Wednesday, July 31, 2013

STEAM rolls on through summer

From left Marian Lundquist, Karen Stomberg and Janice Dawe examine a birch tree in the T-field.
Weekly throughout the summer, area teachers have traversed to the UAF T-field to get up close and personal with “their” birch trees in a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, math) workshop.

Continuing the work of OneTree Alaska, SNRAS Assistant Research Professor Janice Dawe has been leading the science portion of the workshop, while Karen Stomberg, art specialist with the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District, focuses on the artistic side.

The setting is a research plot of 144 birch trees planted in June 2011. On Thursday evenings, the participants gather to learn, observe and draw. “You spend all these years looking at birch trees and then you say holy cow I’ve watched birch trees grow for 33 years and I never understood,” said Robin Davis, a recently retired teacher.

As a result of the workshop, Davis said she is now looking closer at nature. “I thought I was observant before,” she said. “But I’m much more observant now.”

Stomberg said, “Scientists like Jan look at the whole plant. Documenting that can be overwhelming. A lot of times in field sketching it’s nice to isolate a small portion.” She compared the technique to looking through a view finder or selectively cropping.

The purpose of the training has been to help the teachers learn to record designated birch trees both scientifically and artistically. “This gives them more tools,” Stomberg said. “They have their scientific eyes on and their artistic eyes on.”

Usually participants start out with stiff observational drawings and then loosen up. “It’s like a jazz musician being able to improvise,” she said.

When Dawe is leading the discussion she urges the participants to think about what is different about each tree. “Is it taller? Divide it into thirds so you can compare the growth relationships,” she said.

“It’s all about repeating units. It’s very mathematical.” She encouraged the participants to examine the color of the leaves and the bark, to take note of yellow leaves. “Any of these trees can be a great learning tree.”

Dawe said, “It would be great to have people study why some trees grow and some don’t. You are doing exactly what I had hoped you would do, by looking at your tree’s architecture and thinking about where the tree is putting its energy into new growth." Will the birch forests be able to survive longer growing seasons, Dawe pondered.

The workshop has stressed botany as well as artistic technique in parallel fashion. “This is the integration of art and science,” Dawe said.

“We wanted the teachers to become more knowledgeable about birch trees,” Dawe said. “They get attached. They love their tree. They slow down and observe and become aware of how interesting their environment is.”

The sessions have taken people outside their comfort zones, with the more artistic people having to get comfortable with science and vice versa.

“By stretching they can understand the other way of looking at the same thing," Dawe said. "It increases their understanding of what they are seeing.”

The 10 teachers involved have been using OneTree curriculum in their classrooms. “All of this will make them much more confident,” Dawe said. OneTree will continue its service learning component this school year, which brings graduate students to classrooms and provides lesson plans and experiments. “It’s adaptable to individual classrooms,” Dawe said.

New curriculum this fall will emphasize cold hardiness in birch and competition between seedlings. Classroom experiments will be replicated at UAF, and more campus field trips are likely.

Marian Lundquist, a teacher at Denali Elementary School, said she has enjoyed working and learning outdoors. “I learned much more than I ever imagined, especially about the biology of trees.”

Recommended reading:

Celebrating Birch: The Lore, Art, and Craft of an Ancient Tree
Botanical Drawing in Color
Illustrating Nature: Right-Brain Art in a Left-brain World

Karen Stomberg "zooms in" on a birch leaf.

Stomberg's drawing of a birch leaf.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Botanical garden benefits from Eagle Scout project

From left, Erich Hoefler, Oliver Rogers, Stanley Rogers, Vaughan Hoefler pause in their work at the botanical garden.

Thanks to the efforts of Erich Hoefler of Boy Scout Troop 92, the Georgeson Botanical Garden will soon have a new circular patio in the Lind Garden. Nearly 70 of the bricks are inscribed with memorials or donors’ names.

Hoefler, a rising senior at West Valley High School, was inspired to do his Eagle Scout project at the GBG because his brother Werner built a raised wall there four years ago. “I knew they were receptive and when I asked them they were more than enthusiastic,” Hoefler said.

In Scouting since he was a “cub,”, Hoefler said, “I like to stay busy and keep my summers busy.”

His family had recently completed a patio at their home in Ester, so he had a bit of experience. “It’s a fun process,” he said.

“This will be a nice viewing area and a nice place in the garden.”

Erich’s father Vaughan Hoefler said the patio is a great project. “The garden is well planned out,” he said. “The areas complement each other. Since Werner did his project four years ago I have watched the garden make tremendous progress. It feels good to be part of it.”

GBG, located at the Fairbanks Experiment Farm, is a program of the UAF School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences.

Art exhibit features predators and prey of Alaska

Take a walk on the wild side at the visual and literary art exhibit “In a Time of Change: Trophic Cascades” that explores the lives of predators and prey in their Alaska habitat beginning Friday, Aug. 2 at the Bear Gallery in Pioneer Park.

The Fairbanks’ First Friday event of fiber art, painting, sculpture, prose and more is inspired by the science of how predators affect the land through ecological phenomena called trophic cascades, and what happens when key predators, prey or plants are introduced or removed.

“Art and science bring different, but complimentary, ways of looking at the natural world,” said Mary Beth Leigh, University of Alaska Fairbanks scientist and producer of Trophic Cascades. “We hope to help strengthen people’s sense of place in the environment.”

Nearly a dozen Alaska artists created original work that shows new ways of expressing the essential ideas behind the complex web of interdependence among animals, people, plants and the ecosystem.

“Trophic cascades can be fairly straightforward. When there are more wolves, they eat more moose, then there are less moose to eat the willows, and then there are lots more willows,” said Leigh, a microbiologist with the UAF Institute of Arctic Biology. “Sometimes, the trickle-down effects can really surprise you.”

The Alaska-based artist and scientist exhibit is a collaboration among UAF’s Bonanza Creek Long-Term Ecological Research program, Denali National Park and Preserve and the park’s Murie Science and Learning Center and the Fairbanks Arts Association.

“In a Time of Change” is an art-science collaborative program founded in 2008 and supported by the Bonanza Creek LTER program, part of UAF’s Institute of Arctic Biology, with the goal of linking science with the arts and humanities to foster new conversations about our connection to the natural world. The exhibit ends Aug. 31.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Grain growers invited to farm forum

Grains at the Fairbanks Experiment Farm.
Interior grain growers (and would-be grain growers) are invited to the Fairbanks Experiment Farm on the west edge of the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus Wednesday, July 31 at 6 p.m.

"We want to learn what they have done," said Steve Seefeldt, UAF Cooperative Extension Service agriculture and horticulture agent. "We want to find out how many people are growing grain and if they have had success."

The forum is a followup to a workshop held last August at the farm, when Seefeldt and UAF School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences professors and technicians shared tips on how to grow barley and oats in the Fairbanks area.

Seefeldt thinks there may be five or six growers who are raising grain but he doesn't really know. "I am hoping people will come even if they didn't grow grain but are going to in the future," he said.

Guests should turn off of West Tanana Drive onto the southern road that crosses the railroad tracks. They will get to see the grains that are about to be harvested at the experiment farm.

For more information contact Seefeldt at 474-2423 or Bob Van Veldhuizen at 474-5222.

Further reading:
Yes, you can grow grain in Interior Alaska, SNRAS Science and News, Sept. 10, 2012

Matanuska Experiment Farm showcases agriculture in Aug. 8 event

Bobbing for vegetables is always a fun activity at Ag Day at the Matanuska Experiment Farm.
Alaska Agriculture Appreciation Day, set for Aug. 8 at the Matanuska Experiment Farm, will highlight the wide variety of agricultural endeavors in the 49th state. Think small county fair, open house, farmers’ market and educational opportunity rolled into one.

On the agenda are a goat-milking demonstration, old-fashioned games for children, petting zoo, prize giveaways, hay wagon rides, a GPS activity and live music. Special activities include a “sheep to shawl” demonstration by the Mat-Su Fiber Arts Guild. There will also be demonstrations on how to grow peonies, deal with invasive plants, recycle and make tinctures and lotions from local plans. The event is free but attendees may wish to bring money to purchase food and crafts from vendors.

The farm started hosting the family-friendly day a few years ago to share the work conducted there with friends and neighbors, promote agriculture and provide a fun outing for people in the Matanuska Valley.
The farm, located at 1509 S. Georgeson Drive, is a research facility of the UAF School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences and the Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station. The event, which runs from noon to 6 p.m. Aug. 8, is hosted by UAF’s School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences and the UAF Cooperative Extension Service.

Animals are popular with children and adults at the event.

Friday, July 26, 2013

SNRAS partners with Jilin University of China

UAF Chancellor Brian Rogers signs a memorandum of understanding while Yu Li, academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, looks on.
University of Alaska Fairbanks Chancellor Brian Rogers sealed the deal for academic exchange with Jilin Agricultural University of Changchun, China, July 24. This is UAF’s third memorandum of understanding with a Chinese university.

The connections came about when School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences Associate Professor Mingchu Zhang was on sabbatical at Jilin University for spring semester of 2012. A draft memorandum of understanding and degree completion documents were approved by UA General Counsel. Once Jilin approved the papers, it was time to formalize the bilateral partnership.

Yu Li, academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, Piwu Wang, dean of the college of agronomy, Chun Cui, vice director of the Office of International Cooperation, and Liangcheng Chen, doctoral student at Jilian, arrived in Fairbanks July 23 after visiting Pennsylvania State University.

Piwu Wang, dean of the College of Agronomy, Jilin University, feeds a reindeer at the Fairbanks Experiment Farm.
During their whirlwind visit to Fairbanks, the visitors spent the morning July 24 with Zhang touring the Fairbanks Experiment Farm, where they saw the reindeer herd, Zhang’s canola research fields and the peony plots in the Georgeson Botanical Garden. The rest of the day was spent meeting with administrators and faculty to discuss the potential for collaborative activities and explore curriculum in agriculture and natural resources management.

That evening, the visitors were treated to a banquet in the new Murie Building with Chancellor Brian Rogers and his wife Sherry Modrow, along with deans from other UAF schools and colleges, Provost Susan Henrichs, Vice Chancellor for University and Student Advancement Michael Sfraga and Registrar Libby Eddy. The event was coordinated by Donna Anger, director of the UAF Office of International Programs and Initiatives.

“Signing this agreement is the first step,” Chancellor Rogers said. “Then it’s going to take time and real work to make something happen. This is quite an opportunity for us to work together.”
Provost Henrichs said Jilin and Fairbanks are at about the same latitude. “We are far apart in distance but similar in climate and agricultural challenges,” she said. “We see a lot of opportunities for exchanges of expertise with faculty and students.”

She said Jilin offers UAF students a way to study in China with full financial support. “We see many chances to improve the international status of both our institutions,” Henrichs said. “We are very glad you made the journey here to visit us.”

Yu Li said, “We will learn from each other and promote cooperation between the two universities. We have a bright future.”

Doctoral student Liangcheng Chen said, “I am impressed with the professionalism this university has. I wish I had been born later to enjoy these international exchange programs.”
Chancellor Rogers said the new MOU is another step in “internationalizing UAF,” explaining that he envisions continuing to develop partnerships with great universities around the world.

Jilin offers 52 undergraduate programs, 47 master’s programs and 17 doctoral programs. It encompasses Chinese languages, management, economics, law, education, literature and medicine. The Jilin campus is 10.3 million square meters of beautiful woods and greenery, surrounded by fragrant flowers. According to its website, Jilin Agricultural University places great emphasis on international cooperation and exchanges and has established cooperative ties with many universities and research institutes worldwide.

Mingchu Zhang said the agreement gives SNRAS a new recruiting tool because it can offer undergraduate and graduate students opportunities to study in China. “If this is successful it can really increase our student numbers,” he said.
From left, Chun Cui, Erin Carr, Piwu Wang, Liangcheng Chen, Mingchu Zhang and Yu Li observe the reindeer.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Upcoming conference will address northern agriculture

The 8th Circumpolar Agricultural Conference and UArctic Inaugural Food Summit, to be held in Girdwood Sept. 29-Oct. 3, will bring together world leaders to discuss northern agricultural issues and challenges.

Milan Shipka of UAF’s School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences is president of the Circumpolar Agricultural Association. “We Alaskans need to be learning from and discovering that our agriculture means are more like those in other high latitude settings than those in the lower 48. Without being part of the circumpolar agriculture system, we have few opportunities to interact with agriculturalists from other countries in the circumpolar region.”

The conference, which occurs every three years, offers the opportunity for face to face interaction between farmers, lay people, agency representatives, scientists and elected officials. The goal is to learn and share ideas about agriculture in the north. “I hope some of the ideas can stimulate new activity to help Alaska discover what it really means to produce food in a sustainable means for all Alaskans,” Shipka said.

Carol E. Lewis, chair of the event, said, “Much attention has been focused on food supplies in deep Africa and underdeveloped nations. It is time to draw attention to the fragility of the food supply in the nations of the circumpolar north. We must broaden the agriculturally productive areas of the world and the circumpolar north is certainly one of them. It can become a leading production area for the world's feed and food grains and horticultural crops because of its productive soils and long solar days.

“The potential, particularly where geothermal is available, for energy efficient, controlled environments is here as are diversified livestock opportunities in reindeer, yak, elk, and bison; species adapted to the north as efficient converters of feed stocks into food stocks that are high in protein and low in fat. The message must reach the world about our potential here and we hope this conference leads the way in making that happen.”

The conference and summit theme is advancing food security and sustainable agriculture in the circumpolar north, building an integrated vision, and creating a process for sustainable food security in northern communities. The four objectives will help lead to a balanced approach between traditional subsistence natural resource access and agricultural production:

1. Educate world leaders on the critical nature of food supplies in the circumpolar north,
2. Encourage the exchange of information, material and technology of agriculture and rural development in circumpolar areas.
3. Establish and maintain relations with organizations that relate to the Circumpolar Agricultural Association and the thematic network on northern food security, University of the Arctic.
4. Discuss and define the barriers, challenges and opportunities of expanding regional food economies.

“The conference and summit adopt the perspective that food security is a driver in community development and sustainability,” Lewis said. “Rather than a commodity-specific conference, we will bridge diverse but common key areas to support, strengthen, and expand the food resources and northern community development. Very important long-term impacts will come from meeting this. If the conference and summit can do that, we have implanted a base from which food security and food supply in the circumpolar north and beyond can grow.”

The conference will be held at Alyeska Resort.

The event is hosted by the University of Alaska Fairbanks, the Circumpolar Agricultural Association, UArctic and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Monday, July 22, 2013

UAF is named Tree Campus USA

The University of Alaska Fairbanks is a Tree Campus USA for the second year in a row, the Arbor Day Foundation announced today.

Tree Campus USA is a national program created in 2008 to honor colleges and universities for effective campus forest management and for engaging staff and students in conservation goals. Toyota helped launch the program and continues its generous financial support this year.

The University of Alaska Fairbanks achieved the title by meeting Tree Campus USA’s five standards, which include maintaining a tree advisory committee, a campus tree-care plan, dedicated annual expenditures toward trees, an Arbor Day observance and student service-learning projects.

“Students are eager to volunteer in their communities and become better stewards of the environment,” said John Rosenow, founder and chief executive of the Arbor Day Foundation. “Participating in Tree Campus USA sets a fine example for other colleges and universities, while helping to create a healthier planet for all of us.”

The Arbor Day Foundation and Toyota have helped campuses throughout the country plant hundreds of thousands of trees, and Tree Campus USA colleges and universities invested $23 million in campus forest management last year.

SNRAS Assistant Research Professor Janice Dawe served on the UAF Tree Campus USA committee.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Interactive mural brings boreal forest alive to local students

From left, Zachary Meyers, Klara Maisch and Laura Cartier stand in front of the new mural at Watershed School.
When students return to Watershed Charter School in Fairbanks this fall a formerly bland wall in the library will have been transformed into a living, dynamic part of the school and the children’s education.

OneTree Alaska worked with the Watershed School to create the Interactive Media STEAM Studio. The multimedia and multi-discipline school project developed into a fully interactive 8x40-foot mural that ties place-based curricula to appropriate books in the library.

A couple of years ago when the Watershed librarian asked teacher Ron Harper if his students would be interested in painting a mural in the library, Harper asked second grade teacher Moira O'Malley, who is an artist, for help. O'Malley obtained funding from Delta Kappa Gamma Society to kickstart the work. The Watershed PTA and Principal John Carlson were supportive throughout the process. Funding also came from the Fairbanks Arts Association's artist-in-residence program.

IMSS, made up of technologists, artists and scientists, seeks to provide businesses, museums, cultural centers and schools knowledge through independent exploration of the artwork. The artwork, a stunning visual point, serves as a tether to learning.

Zachary Meyers, a technologist and place-based educator with UAF’s School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences; Laura Cartier, a student teacher at Watershed; and Klara Maisch, a local artist, worked together to complete the mural.

“The library needed TLC,”Cartier said. “It was really sterile. This makes it a more welcoming place.” Involving the teachers and students was a natural since they have a lot of ownership in the school.
 "Zac had bigger ideas working with augmented reality," Cartier said. Maisch designed how the mural would look, blocked in the large areas of color and then got a lot of help from school children at Watershed.

“I was hesitant to teach kids but they had no inhibitions,” Maisch said. “They just went for it, which you have to do with art. It was awesome.”

Starting in early May, most of the students got to take a turn helping paint the mural, which depicts summer and fall in the boreal forest. Even after school was out for the summer, students kept coming two afternoons a week to help.

The team worked with teachers so that their pertinent educational factors were integrated into the mural, including transportation (airplane) for second grade, boreal plants for third grade, the salmon life cycle for fourth grade and fire ecology and Alaska biomass for fifth and sixth grades. Students’ paintings of wildlife are being added to the scene.

Zachary Meyers demonstrates how an electronic tablet works with the art to provide more information.
Meyers’ role has been configuring the technology component. Using the Aurasma app, Meyers loaded interactive points throughout the wall. When anyone places a smartphone or iPad near the point, information pops onto the screen along with suggested library books that contain more details.

Even the mural’s river will flow and fire will appear when the Aurasma work is completed.

“It’s a work in progress,” Meyers said. “I can keep adding content, which will make it more dynamic.”

“The mural is not only beautiful, it is interactive,” Cartier said. “That’s the whole point. I'm excited to see where it goes next."

An open house is being planned for the fall so the parents and community can see and use the mural. 

Meyers, Cartier and Maisch traveled to London to share their project and learn more at the Electronic Visualization and the Arts conference July 29-31.

(This story was amended Aug. 6, 2013 to add information that had initially not been included.)

Further reading/viewing:
Visit Interactive Media Steam Studios to watch a fun video about how the mural came together.

Birch bark harvesting workshop set for Anchorage

The University of Alaska Fairbanks is offering a birch bark harvesting workshop Saturday, July 27 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Russian Jack Springs Park in Anchorage.

Participants will learn how to sustainably harvest birch bark, in this case from trees knocked over in the big storm last fall. Everyone will collect a piece of bark to work with, then prepare and cut the bark into strips to use for weaving a basket or ornaments.

The fee is $20. Lunch and snacks will be provided and class size is limited to 20. Register at Meet at the Russian Jack Springs Park, 1321 Lidia Selkregg Lane. Meet at the municipal greenhouse parking lot.

To register, contact Valerie Barber, or 907-746-9466. The workshop is sponsored by the UAF School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences, UAF Cooperative Extension Service and Anchorage Parks and Recreation.

SNRAS researchers participate in NSF training

The National Science Foundation taught UAF researchers and information officers how to better communicate science July 17 in an all-day workshop.

"It's like sipping water from a fire hose," said presenter Dan Agan of Panthera Group. "We will teach you to signal the value of what you do."

The intensive workshop included rapid-fire training in pitching a proposal to funders, practicing TV interviews, using Twitter, fine-tuning messages, giving sparkling public presentation, making videos and blogging.

Representing SNRAS were Professor Elena Sparrow, Professor Gary Kofinas, Research Assistant Professor Janice Dawe, Nancy Tarnai (public information officer) and Watcharee Ruairuan (graduate student).

Dawe and Sparrow attended the second day of intensive training for faculty on July 18.

Alaska EPSCoR helped sponsor the training.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

UAF to merge Cooperative Extension Service with SNRAS/AFES

The University of Alaska Fairbanks will merge its agriculture and natural resources school with the Cooperative Extension Service in a move to strengthen the research, education and outreach work of both units.

Over the course of the next year, representatives from the School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences and Extension will work with UAF administrators to gather input and design the merged unit. Extension and SNRAS, which includes Alaska’s Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station, serve the entire state and carry out the university’s land-grant mission.

“This collaborative structure is the norm at land-grant universities across the country,” said UAF Provost Susan Henrichs. “Our ultimate goal is to create a structure that enables both units to better coordinate their efforts and continue their strong history of statewide service.”

Agriculture was one of five subjects taught when UAF opened its doors as the Alaska Agricultural College and School of Mines in 1922. The Cooperative Extension Service in Alaska became part of the college in 1930. A year later, the U.S. Department of Agriculture transferred ownership of its experiment stations to the college.

Today, Extension, the school and the experiment station provide education, research and outreach in the areas of agriculture, horticulture, forestry, economic and community development, food safety and food preservation, and youth and family development.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Cripple Creek is home to farthest north certified organic farm

Maggie Hallam grows 40 kinds of vegetables at Cripple Creek Organics.

Watching the film “Food Inc.” in April 2010 changed Maggie Hallam’s life.

While she’d been gardening for years, the movie spurred her to get much more serious about food production. “It tipped the scales,” Hallam said. “I went from being a local shopper to being a local grower.”

Although Hallam was already familiar with the issues presented in the documentary, there was something the film that connected all the dots. “The portrayal put me over the edge,” Hallam said.
This is her third summer operating Cripple Creek Organics, a community supported agriculture enterprise. No stranger to agriculture, Hallam grew up on her family’s dairy farm in west central Wisconsin, helping milk 28 Guernsey cows and exploring the nearby forests. She earned a master’s degree of fine art in computer animation from the University of Illinois at Chicago and subsequently worked as an animator in San Francisco.

She and her (now) husband Bill Simpson drove to Alaska in 1996 “simply for the adventure of it.” Simpson became a chemistry professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Hallam has carefully and thoughtfully grown Cripple Creek Organics from a garden to a farm. In the spring of 2010 she cleared half an acre around her existing garden and put in a cover crop. That year she grew for one other family as a test run. In 2011, she had five CSA families and sold produce at the downtown Monday market. That fall she built a 20x72-foot high tunnel which helps extend the season. Last year she had 15 CSA shares and now she has 18. She also grows crops for Pita Place and Dandelion and sells extra produce on Fridays from 4 to 6 p.m. in the parking lot adjacent to Pita Place, 3352 College Road.

Transitioning from a home grower to a farmer has been more challenging than Hallam imagined. “The learning curve has been staggering,” she said. “I thought it would be straight-forward but it’s been very difficult.” One of the most difficult adjustments is to stay on top of successional plantings to keep up with supplying her CSA members throughout the summer.

One thing Hallam found important was to operate a certified organic farm. “I figured it was easier to learn how to be a certified organic grower right off the bat, rather than wait until it was more difficult to change my ways,” she said. “I was always an organic gardener, but there are definitely very specific guidelines and practices to be certified.”

Cripple Creek has the distinction of being the farthest north organic farm. Hallam went through the process to make it official with the Washington State Department of Agriculture. Initially she took a little ribbing from Rosie Creek Farm owner Mike Emers, who previously held that title. Hallam says, “I’ve known Mike since we first arrived in Fairbanks. I’m not sure I would be farming if I had not met Mike and watched his business evolve and grow over time.”

Being a certified organic farmer is more expensive, Hallam said, but worth it to her personally. She grows 40 different vegetables, some with numerous varieties. A part-time employee helps with planting, weeding and harvesting.

“Growing food is so rewarding,” Hallam said. She especially loves harvest days. “That makes it all worthwhile; that’s the real fun. It’s meaningful work.”

Hallam’s business philosophy is to try to break even and to stay out of debt as much as possible. Her only loan has been for a tractor which she needed for producing compost. “My goal is to do this at a sustainable level,” she said. “I need to find the size that is right for me to make a profit. I’m still in the learning curve.”

Eventually, Hallam may switch to selling wholesale but right now she is content with the CSA model. “I love interacting with customers; selling direct to the consumer is ideal.”

Another plus is that Hallam grows enough food to feed her family. “We eat something I grew every day all year round,” she said. “That’s extremely rewarding. That is the magical thing. I didn’t set out to do it but it came naturally with all this food.”

In the winters, Hallam concentrates creating her own line of rubber stamps and handmade boxes made with book binding techniques that she sells at holiday bazaars and on etsy.

Her daughters, Amelia, 11, and Layla, 5, are not that involved with the farm yet, but they enjoy the chickens and their mom’s Icelandic horse, Thokki. As the girls get older, Hallam would like to add more animals to the mix. “Right now I’m pretty much maxed out, to put it mildly,” she said.

Part of Hallam’s intent at Cripple Creek Organics is to give her children the farm lifestyle. “Currently 0.7 percent of our population is living on a working farm,” she said. “I wanted my kids to be in that 0.7 percent.”

Contact info:
This column is provided as a service by the UAF School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences and the Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station. Nancy Tarnai is the school and station’s public information officer. She can be reached at

Friday, July 12, 2013

SNRAS names employee of the quarter

Dawniel Dupee
Dawniel Dupee, SNRAS/CES travel technician, has been selected SNRAS employee of the quarter. This new program, which recognizes excellence in the workplace, is coordinated through the dean’s office.

Executive Officer Michelle Pope said, “Dawniel is a wonderful asset to the department. She has been the positive driving force in implementing the new electronic travel module not only for our school, but for the entire UAF community.

“She is willing to spend the extra time to make sure that travel is done accurately and that we are getting the best deal for our travel dollars. She is wonderful to work with and definitely deserves the distinction of our first employee of the quarter.”

Dawniel grew up in Dutch Harbor and studied education at UAA for a couple of years. She has worked in the travel industry since she was 17, including jobs at Penn Air, Alaska Airlines and managing travel for military installations. She worked at UAF for a year and a half, then took time off when her third son was born.

She joined SNRAS/CES in February 2010, drawn to the job because it was a ¾-time position. “I love the flexibility. I am so grateful for it. This is the best place to be,” Dawniel said.

Managing travel for 300 employees is definitely challenging. Dawniel puts auditing and making sure she has the required backup at the top of the list. She stays organized by using lots of folders and relying on her excellent memory.

Dawniel has been working with the UAF Process Improvement Team for Travel, a committee that was organized in May. SNRAS/CES is part of the Travel Expense Management pilot and currently is the only unit using the new system. "We will  be phasing in more of our travelers in the upcoming weeks," Dawniel said. "Being part of the pilot has huge benefits as this allows our department to have input before the final product is launched."

She and her husband Ron and sons Ron, 10, Johnathan, 8, and Cooper, 5, just purchased a home adjacent to Weller Elementary School and will be moving in soon.

Dawniel enjoys running, basketball, volleyball, sewing and baking. This summer most of her free time is spent at baseball fields since all three children are on baseball teams.

To nominate a SNRAS staff member for employee of the quarter, contact Interim Dean and Director Stephen Sparrow.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Geography program receives special achievement award for exceptional application of geospatial technology

The Geography Department of SNRAS and the Scenarios for Alaska and Arctic Planning received a special achievement in GIS award at the Esri International User Conference in San Diego, Calif., July 10. This award acknowledges vision, leadership, hard work and innovative use of Esri's geographic information system technology.

Katie Kennedy
Geography and SNAP Education and Outreach Coordinator Katie Kennedy uses Esri ArcGIS technology in K-12 classrooms across Alaska and trains teachers to use the program. Kennedy was at the Esri conference to receive the award.

Organizations from around the world honored at the Esri UC span industries including agriculture, cartography, climate change, defense and intelligence, economic development, education, government, health and human services, telecommunications and utilities.

"The SAG Awards identify the organizations and people that are using the power of geography to improve our world and drive change," says Esri president Jack Dangermond. "At Esri, we are always deeply inspired by the passion and innovation of our users. They deserve recognition for both solving their communities’ greatest challenges and for their invaluable contributions to the continued evolution of geographic science.”

Since 1969, Esri has been giving customers around the world the power to think and plan geographically. The market leader in GIS technology, Esri software is used in more than 300,000 organizations worldwide including each of the 200 largest cities in the United States, most national governments, more than two-thirds of Fortune 500 companies and more than 7,000 colleges and universities. Esri applications, running on more than one million desktops and thousands of web and enterprise servers, provide the backbone for the world's mapping and spatial analysis. Esri is the only vendor that provides complete technical solutions for desktop, mobile, server and internet platforms.

Further reading:
GIS software will open new worlds to Alaska teachers and students, SNRAS Science and News, Sept. 12, 2011

ACCAP announces climate webinars

Boreal forest fire. (Photo by Scott Rupp)
Mike Flannigan from the University of Alberta will be presenting a talk on July 23 at 10 a.m. AKDT titled: Climate Change and Boreal Forest Fires: What does the future hold? The webinar is hosted by the Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy.

A warmer world means longer fire seasons and more lightning activity, which is responsible for most of the area burned in boreal ecosystems and drier fuels that contribute to fire occurrence and spread. In terms of fire management, enhanced fire danger rating systems that accurately predict the spatial and temporal variability in fire danger can help us adapt to a warmer world.

Other upcoming ACCAP Alaska Climate Webinars:

Aug. 20: Pollinator attraction: Do exotics do it better? Christa Mulder and Katie Spellman, University of Alaska Fairbanks

Sept. 10: Community-Based Surveys Inform Climate Change Adaptation in Rural and Frontier Communities in Alaska, David Driscoll, University of Alaska Anchorage

Oct. 8: Tentative Title: Climate impacts on Cooper River Delta including Salmon, Gordie Reeves, US Forest Service

Nov. 5: What's New About Ocean Acidification in Alaska, Jeremy Mathis, University of Alaska Fairbanks

Dec. 10: Climate Scenarios and Vulnerabilities in the Aleutian and Bering Sea Islands, John Walsh (UAF) and Nick Bond (NOAA) in association with the Alaska Climate Science Center

Call 907-474-7812 or email for more information.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Lecture planned on global agricultural trade

Steven Beasley
Steven Beasley, a SNRAS alumnus, will give a talk on global agricultural trade and the role of the foreign agricultural service July 22 on the UAF campus.

Beasley is senior international marketing specialist in the Office of Trade Programs of the Foreign Agricultural Service, USDA, in Washington, D.C. He serves as principal liaison between the agency and six non-profit U.S. agricultural marketing associations who leverage public and private sector funds to conduct international market promotion activities.

Partnership activities between FAS and the marketing associations help maintain and expand U.S. agricultural exports which totaled $3.5 billion in 2012 for the combined groups he oversees. Prior to his current position, Beasley worked for USDA on international agricultural development projects in more than 25 countries. These projects included improving the countries' food defense capacity, supply chain management, knowledge of agricultural biotechnology and food safety. Beasley also served at the Foreign Agricultural Service as president of AFSCME Local 3976, a labor organization representing 450 civil service employees.

Beasley holds degrees in resource economics and natural resources management from UAF.

The lecture will be at 2:30 p.m. on Monday, July 22 in the Murie Life Sciences Building, room 104. Parking passes at kiosks are available for a fee in the UA Museum of the North parking lot.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Experiment farm expands reindeer pasture

From left, Hans Fritz of the University of Wisconsin La Crosse, George Aguiar (Reindeer Research Program) and Jacob Yule of the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point work on fencing for new pastures at the Fairbanks Experiment Farm.
The reindeer at the Fairbanks Experiment Farm are getting more pasture to call home.

“This will allow for adequate sample size to do our research,” said George Aguiar, Reindeer Research Program research professional. “We’ve slowly been expanding our pasture so we can practice rotational grazing more effectively.”

This summer, Aguiar is leading a project that will add 10 acres of fenced pasture to the 17 acres already established. With the help of two students from Wisconsin, the expansion is proceeding on schedule.

The new area will feature a double paddock system with shared feeding areas. “It will make it more efficient and minimize stress,” Aguiar said. Also, the new acreage will allow the program to let fields lie fallow as needed, improving productivity in the long run.

Kentucky bluegrass will be planted next spring. After experimenting with several types of grasses, this one proved to contain higher protein. The grass is mowed and raked to keep it at optimal height.

“We’re doing everything we can to get our pastures in better health,” Aguiar said. In the past the area had been used as farm fields but it had reverted to natural vegetation in recent years. “This will help us use our range in the most efficient way possible.

“It’s going to be a good size to get sound scientific results,” Aguiar said. The farm is home to 80 reindeer. RRP researchers conduct nutrition and meat science studies on the animals.
The Fairbanks Experiment Farm is home to a research herd of 80 reindeer.

Shishmaref students learn GIS from geography grad

Charlie Parr, second from right, teaches GIS to (from left) Jessica Kuzuguk, Nellie Okpowruk and Esau Sinnok of Shishmaref.
Recent geography graduate Charlie Parr is teaching GIS to students from Shishmaref this summer.

In the six-week Upward Bound program, Parr is teaching math in the mornings and GIS in the afternoons. The students are learning how to create maps and solve spatial problems.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Parr said. “The kids are really into it. They have fascinating backgrounds. It’s definitely neat to see how much they have picked up in three weeks.” The class is being taught in the SNRAS GIS lab.

They particularly enjoyed learning 3-D visualization. “There have been some technology challenges for them but they have been open to everything they have been exposed to,” Parr said. “I’m impressed with how they have been able to pick up the technology. They have embraced it.”

A lifelong Fairbanksan, Parr earned a B.S. in geography with SNRAS a year ago. Last summer he worked at Pilgrim Hot Springs doing geothermal resource assessment project. In December he joined the staff at UAF Student Support Services. Having tutored students in past, Parr was up to the challenge of teaching in Upward Bound. He also coaches soccer and hockey.

He chose geography as his course of study because he found it holistic. “You can really investigate any kind of problem at any scale. It’s fascinating,” he said. As a student the most important thing he learned was how to ask meaningful questions. He would eventually like to work on a master’s degree in a geospatial field. “I want to continue to be involved in outreach and education,” he said.
Parr enjoys running, snowboarding, hiking, camping and fishing.

While he hasn’t been to Shishmaref, where his GIS students are from, he would like to visit in the future.

As a bonus for the students, a representative from NASA is working with them on the World Wind project. When they return home, they will take a drone and monitor coastal erosion. “They will be doing meaningful science when they go back to Shismaref,” Parr said.