Friday, June 20, 2014

Interior recreation survey

What is the optimal way Fairbanksans wish to enjoy their recreation time? Interior Alaska residents have through June 30 to complete the survey. Twenty respondents will win gift certificates to sporting goods stores.

Begin Interior Alaska Recreation Survey

Fairbanksans like Donna Lanni love getting outdoors year-round.
Bryant Wright, a SNRE graduate student, and Associate Professor Peter Fix are tackling this question. They have a request:

 In order to help provide the best opportunities for the recreation we desire, local land and recreation managers need to hear and understand our preferences. The University of Alaska Fairbanks School of Natural Resources and Extension has partnered with the Bureau of Land Management, Eastern Interior Field Office to examine how Fairbanks area residents as a whole hope to benefit from recreation in interior Alaska. This research differs from previous studies in the following ways:
    •    We are interested in recreation on all land in and near the Fairbanks North Star Borough, not just one site.
    •    You can describe what you want to do for recreation, not just what you usually do based on existing opportunities.
    •    We have coordinated with many agencies (FNSB Parks and Recreation Department, Alaska DNR State Parks, U.S. Army Fort Wainwright) to ensure we address a breadth of relevant issues and have a wide distribution of results.
    We will administer a comprehensive online survey from May 1 to June 30 to gather information about local demand for recreation. Hopefully this community-based approach can facilitate more cooperative and effective planning in order to better provide the benefits we desire from our public places.

"The survey is a fun way to describe your outdoor recreation trips, routines and goals," said Wright. "Its success relies on lots of honest information that accurately represents our community."

Survey participants will be eligible to win $30 gift certificates to Beaver Sports or Frontier Outfitters. Twenty certificates will be granted.

Contact Peter Fix or Bryant Wright for more information.

Begin the survey here.

Further reading:
What's on your recraetion wish list? Take this survey, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, June 20, 2014, by Tim Mowry

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

New research forester joins SNRE

When Matt Stevens learned he got the position as research forester for SNRE, he bought a brand new truck, loaded his belongings, grabbed his step-father and drove 5,500 miles from upstate New York to Fairbanks. He arrived June 13 and started to work June 16.

"I love everything about Alaska," Stevens said. "There are more opportunities here."

Matt Stevens
Stevens grew up in DeRuyter, New York, on a dairy farm. He earned a bachelor of science degree in forest resources management at the State University of New York. "I started in general studies but I like to be out in the woods so I chose forestry," he said.

 After graduation, Stevens worked for a year in New York as a procurement forester for a lumber company that makes shipping pallets and hardwood flooring.

For two summers during college, Stevens worked for the UAF Forest Growth and Yield program, doing field work for Tom Malone, research forester who retired in April. "I learned a lot from Tom," Stevens said. "I loved it up here. I am looking forward to settling into the job. I really like field work."

He is excited about examining the data in different ways. "I want to be innovative," he said.

"I'm looking forward to getting the ball rolling." In his new job, Stevens will spend summers managing a field crew that monitors hundreds of forestry research sites and winters on data management. He will obtain, record and store data for the Forest Growth and Yield program.

In his free time, Stevens enjoys fishing, hunting and snowmobiling.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Summer worker sought for BLM resources planning position

SNRE is working with the Bureau of Land Management to hire a student to work on two resource management plans that are currently being developed. Tasks include:
  • Summarize scoping comments for Central Yukon Resource Management Plan, working with Microsoft Excel document, summarize comments for insertion into the Central Yukon Scoping Report.
  • Assist in developing content for a newsletter for the Central Yukon RMP reporting the results of scoping and availability of the scoping report for distribution to mailing and email list.
  • Help maintain and update mailing list for Central Yukon RMP and Eastern Interior RMP in Excel.
  • Assist in developing written responses to public comment on the Eastern Interior Draft RMP. Comments are in Comment Works software, but could be converted to Microsoft Word.
  • Assist in developing a newsletter for the Eastern Interior RMP summarizing public comment on the draft and updating stakeholders on progress of the RMP, schedule.
  • Develop materials for posting on the Eastern Interior and Central Yukon RMP websites in PDF format and that are accessible for visually impaired.
  • Research for background and historical documents for Central Yukon RMP; convert to electronic format suitable for posting on websites; Summarize background information for Central Yukon RMP.
The applicant should have experience analyzing qualitative data, synthesizing results from data analysis, and writing reports. Familiarity with the Environmental Impact Statement process and the Bureau of Land Management's planning procedures is desirable but not necessary.

The position could be 20 to 40 hours per week, depending the applicant’s availability, with duration dependent on the hours worked per week. The pay rate is $17.21/hr.

For additional information contact Peter Fix, School of Natural Resources and Extension, 907-474-6926.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Professor hopes peonies will carpet Fairbanks soon

Two years ago, University of Alaska Fairbanks Professor Pat Holloway was attending the Luoyang, Henan Province, China, peony festival when a lightbulb exploded in her mind.

“There were 10 million peony blooms in Luoyang,” Holloway said. “They were in every park and public area; there were acres of peonies.”
Professor Pat Holloway has been researching peonies for a decade; now she is encouraging Fairbanksans to plant them. (Photo courtesy Georgeson Botanical Garden)

Holloway, who has conducted extensive research on peony growing in Alaska and has worked for over a decade to boost the peony industry, said she felt puny next to this monumental event, but it was there that she first thought that Fairbanks could do something similar, if on a smaller scale.

“For several years I’ve tried to introduce the idea of value added products,” Holloway said. “You can add to the value of $4 stems of flowers with T-shirts, mugs, books, calendars and festivals.”

She has been urging members of the Alaska Peony Growers Association to get their communities to show support, and it’s working. The Matanuska-Susitna Borough has declared itself the peony capital of Alaska, the Fairbanks North-Star Borough Economic Development Commission has recommended to the borough assembly that they make the peony the borough flower and growers in Homer have gone wild planting peonies in public places.

Holloway, who is a horticulture professor in the UAF School of Natural Resources and Extension, had been contemplating how to get peonies planted around the FNSB Borough and decided it was time to connect the Georgeson Botanical Garden, Arctic Alaska Peonies (a cooperative of peony growers and pack houses) and 4-H members. The result was a wonderful peony root sale fundraiser for youths, as well as a way to get more peonies in the ground. The botanical garden provided the cooler space and an instructional sheet for planting and caring for peonies.

Holloway dreams of the day the borough is carpeted with peonies. “I hope someone, not me, organizes a peony festival to show support for the industry and add value locally,” she said.
Jan Hanscom, a local peony grower and 4-H leader, has helped coordinate the effort. She said only two 4-H families have gotten involved, but they sold 200 peony roots, with 50 of the roots donated for public spaces. People who want to help but don’t want to grow the flowers themselves can buy roots for the Tanana Valley Fairgrounds or the Pioneer Home. Festival Fairbanks will take care of planting the roots in downtown spaces.

A Japanese-type flower has been offered this spring, and the 4-Hers are taking orders for next year for Sarah Bernhardt, Festiva Maximus and Felix Crousse. Orders for roots will be taken until June 19 for this year and can be made anytime for next year. Buyers can pay 4-Hers to plant the roots; the children use the funds for 4-H related travel or projects.

Hanscom will be at the Georgeson Botanical Garden Thursday, June 19 from 5 to 6 p.m., selling peony roots for $15 apiece.
Caleb Seekins plants a peony root for Jennifer Delzer, left, while his mother, Tami Seekins, watches. (UAF photo by Nancy Tarnai)

Caleb Seekins, 11, has been selling and planting peony roots for several weeks. He plans to use his proceeds for a trip to a Youth in Governance citizenship program in Juneau. A recent sunny day found him planting a root for Jennifer Delzer off of Auburn Drive.

“Peonies are my favorite flower,” Delzer said. As Caleb’s mother, Tami Seekins, is her friend, Delzer decided to support the project. “A friend and a favorite flower,” she said. “How can it get better than that?”

Delzer is slowly moving her flower beds to all perennials. “I like pretty things, but not all the work,” she said. “The annuals are taxing me. My goal is to plant one peony a year till the bed is full.”
Seekins is happy her children learned a new skill and that more people are planting peonies. “We hope to make Fairbanks a more beautiful place,” she said.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Alumnus plays key role in new recreation area

After earning a bachelor’s degree in finance and economics at the University of Colorado, Boulder, Steve Taylor discovered something.

He didn’t really enjoy the business environment after working in sales and accounting. “I felt that something was missing,” Taylor said.
Steve Taylor played an integral role in planning the borough's newest recreation area.

“I like being outside and when I found there was an outdoor recreation program at UAF, I met with Peter Fix and signed up.”

Taylor earned a master’s of science degree in natural resources management, “a very good move,” he declared. “I am absolutely glad I did it.”

He enjoyed the small classes and personal interaction with professors. “Because it’s a small program I was in classes with forestry and agriculture students, which added an interesting perspective. That was cool; I liked that.” He enjoyed Peter Fix’s teaching style. “He was very thorough, but laid back. He got the point across. He was passionate about what he does.”

At UAF he learned about the controversies inherent in recreation management. “I came into it naively thinking everything in recreation was rosy but that’s certainly not the case,” Taylor said. His thesis was on the Wrangell- St. Elias National Park.

The networking he did through the school has helped his career. He still sees some of those same agency people in his work today as a Fairbanks North Star Borough Parks and Recreation project coordinator. “My degree helped educate me in the field I wanted to work in,” he said. “It opened a lot of doors for jobs.”

Taylor has worked for the borough for 2008. His latest project has been the new Tanana Lakes Recreation Area, which officially opens June 13. The park, located at the southern end of Cushman Street near the Tanana River, has swimming beaches, trails, boat launch and picnic pavilion. Admission is free.

When work began, “it was pretty much a mess,” Taylor said. “There were burned out old cars; it was the end of the road dumping zone and a party spot.”

Watching the park evolve has been amazing, Taylor said. “I was coordinating the volunteer efforts but now we have full-time seasonal staff and it has shaped up quickly. It’s super exciting to see it open.”
Taylor loves his job because he is given a lot of latitude to work on projects he feels are important. Not only has he been involved in park construction and renovation, but has worked with user groups and maintained relationships with users. “It keeps you on your toes,” he said.

“The public planning process should never be taken for granted,” he said. “Sometimes you think a project is a slam dunk and then everyone has different opinions. We approach all projects carefully.”
Another challenge is funding. “It’s always an issue. This is a fairly conservative community and we don’t have deep pockets so we have to do projects effectively and creatively. We want to have high-quality parks and facilities for our communities.”

In his free time Taylor enjoys cross country skiing, canoeing, working on the family home and spending time with his wife Maria and 2-year-old son Oliver.

The pavilion at Tanana Lakes Recreation Area is sure to get lots of public use.

Mud Day reminder

The Georgeson Botanical Garden is hosting Mud Day Sunday, June 15. This exciting "play date" offers children the opportunity to enjoy freestyle outdoor recreation.

The fun begins at 1 p.m. and lasts till 4. Adults must accompany children. The admission fee is a $2 donation or two cans of food for the Tanana Valley Community Food Bank.

A youngster in the Alaska Summer Research Academy Jr. program tested the mud on June 11, in preparation for Mud Day.

Participants should bring a towel and change of clothes.
Students in the Alaska Summer Research Academy Jr. program helped the Georgeson Botanical Garden get ready for Mud Day.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Old-growth spruce destroyed at forest research site

By Ned Rozell, Alaska Science Forum

FAIRBANKS — This spring, John Yarie learned of the death of the oldest living things he knew. Since 1988, the silviculture professor at UAF's School of Natural Resources had measured and fertilized a stand of giant spruce trees on a hillside south of Fairbanks. A few weeks ago, forest technicians visited the site and found that one dozen trees had been cut down, possibly by “wood poachers.”
All that remains of this research tree is the stump, likely due to rogue wood cutters. (Photo by John Yarie)

“I’m just really disappointed somebody would come in and do something like that,” Yarie said. “It ended all the data collection going on for that site.”

The trees were part of a long-term research plot in the 12,487-acre Bonanza Creek Experimental Forest between Fairbanks and Nenana. The 200-year-old trees had aluminum tags on them at chest level and were encircled with silver dendrometer bands that measured tree growth. They were located a few hundred yards off a dirt road, miles from legal woodcutting areas. Whoever cut the trees left the top portions, some of which were 10 to 12 inches in diameter.

A few of the 50-inch diameter trees had been absorbing carbon dioxide and emitting oxygen since 1813. Forest expert Glenn Juday of the University of Alaska Fairbanks said mid-slope white spruce trees don’t get much older, because fire sweeps through every 200 years or so.
John Yarie

Yarie, 65, helped establish the plot on a south-facing hillside when he was 39. He then measured every tree in the 15-meter by 15-meter square, and has gone back to check the growth of the white spruce every five years. Each year, he or forest technicians have fertilized part of the plot to see how the trees responded (not much) to more nitrogen in comparison to a nearby untouched control plot.
“That site is now done,” said Jamie Hollingsworth, manager of the Bonanza Creek Experimental Long-Term Ecological Research site for 11 years. “That data point is no longer there.”

Hollingsworth said the old-growth white spruce and the time people had put into the research made the plot a valuable one.

“Twenty-five years worth of man-hours is a lot of money,” he said.

Hollingsworth, who spends much of his time outdoors as he maintains sites for scientists, has seen “wood poachers whittling away” at the state-owned experimental forest, especially since a jump in home heating oil prices in 2007 and 2008. Because managers of the Bonanza Creek Experimental Forest set it up in 1963 for multiple uses, foresters can’t put up gates to prevent people from driving in to the remote site off the Parks Highway.

“We can put up signage, but a sign isn’t going to stop someone who doesn’t care,” Hollingsworth said.

Yarie also wonders if the loss of the trees is due to the “firewood craze” in Interior Alaska.
“You can start tying this all in to population growth,” he said. “When you go from a town of 10,000 to a town of 100,000, there have to be changes.”

Those changes might include regulations on wood harvesting similar to bag limits on moose and fish, Yarie said.

The big loss that happened in a few moments was what those trees might tell people about the long-term white spruce ecosystems in Interior Alaska. Forestry studies often yield the best information after generations of people work on them, Yarie said.
A 25-year study ended with the destruction of the forest plot.

Since the late 1970s, the University of Alaska Fairbanks’s Geophysical Institute has provided this column free in cooperation with the UAF research community. Ned Rozell is a science writer for the Geophysical Institute.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Veterinarian shares a world of agricultural knowledge

New University of Alaska Fairbanks veterinarian Lisa Lunn sees her role as a bridge between farmers and veterinarians. “It’s daunting to be the first person in this role,” she said.

Lunn is an associate professor in the UAF Department of Veterinary Medicine and the food animal veterinarian for the UAF Cooperative Extension Service.

Lisa Lunn visits a jersey cow at Northern Lights Dairy in Delta Junction during a field trip for natural resources management students.
She and her husband, Kevin Krugle, arrived in Alaska a couple of months ago from Grenada, an island in the southeastern Caribbean Sea. “I hope I can help educate the producers who don’t have veterinarians close by,” Lunn said. “I’ll work with veterinarians and state veterinarians to fill the gaps in knowledge.”

Raised until the age of 12 in Massachusetts, Lunn’s life changed radically when her mother married a dairy farmer and the family moved to Cobleskill, New York, to live on one of the area’s last working dairy farms. “That started my life in farming,” Lunn said. “I absolutely fell in love with cows. On our small farm we treated animals with respect. It was a lot of work but I loved it.”

Lunn always knew she wanted to be a veterinarian and she joined FFA to continue her interests. Meeting young farmers from huge operations was an eye opener for Lunn because she realized that small family farms are not that different from corporate farms. “Whether it’s 20 cows or 2,000 it’s the same management,” she said. “Some cows have names and some have numbers.”

Back then the FFA conventions were held in Kansas City. “On a whim I applied to Kansas State University,” Lunn said. She earned a degree in animal science, then a doctorate of veterinary medicine. “That was the greatest decision I ever made,” she said. “I learned large animal and small animal medicine. It’s so well rounded.” She did her residency at Michigan State University then became a faculty member there.

For the past five years she has been teaching at St. George’s University in Grenada. “I was exposed to Third World small ruminants, a very different form of agriculture,” Lunn said. “They were happy for the knowledge.”

It was in Grenada that Lunn became captivated by the One Health Initiative, a movement to unite human and veterinary medicine. “We owe it to the world to share our knowledge,” she said. “This could be important in rural Alaska.”

While Lunn admits it’s going to be a challenge to serve the entire state, she plans to survey producers to see what their needs are and then tailor online webinars to meet those needs as best she can. She wants to have an easily accessible question and answer tool on the Extension website.

Lunn wants to encourage Alaska youth to get involved in 4-H and FFA and will work closely with the state veterinarian to try to keep everyone informed on how to be productive and have a safe food supply.

“We’ve got a big challenge,” she said. “My to-do list gets bigger and bigger.”

In the veterinary medicine classroom, she has big plans also. She’s thrilled about the life-size simulated cow and horse the department will get. This way students will be able to examine the internal organs without using real animals. “The modern way is to train on simulators till students gain good skills,” she said.

Offering Alaska students the opportunity to study veterinary medicine in Fairbanks is a win-win in Lunn’s opinion. “To go in the lower 48 is expensive and they may not give the education needed for Alaska,” she said. “We’ll put an Alaska spin on it. Raising cattle in Alabama is very different from Alaska. And there are also sled dogs, reindeer and bison.”

Lunn believes the state doesn’t have enough large animal veterinarians to cover the farms dotted all over. “I hope to be a resource and work with veterinarians to get information out about herd health and offer continuing education for veterinarians,” she said.

Lunn is so fascinated with jersey cows she’d have one for a pet if she had the room. Meanwhile, she has three very spoiled cats.