Friday, October 29, 2010

Farm Bureau announces plans for annual meeting and forums

The Alaska Farm Bureau will hold its annual Friday Forum, scholarship auction, awards banquet, and annual meeting at the Alpine Lodge in Fairbanks Nov. 12-13.

In addition to the change in venue, other changes have been added to make these events interesting and informative to both the general public and Farm Bureau members.

The Friday Forum’s day-long seminars will cover topics such as "chicken university," the Division of Agriculture’s new Alaska Grown program, proposed animal care standards for Alaska, rhubarb, the Alaska-China disease free seed potato export program, Fairbanks’s newest grocery store-the Home Grown Market, cooking and baking with barley, and a round table discussion about loans, grants, and cost-share programs for farms and businesses that are available from various federal, state, and private organizations.

New this year with be “spotlight on success” short presentations throughout the Friday Forum featuring several area farmers: Alpenglow Farm & Kennels, Schultz Farms, Kaspari Farms, and Far Above Rubies.

A silent auction will be held during the Friday Forum to raise funds for the scholarship program. All funds will be dedicated to scholarships for students improving their skill levels to work in agriculture or natural resources through college, trade school, or vocational training.

The Friday night awards banquet will honor the recipients of the Ag Appreciation Award and the Legislator of the Year.

The annual meeting will be held on Saturday, with the business of the Alaska Farm Bureau for the coming year being conducted. COUNTRY Financial will provide their very popular complimentary noon luncheon. Please note that reservations must be made for this luncheon by October 30.

Registration for these events must be made by Oct. 30. A registration form is on the Alaska Farm Bureau’s website. Click on “FB Payments” on the left side of the home page.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Journalist to divulge truth about Afghanistan’s secret prisons

Journalist Willy Stern in the war zone.

Willy Stern may be a flak-jacket-wearing, war-zone journalist but when interviewed Tuesday he was transporting his children to and from after-school activities outside Nashville, Tenn. “I’m just a suburban dad doing the ballet shuffle,” he said.

Stern, a veteran journalist who has roamed the world in search of news, will be in Fairbanks next week to lecture about Afghanistan’s secret prisons. Billed as the “only journalist to have been inside these facilities,” Stern said his portrayal is not political at all. “It’s not win or lose or right or wrong. It’s just journalism. This is what I saw.”

Through connections he made in Iraq, Stern was invited to visit the Afghan prisons, then policies changed and no other journalists were allowed to do what he had done. “I happened to be the guy who got in,” he said.

“It’s a fascinating story,” he said, explaining that the U.S. has paid $60 million to build state-of-the-art prisons much more comfortable than the accommodations for U.S. soldiers who guard the facilities.

The lecture is Thursday, Nov. 4 at 6 p.m. at UAF’s Schaible Auditorium. The event is hosted by the UA Geography Program and UAF Student Services. While in town, Stern is also going to speak to UAF journalism and geography students, public school officials, UAF Chancellor Brian Rogers, and others.

No stranger to Alaska, Stern has been guiding canoeists on the rivers of the Brooks Range for over twenty years. Last summer he spent three weeks around Wild Lake and Walker Lake. “I am passionate about northern Alaska,” he said. “I find any excuse I can to visit your neck of the woods.”

Last February he was in Nome teaching a one-credit, week-long course at the UAF Northwest Campus. The course, titled "investigative tips for the incurably curious," introduced students to the tools used by investigative reporters. Stern used case studies, movies, and scavenger hunts to teach the class.

Asked how he merges travel, including trips to war zones, with family life, Stern said his wife Ann Shapiro is the hero. “She is a wonderful and flexible wife who tolerates my passions,” he said.

Melding the wildly divergent aspects of his life is a constant struggle, he explained. A former staff writer at Forbes and Business Week, Stern is the recipient of many national journalism awards. In the course of his reporting, he has been harassed, threatened, followed, arrested, and even thrown out of one country. He has taught at Williams College, Colorado College, Carleton College, and Vanderbilt University Law School. He has reported from the slums of Soweto in South Africa to the Icelandic ice fields, from the boardrooms of Tokyo to the battlefields of Iraq, from the complex pathways of Ramallah in the West Bank to the wilds of Alaska’s North Slope, from the secret prisons of war-ravaged Afghanistan to an uninhabited island in the Canadian Arctic, from Chile’s remote Easter Island to the bayous of southern Louisiana, from the Nicaraguan jungle to New Zealand’s southern Alps and many points in between.

His plainspoken speaking style has engaged audiences around the world. Stern’s writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The International Herald Tribune, The Chicago Tribune and The New Republic. Stern holds degrees from Williams College and Harvard University.

UA Geography is a program of the UAF School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences.

There is free parking on campus after 5 p.m. For more information, call 474-7494 or e-mail Wanda Tangermann.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Webinar: Fire and forest dynamics in northern boreal forests

Fireweed flourishes in a northern boreal forest, post-fire. (Jill Johnstone photo)

A webinar will be presented Thursday, Oct. 28 from 1 to 2 p.m. The topic, fire and forest dynamics in northern boreal forests, will be presensted by Jill Johnstone, UAF research associate and assistant professor at the University of Saskatchewan.

Johnstone will discuss how current changes in climate are likely to influence the fire regime in Alaska and other boreal regions and how projected changes in fire regime are likely to affect the composition of the forest.

The presentation summarizes research in interior Alaska and adjacent Yukon Territory that examines how changes in fire severity and frequency may shape the future forest dynamics.

For more information contact Jennifer Northway at 474-6964. To register, visit this site. Registration is required.

The webinar is hosted by the Alaska Fire Science Consortium.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Giant Traveling Map of South America lands in Alaska

The Giant Map of South America was an eye-catching educational tool at the National Conference on Geographic Education in Savannah, Ga., earlier this month, and now it will be traveling all over Alaska until mid-December.

Students at over 20 Alaska schools will be exploring South America in a big way Oct. 25 to Dec. 16 with one of the world’s largest maps of the continent. The map, measuring 35 feet by 26 feet and weighing 102 pounds, will give student explorers a geographic experience through rich content and exciting activities that enliven the study of geography, making it a fun, interactive experience.

The UA Geography Program coordinated the map’s “appearances” through National Geographic, with funding provided by BP and ConocoPhillips. The South American Map, designed for kindergarten through eighth grades, comes with a trunk of accessories such as interactive activities, games, books, videos, and music that educate users about the physical characteristics of the continent as well as its rich history and varied cultures.

“This map enlivens the study of geography, making it physically interactive, intellectually stimulating, and – importantly – lots of fun,” said Dan Beaupré, National Geographic’s director of education partnerships for National Geographic Live. “With the introduction of this continent to our expanding roster of giant maps, we look forward to inspiring a new class of geographic explorers, whether they be kids or kids-at-heart.”

UA Geography Program’s education and outreach coordinator Katie Kennedy has been taking National Geographic giant maps around the state for the past three school years. “It’s a fun, rewarding experience,” she said. “I’ve never had anyone not enjoy these maps. I run into students years later who remember the experience. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done.”

To learn more about the Giant Traveling Map project or to download map activities, visit Natonal Geographic .

Alaska schedule:

Oct. 25-26, Alpenglow, Eagle River
Oct. 27, Nunaka Valley, Anchorage
Oct. 28, Bayshore, Anchorage
Nov. 1, Larson, Wasilla
Nov. 2, Palmer Junior, Palmer
Nov. 4, June Nelson, Kotzebue
Nov. 9, Ipalook, Barrow
Nov. 11, Nome Elementary, Nome
Nov. 15, University Park, Fairbanks
Nov. 16, Nordale Elementary, Fairbanks
Nov. 18, Denali Elementary, Fairbanks
Nov. 19, Effie Kokrine Charter School, Fairbanks
Nov. 20, GeoFest community event, Effie Kokrine Charter School, Fairbanks
Nov. 23, Crawford Elementary, Eielson Air Force Base
Nov. 24, Salcha Elementary, Salcha
Nov. 30, Delta Elementary, Delta Junction
Dec. 2, Tok and Tanacross
Dec. 9-10, Seward Elementary, Seward
Dec. 14, Keet Hooshi Geen, Sitka
Dec. 16-17, Houghtaling, Ketchikan

Everyone loves the Giant Map of South America, which makes geographic education fun.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Invasive species conference scheduled in Fairbanks

Marie Heidemann spreads knowledge about invasive plants at a UAF Earth Day celebration in spring 2010. She will present her poster at a conference in Fairbanks next week.

Scientists, experts, and members of the public concerned about the spread of invasive species are invited to the Alaska Invasive Species Conference Oct. 26–28 in Fairbanks.

The conference at the Fairbanks Princess Riverside Lodge will feature the 11th annual Committee for Noxious and Invasive Plants Management Workshop and the fifth annual Alaska Invasive Species Working Group Workshop. A variety of speakers will discuss invasive plants around Alaska Oct. 26-27 and presentations the final day will cover other groups of organisms, especially those threatening aquatic systems.

Participants hope to raise awareness of the invasive species problem and to coordinate research and prevention efforts. Conference coordinator Michele Hebert, agriculture and horticulture agent for the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service, said harmful, non-native invasive plants, animals and microorganisms affect our economy and environment. Hebert said invasive species in Alaska threaten native fish, plants and wildlife and their subsistence users, as well as resource-dependent industries, including agriculture, tourism, forestry, hunting, and fishing.

The public is invited to a pre-conference lecture with John Peter Thompson from 6:30-9 p.m. Oct. 25 on the UAF campus. Thompson, of the National Agricultural Research Alliance, will talk about “Invasive Plants and Interactions with the Human and Natural Landscapes” in the Pearl Berry Boyd Lecture Hall, Room 201 in the Reichardt Building.

An Invasive Plants of Alaska Educators Workshop also will take place prior to the conference, from 12:30–4:30 p.m. Oct. 25. The workshop will allow teachers to gain hands-on experience doing invasive plant activities and get free materials to help teach about invasive plants.

Conference sponsors include the Fairbanks and Salcha-Delta Soil and Water Conservation Districts, U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Alaska Department of Transportation, National Park Service, and UAF Cooperative Extension Service. Preregistration is requested. A registration form and agenda is available at the Extension website.

SNRAS graduate student Marie Heidemann will present her campus invasive plant management plan at the poster session of the conference Oct. 26 from 5 to 7:30 p.m. (free to the public). Last spring Heidemann brought together the UAF landscape supervisor, Institute of Arctic Biology animal facilities supervisor, Fairbanks Experiment Farm manager, Bioscience librarian, North Campus manager along with other diverse and representative members of campus to discuss invasive weeds on campus. When it comes to invasive weeds, impacts are not limited to agricultural and landscaping operations, but extend also to recreationists, animal health, and daily operations.

The UAF Campus Invasive Plant Management Plan was developed through a task-force process with thirteen representative members of campus. Heidemann facilitated the formal process, through which the recommendations were formed and agreed upon. An initial scoping process included interviews with task force members and other interested individuals to identify issues that the plan should address. Task force members attended meetings from February through May 2010 to discuss these issues and make recommendations for invasive plant management on the UAF Campus. A public meeting was held on April 28, 2010 to present a draft of the plan and gather public input. Heidemann wrote the final draft of the plan, based on the agreements the task force developed in their meetings. The final plan is currently being considered for acceptance as an addendum to the campus landscape plan.

A focus on best management practices, education and awareness, and management of existing infestations are the primary goals of the plan. Additional recommendations include campus zone priorities, hiring an invasive plant management coordinator, and forming an invasive plant management steering committee. The UAF Campus Invasive Plant Management Plan provides campus land managers with clear guidelines and management priorities to reduce current invasive plant infestations and prevent the establishment of new invasive plants.

At the UAF Master Planning Committee meeting Nov. 4 Heidemann's plan will be under consideration. It has been approved by the Campus Landscape and Outdoor Art Subcommittee and the North Campus Subcommittee.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

SNRAS professor honored by Coast Guard Academy

The U.S. Coast Guard Academy named Lawson Brigham (pictured at right) as its 2010 distinguished alumnus of the year, the highest honor bestowed by the academy.

Brigham, a UA Geography Program professor, was honored at the academy in New London, Conn., Sept. 30. The award was presented by Rear Admiral Richard Larrabee, USCGA Alumni Association chairman of the board.

After graduating from the academy in 1970, Brigham went on to command four Coast Guard cutters during his career. He worked with all of the world’s icebreaker services and sailed aboard Canadian, Russian, Swedish, and Finnish icebreakers.

Brigham was the commandant’s chief strategic planner and led a large personnel study, the Work-Life Study for the Coast Guard. He was a distinguished faculty member in the science department and head sailing coach at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and was a marine policy fellow at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

Brigham earned a doctorate at the University of Cambridge, one of the first graduates of a U.S. military academy to do so. He served on many Arctic and Antarctic panels and commissions, led the Arctic Council’s Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment 2005-09 and served aboard polar icebreakers in more than 20 polar expeditions to the Arctic and Antarctic. He was one of the signers of the American Geographical Society’s Fliers’ and Explorers’ Globe in 2008, joining the signatures of Sir Edmund Hillary, Neil Armstrong and Amelia Earhart. He served as commanding officer of the icebreaker Polar Sea, the first ship in history to reach the ends of the global ocean at the North Pole in 1994 deep in the Ross Sea.

Admiral Larrabee said at the award ceremony, “Your Coast Guard experience, research and service to commissions and panels around the world have enable you to become a preeminent authority on the Arctic as it remains a bellwether of climate change. In all your polar work with international maritime and scientific communities you have reflected great pride on your alma mater.”

UAF School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences Dean Carol Lewis said of Brigham’s award, “I am extremely pleased and proud that Lawson is part of our school. His distinguished service and record have enhanced our work in Arctic policy and set us up for the future as we look for new challenges of navigable waters within the Arctic seas.”

Further reading:
U.S. Coast Guard Academy Alumni Association Distinguished Alumnus 2010

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Forest Fest draws 121 competitors

No, it's not surfing! Woodsmen demonstrated their skills at Saturday's forest festival. Photo by Todd Paris, UAF Marketing & Communications

The 13th annual Farthest North Forest Sports Festival attracted 121 contestants Oct. 2 for everything from ax throwing to fire building. While the day dawned on the cool side at the Fairbanks Experiment Farm, by the time the log rolling began in the afternoon at Ballaine Lake, the temperature had climbed to an unseasonably warm 60 degrees.

The "bull of the woods" (overall male winner) was Pete Simpson and the "belle of the woods" (overall female winner) was Karrie Improte.

The winning team was the Biomass Foresters consisting of Pete Simpson, Pete Buist, Trent Mackey, Karrie Improte, and Monica Chi.

Other winners were:
double buck saw (male), Pete Simpson, Pete Buist
double buck saw (female), Kristen Shake, Elena Fernandez
double buck saw (Jack & Jill), Pete Simpson, Monica Chi
bow saw, Pete Simpson
bow saw, Karrie Improte
ax throw, Jeremy Hage
ax throw, Imuya Dooley
log rolling, Allan Spangler, Mitch Reed
log rolling, Jeannette Chochran, Meghan Tulapaugh
log rolling (Jack & Jill), Allan Spangler, Nina Schwinghammer
pulp toss, Biomass Foresters
birling, Allan Spangler
birling, Emily Hemenway
fire building, Chris Garber-Slaght, Dan Jensen (representing Watershed School)

For more photos, visit the UAF Facebook page.

Fire researchers invited to workshop

UAF faculty and students researching fire science are invited to the 2nd annual Alaska Fire Science Consortium Workshop Oct. 14-15 at Fort Wainwright.

A fuels treatment session will be held from 1 to 4:30 p.m. on Oct. 14 and a fire science roundup is planned for Oct. 15 from 8:30 a.m. to noon.

The workshop will be held at the BLM - Alaska Fire Service training rooms 1 and 2, 1541 Gaffney Road, Fort Wainwright.

To participate by teleconference, call 800-893-8850, pin 8366346. The agenda is available at the consortium website.

For information contact Jennifer Northway, Alaska Fire Science Consortium coordinator, or call 474-6964.

Pondering the future of Alaska landscapes

Trumpeter swans, a species that may find the Alaska of the future offers more of the ice-free days they need to hatch and raise their young. Photo by Donna Dewhurst, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

By Ned Rozell
At the end of this century, more graceful white bodies of migrating trumpeter swans will glide over Alaska. Alpine slopes will be quieter, with less piercing whistles from the Alaska marmot. Caribou will find fewer patches of tasty lichen and other favorite foods. A lanky grass will invade the Seward Peninsula and explode along Alaska’s road system.

This may be the Alaska of 2099. Or it may not. However, this is the best-guess scenario of researchers who used climate models and all the relevant information they could find to predict the future of Alaska landscapes, how the state’s ecosystems may change, and how all that could affect four different species in Alaska.

Karen Murphy and John Morton of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Nancy Fresco and Falk Huettmann compiled the report with the help of many others. The team used data from Alaska weather stations to prime the best computer models representing climate. The data was combined with the knowledge of scientists with years of field experience. Murphy, Morton, Fresco and Huettmann chose to look at caribou because those animals exist all over the state and so many people depend upon them for food; Alaska marmots because they can probably thrive nowhere else but their high-country habitats in Alaska; trumpeter swans because they are a migratory bird that can choose their own places to nest based in part on ice-free days; and reed canary grass because it is an invasive weed species that already has a toehold on the Kenai Peninsula.

With many cautionary notes in their report about the reliability of attempting to predict the future with computer models (which is problematic, just ask your weatherman), the researchers drew maps showing the predicted future ranges of caribou, Alaska marmots, trumpeter swans and reed canary grass. Their predictions for 2090-2099 show less ideal Alaska habitat for the Alaska marmot and caribou, and more for trumpeter swans and reed canary grass.

The report is for “anyone who has to make decisions about long-range management planning, primarily land managers,” said Fresco, network coordinator of the Scenarios Network for Alaska Planning at UAF. She advised against people taking the predictions as the way things are going to be.

“It was the best we could do given the data at the time,” she said. “All the projections have to be taken with all the caveats. These are possible scenarios, but we’re not trying to lock ourselves into saying it’s going to happen this way or that way.”

The report, “Connecting Alaska Landscapes into the Future,” is more of a new way to look at things than a management tool, said Tom Paragi, a wildlife biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game who helped group members compile information about caribou.

“It’s a way to test hypotheses,” he said. “In the next 10 to 20 years, let’s see if there’s evidence of change toward these scenarios ... It’s a different way of thinking long-term, but it’s nothing we take and run with right now.”

Fresco said group members are now working on more detailed reports for both Alaska and Canada.

“We’re trying to do more of the same with better and more data,” she said, adding that even though the projections aren’t perfect, they might inspire people to look ahead.

“All planning involves uncertainty,” she said. “Using uncertainty as an excuse to avoid thinking about the future is not usually the best option.”

This column is provided as a public service by the Geophysical Institute, University of Alaska Fairbanks, in cooperation with the UAF research community. Ned Rozell is a science writer at the institute.

Friday, October 1, 2010

So how much food do we actually produce?

Alaska’s agriculture experts want to know how much food is grown and how much is imported into the state.

In order to get the facts, Charles Caster, a student in UAF’s School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences, is conducting a survey of Fairbanks-area vegetable and fruit producers. Eventually, the survey will expand throughout the state. It begins Oct. 1 and will cover producers in the Tanana Valley, from Ester to Goldstream to Two Rivers to North Pole to Delta Junction.

Caster visited the Tanana Valley Farmers’ Market many times over the summer and even volunteered to help at local farms in exchange for information. “I’ve pulled carrots and hung garlic,” he said. He is hoping for a high percentage of return for the surveys and is even offering an extra incentive. Three survey participants will win packages of Alaska-grown beef from the Matanuska Experiment Farm.

“We know that everyone bandies about the 5 percent figure, that 5 percent of Alaska’s food is produced in-state, but that’s really a guess,” said SNRAS Dean and Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station Director Carol Lewis. “Alaskans have been saying they import 95 percent of their food for so long it’s become an urban legend.”

To start solidifying the numbers, SNRAS will mail a confidential survey to 60 local producers next week. They’ll have a month to return their paperwork or have the option to go to an online version of the survey. Questions include topics such as fertilizers, pest control, sales outlets, crop types and amounts, production constraints, and more. Caster will compile the answers and hopes that the survey will complement the US Department of Agriculture's annual survey of Alaska producers. Agricultural Development in the American Pacific funded the project.

Caster and Associate Professor Joshua Greenberg are in charge of the project. For information, contact Caster at 455-3890 or, or Joshua Greenberg, 474-7189,