Thursday, March 21, 2013

SNRAS names outstanding students

SNRAS has announced the outstanding students for 2012-2013: Nathan Heeringa (high latitude agriculture), Jacob Hakala (forest sciences), Rafael Rodriguez (humans and the environment) and Jason M. Theis, geography.
Nathan Heeringa
As a student with SNRAS, Nathan Heeringa has learned a better understanding of the functions of plants and soils. He grew up in Bellingham, Wash., on a small dairy farm and moved to Fairbanks in 2006. “Growing up on my family’s farm taught me the satisfaction that is gained through working with the land,” Heeringa said. A high school horticulture class sealed the deal.

Heeringa studied permaculture in Hawaii and traveled to the Philippines to help design and build a permaculture garden for an orphanage in Manila. He has worked summers for Colorado State University as a vegetation monitoring technician in Alaska.

He is researching the effects of terracing on the soil quality of Fairbanks loess soil. He has already started planning a peony farm, Far North Flowers.

“My lifelong dream is to work with the land in a productive and sustainable fashion,” he said. Heeringa’s goals are to find a job in the natural resources management field, get his peony farm established and do some appropriate technology and sustainable agriculture projects in developing countries.

While he said several SNRAS professors have helped guide him through his college years the person who has made the most significant contribution to his education is research technician Bob Van Veldhuizen. “Bob always made time to answer questions and further explain concepts using practical application that made these concepts easier to understand and remember.”

Heeringa enjoys fly fishing, hunting and traveling with his wife Krista.

Jacob Hakala
The desire for a career in the outdoors prompted Jacob Hakala to pursue a natural resources management degree with a concentration in forest sciences.

Born in Fairbanks, Hakala went to high school in Eagle River. At UAF he has learned the value of natural resources in a changing world and the impact the smallest resource can have.

He has worked as a field assistant and lab technician for the Forest Soils Lab. “Everyone at the Forest Soils Lab has been great to me,” he said. He has worked in the summers as a wildland firefighter for the Division of Forestry.

Hakala spent a year in Sweden, studying forestry and ecology and traveling. “My mother is from Ecuador and encouraged me to go exploring and take in other cultures,” he said.

Hakala’s goals are to travel the world and work in forestry. He enjoys telemark skiing and riding his motorcycle.

What he will remember the most about SNRAS is how close everyone is. “It is a tight-knit school.”
Rafael Rodriguez
The outstanding student for humans and the environment, Rafael Rodriguez, grew up in a world about as different from Fairbanks as one can get: Miami, Fla. He arrived in Alaska because he wanted to take a really long road trip. “I saw Alaska on a map, got rid of almost everything and came in a small car,” he said.

That was five years ago. He has worked summer jobs as a wildland firefighter. His interest in the environment led him to SNRAS. “I’m gathering tools now and seeing where I fall into place. I want to find something I’m interested in and something that is suitable for me.”

The most important thing he has learned is “nothing is simple; everything is complicated.”

His desire is to be able to make informed decisions. “I want to see if the information is available or is needed and to make decisions about resources,” he said.

"I'm not just getting a degree for the sake of a degree. There will be opportunities stemming from this.”

He enjoys running, bicycling and playing the guitar.

Geography’s outstanding student is Jason M. Theis (pictured at left). He grew up on a farm in Montana and came to UAF to study geological engineering.

Once he met SNRAS Professor David Verbyla he switched his major to geography. Dr. Verbyla teaches geographic information systems.

Theis has served an internship with Terrasond in Palmer, a company that does sea floor mapping using radar.

While he is considering graduate school, Theis would also be receptive to joining the work world upon his graduation in May. What he will remember most is the diversity and friendliness of the people at UAF. His philosophy has been to keep a good balance between school work and social life. “Don’t overwhelm yourself,” he said.

He enjoys downhill skiing and mountain climbing.

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