Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Matanuska Experiment Farm hosts rhodiola school

The University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service will host the Rhodiola Growers School from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. June 5 at the Matanuska Experiment Farm in Palmer.

Steve Brown, the agriculture and horticulture agent in Palmer, said the medicinal plant shows great promise as a new agricultural crop. Rhodiola rosea is not native to Alaska, but it grows well in cold regions and in rocky soils, he said.  “This is its natural habitat.”

Growers have been interested in the high-value plant because it can be grown on a small amount of land and requires little care, Brown said. The roots are harvested for use as a medicinal herb, as an ingredient in sports drinks and in skin-care products.

Anchorage physician and Alaska Rhodiola Products co-op founder Dr. Petra Illig will lead the growers’ school. The school will cover the fundamentals of growing rhodiola and experienced growers from the cooperative will provide hands-on instruction. Topics will include plant and row spacing, weed control and nutrient needs. Illig said 10 growers are growing commercial quantities of rhodiola and others are experimenting with the crop.

The school is free for co-op members and is $35 for nonmembers. Register online or download the registration form here or call Steve Brown at 907-745-3639.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Natiional Garden Club awards SNRAS student scholarship

SNRAS student Nathan Heeringa (pictured above) has earned a National Garden Clubs scholarship of $3,500.

The scholarship is for students majoring in fields related to horticulture and the environment.

Heeringa, who grew up in Bellingham, Wash., on a small family dairy farm, moved to Fairbanks in 2006 to enroll in the natural resources management program, emphasizing high latitude agriculture.

Heeringa is researching the effects of terracing on the soil quality of a Fairbanks area loess soil for his senior thesis project. He plans to graduate next spring and continue to live in Alaska, working in the natural resources management field.

The National Garden Clubs awarded 35 scholarships across the nation.

Following is Heeringa's essay which helped earn him the scholarship award.

      Agriculture and horticulture have been lifelong interests of mine, which I hope to continue in my career.  This lifelong interest began as a boy growing up on my family’s dairy farm in Washington state. Growing up on my family’s farm taught me the satisfaction that is gained through working with the land. My interest in horticulture started in high school when I took my first horticulture class. This class gave me foundational knowledge about working with plants and greenhouse management as well as hands on experience.  Subsequently I was inspired to build my own greenhouse and was given the opportunity through the Future Farmers of America (FFA) program, to grow and sell bedding plants through my school’s FFA spring bedding plant sale. During high school I also worked for a commercial nursery where I gained additional experience in plant care.

       As a young adult I completed a permaculture (permanent and sustainable agriculture) design course in Hawaii. This course taught me how to incorporate plants, animals, and the natural landscape into a garden design that is mutually beneficial to each component, increasing both sustainability and productivity. With the skills from this course I traveled with classmates to the Philippines where we designed and built a Permaculture garden for Hebron Orphanage North of Manila. Participating in this project broadened my perspective on the possibilities in small-scale agricultural design and practice

After several years of trying out various fields of work I came to realize that agriculture and horticulture was something that I wanted to pursue as a career. This prompted me to enroll at the University of Alaska Fairbanks in the Natural Resource Management program with an emphasis in high latitude agriculture.  Course work such as Introduction to Plant Science, Comparative Farming and Sustainable Food Systems, Soils and the Environment, and Greenhouse Production gave me valuable knowledge about plant science and agriculture at high latitudes. In addition to my coursework, my summer work with Colorado State University as a Vegetation Monitoring Technician in Alaska has given me experience in identifying native vegetation including Alaska’s unique wildflower species.

 Through networking opportunities and coursework I came to learn about the unique niche market that high latitude locations such as Fairbanks have in the peony cut flower market.  Due to the late spring, peonies bloom in Alaska from mid to late summer, which is after the season in much of North America, thus providing a niche market.  I recently started my own floriculture businesses, Far North Flowers, through which I hope to capitalize on the peony niche market in Alaska.  Although I am still in the planning and development stages I hope to build the business into my livelihood, which will allow me to fulfill my lifelong dream of working with the land in a productive and sustainable fashion. 
I currently have one year of school remaining and have started my undergraduate senior thesis project focusing on the effects of terracing on the soil quality of a Fairbanks area loess soil. My research experience and continued coursework will provide tools to aide me in accomplishing my goals. The National Garden Club scholarship will help relieve the financial burden of tuition and being a full time student. Thank you for taking time in considering this application.


Monday, May 14, 2012

Congratulations, graduates!

Congratulations to the SNRAS graduates who received their diplomas May 13.

Baccalaureate degrees
Adriana Amaya, B.S. Natural Resources Management: Plant, Animal and Soil Sciences
Adrian Baer, B.A. Geography and B.S. Geography Environmental Studies
Marco Delgado, B.A. Geography
Laurel Gale, B.S., Natural Resources Management: Plant, Animal and Soil Sciences.
Kelsey Gobroski, B.S. Natural Resources Management: Plant, Animal and Soil Sciences
Brianna Graves, B.S. Natural Resources Management
Bryn Hamey, B.A. Geography
Stephen Hanik Jr., B.A. Geography, History
Heidi Isernhagen, Ba.A. Geography
Alexander Kellerhals, B.A. Geography
Eric Merrill, B.S. Natural Resources Management: Forest Sciences
Charles L. Parr, B..S. Geography: Landscape Analysis and Climate Change Studies (Golden Key Honor Society)
Cody Priest, B.S. Geography: Geographic Information Science and Technology
Brian Robertson, B.S. Natural Resources Management: High Latitude Agriculture
Nina Schwinghammer, B.S. Geogrpahy: Landscape Analysis and Climate Change Studies
Erik Soederstroem, B.S. Geography: Landscape analysis and Climate Change (magna cum laude, Honors Thesis Scholar)
Nicholas Toye, B.A. Geography
Cherish Yuke, B.S. Natural Resources Management: High Latitude Agriculture

Master's degrees
Rebecca Baird, M.S. Natural Reources Management
Tina Buxbaum, M.S. Natural Resources Management
Marsha Henderson, Master's in Natural Resources Management and Geography
Kara Moore, Master's in Natural Resources Management and Geography (Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society)
Josephine-Mary Osafo-Adu Sam, M.S. Natural Resources Management (Golden Key Honor Society)
Mary Elizabeth Parent, M.S. Natural Resources Management
Tracy Rogers, M.S. Natural Resources Management

Doctoral degrees
David D'Amore, (pictured above) Ph.D. Natural Resources and Sustainability. Thesis: Hydrologic Controls of Carbon Fluxes in Alaskan Coastal Temperate Rainforest Soils. Major professor, Dr. David Valentine.

James Powell, (pictured above) Ph.D. Natural Resources and Sustainability. Thesis: Condition for Effective Use of Community Sustainability Indicators for Adaptive Learning. Major professor, Dr. Gary Kofinas.

Aiquin Zhao, Ph.D. High Latitude Agriculture, Interdisciplinary Program. Thesis: Assessment and Prediction of Potentially Mineralizable Organic Nitrogen for Subarctic Alaska Soils. Major Professor, Dr. Mingchu Zhang.

SNRAS staffer Lola Oliver, (pictured above) manager of the Forest Soils Laboratory, earned her Ph.D. in Geology. Thesis: Characterization of Permafrost Development by Isotopic and Chemical Analysis of Soil Core Samples Taken from the Copper River Basin and an Upland Loess Deposit in Interior Alaska. Major professor, Dr. Vladimir Romanovsky.

Further reading:

UAF Class of 2012: Record-setting group is largest graduating class in school's historyFairbanks Daily News-Miner, May 13, 2012, by Jeff Richardson

Friday, May 4, 2012

Three SNRAS faculty promoted

Three SNRAS faculty members were recently promoted.

Gary Kofinas is now a professor, Matt Cronin is a research professor and Greg Finstad is a research associate professor.

Dr. Kofinas is a professor of resource policy and management. His research interests are resilience and sustainability of northern rural communities; community-based resource stewardship, indigenous-agency co-management institutions; local knowledge in ecological monitoring and integrated assessment; social networks and subsistence; the science and practice of transdisciplinary research.
Dr. Cronin is a research professor of animal genetics. His research focuses on population genetics and phylogenetics of mammals using molecular genetics methods; systematics and taxonomy of ungulates, carnivores, and marine mammals; domestic livestock genetics to assess fitness and performance traits within and among breeds, lines, and herds of cattle; comparative approaches to assessing genetic variation in domestic cervids (reindeer) and recently-domesticated species (elk, bison); application and interpretation of science for applications (e.g., agriculture and wildlife management).
Dr. Finstad is a research associate professor of range ecology. He studies range management and nutrition, forage selection, ration development, reindeer production and pasture evaluation. He is also manager of the Reindeer Research Program.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Report: climate change may shift northern landscape

The joint final report from the Alaska Cliomes Project and the Canada Cliomes Project is now available for public download.

The report offers the public, including land managers, government agencies, communities, businesses, academics and nonprofits, new perspectives on how climate change affects northern ecosystems.

The projects used historical weather data to divide the landscape into areas of similar climate. Each of these areas — or cliomes — is described based on the characteristic pattern of vegetation and wildlife species that thrive under those particular climate conditions. The project then used climate models to project how ongoing climate change may cause the landscape to shift in coming decades.

Project results suggest some major shifts in these cliomes and the ecosystems associated with them. Climate patterns currently found in Interior and arctic Alaska, the Yukon and the Northwest Territories are expected to shift northward. By 2069, models suggest that some Canadian cliomes are likely to move into Alaska from the east. Climate patterns and associated species that are now normal in the southern prairie provinces of Canada may become common across the Far North.

Ecosystem change depends on not only climate change, but also the movement of seeds, the formation of new soil types and other major landscape changes. While project results represent possible rather than actual changes, large-scale landscape change is likely by the end of the century said Nancy Fresco, UAF Scenarios for Alaska and Arctic Planning coordinator. SNAP is a program of the UAF School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences.

 “This effort is intended to provide a range of descriptions of possible futures, in order to help people plan for change and adapt to it," Fresco said. "Our hope is that this report will trigger new research, discussion and collaboration, and will help define new areas for ecosystem monitoring and adaptation efforts.”

The projects were funded by the Arctic Landscape Conservation Cooperative, The Nature Conservancy’s Canada Project, Ducks Unlimited Canada, Government Canada and Government Northwest Territories. Research and modeling were done by scientists from the UAF Scenarios Network for Alaska and Arctic Planning program, the Institute of Arctic Biology’s EWHALE lab, the Arctic LCC, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and TNC.