Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Extension Service moves to Matanuska Experiment Farm

The Mat-Su Copper River District Office of the UAF Cooperative Extension Service will move to the Matanuska Experiment Farm in Palmer.

The office will close May 6 at 809 S. Chugach and reopen May 12 on the second floor of Kerttula Hall, 1509 S. Georgeson Drive. The new space has a larger classroom and access to the videoconference network for teaching opportunities. It is also the first major move toward physically merging the School of Natural Resources and CES.

The new CES kitchen in the distance delivery classroom is almost ready. As of May 12, CES personnel in Palmer will be based at the Matanuska Experiment Farm. (Photo by Norm Harris)
CES personnel moving to the farm are:

Julie Cascio - Health, Home and Family Development Agent
Steve Brown - Agricultural and Horticulture Agent
Lee Hecimovich - 4-H and Youth Development Agent
Winona Benson - Nutrition Educator/Family Nutrition Program
Pam Compton - IPM Technician (seasonal)
Becky Hall - 4-H Administrative Aide

Theresa Isaac, Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station administrative assistant, will take on some CES administrative aide duties as well as maintain her AFES administrative aide duties.

"This is a great thing for CES, AFES and the new School of Natural Resources and Extension," said Norm Harris, administrator of the Matanuska Experiment Farm. "It is a move that I think should have happened long ago. It will help us to better tie our missions together and make sure that the people of Alaska are getting the latest scientific research-based information to help them lead a sustainable lifestyle.This move should greatly benefit the people of the Matanuska-Susitna Valley and the state of Alaska as well."

For more information, call the Palmer CES office at 907-745-3360 or AFES/SNRE at 907-746-9450.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Geography department begins candidate presentations

Dan Shugar, a postdoctoral research fellow in Victoria, B.C., will be on campus to interview for a faculty position in physical geography.

Dan Shugar in the field
Shugar earned a doctorate in earth sciences at Simon Fraser University. He will present a research seminar Thursday, May 1 from 2 to 3 p.m. in Murie 104 (auditorium),
“18,000 Years of Sea-level Change in Western North America.”

The teaching seminar will be Friday May 2, from 11:45 to 12:45 p.m. in  Reichardt 203, “Introduction to Physical Geography.”

To schedule individual meetings with Shugar, visit http://bit.ly/1lrqaXq. For more information, contact geography department chair, Cary de Wit at 474-7141 or c.dewit@alaska.edu.

SNRE leaders discuss merger with graduate students

Leaders of merging units at UAF said April 24 at the NRM 692 graduate seminar that it’s going to take a lot of work to successfully blend the School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences and Cooperative Extension Service.

“To truly integrate it will take five to 10 years,” Steve Sparrow, interim dean of the school and interim director of the Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station, said. “This is an excellent opportunity for more integration.”
Fred Schlutt (left) and Steve Sparrow

His goal is for the unit to become “one big family,” yet he is worried about people aligning themselves in silos. “I want to push to make sure there are no walls,” he said. “We’ll work around the issues and we’ll see how that shakes out. As we hire new faculty we’ll keep this in mind and research and extension will be fully integrated.”

Fred Schlutt, director of CES and vice provost for outreach, said the historic model of land grant institutions is based on teaching, research and extension. “If it works properly we’ll do research work on issues relevant to Alaska,” he said. “Extension delivers cutting edge information but we will become more integrated and have teams of folks delivering teaching, research and extension.”

The university needs better connections to local agricultural producers, Schlutt said. He also is encouraging faculty to look at who they can work with for better outcomes. He used rhodiola and peonies and examples where researchers and CES agents are working with Alaska industries.

As people get to know each other, professors will be assigned a larger extension role and extension faculty will be assigned more research, Sparrow said.

Schlutt said he is looking at how faculty can go back and forth between research and outreach. “It’s a real chess match,” he said. “We have to move the pieces around.”

“There is a lot of knowledge in this school,” Sparrow said. “It could be used by stakeholders. Courses and workshops are a way to make that happen, not dumbing it down but making the terminology understandable.”

As Sparrow and Schlutt work with Executive Officer Michelle Pope to implement the merger, they hope to get input from department heads, other faculty and staff. “I don’t have a crystallized idea how to shake it out,” Sparrow said. “Even though we are merging the roles are different.”

He wants to raise the visibility of the experiment station. “It’s the research arm of this unit,” he said. “How can we emphasize the value of the Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station?”
“Branding and marketing AFES is high on our list,” Schlutt added.

Each leader will continue to operate his own budget and the business office is reorganizing. The two communications units have merged.

Sparrow suggested pairing Peace Corps Fellows with extension staff in rural communities and a grad student said it would be helpful to know the research needs.

“We try to do research applicable to the state of Alaska,” Sparrow said. “Sometimes we miss the mark a bit. We work with extension people in communities and come to research and do joint projects. If we provide useful information to stakeholders they might appeal to the Legislature for funding for the research.

“Both CES and AFES have statewide missions,” Sparrow said. “If we really want to be successful we have to show our work is truly statewide.”

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Extension offers apple grafting workshops

Fairbanks farmer Steve Masterman will teach apple grafting workshops May 3-4 at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service district office in Fairbanks.

Apples do grow in interior Alaska (UAF Photo by Todd Paris)
Participants will find out what rootstocks work best in different locations and will graft four apple trees to take home. Extension program assistant Darcy Etcheverry said a typical apple tree will not grow in the Fairbanks area; it needs to be grafted to roots from hardy crabapple varieties.

A beginner workshop will run from 10 a.m. to noon May 3, and an intermediate workshop for those who have had previous grafting experience will run from 1 to 3 p.m. May 4.

A $30 fee covers materials. Each workshop is limited to 30 students and preregistration is required. To register, call Ronda Boswell at 474-2450. The Extension office is located at 724 27th Ave., on the south side of the Fairbanks Community Food Bank building.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Middle schoolers moved by Earth Day demos

The Earth Day open house dubbed "Sap to Syrup: the Birch Way" attracted interested visitors; the most enthusiastic being the hosts, Tanana Middle School seventh graders.

From left, Bre-Anna Aday, Jasmine Nicholls and Emma Johnstone demonstrate how to measure concentrations of sugar in birch sap.
Science students from Carri Forbes' class were eager to share their knowledge of tapping birch trees for sap, processing the sap via reverse osmosis and making birch knitting needles. Working in conjunction with SNRE's OneTree Alaska program, Forbes and students created the public event to share the joy of harvesting one of the state's purest natural resources, birch sap.

UAF engineering students Jordan Merkes and Zach Alkire improved the OneTree reverse osmosis unit for their senior design project. "We increased the efficiency modification for birch sap reverse osmosis," Merkes explained. The machine, created by SNRE graduate student Tricia Kent, purifies birch sap and concentrates it down so it can be cooked into syrup.

A special treat occurred with OneTree Alaska Director Janice Dawe arrived from a visit to Juneau with historic pieces of mahagony from the Baranof Hotel and oak from the governor's mansion. OneTree will use them to make special knitting needles. Upon glancing at the historic wood, one of the seventh graders was so moved, he exclaimed, "I'm going to cry!"

Forbes got funding for the service learning component through a student achievement grant from Youth Service America and State Farm Insurance.

Further reading:

Graduate student invents DIY reverse osmosis system for birch sap concentration, SNRE Science & News, Jan. 15, 2014, by Nancy Tarnai

From left, Christian Rochester, Amanda Brand and Bailey Taylor make knitting needles out of birch.

OneTree Alaska Director Janice Dawe arrived with her well-wrapped historic wood from Juneau.

OneTree volunteer Birch Pavelsky opens the parcel of historic wood.

Bailey Taylor was excited about the notable wood from historic sites in Juneau.

Jordan Merkes (left) and Zach Alkire, UAF engineering students, improved the OneTree reverse osmosis unit for their senior design project.

Garden Club honors student

SNRE student Nicole Dunham was honored by the Fairbanks Garden Club at an April 16 meeting.

The members presented Dunham with a $300 scholarship and invited her to join the club.

"We applaud you for seeking to involve educators in the early years," said Amanda Ross, vice president of the garden club. "What a treat to see and develop those young minds to love and enjoy planting and seeing the seeds grow into exactly what they are supposed to grow into. A miracle it is!

Nicole Dunham
"We hope to hear more about your research and outcome of that research."

In her presentation, Dunham told the gardeners about growing up in Fairbanks after moving here from New York. She summarized her Undergraduate Research and Scholarly Activity-funded project called "investigating challenges and benefits of garden-based learning in early childcare settings." She is interviewing pre-school teachers about their thoughts on incorporating gardens into pre-schools.

Dunham's mentor is Andrea Bersamin of the Center for Alaska Native Health Research. "It's been an exciting project," Dunham said. She will present her findings on UAF Research Day, April 29.

Her senior thesis project dovetails with the URSA work. Mentored by Professor Meriam Karlsson, Dunham will review pre-school gardening curricula to discern what will work best for young children. "I will then apply that knowledge by looking at curricula that is out there, most of which is applicable to the lower 48 and try to find ways to make it work for Alaska in both urban and rural situations," Dunham said.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Liben regales with stories of dancing across Peru

When Sarah Liben arrived in Peru as a Peace Corps Volunteer she barely spoke Spanish and was assigned to a town that hadn't previously had a Peace Corps presence.

Talk about being outside your comfort zone!

Sarah Liben, left, gets a hug from classmate Haley McIntyre after Liben's presentation April 17.
Liben, a current SNRE graduate student, persisted and survived. Talking to the Natural Resources Management 692 students April 17, she called those three years a unique experience.

Growing up in Connecticut, Liben studied for three months in Tanzania while in high school. On the way home from Africa, she made up her mind to serve in the Peace Corps. After earning a degree in natural resources management from the University of Connecticut, Liben applied to the Peace Corps and got her assignment to Peru, an "OMG moment" in her life.

"I've been an environmental bum my entire life," she said. "I wanted to understand how developing nations address environmental issues."

Liben lived with a host family for three months while going through training and learning Spanish. Then she was assigned to Yauyos, in a rural community of 300 called Alis, at 10,000 feet altitude. Just getting there was an adventure. Traveling in a rickety bus on twisting mountain roads brought some scary life moments.

While living in Peru, Liben trained to run a marathon and took up with a sweet black dog named Goofy.

Her work focused on reforestation, solid waste management and environmental education. She and the village children planted trees around the landfill. Later when she returned and saw how tall the trees had gotten, she shed a few tears.

Cultural immersion is important for Peace Corps Volunteers, Liben said. "You've got to get with the community so I danced a lot."

In her next place, Olmos, she helped with an environmental radio program, "The Ecological Hour," and worked with schools to integrate environmental, risk management and health curriculum. One of the big issues was HIV and AIDS prevention. Liben obtained a grant allowing her and two teachers to attend a training workshop.

She hosted a recycling competition for children and presented puppet shows with environmental themes. Spending time with children enriched her Spanish skills and six months in, she was fairly fluent. Liben said it was hard for people to view her as a professional when she had second grade language skills. "Once people see that you are here to stay and your language advances you form relationships and earn respect," she said.

It also took time to adjust to the high altitude and not to get sick all the time from the food and water.

"You realize quickly this is reality," she said.

To be a good Peace Corps Volunteer it takes flexibility. "You've got to learn to be resilient," Liben said. "You are not in your comfort zone and you've got to be OK with that. You need to be adaptable, chill, have fun and be there for the right reasons."

The Peace Corps turned out to be a wonderful experience for Liben. "It was the best thing for me," she said. "I wouldn't have done anything differently. It refocuses you and your whole life is different after the fact. It does have lasting impacts whether they are visible or not.

"It was an adventure every day."

It's sap tapping time in interior Alaska!

With the pounding of a nail into birch bark, spring has sprung in interior Alaska.

And with that, SNRE Instructional Designer Zachary Meyers is traveling to schools around the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District in the coming weeks, helping students learn the right way to tap for birch sap. His tiny car is packed with sap bags, tapping equipment and white buckets.

Zachary Meyers, right, taps a birch tree for sap at Randy Smith Middle School.
Through the OneTree Alaska program, students learn the science of one of the state's purest natural resources, birch sap. They measure the concentration of sugar, volume of sap and air temperature at their trees, recording data just as scientists do.

On Thursday, Meyers visited Chris Pastro's extended learning classroom at Randy Smith Middle School. The seventh and eighth graders excitedly strapped on snowshoes and tromped through the adjacent forest to tap their first schoolyard birch. Pastro's classes have participated in OneTree activities since the beginning of the program in 2009 but they had previously tapped trees on the UAF campus, not in their own schoolyard.

"I want them to be keen observers and discover what is going on inside the tree this time of year," Pastro said. "I want them to make connections through scientific data but also through writing and art and to notice what is going on in our own backyards."

Pastro loves that OneTree projects are hands-on, not just learned from reading a book. "They will actually be measuring and analyzing," she said. Her classes have been conducting three water treatments for birch sapling dormancy since January and have gotten valuable results. Before the end of the school year, they will plant the saplings at the UAF University Park Building.

Another aspect of OneTree that Pastro raves about is the opportunity for students to work alongside scientists. "They see the possibilities and begin to think they could do that type of work too."

Meyers enjoys helping students learn the practical aspects of the science they have studied all year. "And they get a sense of responsibility when they are harvesting a natural resource," he said.

Chris Pastro, right, points out the differences in absorption of colors as Zachary Meyers holds the containers.

Merger to be addressed in April 24 lecture

The co-leaders of a new University of Alaska Fairbanks unit will discuss the merger between the University of Alaska Fairbanks School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences and the UAF Cooperative Extension Service Thursday, April 24 from 3:40 to 5:10 p.m. in O’Neill 201.

The talk will be presented to graduate students in the Natural Resources Management 692 seminar, but guests are welcome to observe.
Fred Schlutt

Steve Sparrow
Steve Sparrow, interim dean of the school and interim director of the Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station, and Fred Schlutt, director of CES and vice provost for outreach, will explain how the merger will strengthen the research, teaching and outreach capabilities of the new unit, dubbed the School of Natural Resources and Extension by the University of Alaska Board of Regents in February.

For more information, contact Professor John Yarie.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Celebrate Earth Day by tapping for sap

Tanana Middle School science students will host a community event on Earth Day, April 22, to demonstrate the science of one of Alaska’s purest natural resources, birch sap. “Sap to Syrup: The Birch Way” is the theme.

Working in conjunction with the University of Alaska Fairbanks OneTree Alaska program, the students will demonstrate tapping sap from a birch tree, explain sap processing, give taste tests, manufacture knitting needles and show off the new OneTree reverse osmosis unit.

Instructional Designer Zachary Meyers taps a birch tree for sap.
Two UAF engineering students will help explain the reverse osmosis unit and Birch Pavelsky, local wood crafter, will be manufacturing the knitting needles out of birch.

OneTree Alaska has been working with Carri Forbes' science students at Tanana Middle School for several years.

The event will occur at the UAF University Park Building, 1000 University Ave., Room 102, Tuesday, April 22 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

For more information, contact Zachary Meyers. Parking is available on campus by permit; a parking kiosk is located at the building.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

SNRE hosts controlled environment meeting

"Controlled environments are the future of growing food," proclaimed businessman Bernie Karl at a meeting of the Committee on Controlled Environment Technology and Use April 12-15 at Chena Hot Springs Resort.

Meeting participants, hailing from the U.S., Canada, Finland and Sweden, heartily agreed.

NCERA-101 participants paused for a group photo at Chena Hot Springs Resort.
NCERA-101 is composed of an eclectic balance of academic researchers and extension personnel, graduate students, companies supporting controlled environment agriculture research by offering facilities, equipment and technical services, plus researchers and administrators from federal agencies such as NIFA (National Institutes of Food and Agriculture) and NASA.

UAF Professor Meriam Karlsson headed up the planning committee for the meeting and was elected chair during the proceedings.

Following the annual business meeting, participants heard reports from researchers representing their agricultural experiment stations. Scientific posters and industry exhibits were on display throughout the three-day event.

Professor Meriam Karlsson, at right, accepts the chairmanship of the Committee on Controlled Environment Technology and Use. It was passed on by Henry Imberti of Percival Scientific Co., Perry, Iowa, at left.
While at Chena Hot Springs Resort, NCERA-101 participants were treated to tours of the power plant, greenhouse and ice museum. The final day found the group in Fairbanks at the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center, UAF greenhouses and the Reindeer Research Program at the Fairbanks Experiment Farm.

The finale was an Alaska-grown meal at Pike's Waterfront Lodge where Chef Jeffrey Brooks prepared locally grown reindeer, vegetables and salad, along with rhubarb and blueberry pies baked by volunteer Susan Risse.

Past organizers have stated that the informal, friendly nature of NCERA is conducive to information exchange, learning and network building.
Graduate students submitting posters were, from left, Jacob Nelson (Utah State University), Garrett Owen (Purdue University), Celina Gomez (Purdue University) and William Meng (Michigan State University). Meng took first place.
See also "NCERA-101: Controlled environment technology and use"

Spring Employee of the Quarter named

Research Forester Tom Malone has been named the Employee of the Quarter for spring 2014.

He was recognized for his outstanding efforts over the past three decades of service to the School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences.

Tom Malone
For details of Malone's illustrious career, please visit an April 2 blog post.

The award, which recognizes staff who have gone above and beyond the call of duty, is coordinated through the dean's office and the business office.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Lecture to recount Peace Corps service in Peru

The Natural Resources Management 692 lecture Thursday, April 17 will be on graduate student Sarah Liben's Peace Corps Service in Peru.

The title of Liben's talk will be "Stories from Peru: My Time as a Peace Corps Volunteer," a timeline of her journey before going abroad, what got her interested in joining in the first place, a description of what she did in Peru, a bit about the country itself, the communities, work, trials and tribulations, traveling and what it has been like since she has been back.

Liben with friends in Peru.

The lecture will be in Arctic Health Research Building 183 Thursday from 3:40 to 5:10 p.m. Guests are welcome. For more information, contact Professor John Yarie, jayarie@alaska.edu.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

NCERA-101: Controlled environment technology and use

The Committee on Controlled Environment Technology and Use will gather for its annual meeting April 12–15 at Chena Hot Springs Resort. Sponsored by SNRE, the resort, the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and the US Department of Agriculture, the event is a gathering of plant science researchers and controlled environment developers. SNRE Professor of Horticulture Meriam Karlsson is the current committee Chair-Elect and a major organizer of the event. Hosts and locations of the annual meetings rotate among the membership. The UAF Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station is an official member of the NCERA-101 and is the host for this year’s meeting.

Dr. Meriam Karlsson,
professor of horticulture
North Central Extension & Research Activity-101 (NCERA-101) is a project of the USDA, organized to help plant scientists understand how to use, develop and improve greenhouse and controlled environment technology for research and commercial applications. The meetings provide a forum for exchange of information on new technologies and problems and solutions in controlled environments. In Alaska, controlled environments are important for extending the growing season and sheltering crops.

This year's meeting is likely to include 75 attendees. The interactions among academic, government and industry representatives are among the strengths of the NCERA-101 group.

Lettuces grown under LED lighting at Chena Hot Springs Resort.
The use and adaptation of controlled environment technology are essential for Alaska in any effort to extend growing seasons or to produce crops throughout the year. The challenging climatic conditions make Alaska a suitable location to research, develop and evaluate controlled environment technology for various climatic regions and conditions. The long and successful history of greenhouse and controlled environment technology that Chena Hot Springs Resort has had in running a year-round greenhouse in often severe weather conditions makes the resort an appropriate place for this meeting. Many other businesses in the Tanana Valley and the state use greenhouses or other controlled environments, and some are experimenting in LED technology. Karlsson's research at SNRE includes studies of lighting effects of LEDs on various horticultural crops, including day length and color combinations. 

Predicting the effects of climate change

This Thursday's Natural Resources Management 692 graduate seminar, "Monitoring and Predicting the Effects of Climate Change on Coastal Ecosystems on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta," will be given by Torre Jorgenson, of ABR, Inc., Environmental Research and Services. The talk will be held on West Ridge of the UAF campus, April 10, 3:40 to 5:10 pm in the Arctic Health Research Building, room 183.

Jorgenson is a senior scientist at ABR, leading the company's Ecological Land Survey Program, and has directed and participated in more than 100 Alaska studies involving vegetation classification and mapping, permafrost and geomorphology, restoration, bioremediation, climate change, and wetland science. He has worked on assessing the effects of global warming on sea-level rise and ecological changes on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, coastal erosion along the Beaufort Sea coast, permafrost degradation in central and northern Alaska, and monitoring landscape change through repeat photography in southwestern Alaska.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

New reindeer calves at the Fairbanks Experiment Farm

On Saturday, April 5, the Reindeer Research Program's first two calves of 2014 were born, a male weighing 6.4 kg (14 lbs) and a female weighing 5.9 kg (13 lbs). It was a snowy beginning for the youngsters, but they weren't the first reindeer in the Interior! Archipelago Farms' herd had a hefty newborn male calf (17.25 lbs) on April 1. (George Aguiar, who founded Archipelago, is an alumnus of SNRE and works with the Reindeer Research Program.)
Cow and new female calf  at the Fairbanks Experiment Farm.

Most calves are born in April and May, so in anticipation of their births, farm staff begin checking the pens and pastures three times a day, monitoring any cows in labor. New mothers and their young are left alone together for at least 12 hours and preferably a full day to bond and for observation. After this period is over, calves are tagged, weighed, and swabbed with iodine solution to prevent infections, and then returned to their mothers. While the youngsters are at first wobbly on their long legs, this doesn't last, and catching them for weighing can be tricky if the observation period is too long.

By tradition, the calves are named later in the summer, with names drawn from a list of suggestions offered by the public. You can see the names of the current reindeer, the names suggested for 2014, and offer your own suggestion here.

Erin Carr, herd manager, disentangling the female calf's leg from the fence. The calf's mother was at first very upset by this, but Carr spoke quietly and calmly to the cow, and she relaxed and let Carr release the calf.

Once the calf was freed, the cow nudged her baby, encouraging it to get up. 

Then they left, the calf on its wobbly legs following its mother and complaining.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Biomass for Sustainable Communities: The 5th Alaska Wood Energy Conference

The fifth Alaska Wood Energy Conference: Biomass for Sustainable Communities will take place April 15-17 in Fairbanks. 

The conference will highlight rural energy and Interior heating concerns, including the sustainable harvesting of wood and air quality issues. Other presentations will focus on woody biomass research, community evaluation of biomass options and new technologies.

Conference sessions will meet at the Westmark Fairbanks Hotel and Convention Center. Participants may take an optional tour April 15 to Superior Pellet Fuels and Wood Brothers Firewood in North Pole.

Conference coordinator Karen Petersen said sessions will be geared to a wide audience, including community officials considering wood heating options, individuals selling biomass products or others who are in the market for them.

Patricia Longley Cochran, the executive director of the Alaska Native Science Commission, will address energy issues in rural villages. Other featured speakers will include Gwen Holdmann, director of the University of Alaska Fairbanks' Alaska Center for Energy and Power, who will talk about the future of Alaska energy; John Crouch of the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association, who will address managing particulate matter; and Allen Brackley, a research forester with the U.S. Forest Service's Pacific Northwest Research Station in Sitka, who will cover barriers to biomass project development.

The conference will also include a public open house and trade show from 6 to 8 pm on Wednesday, April 16, at the hotel. During the open house, half-hour sessions will provide information on using wood stoves efficiently, firewood cutting and understanding PM 2.5, fine particulate matter. Registration is not required for the open house.

Conference co-sponsors include the UAF Cooperative Extension Service, Alaska Energy Authority, the Alaska Center for Energy and Power and the Forest Service. See conference details and registration linked at www.uaf.edu/ces.

For more information, contact Debbie Carter, 907-474-5406, dscarter@alaska.edu, or Karen Petersen, 907-821-2681, khpetersen@alaska.edu

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Malone saying goodbye to UAF job but not to Alaska forests

After 31 years, 1,600 nights in a tent and a half million miles of on-the-job driving, Research Forester Tom Malone is calling it quits.

Well, not exactly. Malone is such a dedicated University of Alaska Fairbanks employee that he will complete a few projects even beyond his April 30 retirement date.

Tom Malone
Malone, who grew up in upstate New York, always knew he wanted to be a forester. "I was an outside guy," he said. "But I didn't see a big future in New York and I wanted adventure." After earning a technical forestry degree at the Ranger School which is part of Syracuse University, he headed to Anchorage in 1978.

By 1982 his Forest Service job brought him to Fairbanks and the next year he went to work for UAF, as part of a logging crew conducting a thinning project and doing time and motion studies on equipment. In 1989 he started working with the Forest Growth and Yield Program and he's been there ever since.

"We provide information to landowners and managers so they can make better land management decisions," Malone said. In 1983 Ed Packee, forest sciences professor, surveyed land managers to determine what management tools they needed. Then the FG&Y crew started collecting data to develop volume equations, site productivity curves and forest yield tables.

The program's staff developed a set of permanent sample plots in interior and southcentral Alaska from the southern slope of the Brooks Range to Ninilchik, gathering a variety of data, from forest health and growth to ecology and soils.

"It's the largest data set of this kind in Alaska," Malone said.

Malone monitored 603 sites in a research area the size of Michigan and Ohio combined, alongside summer workers, student interns and volunteers. Each field season he had from three to nine people on his crew, working eight days on, six days off. Not only did he hire and train these young people, he and his wife Karen housed a lot of them in cabins on their property. "We hosted our 43rd international forestry student last summer," he said.

The job requires carefully obtaining, recording and storing data. "Before starting a research project, one of the key things you have to do is determine that the data collected will answer the research question A statistician is the best person to help with that part of the project," Malone said.

This position also requires people skills, as Malone coordinated his efforts with 23 agencies and private entities and had to be a good manager and get along with his field crews.

"I've never met a kinder, more honest or more ethical person than Tom," said Steve Sparrow, interim dean and director. "He wouldn't even allow us to hold his retirement party during work hours because he felt it a misuse of public employees' time. Tom has worked with lots of students and researchers over the years, and I think he is held in high regard by all of them.

"One characteristic I really like in Tom is that although he has done some really great work, he does not sing his own praises, but really enjoys seeing those he has worked with, trained or taught go on to do well," Sparrow said.

Malone has loved working for UAF. "I was lucky to get this job," he said. "It's been a wonderful career but it's time for someone else to take over."

What he will remember the most is the people. "Most were very nice and were good workers." The weather and mosquitoes are memorable too, as is the fact that with all those road trips and remote field days, nobody died or was seriously injured. "We talked a lot about safety and I never had to call a Medevac."

While working at UAF, Malone earned a bachelor of science degree in natural resources management (forest sciences option) and a master of science in natural resources management.

His retirement plans are to fish more often, stay active and travel in the winter with his wife. He'll continue some of his forestry projects as a volunteer, including a week on Afognak Island this summer and a Youth Conservation Corps project at Susitna Valley High School. He is active in his church and the Knights of Columbus and enjoys refurbishing old cars.

"It's been a great job," Malone said. "I got to do exciting things, travel Alaska and meet super people."

Professor Glenn Juday said, "Tom has been particularly responsive to our efforts to archive his many plots and studies into the Boreal Alaska -- Learning, Adaptation and Production archive of Data Atlas of Forest Research Installations. He has organized the data beautifully and has all the data sets in good shape. It's a model of handing on a long-term study."

Malone's long-time colleague, Alan Tonne, manager of the Fairbanks Experiment Farm, said, "If you were to look up Forest Growth and Yield Program it would or should say Tom Malone. He's been so much a part of that program that it won't be the same without him, but it will carry on."

Tom Malone in 1983.