Friday, May 20, 2016

Music in the Garden series begins June 2

From left are Headbolt Heaters members Jeff Siniscalchi, Jonathan
 Rosenberg, Suzanne Richards and T.J. O'Donnel.

UAF Summer Sessions and the Georgeson Botanical Garden are once again hosting the Music in the Garden series this summer. Concerts begin at 7 p.m. Thursdays at the garden, beginning June 2.

The first group is Headbolt Heaters. According to Summer Sessions, “three songwriters drive the Headbolt Heaters eclectic sound, with elements of roots, rock, blues, bluegrass and an underbelly of punk.”

Others in the series are:
Marc Brown and the Blues Crews, June 9
Dry Cabin String Band, June 16
Rock Bottom Stompers, June 23
Emily Anderson, June 30
Fairbanks Community Jazz Band, July 14
Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival Celtic Ensemble, July 21
Fairbanks Red Hackle  Pipe Band, July 28
Cold Steel Drums, Aug. 4
ET Barnette String Band, Aug. 11

Sponsors of the series include the Georgeson Botanical Garden, KUAC, Alaska Coffee Roasting Co., and Sound Reinforcement Specialists Inc. The Georgeson Botanical Garden is part of the Fairbanks Experiment Farm.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

SNRE celebrates 2016 UAF graduation

Josephine-Mary Sam smiles after receiving her doctorate. At left is
 Associate Professor Susan Todd. UAF photo by J.R. Ancheta

At Sunday’s UAF graduation, students of the School of Natural Resources and Extension received seven bachelor’s degrees, eight master’s degrees and five doctorates.

John Duffy, Miho Morimoto and Josephine-Mary Sam received Ph.D.s in Natural Resources and Sustainability. Benjamin Gaglioti and Archana Bali were awarded doctorates in Interdisciplinary Studies. Bali was awarded her degree posthumously and it was received by her mother during the ceremony.

From left are new graduates MacKenzie Stamey, Kirsten Williams and
Christin Anderson with Professor Dave Valentine
John Duffy’s dissertation is titled, “What Variables Foster the Adoption and Implementation of Sustainable Practices by Local Governments” and Josephine-Mary Sam’s dissertation is “What Community Characteristics Lead to the Successful Outcome of Rural Water Projects?” Their major professor was Associate Professor Susan Todd.

Miho Morimoto’s dissertation is titled, “Past, Current and Future Forest Harvest and Regeneration Management in Interior Alaska Boreal Forest: Adaptation Under Rapid Climate Change.” Her major advisor was Emeritus Professor Glenn Juday. Bali’s dissertation is titled “The Study of Human-Caribou Systems in the Face of Change: Using Multiple Disciplinary Lenses.” Her major professor was Professor Gary Kofinas.

Other degree recipients included:

Miho Morimoto poses with Professor Glenn Juday after receiving
 her doctorate. UAF photo by J.R. Ancheta
Bachelor of Science in Natural Resources Management
Jared Conrad
Brent Culleton
Brandy Flores
Katherine Mihalczo
Elle Robbe
Michael Sybert
Kirsten Williams
Master of Science in Natural Resources Management
Andrew Allaby
Christin Anderson
Gabriela Halas
Brooke McDavid
Eric Schacht, Natural Resources Management and Geography
Emily Sousa
William Wilkins II
Melissa Woodgate


Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Reindeer program offers animal husbandry course

A group from Stevens Village listens as Greg Finstad talks about managing
 reindeer  in the reindeer pens at the Fairbanks Experiment Farm.

The Reindeer Research Program offered an intensive animal husbandry course to six residents of Stevens Village last week in Fairbanks. The Stevens Village tribal council already has a 2,000-acre buffalo farm south of Delta Junction with 123 animals, but it is considering adding reindeer.

Roberto Burgess, left, and Steve Hjelm look on as
Greg Finstad talks about weighing and handling reindeer.
Erin Carr and George Aguiar help manage the reindeer.
“They’re way easier to manage,” said Steve Hjelm, the farm’s on-site manager, who attended the session at the Fairbanks Experiment Farm. Buffalo are wild animals, he notes, and difficult to manage. 

Hjelm said Stevens Village is very interested in the idea. “There’s a higher demand for reindeer than beef or buffalo.”

While in Fairbanks, the group attended educational sessions to learn about reindeer feed and nutrition, first aid, tagging, calving, halter training, herd handling, recordkeeping, health assessments and meat production. They also viewed reindeer operations at the farm and observed as reindeer were herded, handled and weighed and their hooves trimmed.

Reindeer Research Program Manager Greg Finstad said Stevens Village is looking for different ways to help feed the community since its subsistence harvest is declining. The Tanana Chiefs Conference, Reindeer Research Program and the University of Alaska Anchorage are also generating an economic feasibility study in conjunction with the hands-on experience.

Finstad taught sessions to the Stevens Village group, along with program staff George Aguiar, Darrell Blodgett, Jennifer Robinette and Erin Carr. “We wanted to give them a practical experience to make a more informed decision whether to get reindeer,” he said. 

Monday, May 9, 2016

Georgeson spring plant sale coming up May 14

Volunteers help out at last year's plant sale.

The Georgeson Botanical Garden annual spring plant sale will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. May 14. The Georgeson Botanical Society will host the sale at the garden. The sale will include annuals and perennials, including shrubs and trees, flowers, vegetables, herbs, and fruiting plants, such as currants and gooseberries.

The plants are grown by volunteers in the School of Natural Resources and Extension greenhouse on West Ridge. Members of the society may shop the sale from 6 to 7:30 p.m. the night before. If you’re not a member, you can sign up on the spot. The society supports summer positions and other projects at the university's research and outreach garden. For more information, contact DiCristina at or 907-474-6921.

Friday, May 6, 2016

SNRE Profile: Longtime soils researcher to retire

Chien-Lu Ping, left, and Gary Michaelson on the Arctic Coast during a soil sampling trip.

Gary Michaelson’s ties with the Matanuska Experiment Farm run deep. His father, Neil Michaelson, was an Agricultural Research Service (ARS) soil scientist at the farm and his maternal grandfather, William Sweetman, started the dairy-breeding program there in the 1940s —and stayed for 46 years. Michaelson’s family and grandparents lived in Palmer, but, he says, “I kind of grew up at the experiment station.”

After ARS pulled out of Palmer in the late 1960s, Michaelson’s family moved to Arizona, but he spent summers with his grandparents, working on the farm grounds crew and with agronomist Bill Mitchell on research related to the revegetation of roads developed for early North Slope oil exploration. After graduating from college in 1975, he worked as a lab technician at the Plant and Soil Analysis Laboratory for four years before going to graduate school in Iowa. While working on his master’s degree, he spent summers at the lab and returned to the farm full-time in 1982 as a researcher for the High Latitude Soils Program.

On May 12, the university will recognize Michaelson for 35 years of service, but if you add in the earlier years, he has worked at the farm well over 40 years. He will retire from the university May 31.

David Weindorf, left, and Gary Michaelson take a core sample.
Michaelson enrolled in college expecting to study medical technology, but he switched to soils and agriculture as a sophomore. “I was always interested in science,” he said. “I also realized that I wanted to work outdoors.” 

He earned a bachelor’s degree in agricultural chemistry and soils from University of Arizona and a master’s degree in soil fertility from Iowa State University. For his master’s project, he studied the effects of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium on barley and bromegrass grown on a newly cleared Delta Agricultural Project tract. When he went left for graduate school, the land in Delta was just being cleared. 

Michaelson values his 30-year collaboration with soils Professor Chien-Lu Ping, who retired last December.  “We worked together on everything, he said. “My strength was the lab and his was the field.”

They worked together in the field over the summers and he worked in the lab during the winters analyzing the soil samples and data. Over the years, he has worked on a variety of soils projects, studying the properties of volcanic soil, the soil fertility for the Delta and Point MacKenzie agricultural projects, carbon storage in arctic and subarctic soils, carbon flux in arctic soils and the properties of Interior Alaska’s black spruce soils.

Altogether, he published 17 peer-reviewed journal articles as the lead author and was listed as coauthor on twice that number.

Each project he worked on was different, he said. It was like getting a new job continually. “I enjoyed it all, really,” he says. Michaelson feels that together, he and Ping made a significant contribution to the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service soils database, particularly for arctic soils. Before they started that work in the 1990s, there were only a few soil data points in the Arctic. Now there are well over 100. For each site, they dug into the permafrost, made detailed descriptions and measured soil properties, nutrients and carbon storage, sometimes participating in large interdisciplinary projects that lasted years. The database is used to develop projections on how climate change will affect the release of carbon stored in frozen soils. He said it was also satisfying that the results of their work were published so others can use their research. 

Speaking from his home in Florida, Ping describes Michaelson as a dedicated and able researcher who also helped with the logistics of their work. “He was pretty indispensible in the operation,” he said. Ping notes that a 1996 journal article written by Michaelson is one of the most-cited journal articles on the subject of carbon storage and distribution in tundra soils. The paper has been cited more than 130 times in other journal articles.

Ping also notes that Michaelson worked as a technical advisor to the lab over the last 30 years. He compiled the lab manual, advised the lab tech on methodology, instrument calibration and troubleshooting. He has also helped the faculty teach the lab section of soil chemistry.

After he retires, Michaelson plans to stay in Palmer. He may continue some working on some projects with Ping, but he hopes to get out and do more things, such as traveling to Australia with his family to visit friends and family there. He also wants to do more hiking, kayaking, biking and other outdoor activities.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Producers of climate change movie release trailer

UAF scientist Katey Walter Anthony and her husband, Peter Antony, ignite methane on
a frozen lake. Texas Tech Public Media photo

The producers of  “Between Earth and Sky,” a documentary that explores global climate change through the lens of soil science, have released a second film trailer.

Gary Michaelson and Texas Tech Associate Dean
David Weindorf take a core sample during the arctic
 soils field tour. Texas Tech Media Public photo
Executive Producer David Weindorf, who is also a Texas Tech University associate dean, said the film began as a way to document the 33 years of soil science work in Alaska by recently retired SNRE Professor Chien-Lu Ping. It was inspired by Ping’s arctic soils field tour, also known as the Alaska Soil Geography Field Trip, NRM 489. Weindorf and his students participated in the annual tour.

In a release from the film’s publicist, Weindorf said, “It has evolved into a feature-length film that presents findings from numerous UAF researchers, top scientists and every-day people who simplify the link between climate dynamics and soil science through their personal experiences and knowledge.”

The second trailer highlights the volatility of arctic soils in the presence of climate change. Audiences will see a scientist ignite escaping methane from a frozen lake.

Production on the documentary is expected to be complete in August. In April, the film crew visited Western Alaska for Native Alaskan perspectives and to document the effects of coastal erosion and sea level rise.

The film’s producers hope it will appear in numerous film festivals domestically and internationally in 2017 and will be offered to Public Broadcasting Service stations across the country. Weindorf said a national film tour in independent theaters and universities is also planned. A dozen universities have already expressed interest.

Released on Earth Day, April 22, the second trailer has already had more than 20,000 views, Weindorf said. “Between Earth and Sky” is a collaborative film effort between the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Soil Science Society of AmericaUniversity of Alaska-FairbanksTexas Tech University and Texas Tech Public Media. See trailers and more information about the documentary at