Thursday, August 29, 2013

The science behind climate change: learn to rumble with skeptics or enthusiasts

Climate Change Processes (Geography 494/Atmospheric Sciences 694) will be offered this fall at UAF.
Geography Assistant Professor Daniel Mann said students will gain a basic understanding of climate and the confidence to rumble with global warming skeptics and enthusiasts alike.
Daniel Mann

"Climate change is one of the main challenges of life on Earth over the coming century," Mann said. "Everyone needs to understand why it is happening, what it may involve and what could happen."
The four-credit course will cover the causes of the ice ages, global energy balance, natural climate variability, greenhouse gases, anthropogenic climate change, climate feedbacks and much more.

Prerequisites: senior standing, graduate student, ATM 401/601 or equivalent or instructors' permission. It is offered Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 10:30 to 11:30 in the Reichardt Building and Friday from 3:30 to 4:30 in the Aksofu Building (IARC).

In addition to Dr. Mann, Dr. Uma Bhatt, associate professor of atmospheric sciences, will instruct the course.

Course Description: This class explores the causes of climate change by combining a review of Earth’s long and varied climate history with a review of the physical processes controlling climate and weather today. Lectures move between paleoclimate history and climate dynamics and back again in order to describe what is currently known about the causes of climate change on this planet. The climate dynamics portion of the class is divided into seven topics: 
  1.  Radiation: Shortwave radiation, longwave radiation, radiative energy balance,
  2.   Chemistry and Carbon Cycle:
  3.  Thermodynamics:
  4.   Dynamics of atmosphere and ocean:
  5.   Hydrological cycle:
  6.   Modeling:
  7.   Synthesis and relevance:  sea level change, changes in Greenland, unknowns for projections of future climate
The paleoclimate portion of the class is divided into four parts:
  1.  Tectonic-scale climate change (billions to millions of years)
  2.  Orbital scale climate change (100,000 to 20,000 years)
  3.  Millennial-scale climate change and events of the last 40,000 years
  4.  Holocene and future climates

Course Objectives: This is a capstone course for the B.S. Geography “Landscape Analysis and Climate Change” option. It is also designed as a synthesis course for Geography, NRM and Natural Sciences undergraduates who wish to gain literacy in the rapidly developing field of climate change science. Students will gain a thorough understanding of the Earth’s climate history and climate dynamics and will be trained to critically evaluate both the validity of paleoclimatic reconstructions and of climate-model predictions.

Required Text:
William F. Ruddiman, Earth’s Climate Past and Future. Second Edition 2008.
Recommended Texts:
  • Dennis Hartmann, Global Physical Climatology (The International  Geophysics Series, Vol 56) by Academic  Press, 1994, ISBN: 012328530-5. List Price:  $83.95.
  •  IPCC Report: Climate Change 2007: The Scientific Basis, downloadable from the internet for free.
  • Numerous climate books will be on reserve at the Geophysical Institute Library in the Akasofu Building (ground floor level).

Student Learning Outcomes:
Students who are successful in this class will learn:
  • The climate history of Earth as we now understand it, with particular emphasis on the last 2 million years.
  • A basic understanding of how the atmosphere, ocean, cryosphere and biosphere interacted in the course of the striking prehistoric shifts between ice age and interglacial climates.
  • Become familiar with the basic concepts of climate dynamics including: global energy balance, surface energy balance, hydrological cycle, atmospheric and oceanic general circulation as related to climate, past climate, climate feedbacks, climate models and natural and anthropogenic climate variability/change.
By the end of this class, students will:
  •  Be able to discuss intelligently paleo- and current climate-change issues.
  • Apply concepts from this class to their own research where applicable (Pass comprehensive exam in Climate for ATM Ph.D. program).
  • Be able to read journal articles in the mainstream paleoclimate and climate scientific literature.

Learn to make a moose call from birch bark

Assistant Professor Valerie Barber at a previous birch workshop.

Just in time for hunting season, the University of Alaska Fairbanks is offering a workshop on making moose calls from birch bark.

The class is Sept. 3 from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Russian Jack Springs Park, 1321 Lidia Selkregg Lane, Anchorage. Max Chickalusion is the instructor. The fee is $15. The first hour is optional and will focus on harvesting bark. Making the calls and learning how to use them begins at 5:30 p.m.

Register here. For more information contact Susan McNeil at 907-746-9454.

Workshop sponsors are SNRAS and UAF Cooperative Extension Service.

Monday, August 26, 2013

SNRAS student is integral part of 20 Mile Farm

Mackenzie Stamey, right, a SNRAS student, with her parents Joyce Hannan and Roy Stamey at 20 Mile Farm.

Even though the Stamey family has lived in other locations around the world, their hearts were always tied to 20 Mile Farm. After residing in India, Saudi Arabia and the Pribilof Islands in Alaska, Roy Stamey, Joyce Hannan and their daughter Mackenzie Stamey are now happily ensconced at their farm off Chena Hot Springs Road. 

Roy and Joyce landed teaching jobs at American schools overseas, raising their children abroad. They met in Juneau in 1987 and wherever they lived had a garden of some sort. “When I was overseas I wanted Two Rivers,” Roy said. “This is our home.”

Mackenzie grew up hankering for farm life after hearing tales of her dad growing up on a farm in Georgia. “I liked the ideal of subsistence, of living off the land,” Mackenzie said. A student of natural resources management and biology at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, she is an integral part of the family farm, according to her parents. This summer her involvement wasn’t what it usually is because she worked for Risse’s Greenhouse and traveled to China on a fern-collecting expedition.
However, Mackenzie, 19, is in charge of ordering seeds and planning what the farm will grow each summer.

Her brother Michael is a chef at Seattle’s Coastal Kitchen, a restaurant that uses fresh, local ingredients. 

“We were always interested in eating good food,” Joyce said. Even in Saudi Arabia they had a little garden and in India they grew herbs and lettuce in pots. “We have a real desire to eat our own food,” Roy said.

In India, Roy attended a week-long session at Navdanya, an educational farm, lead by Vandana Shiva. The program emphasizes the importance of saving and sharing seeds. “I learned about long-term sustainable practices and clean agriculture,” Roy said.

Five years ago 20 Mile farm was established and the next year the family began selling produce at the Tanana Valley Farmers Market.

The farm keeps expanding but Roy insists they are the “newbies” in the local agricultural realm. “I look at other farms and feel like we are pretenders,” he said.

The abundance of vegetables at their beautiful farm belies that sentiment. “We try to grow what people want,” Joyce said. “We’re trying to find our own niche,” Roy said. “We have good produce and good sales at the market but we’re producing what everybody else is growing.”

“It’s always a work in progress,” Joyce said. They have focused on greens but also grow 55 different varieties of vegetables. Honey is another of their products. Joyce enjoys introducing people to new vegetables at the farmers market and to discussing ways to prepare them. “It’s fun to talk about food,” she said.

“We experiment every year,” Roy said. “We’re starting to settle down to the crops we know are certain.” Mackenzie enjoys trying plants like purple cauliflower, Asian greens, amaranth, barley and even artichokes.

The farm is situated on 25 acres with about half an acre in production. “It’s mostly forest but we have room to expand,” Roy said. “We’re at that point in our lives where we are wondering do we expand or wait for Mackenzie to take over.”

One of the biggest challenges is time, especially since the couple continues to teach.  Roy is an English tutor at UAF’s Interior Aleutians Campus and Joyce teaches at Two Rivers Elementary School.

They participate in the Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms program, which places volunteer workers at farms. They’ve had good experiences with a Swiss woman last summer and a Japanese woman this summer. “They were a tremendous help,” Roy said. Just keeping up with weeding is a constant challenge.

The family is concentrating on building their soil through composting. Their goals are to continue improving the farm and slowly expand it. “We want to refine our products and proceed with caution,” Roy said.

“And continue to eat well,” Joyce said.

The family has learned a lot in five years, Roy said. “We understand it’s a long term thing and we started late.”

“We’ll catch up,” Mackenzie said.

Contact information:
Look for 20 Mile Farm at the Tanana Valley Farmers Market on Saturdays

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

Mackenzie Stamey with her artichoke plant

Friday, August 23, 2013

NASA extends internship for UAF geography grad

Erika Edgar with a certificate for her team's winning poster.
Recent geography graduate Erika Edgar is finishing up a summer internship with the NASA program DEVELOP at the Ames Research Center in California, but will be extending the experience as she has been accepted for a fall internship also.

For the past 10 weeks, Edgar has gained confidence in her abilities and learned that communication is key to successful teamwork. “Take as many GIS and programming classes as humanly possible,” she advised.

Edgar was drawn to this internship because she wanted to get more hands-on experience and to understand how environmental research is done outside the classroom. Her team consisted of three graduate students and a high school student. “While on the team I learned about software programs that researchers use like ENVI, LandTrendr and remote sensing,” Edgar said.

She credits the cartography skills she learned in Terry Slocum’s Cartographic Data Handling and Map Symbolization class for helping her keep up with all the GIS work. “Terry always encouraged us to play around with the ArcMap options and that is exactly what I did.”

Edgar and her team won an Ames Research Center poster challenge via Facebook. They received the most “likes” for the science category and were presented certificates from the center.

“I have had no time for outside activities which was not a problem because I spent most of my time with team members and getting to know them was fun,” Edgar said.

Edgar will present the team's winning poster (shown below) at the American Geophysical Union fall meeting in San Francisco in December. “I hope to see some familiar Fairbanks faces,” she said.

Edgar received her B.S. in geography in May.

Abstract of Edgar and her team’s research:
Oak habitats in the Pacific Northwest have decreased significantly under past land management practices. In turn, concern for bird species that depend on these habitats has increased as agricultural and urban development, fire suppression strategies, and invasive species encroachment have led to declines in oak extent. The richness and abundance of birds may be closely related to the health and diversity of these declining habitats. To identify past and present land cover distributions and understand the relation between oak habitat and bird abundance, this project used Landsat 8 imagery alongside topographic, ground survey, and bird count data. A land cover map for 2013 was produced using image segmentation and machine learning algorithms which segment the landscape and classify cover types. This land cover map was used in combination with a change detection analysis to assess the relation between bird abundance and disturbance, as well as oak patch size and connectivity. It is found that trends in oak habitat loss result in a nonlinear response in the abundance of specific bird species, which indicates that some species may have a threshold response to changing density of oak habitat. Project results will be used by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Klamath Bird Observatory to meet conservation objectives.

Further reading/viewing:
4-minute video about the project, “To Save a Mockingbird: Monitoring Oak Habitats for Bird Conservation”
Geography grad off to NASA for summer internship, SNRAS Science and News, May 14, 2013, by Nancy Tarnai

Monday, August 19, 2013

Dry summer leads to reduced Alaska hay crops

Haying at the Matanuska Experiment Farm in a prior, wetter year.
A dry, hot summer has contributed to reduced hay yields in the Interior and the Matanuska Valley, the biggest hay-growing regions in Alaska.

UAF Cooperative Extension Service agents in Fairbanks, Delta Junction and Palmer report that farmers there are getting yields of about one-third to one-half of their usual crop.

Although many farmers cut a second crop of hay in mid- to late August, Delta agricultural agent Phil Kaspari said the second cutting also looks to be less than half the normal crop.

“It’s going to be a limited yield,” he said.

More rain could improve the yield of hay that has not been cut yet, he said. Fairbanks and Palmer have had a little more rain but reduced yields of the second cutting are still expected.

The main markets for hay are horse and other livestock owners. Because of the shortage, Kaspari said that prices will be higher this year — at possibly $350 to $400 a ton — and the quality of some hay will be lower. Horse owners will need to be open-minded about the hay they get, and might consider mixing barley or oats with the hay, he said. Extension agents can help identify the correct mix.

In an effort to deal with the potential hay shortage, the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Friday authorized emergency haying on Conservation Reserve Program lands near Delta Junction, said Danny Consenstein, executive director for the USDA’s Farm Service Agency in Alaska. This means farmers can apply to harvest up to half of the fields that are part of the program. Participating farmers receive a yearly rental payment to remove environmentally sensitive lands from agricultural development.

Consenstein also notes that the hay inventories were lower than usual this spring because of the cold spring and the need to feed livestock longer. Delta has two of the largest hay-growing operations at 1,000 acres each. Some 10,000 acres of hay is grown in the Tanana Valley and about 7,000 in the Matanuska Valley.

During 2012, Alaska farmers grew 27,000 tons of hay valued at an average $315 a ton, according to the USDA Alaska Agricultural Statistics Service.

At the Matanuska Experiment Farm in Palmer, Norm Harris, associate professor of range management, reports: "Our first cutting was 50 percent of what our harvest was last year, which was not the best year. We figure our second harvest is not going to be any better. The regrowth after the first cutting has been dismal. Many of our fields already look like they have been mowed because the regrowth was so poor. The rains we are getting right now are not going to help the situation because the grasses have already gone dormant or are starting to head out."

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Circumpolar Ag Conference/Food Summit registration deadline extended

The early bird deadline to register for the 8th Circumpolar Agricultural Conference and UArctic Inaugural Food Summit has been extended to Aug. 20.

The conference theme is "advancing food security and sustainable agriculture in the circumpolar north: building an integrated vision, creating a process for sustainable food security in northern communities." It will be held Sept. 29-Oct. 3 at Alyeska Resort in Girdwood and is hosted by UAF, Circumpolar Agricultural Association, UArctic and OECD.

Following is the conference program:

Sunday, Sept. 29
6:00 – 8:00 pm REGISTRATION

Settle into your accommodations and explore the resort and spectacular surroundings.

Monday, Sept. 30
7:00 – 8:30 am BREAKFAST
Chancellor Brian Rogers, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Chair of the UArctic Board of Governors

Conference and Summit Co-Chairs:
Milan Shipka (President of the Circumpolar Agriculture Association, University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF)),
Karen Tanino (Lead Northern Food Security Thematic Network, University of the Arctic, Professor University of Saskatchewan),
Carol Lewis (retired Dean, Director and Professor Emeritus, School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences and Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station, UAF)

Franci Havemeister, Director, Division of Agriculture, Department of Natural Resources, State of Alaska

Bill Erasmus, National Chief of the Dené Nation

Heather Exner-Pirot, University of Saskatchewan - Session Moderator
Invited Keynote Talks
9:20 – 9:50 “Key policy issues for advancing Food Security in the North”
Steffen Weber, Secretary-General of the EU Arctic Forum and Chief Adviser on the Arctic region

9:50 – 10:20 “Redefined Northern Security - a challenge to Arctic Geopolitics?”
Lassi Heininen, Univ. Arctic Thematic Network Lead, Geopolitics, Finland
10:20 – 10:40 BREAK

10:40 – 11:10 “Cross-Border Dimensions of Vuntut Gwich’in Food Security”
David Natcher, Director, Indigenous Land Management Institute, University of Saskatchewan, Canada

11:10 – 11:40 “Indigenous Community Food Security in the Yukon Territory”
Norma Kassi, Director Indigenous Collaboration Arctic Institute of Community Based Research, Yukon, Canada
11:40 – 12:10 pm “Food safety in the arctic and human health: Contaminant exposure by dietary intake”
Arja Rautio, Univ. Arctic Thematic Network Lead, Arctic Health, Finland

12:10 – 12:30 PANEL DISCUSSION: Global Food Policy and Food Safety Issues
Panel members: Steffen Weber, Lassi Heininen, Arja Rauti, Norma Kassi,David Natcher
Panel Moderator: Heather Exner-Pirot

12:30 – 2:00 LUNCH

Carol Lewis, University of Alaska Fairbanks - Session Moderator
Invited Keynote Talks
2:00 – 2:30 “Developing Sustainable Small Businesses in the North: The Case of Northern Food Producers and Distributors”
Svein Johansen, Univ. Arctic Thematic Network Lead, Managing Small and Medium Sized Enterprises in the North, Norway
2:30 – 3:00 "The Bioeconomy of the Arctic"
Torfi Johannesson, V.P. Circumpolar Agriculture Association, Iceland representative
3:00 - 3:30 “An overview of educational programs in the State of Alaska” Johanna Herron, Farm to School Program Coordinator, Department of Natural Resources, Division of Agriculture, Palmer, AK

3:30 – 4:00 BREAK

Invited Abstracts
4:00 – 4:20 “Yukon Agricultural Association – Initiatives and Projects” Sylvia Gibson and Kirsten Scott, Yukon Agricultural Association Yellowknife Commons Co-operative Ltd.
4:20 - 4:40 “Stimulating Yellowknife’s local food economy and
Success stories of local agri-food skills activities in the Northwest Territories Canada”
Amy Lizotte and Lone Sorensen
Yellowknife Commons Cooperative, Yellowknife Garden Collective, Ecology North and Territorial Farmers Association
4:40 – 5:00 PANEL DISCUSSION: Food Production And Economic Development
Panel members: Svein Johansen, Torfi Johannesson, Johanna Herron, Sylvia Gibson, Kirsten Scott, Amy Lizotte, Lone Sorensen
Panel Moderator: Carol Lewis

6:30 – 8:30 RECEPTION

Tuesday, Oct. 1
7:00 – 8:30 am BREAKFAST

Session I - Horticulture
Julie Riley, Cooperative Extension Service, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Moderator
Invited Keynote Talks

8:30-9:00 “Experimental horticultural projects in the Canadian Mid- and High Arctic in the early 1980’s: Lessons Learned”
Josef Svoboda, Professor Emeritus, University of Toronto

9:00 – 9:30 “Costs and Benefits of a Northern Greenhouse”
Tom Allen, Professor, Dept. Bioresources Policy, Business and Economics, University of Saskatchewan

Invited Abstracts
9:30-9:50 “Alternative soil nutrient sources: meeting the needs of rural Alaskan growers” Lydia Clayton, Janice Chumley, Pam Compton, Meg Mueller University of Alaska Fairbanks-Cooperative Extension Service; USDA- Natural Resource Conservation Service
9:50 – 10:10 “Agricultural Production of Biomass as Energy Crops in Alaska: Is It Feasible?”
Stephen D. Sparrow, Darleen Masiak, Amanda Byrd
Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station and Alaska Center for Energy and Power, University of Alaska Fairbanks

10:10 – 10:40 BREAK

Invited Keynote Talk
10:40 – 11:10 “Manitoba Northern Healthy Foods Initiative---working with over 40 northern communities and establishing several hundred community gardens/traditional food projects”
Kreesta Doucette, Founding Director, Food Matters Manitoba
Invited Abstracts
11:10 – 11:30 “The Kuujjuaq Greenhouse Project: Sustainable Community Development through Food Production”
Ellen Avard (PhD Candidate) Université Laval, Département de géographie, Quebec

11:30 – 11:50 “Bilberry – wild superberry from Europe”
Laura Jaakola, Eivind Uleberg, Inger Martinussen
Climate laboratory, Department of Arctic and Marine Biology, University of Tromsø, Norway

11:50 – 12:10 pm “Antioxidant Levels in Alaska Berry Products”
Julie Cascio, Roxie Dinstel, University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service

12:10 – 12:30 pm PANEL DISCUSSION: Food Production and Sustainable Practices - Session I - Horticulture
Panel members: Josef Svoboda, Tom Allen, Lydia Clayton, Steve Sparrow, Kreesta Doucette, Ellen Avard, Laura Jaakola, Julie Cascio
Panel Moderator: Dave Bubenheim, NASA/Ames, Ames, Calif. (tentative)
12:30 – 2:00 LUNCH ON YOUR OWN
2:30 – Tour - $30/person + companion fees
Dinner On Your Own
Wednesday, Oct. 2
7:00 – 8:30 am BREAKFAST
– Session II Livestock Production
Milan Shipka, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Session Moderator
Invited Keynote Talks
8:30 – 9:00 “Sustainable Livestock Production in Alaska: practices and potential”
Craig Gerlach, University of Calgary, Canada (tentative)
9:00 – 9:30 “Animal Health Issues for Alaska Agriculture”
John Blake, University of Alaska Fairbanks
9:30 – 10:00 Nathan Mudd (tentative)
10:00 – 10:30 BREAK
Invited Abstracts
10:30 – 10:50 “Losses of sheep on summer range in Norway”
Inger Hansen and Rolf Rødven
Bioforsk Nord, Norway

10:50 – 11:10 “Small Scale Poultry Production Education in Alaska”
Stephen C. Brown, University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service

11:10 – 11:30 am “Building Educational Programs to Promote Food Security for Indigenous Populations in the Americas”
Diane Holland Rickerl, South Dakota State University

11:30 – 11:50 PANEL DISCUSSION: Food Production and Sustainable Practices – Session II Livestock Production.
Panel members: Craig Gerlach, John Blake, Inger Hansen, Stephen C. Brown, Diane Holland Rickerl
Panel Moderator: Milan Shipka
11:50 – 1:00 pm LUNCH
6:30 - BANQUET

Thursday, Oct. 3
7:00 – 8:30 am BREAKFAST
8:30 – 10:30
IN THE CIRCUMPOLAR WORLD—Conference Summary and Discussion
Norway, Finland, Russia, U.S.A., Canada and Japan
(Panel delegates will each talk for 10 minutes and remain on stage for the general discussion).

10:30 – 11:00 BREAK
11:30 am - FINAL WORDS AND CLOSING (conference co-chairs)

Outings are planned for visitors to see the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center on Oct. 2. After the conference, on Oct. 4, there will be a barbecue lunch featuring UAF grass-finished beef at the Matanuska Experiment Farm. Afterward, visitors will tour several farms in the Palmer area.

For more information, contact Marilyn Childress, 907-474-7083.