Wednesday, August 24, 2016

SNRE profile: Agent promotes community development

Karen Petersen gives a mill tour to graduate students. At left is Jim Harrison,
the owner of one of the larger sawmill operations on Prince of Wales Island.

When the Ketchikan Pulp  Co. mill closed in 1997, it left 500 Southeast residents without jobs and the region economically depressed for years.
“Every community saw people leaving like crazy. It was really grim,” said Karen Petersen, who had moved from Ketchikan to nearby Prince of Wales Island shortly before the mill closed.
The pulp company shut down its sawmill in 1999, which greatly affected logging on Prince of Wales. The population of Thorne Bay dropped steadily from 600 to 400 as people lost work.
Extension natural resources agent Bob Gorman hosted community visioning sessions on the island, and Petersen met with him after one of the meetings, in 2002.
As part of a grant project, he asked to offer business development workshops for loggers and solve some of their problems.
While Petersen didn’t know much about forestry, she did know about managing businesses and economic development. She had managed a tourism company’s division in Ketchikan and several small businesses. She helped set up a forest products task force on the island and met with loggers to see what they needed.
Working with community partners and encouraging economic development on Prince of Wales Island has continued to be Petersen’s role with Extension 14 years later. Over the years, she has worked with the sawmill operators on alternate uses for wood waste on the island. She also has encouraged schools and municipalities to use wood heat.
For five years, Petersen has chaired the Alaska Wood Energy Development Task Group for the Alaska Energy Authority. The task group evaluates wood heat grant applications for the state. At the same time, she has worked to promote tourism on the island and organized three Prince of Wales Visitors Summits.
With Gorman’s encouragement, Petersen earned a master’s degree in rural development from UAF in 2010 and she became a community development agent in 2013. Her activities are varied.
 “Everything that falls under community development is legal and kosher,” she said.
This ranges from economic development work to teaching emergency trauma technician (ETT) courses, CPR, first aid and emergency preparedness. Petersen worked with Gorman to coordinate the Alaska Wood Energy Conference in Ketchikan and Fairbanks. She is working with Jasmine Shaw and Meg Burgett to plan the next one, which is in Ketchikan in April 2017.
Petersen grew up in Kirkland, Washington, and she confounded her family by studying agronomy at Washington State University. After she graduated, she served in the Peace Corps in Ecuador.
She was the division manager for Alaska Sightseeing/Cruise West in Ketchikan and managed a Waldenbooks store there before moving to Thorne Bay. She also managed and co-owned liquor stores in Thorne Bay and Coffman Cove until 2010.
In her spare time, she hosts a weekly folk radio show on Ketchikan public radio, KRBD. She has returned to South America four times as a teaching volunteer in El Salvador. Prince of Wales Chamber of Commerce recognized her this spring with its President’s Award for her work on tourism promotion and with the forest products industry.
She has really enjoyed her time with Extension, she said. “I love this job and I like helping people — and that’s all I really want to do.”

Monday, August 22, 2016

Japanese students head home after seminar ends

Wataru Hotta accepts his program certificate from Professor
Masahide Kaeriyama, left, Professor Dave Valentine and Donna Anger
 of UAF International Programs and Initiatives.

SNRE Professor Emeritus Glenn Juday asked a dozen students from Hokkaido University what they thought about Alaska and one of them said “big.”

The Japanese students left to return home late Wednesday night after nine days of lectures and tours at UAF as part of a natural resources seminar. With Miho Morimoto piloting a university van, the students visited Doyon Ltd., the Fort Knox Mine, Northland Wood, the Superior Pellets Fuels plant, Poker Flat, the Division of Forestry and Denali National Park, where they rode the bus into the Eielson Visitors Center and saw bears. They also learned about aurora research, musk ox, permafrost, fisheries, and fire and forest management. The group toured the Large Animal Research Station and the Fairbanks Experiment Farm and to hear about reindeer and other research.

The Hokkaido students and their professors visit the Chatanika dredge.
Interim Chancellor Dana Thomas spoke to the group during a good-bye event at the Georgeson Botanical Garden on Wednesday night. He talked about the importance of being more globally aware and the role foreign travels have in that.

“They shape our perspectives for the rest of our lives,” he said. Thomas also gave the visiting Hokkaido University faculty, Masahide Kaeriyama and Xiao Lan, a letter to convey to Hokkaido University President Keizo Yamaguchi marking the 30th anniversary of the signing of the cooperative agreement and thanking the faculty and staff for their leadership in making the seminar happen.

SNRE Director of Academic Programs David Valentine, who organized the tour with Morimoto, said he hoped they had learned something about natural resources in Alaska. “We hope this will encourage you to come back as an exchange student,” he said. Several research efforts and internships have been facilitated by the agreement between UAF and Hokkaido University, but this is the first time a student group has come to UAF just to study natural resources management.

Among other things, the students said they liked seeing bears and caribou in Denali. They also liked the university museum, aurora research and the wood pellet plant.

Moe Ota, who studies animals, said she really enjoyed seeing the caribou in Denali. “Caribou were larger than I thought,” she said.

Yumeho Nakekanishi, who also studies animals, said the livestock species in Japan are different and include chickens, pigs, sheep and cattle.

Alaska was a lot warmer than she thought it would be. “I have a lot of sweaters and mufflers and I didn’t really use them,” she said.

Engineering student Ren Nishakata said he was most interested in the aurora research and would like to return to go dog mushing.

During Wednesday’s event, Donna Anger, the director of UAF International Programs and Initiatives, also encouraged the students to return. She and Valentine handed the students certificates for their participation in the noncredit Alaska Natural Resources Sustainability Field Seminar.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

SNRE hosts seminar for Japanese students

The Japanese exchange group and professors gather with Dave Valentine and Miho
Morimoto on the first day of their seminar.

A dozen students from Hokkaido University and two visiting professors are learning about Alaska natural resources management, courtesy of the School of Natural Resources and Extension.

The Japanese contingent arrived late Monday night and is attending lectures at UAF and touring destinations relevant to the natural resources theme. SNRE Professor Dave Valentine and Miho Morimoto, a postdoctoral researcher who earned a Ph.D. from UAF this summer but is from Japan, cooordinated the nine-day tour, which is officially known as the Alaska Natural Resources Sustainability Field Seminar.

Valentine describes the seminar as similar to the NRM 290 field course but it will be based in Fairbanks since participants are staying in university dorms. The noncredit seminar will combine lectures on campus with field lectures and tours around the Interior. The group is traveling in a university van.

UAF lectures will cover forest health, permafrost, sustainability, fisheries and recreation, and field lectures will address climate change, forest field sampling, agriculture and Alaska livestock. Several SNRE professors will meet with the students, including Jenifer McBeath, Pete Fix, Milan Shipka, Glenn Juday, Valentine, Steven Seefeldt and Jan Dawe. Students will also tour Morimoto’s forest research plots and take core and soil samples, and they will learn a little about her research in forest regeneration.

The group will also visit Doyon Ltd. to talk about Native corporations and the Division of Forestry to talk about wildfires and forest management. Participants will learn about mining at the Fort Knox Mine, aurora research at the Poker Flat Research Range, geothermal energy at Chena Hot Springs, and research at the Fairbanks Experiment Farm and the Large Animal Research Station. They will also travel to Denali National Park to hear about how the park is managed for tourism and for conservation.

Valentine said Hokkaido University is known for its international exchanges and representatives have wanted to bring a group to UAF for several years. He traveled to Hokkaido University in Sapporo last November to arrange the seminar. Morimoto, who grew up in Japan, earned undergraduate and master’s degrees in forestry at Hokkaido University.

The students all speak varying degrees of English but Valentine said he would never have attempted the seminar without Morimoto because of potential language challenges. “I’d be lost,” he said.

Morimoto first came to UAF on an exchange from Hokkaido University. She was working on her master’s degree and said UAF was the only institution that was available then that would accept her limited fluency in English. Despite language challenges, she persevered, and came back to earn her doctorate in natural resources and sustainability through SNRE.

Students participating in the seminar are sophomores and juniors at Hokkaido University, according to Morimoto. They study a wide variety of disciplines, including engineering, education, agriculture, literature and forest science.

Masahide Kaeriyama, one of two professors from Hokkaido University accompanying the group, said the students want to learn about wildlife in Alaska and the science behind the natural ecosystem. They will also learn about potential exchanges to UAF. Keriyama, who is also senior advisor to the Office in International Affairs at Hokkaido, said, “I hope they want to return to UAF.”

The other professor, Xiao Lan, is from China but has lived in Japan nine years. She plans to return to Alaska with future student groups.

Activities will wrap up with a closing ceremony from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Aug. 17 at the Georgeson Botanical Garden.