Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Matanuska Farm celebrates Alaska Ag Day Aug. 6

The Matanuska Experiment Farm in Palmer will host Alaska Agriculture Appreciation Day Aug. 6 with family activities, live animals, tours and music.

The free annual event, from noon to 5 p.m., will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the site selection for the research experiment station.

Kids participate in the 2014 Alaska Agriculture Appreciation Day.
Edwin Remsberg photo
Associate Professor Norm Harris, who is based at the farm, has provided a historical note on the anniversary. He said the 1915 report of the Alaska Agricultural Experiment Station said, “Mr. M.D. Snodgrass, the assistant in charge of the Kodiak Experiment Station, was detailed to make an agricultural reconnaissance of the Matanuska Valley to select a site for an agricultural experiment station in the valley.” The report notes that Snodgrass located a tract of 240 acres for a station site, about 140 acres of which could be cultivated.

Snodgrass was in charge of the Matanuska Experiment Station from 1921 to 1929, became a colonization agent for the railroad and later farmed in the area. He also served in the territorial legislature and on the university's board of regents, and he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Alaska in 1961.
Milton Snodgrass stands among the sunflowers at the Fairbanks Experiment Station.
SNRE archives

Matanuska-Susitna Borough Mayor Larry DeVilbiss will provide opening remarks at this year’s Agriculture Appreciation Day.

The day has the atmosphere of a country fair with educational presentations and a number of kids’ and family activities. Presentations will be provided on soils testing, high tunnels and interactive trail maps. The Cooperative Extension Service will offer cooking classes on millet, beets, kale and rhubarb.

Demonstrations will feature spinning and weaving wool and goat milking. Kids’ activities will include vegetable bobbing, a kids’ veggie harvest, hay wagon rides and a dunk tank featuring Deena Paramo, the superintendent of the Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District.

Vendors will showcase a variety of food and non-food products. Music from 4 to 7 p.m. will feature a steel drum ensemble, country music by Ken Peltier and a jam session.

The farm, at 1509 S. Georgeson Road, provides research facilities, classroom space and offices for University of Alaska Fairbanks research and Extension. Call Theresa Isaac at 907-746-9450 for more information.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Pogue receives staff employee award

Project Coordinator Michele Pogue has been named the SNRE Employee of the Quarter for Jan. 1 to March 31, 2015.
Co-workers who nominated her cited her care and dedication to submitting accurate grant proposals. One of her co-workers noted, “Michele takes pride in her work and it shows in the number of funded grants that go through our system. Her dedication spills over to evening and/or weekend work to take advantage of quiet time reviewing detailed budgets in order to make the deadlines.”
Another nominator wrote, “Without Michele’s diligence, our grants would not be submitted on time. She is integral to the grant submission process. It has been a very grant deadline-heavy month — and she is making it happen.”
Pogue joined the Marine Corps after she graduated from high school in Florida, and she was stationed in South Carolina. After leaving the military, she earned her bachelor’s degree in business and economics (double major) from Eastern Montana College. She also worked in Montana and then Washington State handling grants for city governments then in Oklahoma to manage a temporary service.
Pogue moved north in October 1994 to live close to her daughter and family, while her son-in-law was stationed at Eielson Air Force Base. She had lived in Montana so she was knew what the cold was like.
“I knew it was a challenge up here, but holy Toledo, what was I thinking?” she asks.
Her 20-year stint with Cooperative Extension began in January 1995. She likes working with numbers and with people.  She started work at Extension and the school, when it was known as the School of Agriculture and Land Resources Management. She handled recruiting and HR work. After a time, she started working on grants and then grant proposals, which she enjoys the most, working with faculty to make the best proposal possible.
“Every grant is different,” she said. “There are absolutely none that are the same.”
In her free time, she likes to read, everything from nonfiction to science fiction and mysteries. Her daughters live in Oklahoma and Alabama and Michele visits them often.
Michele is known for a wry sense of humor. “I just live a quiet life in North Pole with my cat,” she joked.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Soils tour to be featured in 'Between Earth and Sky'

Texas Tech University Public Media is in Alaska producing a documentary about Professor Chien-Lu Ping’s annual arctic soils field tour and climate change.

The tour, in its 23rd year, is also known as NRM 489, the Alaska Soil Geography Field Trip. The film crew interviewed Research Associate Gary Michaelson at the Palmer lab earlier this week and traveled to Matanuska Glacier and Denali National Park before meeting up with participants in the field tour, which begins Monday in Fairbanks.

The 11-day field tour will focus on frozen permafrost soils. Four soil scientists, including Ping, a three-member camera crew and 20 students will examine soils and ecology from Fairbanks to Prudhoe Bay, with stops at Marion Creek near Coldfoot and Toolik Lake.

Michaelson said the film crew is interested in “how arctic soils are affected by climate change and how they will change.”

A post from a blog that will follow the field trip notes, “Through the lens of Alaska we can see how climate change is affecting our entire world, and through the soil science tour we can better understand what these changes mean.”

Michaelson said the crew will interview a permafrost specialist in Fairbanks and plans to work in other aspects of climate change, such as the effects on wildlife. Film production will take place Aug. 17 to Aug. 8 with a release date of early 2017. The crew hopes the documentary will air on public television and other media.

The idea for the documentary came from a Texas Tech soil scientist David Weindorff, who has participated in the tour several years with his students. He also helped raise money for the project. Funding has been provided by the the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Soil Science Society of America, the University of Alaska Fairbanks, the Department of Plant and Soil Science at Texas University, Texas Tech Public Media and Texas Tech University. The filming blog will feature video clips, journal entries, photos and more. See its slide shows and blog posts.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Scientific team studies North Slope soils

Chien-Lu Ping examines soil for a color determination.

Professor Chien-Lu Ping is on the North Slope the first two weeks of July leading a team of six scientists to complete the fourth field season of sampling different ice-wedge polygon types found across the patterned ground of arctic Alaska.

The team includes Ping and Research Associate Gary Michaelson of SNRE, soil scientists Julie Jastrow and Roser Matamala and science technicians Tim Vugteveen and Jeremy Lederhouse from the Department of Energy Argonne National Laboratory in Chicago.

The team sampled soils near Franklin Bluffs last Thursday.
Michaelson said sampling involves collecting cores and doing soil descriptions across pattern types at sites on the coastal plain from Barrow and Prudhoe Bay to the northern foothills of the Brooks Range at Happy Valley, Sagwon and Imnaviat Creek. Soil samples and descriptions are being used for evaluation and modeling of soil carbon stocks and organic matter decomposability in the changing arctic environment.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Reindeer camp hosted in Nome

Participants in the Reindeer Youth Development Camp look at native plants and are accompanied by Brownie, a reindeer owned by Bruce and Ann Davis.

The Reindeer Research Program hosted its second annual Reindeer Youth Development Camp June 25-30 at the Midnite Sun Reindeer Ranch outside of Nome.

The first camp, held at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, taught animal husbandry, including halter breaking, record keeping, meat cutting and more. Participants formed a 4-H club, the Future Reindeer Herders of Alaska.

Jennifer Robinette, program coordinator with the Reindeer Research Program, said this year’s camp focused on reindeer-related activities, such as orienteering, making rawhide drums, learning about native plants, search and rescue and outdoor survival.

“The idea was for the kids to become more connected to reindeer herding,” she said.

Nine participants from Nome and Anchorage ranged in age from 10 to 17. Some were already members of the 4-H club and others joined. Most came from reindeer-herding families but three were new to the activity, Robinette said. Families also participated.

Kids and adults learned how to prepare hides and bark tanning brews to make rawhide drums out of reindeer skins donated by Bruce and Ann Davis, who own and operate the reindeer ranch. Campers stretched the skin on a frame.

The campers also went on a hike with MaryJane Litchard to learn about native edible plants and medicines that were in season. The Davises’ bottle-raised reindeer, Brownie, followed, teaching the kids about and lichens and plants reindeer need to stay healthy. The kids were also introduced to geocaching and Finnish games. Robinette said the lasso lessons and practice were a big hit with the Future Reindeer Herders.

Robinette thanks Bruce and Ann Davis, who are 2014 graduates of the Northwest Campus’ High-Latitude Range Management Certificate program. They are now learning how to become 4-H resource leaders to pass on their knowledge to the youth who live nearby. She also thanks others who helped make the camp possible, including Bonnie Davis, Jessica Macaraeg, MaryJane Litchard, Pat Hahn, Zir-Paul Macaraeg, Kim Gray, Allison Johnson and Jackie Hrabok-Leppajarvi.