Thursday, June 25, 2015

Pat Holloway retires June 30


Pat Holloway poses in the botanical garden. UAF photo by Todd Paris
Horticulture Professor Pat Holloway officially retired from the university June 30, but it sounds like it it will be a working retirement — at least for now.

She will work half-time this summer with Washington State University researchers who are studying Botrytis, a type of gray mold that afflicts peonies, and thrips, a tiny insect that causes damages to peony flowers as they open. She plans to teach one-credit classes on plant propagation (campus) and wild and cultivated berries (distance) this fall and plant propagation in the spring. She is working on several other peony research projects and will continue to help the peony association if asked.

She does not want a traditional retirement.  “I can’t do that,” she said. “I’m not that kind of person.”

Pat with peonies at the garden. Photo by Cassie Galasso
Holloway began her association with the university in 1975 as a research aide for horticulturist Don Dinkel at the Agricultural Experiment Station. “He taught me how to drive my very first tractor,” she said. Holloway sought him out because they shared an interest in native plants.

She worked with Dinkel for three years before returning to school and earning a doctorate in horticulture at the University of Minnesota. Her dissertation was on lingonberries. She returned to UAF in 1982.

Horticulturists who work for universities Outside tend to be much more specialized, she said. “In the Lower 48, you can spend your entire life working on garlic.”

Working as a horticulturist in Alaska requires being flexible and responding to needs and opportunities as they arise, she said.

One example is her work on antioxidants, which started after a study showed that blueberries Outside had high levels of antioxidants. “Our phones started ringing off the hook,” she said. People wanted to know how Alaska berries measured up.

Another example is her peony research, which began after she learned that peonies bloomed in Alaska in July, at a time they did not bloom elsewhere  — and that international buyers were interested.

She used Ted Stevens’ earmark money to buy 30 varieties of peonies and research which ones grew best. Variety trials began in 2001. Her work with peonies led to a specialization of a certain kind because, with the retirement of another horticulturist in Kansas, she became the sole peony researcher in North America. She now has peony contacts around the world.

Holloway is best known for developing the Georgeson Botanical Garden, which consisted of unnamed research plots when she started, and her work supporting the peony industry.

 “Pat’s the one who opened the door,” says Ron Illingworth, who, with his family, operates North Pole Peonies, the largest peony operation in the Interior.

Ron and his wife, Marjorie, are founding members of the Alaska Peony Growers Association and have almost 16,000 peonies planted. Illingworth said Holloway provided growers information on which varieties grew best and advice on how to grow them and manage pests. She has also brought up specialists to advise peony growers and to provide research.

Holloway plans to plant 500 peony plants at her home off Gilmore Trail. She does not plan to sell the flowers but would like to have them available for continuing research.

She does want to do more traveling, camping and hiking, which she enjoys. During a recent trip, she and her son encountered a Society of Martha Washington Festival in Laredo, Texas, which was unexpected and a great deal of fun. Quirky museums, local festivals and national parks will all be stops on her retirement travels.

Other retirement plans include writing books on propagation, Alaska native plants and historical gardens in Alaska. She would also like to study botanical illustration just for fun and to continue developing one-credit online courses for the horticulture industry and others who are interested.


Holloway will be recognized this fall with one of UAF’s highest honors, an Emil Usibelli Distinguished Service Award.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Student, faculty publish on yellow-cedar trees


John Krapek marks the location and measures yellow-cedar trees near Juneau.
SNRE graduate student John Krapek and his co-advisor, Assistant Professor Brian Buma, published a short natural history piece in the June issue of the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. “Yellow-cedar: climate change and natural history at odds” describes how in southern and coastal portions of the yellow-cedar range in British Columbia and Southeast Alaska the species is dying because of climate change. At the same time, it is slowly expanding its range northward into suitable habitat and more favorable climes.

The article concludes, “Experimental plantings by the U.S. Forest Service near the northern range edge grow well, and land managers are considering further aiding this species in its slow march north. For now, at least, the race is on.” Krapek is studying natural resources management and Buma teaches forest ecosystem ecology at the University of Alaska Southeast and is an affiliate assistant professor in SNRE.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Interim Dean Steve Sparrow to retire in June

Steve Sparrow came to University of Alaska Fairbanks in the mid-1970s as a research technician for a professor he describes as the “predecessor to the predecessor” of SNRE soil scientist Mingchu Zhang.

Steve Sparrow
After earning a doctorate at the University of Minnesota, he returned to UAF in May 1981 as an agronomist for what was then known as the School of Agriculture and Land Resources Management.

Sparrow retires June 30 after 34 years as an agronomist, eight years as an associate dean of the School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences and, for the last three years, interim dean of the school and interim director of the Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station.

Sparrow’s primary research included forage crops, biomass crops and soil management.  He researched the effect of different levels of tillage on erosion and potential crops that that were feasible to grow as biomass, particularly the ones grown successfully elsewhere, such as willows, poplars and grasses.

He has taught or team taught many university classes, including undergraduate courses such as soil biology, soil management and Perspectives in Natural Resource Management and a graduate level soil microbiology course. As an administrator, he continued to teach, most recently a soil biology course in 2014.

Darlene masiak worked with Sparrow as his research technician for 27 years before retiring two years ago.

“He was a great boss,” she said. “He was generally right by your side working when you did fieldwork in the summers and labwork during the winters.”

Grad student Amanda Byrd demonstrates soil measuring techniques.
Amanda Byrd demonstrates soil measuring techniques.
Usually he was easygoing. Masiak only saw him lose his temper when he was dealing with machines, particularly a recalcitrant copier. After a few incidents of lively verbiage, a 2-by-4 soon rested on the copier for Steve to use for “repairs.”)

Darlene says Sparrow was always supportive of students and their research. She points out that the two research technicians who preceded her were Joan Braddock and Larry Hinzman, who went on to earn doctorates. Braddock serves now as the interim dean of the School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences. Hinzman is currently the UAF interim vice chancellor for research.

Sparrow says he’s come full circle with the merger of the school and Extension­, because the dean of the school and the Extension director used to share a suite in the Arctic Health Research Building — the same suite where his office is now.

He is proud of the merger, which has been considered or attempted at least two and maybe three times previously.

“We certainly got the merger up and running,” he said.

He believes it makes sense since the school and Extension are mandated to report together to the National Institute of Food and Agriculture and both entities share similar interests.

Asked about his retirement plans, Sparrow joked, “I’m going to buy a TV.” Apparently, the household did not upgrade after the television signal went digital.

Other retirement plans include pursuing some of his hobbies, including fly tying, fly fishing and woodworking.  Only half of the Sparrow family intends to retire. His wife, Elena Sparrow, will continue working for SNRE as a research professor and outreach education coordinator. Eventually, they may consider a move to the Portland, Oregon, area to be closer to their two adult children, although that is still very much undecided.


The School of Natural Resources and Extension will celebrate Steve Sparrow’s time at the university with a retirement potluck event from 4 to 7 p.m. June 26 at the Georgeson Botanical Garden Pavilion.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Mud Day comes to Georgeson June 20

Participants in the 2014 Mud Day have a great time at the garden. Nancy Tarnai photo
Come feel the mud between your toes. The Georgeson Botanical Garden will host its third annual Mud Day in the Babula Children’s Garden on Saturday, June 20, from 1 to 4 p.m.

Bring towels and, perhaps, clean clothes to wear after having fun in the mud. Cleanup stations will be provided. The Fairbanks Community Food Bank will collect a suggested donation of two cans of food or $2 per child.

The garden is located at the farthest west edge of the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus at the Fairbanks Experiment Farm, 117 W. Tanana Drive. For more information, contact the garden at 474-7222.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Study: Changing climate prompts boreal forest shift

Sam Demientieff takes a core sample from a mature white spruce along the Yukon River in 2007. Photo by Claire Alix

With warming summer temperatures across Alaska, white spruce tree growth in Interior Alaska has declined to record low levels, while the same species in Western Alaska is growing better than ever measured before.

The findings are the result of a study led by University of Alaska Fairbanks School of Natural Resources and Extension researcher Glenn Juday, Claire Alix of the University of Paris 1 Pantheon-Sorbonne, and Tom Grant, formerly an adjunct faculty member at UAF. Their findings were recently published online by the journal Forest Ecology and Management.

“For the first time across a major forest region, we have real data showing that biome shift has started,” Juday said. “This is not a scenario model, or a might, or a maybe. The boreal forest in Interior Alaska is very near dying from unsuitably warm temperatures. The area in Western Alaska where the forest transitions to tundra is now the productive heart of the boreal forest.”

The paper is the result of 10 years of research. Juday and Alix gathered white spruce tree cores and disks from 540 trees in 36 stands along the Yukon, Tanana and Kuskokwim rivers. They started in easternmost Alaska and sampled downriver to the western edge of the boreal forest near the Bering Sea. The research required the team to travel hundreds of miles down some of the most pristine large rivers left on Earth. Sam Demientieff, a longtime Interior river traveler and Alaska Native leader, provided much of the river transportation and expertise required to navigate the silt-filled water and constantly shifting channels.

The researchers took two measurements from each annual growth ring of the 100- to 250-year-old trees, then analyzed the nearly quarter-million measurements to determine how much the trees grew each year. They then compared that growth to temperature data from eastern, Interior and Western Alaska historical records and weather stations. In addition, they drew on previous scientists’ work chronicling tree growth and temperature back more than two centuries.

They found that in Interior Alaska, as summer temperatures rose, the growth of the trees slowed. Meanwhile, in Western Alaska, which is also warming, the trees are growing more rapidly.

White spruce trees thrive within an optimal temperature range. The long-term average temperature in Interior Alaska used to be at the high end of that optimum. In Western Alaska, the average temperature was below or at the low end of the optimal temperature range.

In the mid-1970s, temperatures suddenly increased and have cycled around a higher average since. Interior Alaska’s average temperature became warmer than the trees’ ideal range, and growth slowed. Meanwhile, the average temperature in Western Alaska increased to more closely match optimal conditions, which increased growth.

“One aspect of the study that makes the results especially clear is that the trees were all growing in the same environment along the big rivers,” Juday said. “In many transect studies, lots of variables change across the area studied. In ours, the main thing that changed was the climate, from the hot, dry summers of the Interior, to the cooler, wetter climate near the coast.”

Juday notes that their findings don’t mean the boreal forest is going away. It’s simply shifting away from lowlands in Interior Alaska to higher elevations and the western part of the state, he said. “The movement of an entire biome is often hypothesized in models of probable future climate, but the Alaska boreal forest is actually shifting today, and the process is well underway.”


The field sampling crew with Glenn Juday poses at a camp along the Yukon River in 2007. Photo by Claire Alix

This article was written by Marmian Grimes of UAF Marketing and Communications.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Coriander production publication released

"Small Scale Coriander Production in Interior Alaska" a new publication of the Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station, describes research aimed at determining whether coriander can be grown as a seed crop in Alaska. The report's authors are Professor Pat Holloway, horticulturist Grant Matheke and Katie Kokx, a former undergraduate intern.

Coriander is a spice that is used in Asian, Middle Eastern, North African, Mexican and South America cuisines, and it is grown and harvested commercially in many parts of the world. The plant’s leaves are sold as the culinary herb cilantro.

Coriander has been grown in Alaska for many years, but a gourmet food company in Fairbanks was interested in whether commercial quantities of the seed could be grown in Alaska and developed as an all-Alaska product.

According to the report, seven coriander cultivars from a U.S. Department of Agriculture coriander collection were grown in the Georgeson Botanical Garden. The plants, including seed heads, were harvested and cleaned by hand, a tedious process.

The report concludes that small-scale seed production is feasible in Fairbanks for the gourmet market, but investment in equipment for large-scale production is probably not feasible. See the report on the  SNRE publications site.



Coriander  is a two-seeded fruit with a hard, nut-like covering.
Wikipedia photo by BierfaƟ. Creative Commons Attribution: Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Eicken, Holloway, Newman named 2015 Usibelli Award Winners

The University of Alaska Fairbanks has announced recipients of the 2015 Emil Usibelli Distinguished Teaching, Research and Service Awards.

David Newman, professor of physics, received the teaching award; Hajo Eicken, professor of geophysics, received the research award; and Pat Holloway, professor of horticulture, received the service award. All three will be honored at a reception this fall.
Pat Holloway, UAF photo by Todd Paris
Newman joined the UAF faculty in 1998, after working for five years as a Wigner Fellow and then research scientist at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. He teaches courses across the physics curriculum, from introductory courses for non-majors to specialized graduate-level courses and seminars, consistently earning high marks in student evaluations, even in introductory courses. He serves as an advisor and mentor to undergraduate and graduate students.

“It is noteworthy that (his) nomination is from a student, and she clearly articulates what I have observed with Dr. Newman’s teaching,” said College of Natural Science and Mathematics Dean Paul Layer in his letter of support. “He is an engaging lecturer. He can command the attention of students in large lecture environments. He can make the most difficult topics in physics accessible and fun, and he really cares about student learning.”

The student who nominated Newman, Joyce Dustin Demientieff, is a national board-certified teacher who returned to UAF to study engineering after teaching for 25 years.

“David Newman is a much better teacher than I was,” she said in her nomination letter. “He inspires and encourages real curiosity. He has the chutzpah and knowledge to open every class fielding random physics questions. I am impressed that he has never floundered with the barrage and always has a cogent answer.”

In addition to encouraging questions and interaction, even in large classes, Newman is an advocate for using technology to enhance students’ access to education. He records his lectures and homework and review sessions and makes them available to students for review, and requires a web project in all classes. He encourages graduate students to write blogs and to record their work, which teaches them to explain their science clearly to non-scientists.
“My philosophy in teaching all classes, and particularly introductory classes, is that students should see the relevance of the course to the world around them and see the fun of physics,” Newman said. “The thing that motivates me most are comments from students I meet up with in daily life that still remember some physics.”

Newman has a bachelor’s degree in physics and mathematics from the University of Pittsburgh and a doctorate in physics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Eicken arrived at UAF in 1998, after 10 years as a student and researcher at the Alfred Wegener Institute in Germany. His recent work focuses on Arctic sea ice in the context of a changing Arctic and global climate. The research addresses both scientific questions and the needs of diverse groups of people and industries in the Arctic. Eicken serves as interim director of UAF’s International Arctic Research Center.

“In collaboration with graduate students and colleagues I have focused on advancing different approaches to help us understand and track the benefits and threats emanating from polar sea-ice covers, in particular their importance to people and ecosystems,” Eicken said. “This latter work and the importance of the coastal ice cover and related processes for coastal communities, protected marine species and natural resource development in Alaska have led me to examine the broader picture of how best to respond to a rapidly changing maritime Arctic.”

In addition to his excellence as a researcher, Eicken’s colleagues, in their letters of support, noted his skill at working across disciplines to advance both the public’s and the scientific community’s understanding of the Arctic. He places a high priority on educating students and the public, and has been an advocate for incorporating the knowledge of indigenous people into the scientific process.

“He has been a great ambassador for our university and for science,” said Larry Hinzman, interim vice chancellor for research at UAF. “He is an inspiration to all who meet him and he has absolutely made the world a better place through his dedicated efforts to foster interdisciplinary collaborations.”

Eicken has a degree in mineralogy from the Technical University of Clausthal in Germany and a doctorate in natural sciences from the University of Bremen in Germany.

Holloway first came to UAF in 1975 as a research aide at what was then the Agricultural Experiment Station. After a three-year stint at the University of Minnesota, she returned to UAF in 1982 as a lecturer and instructor.

She is best known for two projects that have made their mark on the community and the state: The Georgeson Botanical Garden and Alaska’s peony industry.

When Holloway first inherited what would eventually become the Georgeson Botanical Garden, it was an unlabeled and unnamed research program within the Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station. It was not well connected to the public, she recalls, except for a one-day open house every year.

“In the meantime, tour buses started to arrive,” she said. “Visitors from all of the world tromped through the unlabeled research plots, oohing and aahing over the amazing flowers and vegetables we could grow in Alaska.”

Over the years, Holloway and a plethora of volunteers and colleagues developed the research plots into one of Fairbanks’ most-visited attractions and a center for numerous public outreach and education experiences.

“(The garden) is certainly a valuable asset, not only for UAF, but also for the entire Fairbanks community,” said Steve Sparrow, recently retired interim dean of the School of Natural Resources and Extension. “None of this would have happened without Dr. Holloway’s dedication, determination and hard work.”

Holloway approached her peony work with the same initiative. Holloway learned that peonies, a popular wedding flower, were in bloom in Alaska during July, which was “out of season” everywhere else in the world.

“Of course, I pounced on that idea, made some phone calls, set up a peony trial and reinvented myself into a flower researcher,” she said. Holloway planted her first trial peonies at the Georgeson Botanical Garden in 2001.

Her foresight paid off. Today, Alaska is home to more than 100 peony growers. In 2013, more than 32,000 peonies were exported from Alaska, and the industry is expected to continue its rapid growth.

“While all over the country, family farms are struggling, Alaskan farmers now have a niche crop that can compete economically with crops from the Lower 48,” said Emily Reiter, one of the people who nominated Holloway. “Pat is such a shining example of a learned professor who can share research concepts with farmers, gardeners and the general public.”

Holloway has a bachelor’s degree in biology from Millersville University of Pennsylvania, a master’s degree in horticulture from Washington State University and a doctorate in horticulture from the University of Minnesota.

The Emil Usibelli Distinguished Teaching, Research and Service Awards are considered one of the university’s most prestigious awards. They represent UAF’s tripartite mission and are funded annually from a $600,000 endowment established by Usibelli Coal Mine in 1992.

Each year, a committee that includes members from the faculty, the student body and a member of the UA Foundation Board of Trustees evaluates the nominees. Each winner receives a cash award of $10,000.
This article was written by Marmian Grimes of UAF Marketing and Communications.