Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Alaska Agriculture Appreciation Day set Aug. 4

Kids dig for potatoes at last year's Alaska Agriculture
 Appreciation Day. 
The Matanuska Experiment Farm in Palmer will host Alaska Agriculture Appreciation Day at the Farm from noon to 5 p.m. Aug. 4.

The free annual event has the atmosphere of a country fair with educational presentations and a number of kids’ and family activities, including hayrides. Presentations will be provided on eliminating hornet and wasp nests, improving soils, beekeeping and trail etiquette. The Cooperative Extension Service will offer cooking demonstrations that feature local Alaska produce.

Demonstrations will feature the MAT+SAR K9 dog rescue, spinning and weaving wool, goat milking and more. Kids’ activities will include vegetable bobbing and searching for “gold nuggets” in a haystack. Digging for potatoes, which was popular last year, has been expanded to become “Kids Read and Dig Veggies.” Extension staff will read a book about making vegetable soup at 2 p.m., then the kids can harvest and dig for several vegetables, including potatoes, beets and broccoli. 

Also new is a Dress as Produce or Farm Animal Contest to be judged at 4 p.m. New and returning vendors this year will showcase a variety of food and non-food products.

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.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Western soil scientists coming to UAF for workshop

Eighty soil scientists from Western states and Washington, D.C., will gather in Fairbanks July 25-28 for the Western Regional Cooperative Soil Survey Workshop. The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and SNRE will co-host the biennial workshop at Wedgewood Resort.

SNRE Soils and Agronomy Professor Mingchu Zhang is co-chairing the biennial event with Cory Cole, the state soil scientist with the NRCS in Palmer. The workshop theme is “Importance of Soil and Ecological Inventory in a Changing Climate.”

Zhang said this is the first time since the 1990s that the workshop has been hosted in Alaska. He said participants will hear about others’ research and will identify areas for further study.

Workshops topics will include climate change, carbon stocks in the Arctic, soil mapping, permafrost, soil and ecological site inventory and soils surveys. A tribal leadership panel will discuss soil surveys on tribal lands and there will be a presentation about the “Between Earth and Sky” climate change documentary that was inspired by Chien-Lu Ping’s arctic soils field tour.

Field trips are planned July 27 to the permafrost tunnel, the pipeline viewpoint, the Creamer’s Field thermokarst, Smith Lake, the boreal forest and a tussock tundra permafrost site. On July 28, an optional field tour will be offered to the Fairbanks Experiment Farm to see field and reindeer research and the botanical garden. “We want them to see what we are working on up here,” said Zhang.

See more workshop information. For additional information, contact Zhang at mzhang3@alaska.edu or 907-474-7004 or Cory Cole at cory.cole@ak.usda.gov or 907-761-7759.

Zhang is grateful for the assistance, particularly, of Deb Gonzalez in the Business Office in organizing help for the workshop. Cory Cole is, incidentally, a SNRE graduate student and Mingchu chairs his graduate committee.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

SNRE Profile: John Yarie to retire Aug. 31

After 38 years with the University of Alaska Fairbanks, John Yarie will begin a phased retirement on Aug. 31.

The SNRE silviculture professor plans to continue working half time for nine months, to further his research and teach one forestry class a semester. Yarie also has several papers he’d like to write on the results of his forest research, and he is part of a team that is applying for a National Science Foundation grant to study the carbon dynamics and regrowth of forested areas that have burned more than once in the past 50 years. The grant will require fieldwork during the summer of 2018.

When that’s over, he’s definitely retiring, he said.

Yarie, who grew up in a Cleveland suburb, said he was a typical undergraduate, changing his mind and colleges multiple times before settling on forestry as a major. Other possibilities included math and PE instruction. He ended up earning a doctorate, he said, because the job market was dismal each time he earned another degree.

After submitting his dissertation to his University of British Columbia committee for review, he went on a six-week road trip to Alaska in 1977. He had worked a summer in a Thorne Bay logging camp as a college student, and he wanted to see more of the state and check out the job market.

UAF had no openings for research foresters, but as a result of talking with several folks on campus (Keith Van Cleve and Ted Dyrness), Yarie was offered a research position to work cooperatively with the U.S. Forest Service inventory and analysis folks in the Porcupine region. Following the inventory work, he received funding from the Department of Energy to research woody crops like poplars and willows in the Palmer, Bonanza Creek and Caribou/Poker Creek areas. By 1983, he had become an assistant professor of forest ecology and silviculture at UAF. Silviculture is the science of managing forests for desired outcomes.

John Yarie cooks hamburgers for the SNRE back-to-school barbecue.
Over the years, he has taught undergraduate classes in natural resources measurements, forest ecology and silviculture. He became the first instructor for the school’s GIS class, in 1992, and he worked with the university and Legislature to buy the necessary equipment for a lab and to hire a GIS expert (Dave Verbyla). He has also taught the graduate seminar and graduate courses in research methods and forest ecosystem sciences.

Yarie has enjoyed teaching but his primary focus has been research, particularly studying the effects of changing environmental conditions on forest ecosystems and successional processes following forest fires. He has worked on several long-term projects. A 25-year project that ended recently looked at the effect of drought on forests, using rain exclusion platforms and removing snowpack in the spring.

He is also studying the decomposition of all types of wood in several plots to determine how carbon is released. He recently completed the first 20 years of what is planned as a 100-year study.

Yarie has had a leadership role in the school and served as department head for the former Forest Sciences Department for a dozen years. He has also been an enthusiastic participant in the annual lumberjack competition, the SNRE Forest Fest. His specialty is being the timekeeper for the log-rolling competition.

Retirement plans include woodworking projects and travel to places he has wanted to go, including Chile’s Easter Island. Yarie also expects to spend more time on the slopes of Western downhill ski resorts and with his daughters, who live in Portland, Oregon, and Virginia.

He is the thankful for his time at UAF. “I think I have had a really enjoyable career surrounded by good colleagues,” he said, including Keith Van Cleve, Glenn Juday and John Fox, who have already retired.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Eight SNRE students receive scholarships

Eight outstanding undergraduate students with the School of Natural Resources and Extension will receive scholarships for the 2016-2017 academic year. 

The scholarships and their recipients included:

Crisp Scholarship: Kimberly Diamond, Jessica Herzog, Jenny King and Trevor Schoening all will receive $2,475. The scholarship is awarded to undergraduate and graduate SNRE students.

Paul and Flora Greimann Memorial Scholarship: Zoe Marshall received $700. The scholarship is awarded to any SNRE major, but students studying agriculture are preferred.

Richard E. Lee Scholarship: Jessica Landry will receive $5,500. The scholarship alternates between students studying environmental science at SNRE and students with the UAF College of Engineering and Mines.

Bonita J. Neiland Scholarship: Kelly Schmitz will receive $800. The scholarship is awarded to students in the natural resources management degree program who study the biophysical aspects of forestry or agriculture, or whose studies emphasize biology or ecology. The scholarship honors Dr. Neiland, who was director of instruction and taught natural resources management  and botany at what was then known as the School of Agriculture and Land Resources Management.

Liu Huang Chou Scholarship: Samantha Knutson will receive $500. The scholarship is awarded to students who study plant pathology, plant biology or agriculture.