Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Professor returns from sabbatical to Namibia

Associate Professor Susan Todd (pictured at left) spent 13 months in Namibia on a Fulbright sabbatical. “I loved every minute,” she said. “It was such an adventure.”

Todd departed for Africa in July 2011 and returned to UAF in time for the fall 2012 semester. She chronicled her experiences of teaching, learning and traveling in a blog, Gemsbok Gazette: An Alaskan in Namibia.

“As far as wildlife conservation goes, this is one of the greatest success stories ever told,” she said. Namibia is one of the newest countries in South Africa, having gained independence in 1990. Prior to that locals were not allowed to hunt; that was for whites only. Poaching had destroyed much of the wildlife. Due to a radical new way of managing resources, things are in much better shape.

Communal conservancies were established in 1996 to protect wildlife and provide greater economic advantages for village residents in the poorest areas. A communal conservancy is a legal entity with set boundaries and members that is granted certain rights to wildlife and tourism activities. When the country was formed, Together, communal conservancies and public parks and forests make up 34 percent of Namibia’s total land .area.

On 64 conservancies covering 14.4 million hectares, elephants, rhinos and lions supplement the income that people make from livestock . The country has an elephant population of 15,000 and lions have increased by 300 percent. “They harvest springbok like we do moose,” Todd said. “The country has some of the biggest elephants in the world.” An elephant hunt costs $50,000 to $100,000. There are also photography safaris.

The people decide how to manage the habitat and wildlife using government quotas for hunting. Plans have to be approved by the government.. “This has changed Namibians’ lives,” Todd said.

In some areas, safari companies operate lodges and guiding services. They train the locals to work for them and give 10 percent of proceeds back to the community. Some lodges are turned over to the community after a certain number of years. She said the conservation effort became a conduit for development of inland fisheries, water management and even AIDS information.

Todd was impressed with students who worked on the poaching patrol, carrying guns and trying to curb illegal shooting of animals. “The students are so dedicated to the environment,” she said.

In addition to the gorgeous vistas, Todd said Namibia has a rich cultural diversity that she enjoyed getting acquainted with. The country is twice the size of California and is home to 2.1 million people, making it the second least densely populated country in the world. (Mongolia is the least densely populated.) The country is very dry, getting only 25 millimeters of rain a year in the dry areas along the coast.

Namibia’s conservancies are inspiring others, with 70 countries having sent people to find out how to start such a program. “It’s a great benefit for the local people and people are proud of what they have done.”
Susan Todd (left) presented a talk about her sabbatical to College Rotary Club Oct. 8. She is pictured with Cynthia Wentworth.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Carol Lewis retires from UAF

After 39 years with the University of Alaska Fairbanks, 10-plus of those years as dean of the School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences and director of the Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station, Carol Lewis is retiring. Oct. 26 is her last day.

Stephen Sparrow will serve as interim dean and director.

Lewis joined SNRAS in 1973. “I thought it would be an interesting challenge,” she said. “Agriculture in the U.S. was changing and developing agriculture in the state of Alaska is a challenge. The experiment station had been stagnant for five years and wasn’t matching the research needs of the state and I wanted to change that.”

Also, for SNRAS the curriculum needed to be revitalized and recruiting re-emphasized. “We needed to pull ourselves out of a downward sloping enrollment curve and I knew we couldn’t do that quickly,” she said. “It would take some effort and it has. Now we are headed in the right direction.”

Lewis came to Alaska with no real job objective in mind. She and John Lewis came to hunt and fish and enjoy the state. They decided to stay and Lewis accepted a research position at UAF with the Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station to work with General Electric on the management and production and economic efficiency of agricultural products in controlled environments. She shortly became a member of the faculty, and also taught at Kenai Peninsula Community College. As a professor of resources management at UAF, she focused on conservation tillage, product marketing and on economic development in the natural resource arena including applications and systems for conventional and alternative energy in remote areas.

Lewis received her bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in mathematics from the University of Florida, and her Ph.D. in theoretical physics (ultrasonics) from Georgetown University.

While pursuing her Ph.D. at Georgetown, Lewis was employed by the U.S. Navy. Her job was to design a system for inspection of solid explosive loads for the five-inch guns on naval warships. The objective was to keep the loads from exploding before ejection. This was accomplished. Lewis holds four patents on ultrasonic systems that provide inspection for solid loads. They are used on gunships today. The USS Missouri was recommissioned with Lewis's loads in the ship's five-inch guns.

Lewis began her MBA work before coming to Alaska but completed the MBA at UAF. She served as interim dean of SNRAS from 2000 to 2002 and became dean of the school and director of the Alaska Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station in July 2002. As dean and director she led the school and experiment station to focus on sustainable resource management in the circumpolar north including appropriate resource-based products and industries as well as alternative and renewable energy sources.

During her watch, the school and station established a reindeer herd as a part of the Reindeer Research Program, began work in biomass and bioproducts, developed new research, educational and outreach programs at the Palmer Center for Sustainable Living in the Matanuska Valley, including turf research and second and third generation biofuel research, led research on the Endangered Species Act for the state of Alaska and led research on controlled environment agriculture for northern latitudes.

Lewis served on the Board for International Food and Agricultural Development, advisory board to USAID for six years, on the executive board for the Western Rural Development Center for eight years, senior Experiment Station Committee on Policy for one year, was chair of the Western Experiment Station Directors’ Association for two years, chair of the Board of Directors for the Agricultural Development in the American Pacific program for two years and currently serves as a member of the board of directors for the Fairbanks Economic Development Corp. and serves on the Alaska Food Policy Council and the university's advisory board to the Center for Legislative Energy and Environmental Research for the Energy Council.

Lewis looks forward to spending more time with her husband John and their Dachshund, Hammer, and plans to play more tennis and write a book on agricultural research in Alaska. “That story has never been told in its entirety,” she said.

Professor Stephen Sparrow will be interim dean and director. He has been associate dean for eight years.

“I have a lot of experience here in the school and experiment station and at UAF,” Sparrow said. “Over the past 30 years I’ve gained a lot of institutional memory that will come in handy.”

Sparrow is a professor of agronomy who researches bio-energy crops and soil management. He holds a B.S. from North Carolina State University, a master’s from Colorado State University and Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota.

“My charge is to move the school ahead,” he said. “We’ll be revising the curriculum and planning a long-term sustainable financial plan.”

Monday, October 22, 2012

Natural resources career fair set for Thursday

Students at the career fair get to talk with potential employers. In 2008 Ellen Trainor (now a SNRAS alum) visited with a representative from BP at the career fair.

Twenty five employers will represent the natural resources, fisheries and sciences fields at a UAF job fair Thursday, Oct. 25 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Wood Center.

Contacts from federal, state and private employers will be on hand to discuss employment and internship opportunities. Students and job-seekers attending the Natural Resources, Fisheries and Sciences Job Fair will learn what qualities, skills, education and experience employers look for; the wide range of possible educational, employment and internship opportunities available, and whether or not a graduate degree is helpful in a particular field.

Some employers will be conducting interviews for summer internships after the fair for UAF students and alumni.

The event is sponsored by UAF Career Services, UAF Alumni Association, College of Natural Science and Mathematics, School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences and the School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences. Visit here for information about parking on campus for this event. Visit Career Services website for more information or call Jackie Debevec at UAF Career Services, 474-7596.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Food Day delivers tasty message

The Iron Chef gang: from left, Carol Lewis, Chuck Lemke, Michael Castellini, Dave Sikorski, Nancy Tarnai, Frank Eagle, Jennifer Jolis, Jerry Evans, Tony Tillery
The Food Day celebration at UAF Oct. 17 carried a strong message about the value of Alaska grown food: it's tasty, wonderful and good for you.

The day kicked off with the competitors in the Iron Chef Cookoff slaving over a common stove in the Wood Center kitchen. Carol Lewis, dean of the School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences, and Michael Castellini, dean of the School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, battled to proclaim their prowess in the kitchen. The surf vs. turf challenge found Lewis preparing reindeer and Castellini serving up halibut cheeks.

Lewis was assisted by professional chef Jennifer Jolis of the Community and Technical College's culinary school, and Castellini's helper was Dave Sikorski, head chef for NANA Management Services, the company that manages all dining services at UAF.

At 11 a.m., the teams had 20 minutes to plate up their specialties in front of a live audience in the Wood Center lounge area. Judges were from the Midnight Sun Chefs Association: Chuck Lemke, Tony Tillery and Frank Eagle. Judging was based on appearance, taste, locally grown and other factors.

Throughout the event, Jerry Evans of KUAC kept everything lively as the emcee.

In the end, "Team Halibut" won the competition but the judges admitted it was a really tough decision.
Michael Castellini preparing food in the Wood Center kitchen.

"I was a little worried in the beginning of this whole thing," said Jolis. She ended up enjoying the cookoff immensely.

Asked if it helped to have the professional chefs on their side, both Lewis and Castellini said it was a definite bonus. "It's the only way," Castellini said. "We'd be lost without them," Lewis said.

Iron Chef judges confer. From left, Frank Eagle, Tony Tillery, Chuck Lemke.
Lemke said the chefs of the Midnight Sun Chefs Association are behind the idea of sustainable and locally grown foods. Judging the cookoff was hard work, he said. "We had the responsibility to do the best job possible."

While Castellini and Sikorski got the birch spatulas all the judges went home with fresh lettuce and microgreens from Johnson Family Farm.

Nannette Pearson (center) was the winner of the UAF Anthropology Society's 4 Carrot Film Festival. At Food Day, she was awarded a basket of locally grown food, plus two chubs of grass-fed Angus beef from the Matanuska Experiment Farm. At left is Carol Lewis, dean of SNRAS and director of the Agriculture and Forestry Experiment Station. At right is Azara Mohammadi of the Anthropology Society and film festival coordinator.
Next on the agenda was the presentation of the prize for the best food film produced in the UAF Anthropology Society's 4 Carrot Film Festival. Nannette Pearson won for her film, "The Great Alaskan Berry Hunt."

From left, Martha Westphal, Jeopardy Game coordinator, Shelley Cotton, SFOS grad student, Benjamin Rance, SNRAS grad student and Thomas Grant, emcee.
The Food Jeopardy game pitted graduate students Shelley Cotton (SFOS) and Benjamin Rance (SNRAS) against professors Stephen Sparrow (SNRAS) and Alexandra Oliveira (SFOS). Emcee Thomas Grant, a SNRAS post-doctoral researcher, challenged the contestants with questions about agriculture, nutrition and fisheries in Alaska.

The graduate students won, and were rewarded with "Nooks with Hooks" sweatshirts donated by SFOS. Consolation prizes of lettuce and herbs went to the professors.

Spencer Douthit of Calypso Farm and Ecology Center presented information about growing local food and school garden programs.
Meanwhile, throughout the day over 20 educational exhibits about food, healthy lifestyles, agriculture and nutrition were on display. Participating were:

Alaska Center for Natural Medicine
Alaska Grown
Alaska Youth for Environmental Action
Calypso Farm and Ecology Center
Chena Fresh/Chena Hot Springs Resort (provided tomato basil soup)
UAF Cooperative Extension Service
Fairbanks Community Cooperative Market
Farm to School
Growing Ester's Biodiversity
Johnson Family Farm
UAF Rural Nutrition Services
UAF Student Counseling & Health Center
UAF Reindeer Research Program
UAF Anthropology Society (petition for local food on campus; to sign the petition, contact Azara Mohammadi)

Beets looked beautiful under the skilled hands of Dining Services staff.
UAF Dining Services prepared local food for the Taste of Alaska buffet. Over 200 people sampled the delicious items made from barley flour donated by Alaska Flour Co.; cucumbers, lettuce, tomatoes from Chena Fresh; apples, beets, cabbage, carrots, potatoes, raspberries, rhubarb, spaghetti squash from the Fairbanks Experiment Farm; beef from the Matanuska Experiment Farm; cold-smoked sockeye salmon filets from SFOS's research facility in Kodiak.

Nationally, Food Day is celebrated Oct. 24, but UAF got a jump on the event due to scheduling conflicts.

The Food Day Principles
1. Reduce diet-related disease by promoting safe, healthy foods
2. Support sustainable farms and limit subsidies to big agribusiness
3. Expand access to food and alleviate hunger
4. Protect the environment and animals by reforming factory farms
5. Promote health by curing junk food marketing to kids
6. Support fair conditions for food and farm workers

Further reading:

UAF marks Food Day with full menu of events, Fairbanks Daily News Miner, Oct. 18,2012, by Mary Beth Smetzer

Monday, October 15, 2012

New forest research and outreach project launches at UAF

 From left, Sen. Joe Paskvan, Sen. John Coghill, SNRAS Dean and Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station Director Carol Lewis, Sen. Joe Thomas, Professor Glenn Juday, Adjunct Professor Janice Dawe, Rep. David Guttenberg and Post Doctoral Researcher Thomas Grant marked the launch of BAK LAP Oct. 15 with a visit to the forest on West Ridge. The BAK LAP researchers are holding tree disks that are used to study forest growth and climate change.

On Monday, UAF researchers expressed their appreciation to legislators who provided funding for the Boreal Alaska -- Learning, Adaptation and Production project.

The partnership between the School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences, Alaska Department of Natural Resources and the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District is twofold. One aspect is to upgrade Alaska forest research facilities and management practices to improve the value of Alaska's forests in meeting the rapidly expanding demand for wood biomass energy in a changing environment. The other goal is to improve science, technology, engineering and math teaching and learning outcomes by developing a model K-12 curriculum based on hands-on inquiry using the Alaska boreal forest for science and art education.

Professor Glenn Juday said, "What is BAK LAP besides a catchy acronym? I hope this is the first of a series of projects. We need to meet the demands for wood biomass energy and expand OneTree Alaska for innovative and successful applications of educational content."

Calling BAK LAP "a pretty audacious concept," Juday said he and Janice Dawe, coordinator of OneTree and a SNRAS adjunct professor, both had ideas and realized they were better off putting them together. "We didn't realize how integrated they could be," he said.

"The openness and approval of our Interior delegation was critical to our success."

Dawe said since starting OneTree three years ago she and her colleagues have turned to adding art to science studies. "We have created a community of learners," she said.

Post-doctoral Researcher Thomas Grant said biomass is exploding across the state. "It's about energy, power and economic development," he said.

Stating that Alaska has huge forest resources, Grant said he and the team want to be sure the state's forest resources are also sustainable. "We want to do the research to help make this happen."

Sen. Joe Thomas said, "I appreciate what you are doing.It's apparent, especially in rural areas, that something has to replace diesel but the sustainability of the forests is extremely important."

Juday summed up, "BAK LAP will foster cooperation, help retain forest science information, interpret and disseminate forest management information, foster improved student learning and provide a platform for collaboration and adaptive, sustainable forest management."

Further reading:
SNRAS launches new research/outreach project centered on boreal forest, SNRAS Science & News, June 6, 2012

Friday, October 12, 2012

Paskvan to lecture on shale oil opportunities and issues

Sen. Joe Paskvan (pictured at right) will present a talk titled "North Slope Shale Oil: Opportunities and Issues for Fairbanks" Thursday, Oct. 18 from 3:40 to 5 p.m. in O'Neill 201 on the UAF West Ridge.

Sen. Paskvan, co-chair of the Senate Resources Committee, was invited to campus by the SNRAS faculty.

"It is important for this community to learn more about the opportunities and issues that shale oil development may soon bring to Fairbanks," Sen. Paskvan said.

Questions to be addressed in the talk include:
How does the resource base compare to Bakken (North Dakota) and Eagleford (Texas) shale plays?
Should Alaska expect a boom like North Dakota and Texas? What are the similarities and differences?
Does Interior Alaska have the workforce necessary to support the shale oil development?
What is the potential impact on the local economy, jobs, infrastructure, housing, property values and schools – as well as city, borough and state services?
What are the environmental risks in Alaska? How can those risks be mitigated?
What other issues and challenges should be expected?

Further reading:
Alaska pursuing unconventional shale oil development to fill its pipeline, The Washington Post, Aug. 26, 2012, By Juliet Eilperin

Shale oil exploration arrives in Alaska, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Aug. 1, 2012, By Matt Buxton

Exploraory shale wells coming within a month, Alaska Public Radio Network, April 25, 2012, By Dave Donaldson

Shale oil could be game changer for Slope, Alaska Journal of Commerce, Sept. 22, 2011, by Tim Bradner

New UAF boreal forest program launches

Principal investigators in the Boreal Alaska -- Learning, Adaptation and Production program will kick off their new project Monday, Oct. 15 at 10 a.m. on the UAF campus.

Special guest is Sen. Joe Thomas, who was instrumental in securing funding for the project, Professor Glenn Juday, Adjunct Professor Janice Dawe and post-doctoral researcher Thomas Grant will briefly explain the components of the project.

The goal of BAKLAP is to increase research on sustainable management of boreal forests for biomass use. For the K-12 and college student outreach component, biomass is added as a third curricular strand to the model that OneTree Alaska has developed using phenology and dendrochronology.

BAKLAP is funded by a $1 million capital legislative appropriation to the Alaska Department of Natural Resources, Division of Forestry, contracted to the Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station.

On Monday at 10, BAKLAP associates will gather with Sen. Thomas and other Interior legislators to celebrate the beginning of the research and outreach program. The event will occur at Arctic Health Research Building, Room 1W05.

The public is welcome to attend. To RSVP, contact Thomas Grant.

Giant Map of North America to visit Alaska schools

Katie Kennedy (in pink shirt) conducts activities on the Giant Traveling Map of North America.

Alaska students will soon have a chance to explore North America in a big way: with one of the world’s largest maps of the continent. The map, measuring 35 feet by 26 feet, gives student explorers a fun, interactive experience through rich content and exciting activities that enliven the study of geography.

The map will travel the state Oct. 16 through Nov. 20 as part of National Geographic’s Giant Traveling Maps program, organized by National Geographic Live, the public programming division of the National Geographic Society. The University of Alaska Geography Program, a SNRAS department, is coordinating the Alaska visit. Katie Kennedy, UAGP education and outreach coordinator, teaches the lessons on the map and makes the arrangements to have it shipped far and wide across the state.

The brightly colored vinyl surface of the map accurately illustrates North America’s oceans, seas, rivers, mountains, countries and capitals. The map, designed for grades K-8, comes with a trunk full of accessories, including interactive games, geography adventures, atlases and books that teach students about the physical characteristics of the continent as well as its rich history and varied cultures.

“Experiencing a map of this size can really awaken a student to the power of maps and the limitless depth of geography,” said Dan Beaupré, National Geographic’s director of education partnerships for National Geographic Live. “Whether they are using the map to learn place names or to compare state-to-state CO2 emissions, students are physically involved in a hands- and feet-on way that makes geography into an event.”

National Geographic’s Giant Traveling Maps program was introduced in 2006 with a map of Africa, and has since expanded to maps of North America, Asia, South America and the Pacific Ocean.

Following is a schedule of schools the map will visit:
Oct. 16, Glennallen School
Oct. 18, Kenny Lake School
Oct. 25-26, Nome Elementary School
Oct. 30-31, Goldenview Middle School, Anchorage
Nov. 2, Nenana City School
Nov. 7, Main Elementary, Kodiak
Nov. 8, East Elementary, Kodiak
Nov. 12, Yakutat Elementary
Nov. 15-16, Immaculate Conception School, Fairbanks
Nov. 19-20, Knik Elementary, Wasilla

To learn more about the Giant Traveling Map project, visit here.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Is Alaska's boreal forest crossing a major ecological threshold?

Daniel Mann (pictured at right), SNRAS assistant professor of geography, is lead author on a new article in the Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research Journal at the University of Colorado Boulder.

The abstract:
Many boreal forests grow in regions where climate is now warming rapidly. Changes in these vast, cold forests have the potential to affect global climate because they store huge amounts of carbon and because the relative abundances of their different tree species influence how much solar radiation reflects back to space. Both the carbon cycling and albedo of boreal forests are strongly affected by wildland fires, which in turn are closely controlled by summer climate. Here we use a forest disturbance model in both a retrospective and predictive manner to explore how the forests of Interior Alaska respond to changing climate. Results suggest that a widespread shift from coniferous to deciduous vegetation began around A.D. 1990 and will continue over the next several decades. This ecological regime shift is being driven by old, highly flammable spruce stands encountering a warmer climate conducive to larger and more frequent fires. Increased burning promotes the spread of early successional, deciduous species at the expense of spruce. These striking changes in the vegetation composition and fire regime are predicted to alter the biophysics of Alaska’s forests. The ground will warm, and a surge of carbon emission is likely. Our modeling results support previous inferences that Alaska’s boreal forest is now shifting to a new ecological state and that positive feedbacks to global warming will accompany this change.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

UAF to celebrate Food Day Oct. 17

Beautiful and delicious Alaska-harvested salmon was a highlight of Food Day in 2011.

SNRAS will host the 2nd annual Food Day Wednesday, Oct. 17 at the UAF Wood Center.

The “Iron Chef” cookoff begins at 11 a.m., pitting the deans from the agricultural and fisheries schools in the “Surf vs. Turf” challenge. The surf ingredient for School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences Dean Michael Castellini is halibut cheeks, while the turf entrée is reindeer for the School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences Dean Carol Lewis. Each will be assisted by professional UAF chefs and the contest will be judged by members of the Midnight Sun Chefs Association.

At noon, scientists square off with graduate students in the Food Jeopardy game, a fast-paced challenge that tests the contestants’ knowledge of food, nutrition, agriculture and fisheries.

Food, healthy lifestyle and agriculture exhibits will be on display from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and a Taste of Alaska buffet featuring all Alaska-grown food is offered from 11:30 a.m. till the food runs out. Cold-smoked sockeye fillets from Kodiak, grass-fed beef from the Matanuska Experiment Farm and vegetables and fruits from the Fairbanks Experiment Farm will showcase the bounty that Alaska offers. UAF Dining Services prepares the food.

The goals of national Food Day (celebrated Oct. 24) are to reduce diet-related disease by promoting safe, healthy foods; support sustainable farms and limit subsidies to big agribusiness; expand access to food and alleviate hunger; protect the environment and animals by reforming factory farms; promote health by curbing junk-food marketing to kids; support fair conditions for food and farm workers.

Food Day is free and open to everyone. Parking is available in the Taku lot off of Farmers Loop ($3 for the day) and a shuttle to the Wood Center operates from there.

For more information contact Nancy Tarnai, or 474-5042.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

First SNRAS Fellow to give details of Peace Corps service

Eric Schacht in Mali during his Peace Corps years.

The public will get to meet the first SNRAS Peace Corps Fellow Friday, Oct. 12 when Eric Schacht gives a presentation. The Paul D. Coverdell Fellows Program is a new offering for returned Peace Corps Volunteers by SNRAS.

Schacht will talk about his Peace Corps service in the West African Republic of Mali. He lived and worked in a rural community addressing natural resource issues.

"I will share my service experience and how it relates to the three Peace Corps goals and how it is relevant to my Fellowship at UAF," Schacht said. After the presentation there will be a time for comments, questions and discussion about international development work.

The event is scheduled for this Friday at 1 p.m. in IARC 401 on the UAF campus. Call 474-7188 for further information.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Forest Fest draws crowd, even in the rain

Alice Orlich is the new belle of the woods, while Allan Spangler is bull of the woods, determined at the Forest Sports Festival Saturday.

The Oct. 6 Farthest North Forest Sports Festival drew a sizable crowd, regardless of the unseasonable weather. Throughout the 15 years the event has been held, this was the first time organizers had to deal with rain.

The moisture did little to dampen the contestants' enthusiasm.  The overall winning team, Soft Drizzle, came from out town to test their woodsmen skills. Members of the team are Allan Spangler, Adrian Baer, Mike Kelly, Jenni Dewar, Nina Schwinghammer and John Hutch.

The "bull of the woods" is Allan Spangler and the "belle of the woods" is Alice Orlich. A returning champion, Orlich held the title in 2008 but hasn't been able to compete since due to field work each year on an icebreaker.

Other winners were:

ax throw: Allan Spangler and Molly Tedesche
bow saw: Adrian Baier and Ruby Baxter
men's double-buck crosscut saw: Adrian Baier and Allan Spangler
women's double-buck crosscut saw: (3-way tie) Colleen Bue and Claire Woodings, Nina Schwinghammer and Jenni Dewar, Amy Rath and Amanda Byrd
mixed double-buck crosscut saw: Phillip Rohnsaville and Alice Orlich
men's log roll: Phillip Rohnsaville and Travis Moose
women's log roll: Colleen Bue and Nina Schwinghammer
mixed log roll: Alice Orlich and Travis Moose
men's birling: Joe Hunner
women's birling: Amanda Byrd
pulp toss: Soft Drizzle
fire building: Timber

Congratulations to the winners, competitors and volunteers. The festival is held the first Saturday in October each year. Event coordinator is Professor David Valentine, chair of the Forest Sciences Department.

Birling was not without its amusing moments on a chilly October afternoon.

Colleen Bue tries her hand at the ax throwing competition.

Amy Rath saws some wood in the double-buck crosscut event.

The fastest team to build a fire and get a can of water to boil is the winner in the fire building contest.

It may not be the most exciting event but the log roll is a true test of the woodsmen's prowess.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Honduras assignment gives grad student new perspective

Benjamin Rance (left) shares a laugh with Tony Gasbarro, who helps coordinate Peace Corps programs at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Rance presented a talk Sept. 28 about his time in Honduras.

Peace Corps service changed Benjamin Rance’s world view. “It takes time and an open mind,” Rance said of how one learns to deal with the challenges of being a Peace Corps volunteer. Rance, a SNRAS Master’s International student, served in Honduras.

“The lessons I learned can apply to other situations,” Rance said. “What I learned in Honduras I can apply here.”

His advice to other PC volunteers is “Don’t worry about numbers and projects and reports. Don’t lose focus on the community integration.”

Rance said if he had it to do over again, he would spend more time drinking coffee with the locals and getting to know them better. “They are some of the most hospitable people I have ever met. They are very open.

“Every single person had something to offer,” he said. “I knew a man with three teeth and six kids. He lives on $1 a day in a clay house. He was one of the happiest guys in the community. Everyone has something to offer.”

Rance explained that the Master’s International program partners with 60 universities. Students are able to coordinate PC service with graduate work to earn a master’s degree. “You get two years experience in the international arena,” Rance said. The PC has placed 210,000 volunteers in 139 countries. Currently, there are 9,100 volunteers in 76 countries.

His work focused on management of protected areas, including environmental education, natural resources management and income generation. He was first based in La Jagua, Olancho, which Rance described as “the wild, wild west” where people carry machetes to the market.

La Jagua has a population of 400 and relies on corn and beans to eat and sell. Rance’s initial goal was to listen to people. “You have to do that up front to earn their respect and trust.”

One of his projects was a gender equality promotion group which 15 women joined to work on income generation, education and development activities. Using a recipe Rance got from his mother, the group made homemade pizzas and sold them, using the profits to take students on field trips.

He also worked on improving the water source. “Stomach problems were rampant in the village,” Rance said.

Planning was underway for the construction of 55 new latrines and improvements to six existing ones. “We were all set to do the latrine project when there was a safety and security issue,” Rance said. The problem occurred at another PC site in Honduras and he was given one week to relocate to El Dorado, Santa Barbara.

“I inherited my projects from the volunteer who was leaving,” Rance said. He helped train guides, find host families, planned dining and sanitation services and constructed and maintained trails.

Water quality and quantity were also issues in the new location. Opening a community library with a computer lab was a success story. “It was really good to see the fun output from this project,” Rance said.

In January there was another safety issue in another part of Honduras and all volunteers were pulled from the country. Rather than getting to serve his two years, Rance was sent home after 18 months. “I had an unconventional Peace Corps experience,” he said. “I kind of felt like a failure. I would start projects, get going and have to leave.

“I wish I had had the opportunity to serve two years but sometimes that’s not how the world works.”

Looking back, Rance said he learned the value of understanding cultural, social, political and economic realities in a community. He observed that monitoring, evaluation and followup are virtually non-existent in the PC, at least in his experience. And he worries that sometimes the program might create dependence on outside help.

He plans to complete his graduate work by December and hopes to find a job in community development where he can incorporate what he learned in the PC. He plans to return to Honduras as a private citizen next summer.

“I will always remember the people I met.”