan Julius, UA vice president for academic affairs. "This is to remind you of the significance of the impact you've made," Kenley said.

"Not bad for a guy from New York City who never set foot on a farm," Julius quipped.

New state FFA officers in Fairbanks for leadership training with "Blastoff" facilitator Seth Heinert of Lincoln, Nebraska, watched the presentation from UAF. The students are launching their year as officers during this special event, in which they learn general leadership philosophies, leadership skills such as time management, creating a personal mission statement, and learning about diversity. "It's all about their personal growth," Heinert said. "They are learning they have the confidence to lead this state and they have specific skills to get that done."

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Volunteers help Georgeson Botanical Garden get ready for summer

From left, volunteers Amy Glover, Matt Glover, and Holly Buzby dig into their work at the Georgeson Botanical Garden.
Fairbanks Master Gardeners showed up in droves to help plant thousands of flowers at the Georgeson Botanical Garden on June 1. Although storms were threatening nearby, the volunteers got a good start on the huge job of planting the numerous beds with 350 flower varieties.

Volunteers are always needed at GBG. An orientation for new volunteers will be held June 5 from 10 a.m. to noon in the visitor center classroom at the Fairbanks Experiment Farm. "Folks should be prepared to walk around the garden and farm as part of the orientation, therefore I advise comfortable shoes and appropriate clothing for the weather," said Katie DiCristina, research technician who leads the volunteer training sessions. Contact DiCristina at 474-6921 for details. The types of work volunteers might do include weeding, collecting data, or giving educational presentations to visitors.

Volunteers, who are invaluable to the success of the garden, donate over 1,500 hours of time collectively each year to GBG. Besides the satisfaction of assisting a university research garden, volunteers earn membership advantages after ten hours of service and earn discounts at the spring plant sale, in the gift shop, and at the holiday sale in December. A volunteer appreciation event is held annually.

The public is welcome at GBG, which is a research facility of the UAF School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences. The garden is open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily, with a $2 admission fee (children under age six get in free). Guided tours are given on Fridays at 2 p.m. from June to August. Please leave pets at home.