Monday, November 24, 2014

Grad student gets Peace Corps assignment to Mexico

When natural resources management graduate student Teri Anderson signs up as a Peace Corps volunteer next spring it will be the achievement of a lifetime goal.

"The Peace Corps has never been an option for me," Anderson said. "I knew early on I would do this. It will be a great opportunity to go somewhere tourists don't get to go and get to know an area."
Teri Anderson on the job at the Alaska Public Lands Information Center in Anchorage.

The child of two National Park Service rangers, Anderson grew up in Death Valley, California, until the age of 14, when the family moved to Anchorage. For her undergraduate degree, Anderson double-majored in journalism and Spanish at UAF, then was drawn to the Master's International Program offered by the School of Natural Resources and Extension.

"The Peace Corps and science equals NRM," Anderson said. "When I searched for Master's International I didn't think UAF had it but when I found it with NRM I said I'm done."

In March, Anderson will report to Queretaro, Mexico. Her project will focus on climate change in national parks in Mexico. "It keeps changing," she said. "I hope to write a climate change response plan that includes traditional ecological knowledge.

"I'm excited about having a leading role in national parks," she said. "In the U.S., I would start at the bottom but in Mexico I can do things that senior staff would do in the U.S. I can have a big job and get great job experience."

Associate Professor Susan Todd, Anderson's advisor, said, "I've been impressed by Teri's determination and resourcefulness.She makes things happen. And she's so congenial and energetic, I think she'll get along fine anywhere the Peace Corps sends her.

"She will be working for one of the National Parks in Mexico and is interested in how to minimize the impacts of protected areas on indigenous people, which is a vital area for research. We cannot put walls around enough areas to protect the world's biodiversity. We need to form partnerships with indigenous people to protect more lands while allowing these people to use the area. That's the future of protected area management."

Anderson's summer internship with the Alaska Public Lands Information Center in Anchorage morphed into a job as a seasonal park ranger. "I love interpretation; it's really invigorating," Anderson said. "I love to engage people and teach them."

Her career goals are to inspire people to care about the environment and to help others find more meaning in the natural world. "I want to be a meaning maker," she said.

In her spare time she enjoys outdoor sports.

Hadley happy at Alpenglow Farm after years of government service

What started as a hobby farm has grown so much that it hosts one of Alaska’s largest sheep flocks. For Catherine Hadley of Alpenglow Farm and Kennels in Delta Junction, this is the culmination of a lifetime of experience.

Catherine Hadley
Growing up in rural Illinois, Hadley learned canine obedience training in her 4-H club activities and raised guide dog puppies throughout her teen years. She volunteered with the Natural Resources Conservation Service and later worked for NRCS for two decades. “Being around farms it just all came together,” she said.

Sheep, including Shetland, Finn, Kathadin and Dorper, are produced for lamb, mutton and wool. Hadley breeds the sheep to get the kind of animal that suits her needs. “They have to be good mothers and be able to withstand the cold weather; I only give them one chance. I cross-breed until I get something I like that grows fast and can be outside.”

Consumers buy the animals directly from the farm. “They go as fast as I want,” Hadley said. When she is ready to sell lambs she posts on Facebook and Craigslist. Word of mouth still works too. “I would raise more if I thought they would sell,” she said.

Most customers live in Fairbanks, but Hadley has had buyers from Anchorage and Barrow. She keeps the older animals for herself so her diet is heavy in mutton. “It’s an acquired taste,” she said. “I use game recipes to cook the mutton.”

Farming suits Hadley perfectly because she loves working outdoors with animals and enjoys being her own boss. “It’s got its challenges but it’s a good lifestyle,” she said. The weather always keeps her on her toes and though she sometimes hires temporary help, for the most part she does all the work herself. “I’m not a mechanic or welder but I’ve had to learn to do those things,” she said.

Besides the sheep, Hadley raises some hogs and cattle. She has 400 acres dedicated to hay production. “That’s my biggest thing,” she said. A small portion of her crop is certified noxious weed free. “I haven’t been able to charge much more for it due to supply and demand,” she said.

She also raises border collies and trains herding dogs for other people. Her two Estrela mountain dogs are the protectors of the herd. The male is 140 pounds and the female around 90. A litter of pups is on the way. “They’re good family dogs,” Hadley said.

While she’s had some guidance and training to work with dogs, she mostly learned from books. “You have to know how the livestock react and how dogs react,” she said. “Having good dogs to start with is a plus. Instinctively, they know what to do; you just reinforce it. You have to spend a lot of time with them.

“I’m not sure how this happened but it’s working well.”

Being independent is fairly new as Hadley worked for the federal government for years. She now offers another aspect to her farm, Last Frontier Agricultural and Environmental Services. As a consultant and certified crop advisor, Hadley visits farms and offers nutrient and waste planning, environmental assessments, water and chemical testing, wetland determinations, wildlife habitat planning, revegetation advice, pollinator habitat improvement and more.

Hadley hopes to expand the consulting work. “It’s necessary in Alaska,” she said. “Budgets are getting tighter and clients aren’t getting the services they should get.”

Another goal is to get her farm more modernized so the work isn’t so hard on her. When she can, she enjoys hiking and camping but finds it difficult to leave her animals.

Contact information:

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

NRM student finds "right place" at UAF

Natural resources management student Nicole Warner went on the air with KIAK-FM and KFBX-AM radio Oct. 22 to talk about why she chose this degree at UAF.

Nicole Warner

She further reflected in the following essay:

I like to joke that it all started with salmon, and was solidified with dirt. This is the pretty much the most succinct explanation of how I came to pursue my field of study. My time in Alaska exposed me to every form of science under the sun, and I spent a good portion of my childhood attempting to decipher which one I would select to devote my adult life. Like any teenager, I was decisively indecisive—oceanography would capture my attention one week, biology the next. As time passed, a pattern arose; it wasn't until Chinook salmon swam up a local creek that I realized what field might warrant my full dedication. The presence of salmon in a usually barren creek raised questions for me—what did this mean for the community, the creek, the wildlife? I turned to the internet for answers, and discovered an entire field of study that asked these same questions. An entire degree existed to explore the link between humans and their resources—ironically, I was hooked.

While my introductory class to natural resources management certainly intrigued me, seeing the connections made in my soils class confirmed it: I was definitely in the right place. I never really had a doubt that I had chosen the right degree, and I attribute a large part of this to the professors in my classes. It became very apparent that these faculty members were passionate about their fields of study, and incredibly eager to share this with students. This department is full of people from diverse backgrounds and has always been incredibly welcoming to its students; I've never felt out of place or afraid to ask anything, as all of my professors, while seemingly always busy, never hesitated to make time for me to help.

It does sadden me a bit to see that natural resources management seems to go under the radar, especially in a state where it seems so important. I can't count how many quizzical looks I've received when I tell people my major. I would love to see this program garner a little more attention for its wonderful faculty and opportunities for research. I believe this program is one of UAF's best achievements, along with its other science and engineering programs.
Further listening:

Link to KFBX-AM podcast, Oct. 22, 2014, featuring Nicole Warner, Professor Milan Shipka and Associate Professor Peter Fix

Monday, November 10, 2014

Gonzalez named employee of the quarter

SNRE fiscal technician Debbie Gonzalez is the first employee of the quarter for the new merged unit (School of Natural Resources, Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station and UAF Cooperative Extension Service).

The fourth-generation Alaskan was manager of the UA Press for 14 years before taking her current position six years ago.

Debbie Gonzalez
"My job allows me to be involved in what Extension, the school and experiment farms do, which is some very cool stuff," she said. "I appreciate that my job includes a wide range of tasks and that I work with some really great people. I like accounting, numbers and problem solving.; it may be challenging but it is never boring."

Fellow employees had high praise for Gonzalez.

"Debbie has really come through for all Extension faculty and staff this past year by taking over the role of travel technician in the business office. Although Debbie is the fiscal technician she has served as backup for processing travel requests and reimbursements many times...Debbie was there to assist and ensure all travel transactions complied with travel regulations mandated by UAF central travel office. Debbie even found time to offer several travel training sessions to faculty and staff."

"Debbie has kept her composure under pressure and made it possible for employees and volunteers to continue to travel and receive reimbursement without interruption. It is clear to me she is a very valuable and loyal employee."

"She has displayed  endless patience with me and others like me who need assistance in travel and purchasing. Even though she was doing the work of two or more people at a time, Debbie was always timely, accurate, helpful and supportive."

"She is dedicated to making things run smoothly and to following the rules and regulations required in all fiscal matters. Her knowledge and her willingness to share it in a constructive and patient manner has been a real blessing to me."

A graduate student wrote, "Without her outstanding dedication and vigilance to work stuff I would be so lost or just have my student life be made so much more complicated. Deb works super hard to uncomplicate my life. She is just so great and does an amazing job and makes it a pleasure to know I am so well taken care of. Deb has always been there for the students, working with me (and I am sure others) who require detailed and clear explanations and she offers great direction and communication. I have known her to follow up on tasks that were within her work description but were just that little extra step and effort to make everything run smoothly. Deb has always put the extra effort in, and with great humor and energy."

Gonzalez will receive a $100 bonus and a certificate of appreciation. In her free time she enjoys gardening, cooking and spending time with family and friends. She and her husband live in the house she grew up in, next door to her parents.

Michelle Pope, executive officer, left, and Steve Sparrow, interim dean and director, right, present fiscal technician Debbie Gonzalez with a certificate for being employee of the quarter.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Students learn resources management through Commons Game

Students in Natural Resources Management 101 play a game every fall. The sessions are more than fun and entertaining; rather the game is a way for students to experience the frustrations and dilemmas associated with managing "common resources."

NRM 101 students play the Commons Game.
Associate Professor Susan Todd has incorporated the game into this course for years because it's a great way to impart an important message to students in a memorable way.

A commons is a resource whose ownership is shared by several people, such as public rangeland, forests, fisheries, water, and air. "Economists say that when everybody shares ownership of a resource, everyone has access to its benefits but no one wants to be the first to incur the costs of maintenance," Todd said.

“Why should I plant trees here when someone else may be the one to harvest them? Why should I
remain within the sustained yield of fish, when Jane over harvests and makes a huge profit? Why should I be the first country to lower carbon emissions, when others are still using them and contributing to global warming?"

The “Tragedy of the Commons,” a term coined by Garrett Hardin in an article of the same name,
is essentially that the benefits of the resource are shared by everyone, but unless there are some
regulations, the costs of maintaining the resource, if maintenance is done at all, are born by a few.

The Commons Game simulates an unregulated commercial fishing industry. "Ask yourselves what the analogy would be for other resources, such as timber, air or water," Todd said.

"You are fishing for pollock in the Big Open Sea and there is great demand for your harvest," she announced. "There are lots of boats out here, a low chance that you’ll be caught if you catch more than your quota and a good chance that you’ll make big profits if you do."

Students are divided into groups of about 10 students, with each group representing a different country. Each round is a fishing season, with 60 rounds played. Students keep track of revenues and costs with the objective being to make as much money as possible, or as much as participants can live with in good conscience. While lively discussions, shouts and laughter ensue, several times everyone stops what they are doing for two-minute summits, when new rules are created.

Emmie Van Wyhe learned from the exercise that managing resources is extremely  hard. "People did what was best for them," she said. "We all learned from it."

Zane Campise-Hampton said he noticed it's easy to make maximum profits by being selfish. "My group was bad," he said. "I earned over a million dollars. Some people sandbag the whole group, which makes progress impossible."

Calum Morris Macintyre was surprised at how well his group worked together. "If everyone cooperates they all benefit," he said. "If two don't, it descends into chaos quickly. It would be hard to picture all the problems without experiencing the game."

 Zach Robinson said, "If you're into conservation you're going to gain more profits and have more commons."

Lively discussions ensued during the Commons Game.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

UAF students strive to put Alaska-grown food on menu

A small student group has a big dream to serve up heaping helpings of local cuisine at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

The Chancellor’s Student Food Committee has been working for a couple of years toward the goal of having campus dining services purchase 20 percent Alaska grown foods by 2020.
Food Day attendees enjoyed food prepared by the Community and Technical College culinary students. (Photo by Lisa Strecker)

When CSFC founding member Azara Mohammadi was an anthropology student at UAF she was excited to learn about holistic approaches to food security, which includes anthropological knowledge and conceptual tools. “The emphasis on understanding food as not just food, but a confluence of many of the aspects of human life within a unique ecological zone,” she said.

As an aspiring champion for local agriculture in the Fairbanks community, Mohammadi has attended conferences to learn how college campuses around the nation are successfully getting more locally grown food into student meal plans. What works in California or Texas may not work in Alaska so she has plowed diligently through numerous plans and worked with the student group to customize what might work best at UAF. “Right now we are helping the procurement committee write the best possible RFP (request for proposal) and trying to choose the best candidate for the dining services contract,” Mohammadi said.

To guide them, the CSFC members conducted a comprehensive survey of UAF students to assess food habits and desires. “There were surprising comparisons between local food and junk food,” Mohammadi said. “The opinion around campus is that undergrads want junk food, but very few students indicated it was important to them, but we saw that local foods are important to students.”

The survey, which is found, revealed that 27 percent of students responding strongly agree that local food is important to them. When asked why, comments included: “It is usually fresher and often tastes better.” “Because people in Fairbanks need to make a living and offering more food on campus from a variety of local places do better for the university as the local businesses.” “It’s often more environmentally friendly and economically advantageous.” “It should be fresh and contain all the nutrition the food would have when it is fresh.”

“The vegetables Fairbanks grows are fantastic.” “This is the best way to know where your food comes from. You can easily find out if pesticides were used, how it was packaged. Usually local food is not packaged to last a long time, meaning that the food is fresh and better for you because it doesn't have preservatives in it.” “I have grown up on a farm and know where my food comes from.

However, once I came here I was surprised to realize I never know where the food comes from and if it is even real (such as the eggs).” “Because when it's local, it's fresher. Plus, I think it is a great idea for us to support local growers so we can be as self-sustaining as possible. Another plus is that local farmers are much less likely to use the same commercial pesticides and fertilizers that big farming companies do.”

Another telling figure is that 37 percent strongly agree that they would like their meal plan to include more local food. “In general I feel happier when eating local, like I'm giving something back and helping those around me,” one student wrote.

When they aren’t surveying and petitioning or working on RFPs, the dedicated CSFC hosts food-awareness symposiums and events, the most recent being Food Day Oct. 24 at UAF.
Mohammadi said the group hardly promoted the nationally-connected event but drew between 150 to 200 attendees. “The turnout was amazing,” she said.

After UAF culinary students prepared and served locally grown foods, there were “lightning lectures” on pickling, Fish to School program in western Alaska, healthy eating and water and agriculture in Alaska. “People stayed for the talks even though they probably just came for the food,” Mohammadi said.

Lively discussion forums were held on Alaska’s food system and food security as well as “A Glimpse into Our Foodways,” in which 30 anthropology students presented short videos telling stories of everyday eating, holiday meals and adaptation to the foodways of college life.

Contact information:

UAF hosts Arctic Day

UAF will kick off a celebration of the Arctic with a talk from Alice Rogoff, publisher of the Alaska Dispatch News. The talk, “The Importance of the Arctic and the Media’s Role in Communicating its Value,” will take place in the Charles Davis Concert Hall on the Fairbanks campus at 6:30 p.m. on Nov. 12.

Rogoff, whose Alaska Dispatch Publishing LLC bought the Anchorage Daily News in April, chairs the advisory council for the international Arctic Circle organization. Rogoff also established the Arctic Imperative Summit in Girdwood, in 2011 and 2012.Rogoff is the majority owner of Alaska Dispatch Publishing. The Alaska Dispatch offered a web-only news site starting in 2008.

After the purchase of the Anchorage Daily News this year, the two entities merged to form the Alaska Dispatch News. Rogoff, now an Anchorage resident, is the former chief financial officer of U.S. News and World Report and the spouse of David Rubenstein, co-founder of The Carlyle Group, a Washington D.C.-based private equity firm that ranks among the largest in the world.

Other events on the Fairbanks campus Nov. 12–13 include an international flag dedication ceremony, Arctic research displays, a resource fair for students focused on opportunities in the Arctic and a town hall-style presentation about key UAF Arctic-related initiatives. This educational event is designed to bring students and faculty together to share information about Arctic opportunities and activities at UAF.

Wednesday, Nov. 12
• International flag dedication ceremony and reception in the Regents Great Hall at 5:30 p.m.
• Keynote speaker: Alice Rogoff, publisher of the Alaska Dispatch News, in the Charles Davis Concert Hall at 6:30 p.m.

Thursday, Nov. 13
• Research displays and student resource fair in the Regents Great Hall from 8:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m.
• Maj. Gen. Michael Shields, U.S. Army Alaska, presents, “The Role of the US Army in a Changing Arctic, ” in Schaible Auditorium at 10 a.m.
• UAF Arctic Initiatives Town Hall at 1:15 p.m. in the Murie Building auditorium.

Town hall speakers include:
Chancellor Brian Rogers
Vice Chancellor for University and Student Advancement and co-director of UArctic Institute for Arctic Policy Mike Sfraga
Vice Chancellor for Research Mark Myers
International Arctic Research Center Director Larry Hinzman
Graduate School Dean and UArctic Vice President for Academic Affairs John Eichelberger
Vice Chancellor for Rural, Community and Native Education Evon Peter
Professor Mary Erhlander, director of the Northern Studies Program
International Programs and Initiatives Director Donna Anger

Arctic Day is sponsored by the UAF Chancellor’s Office. For more information, contact Cheri Renson at 474-5114

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Sparrow shares scientific research with K-12 teachers and students

"Science is not for just doing research," says Professor Elena Sparrow. "It is for everyday living; it's a useful tool that is not just for the elite. Everybody needs to be science-literate."

Sparrow, who explained her work with the Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment program, to natural resources management graduate students Oct. 30, will present again at the American Geophysical Union annual meeting in December in San Francisco. She is no stranger to public speaking, having shared her passion for science education in over 50 countries.
Elena Sparrow

Growing up in the Philippines, Sparrow wanted to be a medical doctor so she could help people but her family couldn't afford medical school. Eventually, she turned to agriculture, specifically soil science.

Her current role is connecting research to K-12 educators through the GLOBE program, engaging teachers and students in ecological science. She offers a University of Alaska Fairbanks course that emphasizes earth system science, scientific methods for conducting investigations and assessments and program implementation. Teachers can earn credit for the 500-level summer workshop.

GLOBE, an international science education program, was started in 1995 by Al Gore.. The worldwide hands-on primary and secondary school-based science and education program is active in 112 countries. Students study atmosphere and climate, phenology, hydrology, soil science and more.

"We get teachers of all kinds," Sparrow said. "It's amazing; the way you use it depends on the grade level."

Not only do students learn through the program, the data they gather and enter into the GLOBE website is used in scientific research. "Students contribute to new knowledge because they are contributing data," Sparrow said.

She encourages teachers to incorporate science in as many ways as possible, with interesting books about science included in the mix. "Some schools only have 45 minutes a week for science education," she said. "You can add more through reading."

Students conduct hands-on experiments with authentic purposes in mind, keep science notebooks and present their work in novel ways. Mapping is another key component.

Sparrow was especially pleased that in Alaska students are working with Native elders to learn indigenous knowledge and expertise. Citizen science is another area that excites her. "It is a tool for communities," she said.

But she is most proud of GLOBE students who continue their educations and contribute to society. "We have a new breed of scientists," she said.

Further reading:

Scientist of the Month, International Arctic Research Center, June 3, 2013

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Ping honored by Soil Science Society of America

Professor Chien-Lu Ping was elected a Fellow of the Soil Science Society of America at the SSSA annual meeting in Long Beach, California, Nov. 2-5. Only .3 percent of SSSA members are elected as Fellows.

Chien-Lu Ping
Ping, who has been at the University of Alaska Fairbanks since 1982, earned master's and doctoral degrees at Washington State University. He researches soil genesis and classification of permafrost-affected soils, soil organic carbon dynamics in soils of the arctic and boreal regions and soil climate and its application in land-use interpretation.

His work was broadcast nationally in 2008 when he discovered that frozen arctic soil contains nearly twice the greenhouse gas producing organic material as was previously estimated.

Further reading:

Arctic Soil May Contain Nearly Twice Greenhouse Gas Producing Material Than Previously Estimated, Science Daily, Oct. 8, 2008

Chien-Lu Ping in the field.