Friday, May 31, 2013

Agricultural economist seminar scheduled June 4

The finalist for the Cooperative Extension agricultural economist/farm and ranch management specialist position will lead a public seminar on Alaska farm economics Tuesday, June 4 at 10:30 a.m. in Palmer.

Interested parties may attend Gina Greenway’s seminar at the Matanuska Experiment Farm classroom, participate by videoconference in Room 183 of the Arctic Health Research Building on the UAF campus or call an audio line at 800-893-8850 and use the PIN 5711553.

Greenway’s seminar is titled “Profitability as a Component of Sustainable Agriculture in Alaska: What Do We Need to Know to Identify Profit Centers on Alaska Farms.” She is a research associate at the University of Idaho and has a doctorate in adult extension education with an applied economics focus. Her bachelor’s degree is in agricultural economics.

The specialist will develop programming to address business planning, agricultural financing, and production and marketing economics with an emphasis on delivering programs to Alaska farmers and ranchers.

Geography student continues learning in Norway

David Broome
David Broome,a senior geography student with SNRAS, is expanding his horizons on a semester exchange in Tromso, Norway.

It's a good fit for Broome. One of the first things he did when arriving at UAF was to attend a meeting about international studies. "Studying abroad has allowed me to live in this space and develop my mind in a new environment that I have dreamed of for many, many years," Broome said. "It has been incredible."

Broome's Norway experiences have been a whirlwind of classes, international dinners, hockey training eight times a week, visiting the sauna frequently, aurora hunting, ski trips to the fjordland mountains every weekend and a lot of time to think

Broome, who grew up in Colorado and Chicago, fell in love with the American West in his late teens. After becoming savvy with Google Earth, he traveled to some of the most magical places on Earth. "It was necessary for my mental health and I have no doubt that it saved my life," Broome said. "It cemented the foundation of all the photography and travel I do today."

He finds geography a fascinating subject. "It often seems as if it has a profound connection with all that has to do with Earth and humanity," Broome said. He chose geography because he wanted to dive into something colorful and interesting. "I came to college for an education and development of the mind and I believe that I have gotten far more than I could have ever asked for.

"I often feel as if I owe everything in my life today to the University of Alaska."

The greatest value Broome has gotten from his college experience is how travel has broadened his horizons and perspectives. He also has an amazing collection of photographs (he calls it his "geographic data") from all over the world. In fact, photography may become his career. "My only real goal for the future is to use my short life for a contribution to some greater universal good," he said. "Whether that be using my photography to influence minds which will inadvertently contribute to the preservation of intrinsic values that may exist or whether it be to inspire others in virtuous ways or if I can just contribute to some sort of social value by making people smile or showing how perfect and beautiful their world is."

While in Norway, Broome traveled to Paris and northern Russia. He even went to Svalbard, Norway, where he met baby polar bears. "Looking back on it all, I feel like I have spent most of my time playing hockey, meeting amazing people from around the world, falling for a beautiful Russian girl and doing tons of photography," Broome said. "It has been an amazing and unspeakably bewildering experience."

Broome plays for a Tromso hockey team in an international league. The sport has been part of his life since he was 4. Despite numerous injuries, including multiple concussions, a broken left shoulder and a compound fracture on the right shoulder, Broome said hockey runs in his blood. "I have come to learn that people tend to stick with the world, rituals and traditions that they know," he said.

He enjoys travel, photography, hockey, playing the guitar, listening to and creating music and spending time with loved ones. Music is an important component of his life. "I have always been around music and I grew up playing the guitar," he said. He also plays the piano and drums even though he doesn't read sheet music. As a teenager he performed at bars, clubs and events in Florida, Chicago and Colorado. He went through a goth period for several years. "It was a fun time," he said. "It's funny to look back on the little kid doing such things."

After college he hopes to invest in good software and equipment and try to put together the very first American Folk Metal music project, themed on the American West in the mid to late 19th century. "There's not much room left for innovative creativity in the world today but an American Folk Metal music project has never been done before and it's only a matter of time. By the time I am an old man, I am sure that there will be some Spaghetti Western Folk Metal bands and I don't want to miss my opportunity to pioneer it."

A selection of Broome's photos:

Skiing Up Kjølen, Above The Fjordland, Kvaløya, Troms County, Norway

Reindeer, Kvaløya, Troms County, Norway

Mountains Over Tromsø, Troms County, Norway

Nordic Winter Night, Aurora Borealis, Above Hillesøy Church, Brensholmen, Kvaløya, Troms County, Norway

More of David Broome's photos can be viewed here.

Listen to his music here.

30-year career ends on positive note

SNRAS employees sent darleen home with a bit of sweetness.
darleen masiak, a research associate with SNRAS for 28 years, is retiring. Her 30-year career at UAF was celebrated May 30 with a picnic at the Georgeson Botanical Garden.

"Thank you for 28 years and for your friendship," masiak said. Asked what she will remember most about her work with SNRAS, she said, "I loved going to Delta. I think it's beautiful. And the people at SNRAS were wonderful to work with. I have a lot of good memories that I will share with my husband Michael now."

"She is one of the best people you could ever hope to have work for you," said her supervisor Steve Sparrow, interim dean of SNRAS and interim director of the Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station. "darleen works hard, knows how to have fun and she is a problem solver."

Lola Oliver, manager of the Forest Soils Lab, said, "I am really going to miss her. she always had something nice to say about everyone. She always thought of interesting things to do. She was fun, productive and helpful."

Fairbanks Experiment Farm Manager Alan Tonne said, "darleen has always been a joy to deal with. She is very positive and always saw the bright side."

Assistant Professor Jan Dawe, who knew darleen back in their undergrad days at Beloit College, said, "For the 43 years I have known darleen she has always made everything more fun. She is the steadiest, most helpful and not-make-a-big-deal person I know. And she is so capable."

darleen, who has long coordinated the annual SNRAS bowling event to raise funds for Big Brothers Big Sisters, said she plans to continue with that activity each spring.

Now that she is retired, darleen intends to devote more time to her artwork, hiking, reading, gardening and beer-crafting.

Longtime friends, co-workers and fishing enthusiasts Deb Segla and darleen masiak hug goodbye at the May 30 retirement party.

darleen masiak and grad student Watcheree Ruairuen were officemates and friends.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Nenana corporation eyes log homes for area housing

Cabin building in Nenana. (Photo by Valerie Barber)

By Molly Rettig
Cold Climate Housing Research Center

The log home made of freshly peeled white spruce sitting on the side of the road about two miles north of Nenana could be the first of many. At least, that’s what the Toghotthele Corporation is hoping.

“We’ve already had four people pull into the driveway and say, ‘Is this for sale?’ We have interest just from passers-by seeing the activity going on. If these guys are interested in it, we could sell them a kit,” said Jim Sackett, CEO of the Nenana-based corporation.

Earlier, a group of students placed the tie log for a roof truss. This included scribing the logs (or tracing the shape of one log onto the other), cutting the notches, and using an excavator to lift and position the tie log on top of the side walls.

The 16-by-20-foot full scribe log home is the product of a three-week construction workshop that wrapped up earlier this month offered by Toghotthele and the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extensive Service and School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences. It was taught by Robert Chambers, who teaches log building around the world, and local log builder Rich Musick.

The students are Toghotthele shareholders, plus a contractor from California who flew up specifically to take the class. They’re learning the craft not only to build log homes of their own, but also to possibly start a new business in Nenana that uses local resources and provides new housing.

Sackett is anticipating a potential housing boom if oil is found during exploratory drilling in the Nenana Basin this summer. Toghotthele owns roughly 140,000 acres of white spruce and is developing two subdivisions for construction.

“If people start moving into the area to take oil-related jobs, we don’t have much of a housing surplus in Nenana. Log homes are a natural fit to Alaska in general and specifically to Nenana. About half the homes in Nenana are log already.”

Full scribe construction means the logs retain their natural shapes and irregular surfaces. They are precisely hand-fitted to each other with no gaps, nails or other hardware. The method Chambers is teaching allows for logs to shrink as they dry (which typically takes up to six years) to ultimately form an airtight joint.

During the course, students practiced techniques familiar to log construction including scribing, notching, using chain saws and hand tools for sculpting and fitting, and other tools like spuds (for removing bark) and plumb bobs and levels (to orient layout lines and logs in horizontal and vertical directions relative to one another).

In today’s trend toward super-insulated homes, there is debate about how much insulation is enough. When it comes to logs, the R-value of wood is lower than other insulating materials. Wood is about R-1 per inch, compared to fiberglass (R-3.2 per inch) or rigid foam (R-4-5 per inch). So in theory, it would take a 16-inch log to achieve the same R-value as a standard 2x6 wall filled with fiberglass (if you don’t count extra heat loss through the studs).

“By the numbers, you’d be really hard-pressed to find Interior Alaska logs big enough to perform above R-21. But it’s a matter of perspective. You can build a decent wall system, and by making improvements to the rest of the shell — putting in an efficient heating system, good windows, good foundation and roof insulation — you can do really well,” said Ilya Benesch, building educator at the Cold Climate Housing Research Center.

As Chambers puts it, the embodied energy of building with local logs (the total energy used to produce all the building materials) beats most other construction methods.

“Homes that have a lot of concrete, aluminum and glued manufactured wooden products have a very high embodied energy,” he said.

In addition, well-built log homes can last 1,000 years, making them even more sustainable, he said.

You also can build very tight homes using full-scribe construction. Chambers seals the space between logs with a double gasket made from open-cell foam that is compressible but acts as an air and vapor barrier.

He noted a log home in Soldotna that tested at 0.5 air changes per hour, which rivals some of the tightest homes out there.

Chinking with elastic caulking is another way to air-seal joints between logs, though alters the appearance of the otherwise natural fit.

As Sackett points out, some Alaskans just prefer log.

“Log is just natural to Alaska. A lot of the early homes were log, and people just have this attraction to log homes,” he said.

“It’s a resource Toghotthele already owns, so figure out what you can do with what you already have.”

Ask a Builder articles promote home awareness for the Cold Climate Housing Research Center. If you have a question, contact us at or 457-3454.

Cabin building in Nenana. (Photo by Molly Rettig)

Related videos:

Friday, May 24, 2013

Visit the botanical garden for free on Public Gardens Day

Although it won't be this green around the treehouse, children will enjoy visiting the Georgeson Botanical Garden Saturday as part of the museum and garden tour.
Saturday, May 25 provides an opportunity to visit the Georgeson Botanical Garden for free, on Alaska Public Gardens Day.

Granted, there isn't a whole lot to see, admits GBG Director Pat Holloway. "Usually things are blooming by now but we don't even have a dandelion," she said.

Holloway still encouraged people to stop by the garden on Saturday. "It's a good time to see what leafs out early," she said. "The honey berries are one of the first things to bloom and you can check out the perennials and see what the moose really favor."

The wildflower seeds will be sown next week and the flower baskets will go up around June 1. "It's beautiful and sunny here," Holloway said. "Take a nice stroll in the garden." Children will enjoy playing in the new treehouse. Cookies and ice water will be served and the GBG is on the Museum Day scavenger hunt.

Holloway reminded that the garden is a pet-free zone. It is located at the far west end of the UAF campus at the Fairbanks Experiment Farm, 117 Tanana Drive.

Saturday is the 15th annual Fairbanks Museums Day, from noon to 5. The event coincides with Alaska Public Gardens Day. The GBG is a program of the UAF School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences.

Further reading:

Museum Day offers you Fairbanks' history for free, Fairbanks Daily News Miner, by Julie Stricker, May 24, 2013

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Research finds wood and plains bison not subspecies

Wood bison are kept at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center in Portage. An Alaska Fish and Game plan to release them into the wild was halted due to their status as an endangered species. (Photo courtesy Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center)
DNA analysis does not support the designation of wood bison and plains bison as different subspecies, according to recently published research results from a University of Alaska Fairbanks scientist.

Wood bison from northwest Canada and plains bison from southern Canada and the Lower 48 have been designated as different subspecies, although scientists don't all agree that they should be. Wood bison are listed as an endangered subspecies, while plains bison are not.

“This is important because the Endangered Species Act allows subspecies to be listed as species," said Matthew Cronin, UAF professor of animal genetics. “The ESA is mandated to use the best available science, so thorough assessment of the subspecies status is necessary.”

Cronin and his collaborators found that the animals in some plains bison herds are genetically more different from each other than some plains bison are from wood bison, yet those herds are not identifiable as two distinct groups. They also found that wood and plains bison are much more genetically similar than cattle subspecies and breeds, such as Angus and Texas Longhorn cattle.

The bison herds Cronin studied are located in Alaska, Montana, Utah, Wyoming, New York, Alberta and the Northwest Territories and include plains bison in Alaska at Delta Junction, Chitina, Copper River and Farewell, and wood bison at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. Cronin’s findings are published in the online May 10 issue of the Journal of Heredity.

Cronin emphasized that the term “subspecies” denotes a formal taxonomic category and that evolutionary history is a primary criterion for subspecies designation. For example, European cattle and tropical cattle have separate origins, are genetically distinct and thus have a scientifically supported subspecies designation. Wood and plains bison originally had contiguous ranges, were mixed in the 1900s and are not genetically distinct groups. These factors do not support subspecies designation, he said.

“My work replicates previous work,” said Cronin. “I worked with different herds and got the same results, that they are not distinct subspecies.”

It’s common for wildlife to be named as subspecies without adequate evidence, Cronin said, often resulting in lack of consensus in the scientific community.

“This creates a paradox for biologists because subspecies can be designated by one author, rejected by another and still others reject the entire subspecies ranking,” he said. “These factors make formal designation of bison subspecies a seemingly intractable taxonomic exercise.”

Cronin said in his paper that plains bison and wood bison should be considered geographic populations and not subspecies.

“The bison subspecies are currently recognized by management agencies so their taxonomy needs to be assessed,” Cronin said. “I hope that bison management across North America can be done in a practical manner and not by preconceived notions about subspecies.”

Cronin is also doing genetic research studies on wolves and bears. The bison research was supported by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Cronin is a professor in the UAF School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences and is based at the Matanuska Experiment Farm in Palmer.

Food and Culture available this fall

Food is always a good subject to study. Throw in culture and you have a fascinating "menu."
A new course called Food and Culture will be offered fall semester. Taught by Assistant Professor David Fazzino, the anthropology course (492/692, CRN 78568/78575) will focus on all aspects of the food system from production (agroecology, industrial and genetically modified foods) to distribution and exchange, food security, Traditional Ecological Knowledge and consumption (cultural consumption and the meaning of food).

It will cover not only anthropology but also Fazzinos' background in law and agroecology. Email Fazzino at for more information.

Friday, May 17, 2013

SNRAS student headed to Australia

SNRAS junior Paul Lambert (pictured at left) will spend the next semester Down Under, taking classes and soaking up the environment and culture of Melbourne.

Lambert was inspired by friends who studied abroad. “I thought it would be a fun thing to do,” he said.

The UAF Office of International Programs and Initiatives connected Lambert with La Trobe University, where he will take environmental science courses that complement his natural resources management studies with SNRAS.

Lambert grew up in various places around Alaska, including Homer, Unalaska, Dutch Harbor and Chugiak. He was home schooled for two years while living in his grandparents’ cabin up the Salcha River. The family lived one year at Fort Drum, N.Y. His father is an Army Reserve chaplain.

Lambert chose UAF because he wanted to stay in Alaska and SNRAS had his preferred area of study: Humans and the Environment. “UAF has a nice location and emphasizes natural resources,” Lambert said.
Commenting on what he has learned in college, he said, “Everything is connected even if it might not seem that way. Pay attention to what is going on.”

Lambert will work at Northland Wood Products until he flies to Australia in July. He will return in November. “I’m not entirely sure what to expect,” he said. “I hope to get a different perspective or approach for resources management. And I’ll be in a warmer location.”

In his free time, Lambert enjoys backpacking, shooting, snowmachining and boating. His career goals are to work for the National Park Service or Forest Service. “I want to work outside,” he said.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

OneTree offers field sketching and observation course

Each student will be assigned a tree to study and draw.
In cooperation with Boreal House, OneTree is offering a one-credit field sketching course May 29-Aug. 17.

Instructors will be SNRAS Assistant Professor Jan Dawe and Karen Stomberg, artist and educator.

The course will build botanical observational skills and a knowledge base of how to record change in words, drawings and measurements. Participants will adopt a single birch tree to study both visually and scientifically over the course of two and a half months. The results will be a set of journal entries and drawings made from a very intimate look at the growth stages in one individual tree.

Upon completion of the course, participants will be able to:

  • Accurately observe and measure key growth stages in a single birch sapling over an extended time.
  • Know how to organize and record observations using the Grinnell system in a science/art journal.
  • Sketch comfortably in a field setting.
  • Understand and apply color theory in drawing using colored pencils.
  • Create accurate drawings and renderings in color from field sketches.

The schedule will be:

May 29: meet in the Arctic Health Research Greenhouse classroom, introduce the Generation OneTree research plot at the T-field on the UAF campus, overview of goals, discussion of materials and gear for field sketching, training in how to use the Grinnell system, warm-up drawing and practice in color theory with colored pencils.

June 1: meet in the parking lot at the Large Animal Research Station and walk approximately .5 mile to the T-field, meet your tree, do first observations, measurements and recording protocol, sketch and refine.

June 8: meet in the parking lot at the Large Animal Research Station and walk approximately .5 mile to the T-field, continue work with one tree, do observations, measurements and recording protocol, sketch and refine.

June 29: meet in the parking lot at the Large Animal Research Station and walk approximately .5 mile to the T-field, continue work with tree, do observations, measurements and recording protocol, sketch and refine.

Aug. 17: (2.5 hrs)meet in the parking lot at the Large Animal Research Station and walk approximately .5 mile to the T-field, do final field work with tree, do last observations, measurements and recording protocol, sketch and refine.

To receive credit, participants are required to:

* Actively participate in the class discussions and keep a science/art journal

* Complete colored renderings in the journal, as assigned, at home using samples in a Plexiglass study press/and or photographs

* Complete observations and measurements and enter them in the journal using the Grinnell system

* Present their journal at the final class meeting

The fee is $135, which includes a $15 materials fee. Total class time is 15 hours and students must attend all classes. Register by contacting Stomberg.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Geography grad off to NASA for summer internship

Erika Edgar
Erika Edgar, who received her B.S. in geography May 12, will begin an internship with NASA June 3 at Ames Research Center in California. The 10-week internship is part of the DEVELOP program, uniting NASA Earth observations with society to foster future innovation and cultivate the professionals of tomorrow by addressing diverse environmental issues today.

Edgar discovered the opportunity through NASA's Facebook page. "I had never read or heard about NASA's DEVELOP program before," she said. "They announced they would be taking applications for the DEVELOP summer program so I read the website and was amazed at the program."

After receiving a slew of emails for NASA student programs geared toward engineers and atmospheric scientists, Edgar was thrilled to find something that could apply to her education and interests. "I could not have been more excited," she said.

"It spoke to me and my studies. It is everything that I am looking for in an internship. It is extremely interdisciplinary and hands on. I hope to gain hands on experience using satellite imagery, collaborating with a team and how to efficiently promote free public scientific data. This program is all about bridging science with society."

Born and raised in Antioch, Calif., Edgar said she barely graduated high school and didn't think college was an option for her. She took community college courses in the arts off and on while working in retail for seven years, then decided there was something missing in life. She enrolled in a Geology 100 course at the community college. "It was like someone had ignited a spark in my brain," she asid. "All of a sudden I wanted to understand Earth's natural processes and how I could contribute in science."

After that, Edgar was off and running, taking biology, chemistry and mathematics courses. "I became dedicated to learning and researching what my next step should be," she said. She emailed professors at many different schools and through networking was introduced to Sarah Fowell from the UAF geology department. Eventually, Edgar visited the UAF campus. "I was really impressed and humbled by how Sarah, Rainer Newberry and Pat Druckenmiller all took time out of their very busy schedules to introduce us to the opportunities at UAF," she said. "Six months later my husband Alex and I were accepted to UAF, packed up everything we owned and drove from Antioch to Fairbanks in January 2011."

Edgar chose geography as her major because of the environmental studies concentration. "I wanted to learn about the atmosphere, geology, topography, soils, wilderness, anthropology and cartography," she said. "I love science, and I think geography encapsulates the interdisciplinary attitude I want to obtain. I have met some wonderful professors, faculty and friends in the SNRAS college and I could not be more excited to take what I have learned with me."

Edgar credited Terry Slocum, visiting geography professor, with helping her land the internship, as he wrote a letter of recommendation.

Monday, May 13, 2013

UAF commencement 2013

Congratulations to the SNRAS graduates who were recognized at the UAF commencement Sunday, May 12!
From left, Christine Butcher,  Matthew Martin, Erika Edgar, Blaine Sisson, Professor Mingchu Zhang, Nathan Heeringa, Jennifer Lutze, James Shewmake, Jason M. Theis
Ayshe Yeager carries the SNRAS flag at the beginning of the commencement ceremony.
Baccalaureate degrees

Christine Butcher, B.S. geography, geographic information science and technology
Mitchell Chandler, B.S. natural resources management: plant, animal and soil sciences
Erika Edgar, B.S. geography: environmental studies
Bryan Hamey, B.A. geography
Nathan Heeringa, B.S. natural resources management: high latitude agriculture
Ryan Jess, B.S. natural resources management: resources, cum laude
Jennifer Lutze, B.S. natural resources management: high latitude agriculture
Matthew Martin, B.A. geography

Shannon Pearce, B.S., natural resources management: plant, animal and soil sciences
Curt Puffer, B.A., geography
Blaine Sisson, B.S. geography: landscape analysis and climate change studies
Justin Smith, B.A. geography
Eric Straley, B.A. geography
Jason M. Theis, B.S. geography: geographic information science and technology
Teslyn Visscher, B.S.natural resources management, magna cum laude
Nicole Wells, B.S. natural resources management: plant, animal and soil sciences, cum laude
Kai Whitehill, B.A. geography
Cassie Wohlgemuth, B.S. natural resources management: forestry
Cherish Yuke, B.S. natural resources management: high latitude agriculture
Geography graduates Christine Butcher and Jason M. Theis added a worldly flair to their mortarboards.

Master's degrees

Rachel Garcia, M.S. natural resources management
Winslow Hanson, M.S. natural resources management
Benjamin Rance, master's of natural resources management and geography
James Shewmake, M.S. natural resources management
Michelle Lynn St. Martin, M.S. natural resources management
Brian Young and Kimberley Anne Maher received their doctor of philosophy degrees.

Doctor of philosophy degrees

Peter Anthony, Ph.D. natural resources and sustainability (major professor Stephen Sparrow)
Carolyn Levings, Ph.D. botany: interdisciplinary program (major professor Valerie Barber)
Kimberley Anne Maher, Ph.D forest science: interdisciplinary program (major professor Glenn Juday)
Brian Young, Ph.D. natural resources and sustainability (major professor John Yarie)

Professor emeritus

Retired Dean and Director Carol E. Lewis was granted emeriti status for serving the university with distinction in teaching, research and public service from 1973 to 2013.
Kimberley Anne Maher is hooded by her major professor Glenn Juday.
Brian Young is hooded. At left is his major professor John Yarie. At right is Provost Susan Henrichs.

Further reading:
University of Alaska Fairbanks celebrates record commencement, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, by Matt Buxton, May 13, 2013

Friday, May 10, 2013

Plant sale set for May 18

Healthy tomato plants will sell quickly at the popular plant sale.

The University of Alaska Fairbanks Georgeson Botanical Garden will hold its annual plant sale at the Fairbanks Experiment Farm Saturday, May 18 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

There will be annual flowers, vegetable starts, trees, shrubs, house plants, herbs and hanging baskets, all products of student classes and volunteer efforts at the botanical garden.

Proceeds from the sale will support the GBG summer student intern program. For more information call 474-7222. Reach the farm by traveling to the west end of the UAF campus, 117 West Tanana Drive.

Asian lily will go home with a lucky buyer at the plant sale.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

UAF releases new YouTube on qiviut combing

Jan Rowell visits with Freya, a yearling muskox.
Got qiviut? The University of Alaska Fairbanks does and now thanks to a new YouTube video, the public can peek into the world of harvesting fiber from muskoxen.

“I wanted a way to show people how we get qiviut from muskoxen,” said Jan Rowell, assistant professor of animal science in the School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences.

“It’s very different from other species,’ Rowell said. “I’ve tried to describe it in words. With a video you can see and appreciate what happens.”

With muskoxen, the animals are not sheared like sheep and they don’t shed sporadically like dogs. The qiviut comes off in blankets each spring, which Rowell calls a synchronous shed. This occurs naturally for animals on the tundra but domestically, the process is helped along by combing. “It has to feel wonderful when that blanket comes off,” Rowell said.

“It’s quite unique,” Rowell said. “It’s not something most people would get to see.”
Qiviut comes off the animal in a sheet.

She expects the YouTube audience will be fiber artists, teachers, students and anyone else interested in animals. Rowell is researching muskoxen as an agricultural species. “We want to see if it is a feasible species for Alaska,” she said.

The animals, which were native to the state, then went extinct and were reintroduced, are completely adapted to the climate. “It never gets too cold for them,” Rowell said.

While muskoxen are sometimes raised for meat, they are valued much more for their fiber, so much so that yarn made from qiviut sells for up to $90 an ounce. It is perfectly suited for hats, gloves and scarves. “It’s an amazing fiber,” Rowell said. “It’s like cashmere or a super fine merino. It’s light, incredibly soft and warm.”
Yarn made of 70 percent qiviut and 30 percent merino wool is beautifully dyed and ready to be made into hats, scarves and gloves.

“It’s not easy to process and it’s challenging getting quantities of it to market,” Rowell said. The university sells qiviut through a website and at the gift shop at the Large Animal Research Station where the muskoxen live. Proceeds help support the program.

The current herd consists of 22 animals. Adults produce four to six pounds of qiviut each year.

Rowell is not done with YouTube, as she is planning to produce several more videos, including an instructional one on how to spin the fiber. “YouTube clips are excellent educational vignettes,” Rowell said. “It’s the way we learn now.”

LARS will host an open house June 1 with free admission. Tours are offered from June 1 to Aug. 31 at 10 a.m., noon and 2 p.m. Cost is $10 for adults, $9 for seniors and $6 for students. Children 5 and under get in free.

Rowell expressed appreciation to Andrew Cassel, UAF Marketing and Communications multimedia coordinator; Emma Boone, LARS research technician; and Scarlett, the "star" of the video (16-year-old muskox).
Freya, a 1-year-old yearling, was orphaned in the wild and raised at LARS. She will be combed for qiviut this spring for the first time.

2013's new publications!

So far this spring, SNRAS has published four new publications, including our updated faculty listing.

The latest issue of the University of Alaska's oldest research magazine, Agroborealis, now in its 43rd year, features articles written by SNRAS faculty on sabbatical in China, Namibia, and Taiwan. Articles cover a broad range of topics, from the creation of new knowledge and researching watersheds to alternative livestock to peony marketing and research to Namibian wildlife conservancy management and more.

Sometimes an article in Agroborealis is in such demand that it is converted into a separate publication: "Two Thousand Years of Peonies: Lessons for Alaska Peony Growers," by Dr. Mingchu Zhang (pictured on the cover of our 2013 Faculty Brochure) is one such article. The peony cut flower growing industry is hungry for information about Alaska horticulture, marketing niches, statistics, and other information. Zhang went to China and learned about medicinal research, peony marketing, the longstanding traditions and history of peonies in China, and made many useful contacts.

Dr. Patricia Holloway and Katherine Buchholtz recently released the first of what promises to be annual reviews of the peony industry in Alaska, providing statistical baselines to compare the growth of the industry over time: "The State of the Alaska Peony Industry 2012."

Thursday, May 2, 2013

SNRAS student crossing the pond for next school year

Anastasia Brease
Anastasia Brease, a senior geography student at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, will spend the next school year as an exchange student at the University of Sussex near Brighton, England.

Brease grew up in Denali National Park, where her parents are employed, and graduated from Tri-Valley High School in Healy. She was Alaska’s Junior Miss in 2009, which earned her a full college scholarship. Starting out at UAF, Brease thought she would eventually transfer to another school but fell in love with the Fairbanks campus and people. While she initially studied political science, after taking a geography class she switched majors and is now pursuing a bachelor of science degree in geography.

Interest in the University of Sussex goes back to high school days, when Brease received a pamphlet in the mail. “It inspired me,” she said. Intrigued by the geography offerings there, Brease is also excited to live near the coast and to get to travel. “I’ll be near the tunnel to France,” she said. “There will be all kinds of environments to experience.”

She’s going to take trans-nationalism and identity and a field course in coastal management. “I will get an incredible perspective,” she said.

Before she goes to England, Brease will spend this summer teaching marine biology to high school students in the Alaska Summer Research Academy and will also work as a seasonal ranger at Denali National Park and for the student ambassador and a member of the Choir of the North and the UAF Dance Team. She enjoys astronomy and traveling.

“Besides the education I hope to expand in social situations,” she said. “I have grown here at UAF and this will give me more opportunities.”