Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Ambitious survey planned on public lands access

UAF international students raft on the Nenana River near Denali National Park. UAF photo by Todd Paris

SNRE Associate Professor Pete Fix, who has conducted recreation surveys for state and federal agencies over the past 12 years, is undertaking his most ambitious Alaska project to date — with help from an Extension team.

Working under a three-year $399,407 cooperative agreement from the Bureau of Land Management, the research team will train others to survey recreational and subsistence users of public lands across Alaska. The information, collected mostly on site, will help agencies determine how Alaskans and other visitors access public lands, whether access is adequate for different stakeholders and how it can be improved.

“Hopefully it will lead to better planning for access to federal lands in the region,” says Fix.

Rural and subsistence users of public lands will be surveyed at two conferences, but the largest effort will take place this coming summer. Six aides, most likely college students, will survey users of public lands at designated locations between Memorial Day and Labor Day. In the Interior, for instance, they plan to interview travelers at the Coldfoot visitor center, the Wickersham Dome trailhead, Nome Creek Valley, Tangle Lakes, Denali National Park, Public Lands Information Centers in Fairbanks and Tok, and at the Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge. Locations are equally varied in Southcentral and Southeast.

Using iPads and paper surveys, the aides will interview in the same locations several times through the summer. “I’ll be paying people to hang out there,” Fix jokes.

Fix said help from an Extension team is key to the statewide survey.  Lisa Wedin, a program assistant in Anchorage, will provide coordination, training and logistics help for the aides, who will survey individuals traveling by cruise ship, ferry, airplane, car and bicycle.  Jasmine Shaw in Sitka will also help with logistics. Thorne Bay Agent Karen Petersen will advise on the survey in Southeast and Extension Evaluation Specialist Alda Norris is helping with the online survey design.

Samples will be taken on certain dates, timed to take advantage of the height of the fishing season at the Russian River, for instance,  and moose hunting in the Nome Creek Valley. Samples will target local and non-local users, who will be asked to answer a longer follow-up survey by email. All told, Fix hopes to get 1,800 surveys answered in the Interior, 2,700 in Southcentral and 2,100 in Southeast.  All the information will be assembled and analyzed by the end of 2017.

Fix said the recreational use surveys should help with long-range planning on how to improve the visitor experience.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

SNRE profiles: Sarah Lewis offers programs in Southeast

Sarah Lewis makes chowder at the Harborview Harvest Fest in Juneau.
Sarah Lewis is what you might call a renaissance Extension agent. Based in Juneau, Lewis became the Southeast Alaska family and community development agent after working as an architect for 12 years and receiving a master’s degree in social work.

The connections between serving as an architect and an Extension agent are stronger than you might think, she says. The skills one develops as a project manager, solving problems, researching and writing, all transfer well to her Extension role. Lewis served as a project manager for the City and Borough of Juneau architecture division for nine years before coming to Extension in January of 2013.

Lewis already had a strong interest in food security and emergency planning. She trained as a Master Gardener and served on local foods groups for several years before joining Extension. She also wrote a freelance column for the Juneau Empire called Main Street Homesteader with articles about cooking, urban homesteading, food security, sustainable architecture and other topics.

She says her food preservation skills were definitely at the hobby level, however. Other Extension agents and a food focus group in Juneau helped improve her skills, her knowledge of food safety and her ability to teach educational programs.

The agent has offered a variety of programs since then, including food preservation and cooking classes, emergency and disaster planning, and sessions on starting a small food business. This past year, with support from the Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium, she traveled to 12 Southeast communities to test pressure canner gauges, teach food preservation and talk about establishing a food business and the state’s requirements.

“In Southeast, we really need to build up our local foods network,” she said.

Lewis taught classes in Sitka, Haines and Ketchikan, but also in a string of smaller communities — Skagway, Klukwan, Tenakee Springs, Thorne Bay, Hoonah, Craig, Klawock, Hollis, and Hydaburg. Classes ranged from Canning 101 to Making Pickles and What to Do When Your Freezer Fails. She taught several sessions of Cooking for One at senior centers.

The travel grant allowed Lewis to make connections in communities she might not have reached otherwise, but since continuing travel funds are limited, she is piloting a program aimed at training community members to teach safe food preservation classes on their own. After a weekend of training, individuals will take an exam to be certified as a home food preserver. She hopes to offer the training in Ketchikan, Juneau and Sitka.

She is also experimenting with teaching workshops offered in libraries through the OWL network. She taught a Halloween session on freezer failure, which was attended by folks in several communities, including an enthusiastic contingent from Coffman Cove.

Lewis has been a Girl Scout leader since her daughter, who is a sophomore in high school, was in first grade, and she is also branching into 4-H. She has taught at the last two summer 4-H camps, and she and her husband recently started a 4-H sailing club using the family’s 42-foot sailboat and a friend’s 34-foot sailboat.

“I’m decent crew and I’m really glad my sophomore daughter loves to sail,” she said. She handles the administrative details and a friend, her husband and daughter teach the 4-H’ers, who are between the ages of 11 and 16.

The family likes to sail around Juneau and has made week-long trips through the Inside Passage. Lewis grew up in Juneau and moved back to the community in 2003.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Department of Veterinary Medicine hosts open house

The University of Alaska Fairbanks Department of Veterinary Medicine will host an open house on Saturday, Nov. 14, from 11 a.m to 5 p.m. Participants can enjoy activities and demonstrations in the department's new home.

Faculty, staff and students from the joint veterinary medicine program with Colorado State University will lead the activities. The open house is for all ages, including children. It's a great opportunity for high school students to get a glimpse of what veterinary school is like.

Participants can:
  • Tour the veterinary medicine program's new home and meet its first class of students.
  • Test their own surgery skills and watch stuffed animals be sutured.
  • Watch veterinarians use a dog mannequin to show how they give CPR, and view other life-size animal models and real skeletons.
  • Find out what radiographs can reveal.
  • Get a face painting and go home with an animal balloon.
The program's first class of 10 students, seven of whom are Alaska residents, began in the fall of 2015. They will spend their first two years at UAF and their last two at CSU. The joint program is housed within UAF's College of Natural Science and Mathematics and is Alaska’s first professional veterinary medicine program. It gives preference to qualified Alaska students who then pay a reduced tuition their first two years. All students receive their Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree through CSU.

Extension veterinarian Lisa Lunn also teaches through the department. This article was written by Meghan Murphy, the public information officer for the UAF College of Natural Science and Mathematics. 

Monday, November 2, 2015

Students defend theses and a dissertation

Three SNRE graduate students will defend their theses and a dissertation in early November. Josie Sam, a Ph.D. candidate in natural resources and sustainability, will defend her dissertation, titled “What community characteristics lead to the successful outcome of rural water projects?” at noon Nov. 6 in 201 O’Neill. Sam is from Ghana and spent time there while studying models for sustainable water projects in developing countries. She has been a student at UAF since 2009 and earned a master’s degree here. Her advisor is Associate Professor Susan Todd.

Willie Wilkins and Brooke McDavid will defend their theses for a Master’s of Science in natural resource management. Wilkins will make his presentation at 1 p.m. Nov. 4 in 183 Arctic Health Research Building. Wilkins served in Malawi with the Peace Corps and his thesis is titled, "An Impact Assessment  of Current Rural Alaskan Village Solid Waste Management Systems: A Case Study." McDavid participated in the Peace Corps Master’s International Program in Fiji. She will defend her thesis at noon Nov. 9 in 201 O’Neill. It is titled, “How can participatory social network analysis contribute to community-led natural resources management?” The thesis is a case study from Bua Province, Fiji.