Friday, December 16, 2011

New scholarships offered for grad students

Students interested in earning advanced degrees in the area of childhood wellness may wish to apply for scholarships and help conduct research on childhood obesity.

Associate Professor Bret Luick is leading the Children's Healthy Living Program, a cooperative project with UAF and institutes of higher learning in American Samoa, the Federated States of Micronesia, Guam, Hawaii, Marshall Islands, Northern Mariana Islands and Palau.

Candidates must be Alaska residents, U.S. citizens or green card holders. The program begins in 2012 and the deadline to apply is Dec. 30.

The goal is to train 22 students throughout the Pacific region in food, nutrition, public health and other related programs at various levels of need. Unique to the program is the opportunity for students to complement their degree with additional training in research, outreach and other approaches related to preventing childhood obesity in the Pacific region. Visit here for more information and an application.

At UAF, the degrees included the program are graduate interdisciplinary studies, master of science in natural resources management, doctor of philosophy in natural resources and sustainability, master's degree in natural resources management and geography, master's of public health (distance education).

Contact Dr. Luick at 907-474-5170.

Further reading:
SNRAS helps launch childhood obesity research, SNRAS Science & News, July 26, 2011

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Seniors present research results: phenology, land management and seafood waste

From left, Cassie Wohlgemuth, Laurel Gale, Adriana Amaya.

On Dec. 2 three SNRAS seniors presented the results of their theses.

Adriana Amaya’s topic was “A Handbook for Phenology Monitoring for Primary Grade Teachers in Fairbanks, Alaska.”

Amaya said her intent was to create a tool that teachers could use to introduce young students to the scientific process in a developmentally appropriate setting, emphasizing data collection, analysis and prediction. Phenology is the observation of biological events over time.

After consulting with Elena Sparrow of GLOBE, Jan Dawe of OneTree Alaska and studying resources from the National Phenology Network and Project BudBurst, she selected fireweed, Canada geese and mosquitoes for the children to observe. She incorporated science, math and writing into the handbooks and has received favorable response from teachers.

“There is a need for scientific inquiry program based on phenology to prepare primary grade students for accurate data collection,” Amaya said. “This can help develop the next generation of stewards of the environment and get kids excited about science.”

Cassie Wohlgemuth’s project was “A Resource Management Plan for the Privately-Owned Wedgewood Wildlife Sanctuary.”

Wohlgemuth worked with Fountainhead Development representatives to prepare a plan for the 75 acres of forests and wetlands that border Creamer’s Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge. “It has fantastic resources, birds, plants, wildlife, but no overall plan,” she said. “A plan is crucial if the landowner wants to meet his goals in the most efficient and scientific way possible.”

Her project was to determine the landowner’s goals and objectives, establish the baseline conditions of significant resources, determine alternatives, evaluate the alternatives and choose the preferred ones, create a final management plan and develop a monitoring system.

Among the landowner’s goals were: ensure visitor enjoyment, decrease invasive weeds, increase nesting and shelter for birds, minimize mosquitoes, keep the land aesthetically pleasing, encourage native and natural vegetation, increase outreach and protect the sanctuary.

Wohlgemuth inventoried fish in Wander Lake and monitored beaver impacts, invasive weeds and visitor information and assessed what, if any, action should be taken.

“This will allow Fountainhead Development to achieve the goals in the most efficient, scientific and logical way possible,” she concluded.

Laurel Gale spoke on the “Ecological Effects on Benthic Infauna by Seafood Processor Waste Discharges in Alaska.”

The ecological effects of seafood effluent discharges on the benthic community reach beyond the loss of the benthic habitat, Gale said. “There are unintended ecological implications.”

Benthic infauna are considered a key food resource to higher trophic levels, link to re-mineralization of the water column, and an important link to the stabilization of sediment and prevention of coastal erosion, similar to the way plant roots hold the soil together.

Gale examined historical data of two infaunal sites affected by seafood processing discharges, Unalaska and Port Valdez, Alaska, for trends of disturbance gradients. She found seafood processing discharges caused gross disruptions in the assemblages of the infaunal communities. Gale cited studies which have shown that seafood processing waste acts as an attractive nuisance to species of concern, such as the Steller’s eider, northern sea otter and bald eagles. She also cited a five-year study showing that areas with a stable infaunal community displayed more stable seafloors and may help in the severity of near-coastal erosion, an ever-growing issue in Alaska. She recommended better management practices, increased lipid recovery, decreased water usage and solid waste recovery. Heating and grinding seafood processing waste, disposing of it in deeper waters and reducing discharge in shipping lanes would be helpful too.

The problem has existed since the 19th century because discharge is responsible for organic loading of near-coastal areas, Gale explained. Seafood processing effluent acts in two ways; it suffocates the benthic infauna and causes eutrophication resulting in dead zones and bacterial mats in these important ecological areas.

Alaska is home to 250 seafood processors, with 80 of those in coastal areas, with millions of tons of waste disposed of into the important near-coastal benthic areas in the Gulf of Alaska.