Friday, September 30, 2016

19th annual Farthest North Forest Fest set for Oct. 8

Coleman Smith, left, and Josh McNeal operate the double bucksaw at the
 2015 Forest Fest.

Calling all would-be lumberjacks: The 19th annual Farthest North Forest Sports Festival will take place Oct. 8 at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Students and community members 18 and older are invited to try their hand at forest sports at an event that hearkens back to old-time lumberjack competitions. Expertise is not necessary. Events include ax throwing, log rolling, bow saw and crosscut sawing, campfire building and birling (staying upright on a log in the lake). At the end of the day, the "Bull of the Woods" and the "Belle of the Woods" will be announced. 

The Forest Fest begins at 10 a.m. at the Fairbanks Experiment Farm fields, across from the Georgeson Botanical Garden. At 1 p.m., the games move to Ballaine Lake. A warming fire and hot drinks will be available at the lake. Participants are advised to dress warmly. If competing in the birling, a towel and change of clothes would be a good idea.

Faculty members and students developed the competition as a way to commemorate the old-fashioned forest festivals. Professor Dave Valentine is looking for volunteers to help out at the event, which is hosted by School of Natural Resources and Extension and the student Resource Management Society. Anyone who is interested may contact him at or 474-7614.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Association to host Fairbanks Fiber Festival Oct. 15

The Alaska Natural Fiber Business Association will host its first Fairbanks Fiber Festival Oct. 15 at Badger Hall on the Tanana Valley Fairgrounds.

The public is invited to the free event, which will run from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. It will include vendors and demonstrations on knitting, weaving, dyeing, drop spindle and wet felting. Short presentations are also planned on livestock nutrition, and marketing online and through social media.

Association members include fiber producers and fiber artists. According to its website, the association supports Alaska fiber producers and fiber artists by working to strengthen Alaska’s natural fiber industry, economy and marketplace.

SNRE Research Assistant Professor Jan Rowell serves as secretary of the association’s board of directors. Her research interests include studying muskox fiber (qiviut) production and quality. The association was developed in part by a USDA marketing grant and has hosted similar festivals this year in Kenai, Nome and Palmer.

Friday, September 23, 2016

OneTree to host open house and fundraiser Sept. 30

"Dancing into the Dark," by Kesler Woodward

The OneTree Alaska program will host an open house and fundraiser Sept. 30 to support its work in Fairbanks area schools. 

Kes Woodward prepares to hang paintings
in the OneTree lab. Todd Paris photo
The event will run from 5 to 8 p.m. at the OneTree Alaska STEM to STEAM Studio in the Lola Tilly Commons Building. Fairbanks artist Kes Woodward, who is known for his colorful paintings of landscapes — especially birch trees — will sign prints of his limited edition “Dancing into the Dark” painting. In notes about the painting, he said he was inspired by seeing birch leaves in the UAF research plot on North Campus. He said, “It's not only a collection of observations about parts of that tree and its falling leaves, but as so often in my work, a personal rumination on life, growth, beauty, strength, vulnerability and change.”

The limited-edition print will sell for $150. Woodward is the OneTree artist in residence and has work space in the lab. Five of his paintings will also be available for viewing and sale during the open house.  Proceeds from all sales will benefit OneTree. Participants will also be able to see the birch sap processing equipment and a short video with the New York-based fabricator who specializes in equipment for small-scale syrup operations and is working with the OneTree program. Refreshments “from the forest” will be available, including moose chili, raspberry confections and gingerbread made with birch syrup.

OneTree provides outreach to K-12 students and teachers related to boreal forests. The students explore plant anatomy and physiology, the scientific process, and annual events in a birch tree’s life through experiments dealing with budburst, growth rate, and germination. On the art side, artists and K-12 students take the materials from the tree to create leaf rubbings, prints, sculptures, weavings, ledgers, books, containers, musical instruments and more.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Visitors polled in Alaska public lands survey

Survey aides Charly McConaghy and Josh Benson pose in front of Mendenhall
College students and recent graduates are traveling Alaska this summer, surveying visitors about their experiences on public lands.

SNRE Associate Professor Peter Fix, who is coordinating the survey, said that about 3,000 recreation and subsistence users of public lands will be surveyed by Labor Day weekend.

Fix, who teaches outdoor recreation management, has been conducting recreation surveys for state and federal agencies over the past 12 years, but this is the largest survey conducted on-site. The survey is part of a three-year $399,407 cooperative agreement from the Bureau of Land Management.

Fix said survey responses will be analyzed this fall and will help agencies determine how Alaskans and other visitors access public lands and whether that access is adequate or needs to be improved. They will also provide information on visitors’ activities and their experiences.
Survey aide Josh Benson interviews tourists at Mendenhall Glacier.

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

The survey began Memorial Day weekend. Six survey aides based in Fairbanks, Soldotna and Juneau have been interviewing resident and nonresident visitors at trailheads, campgrounds, visitor centers, tourist destinations and parks, including Mendenhall Glacier, White Mountains National Recreation Area, Kenai National Wildlife Refuge and Kenai Fjords and Denali national parks. They’ve also interviewed cruise ship and Alaska ferry passengers that travel through public lands.

Survey sites were chosen by representatives from entities that manage public lands in Alaska, including BLM, the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Samples are taken on a variety of weekend and weekday dates, and include certain dates, timed to take advantage, for instance, of the height of the fishing season at the Russian River, the silver salmon derby in Seward and moose hunting in the Nome Creek Valley near Fairbanks. The visitors answer questions on iPads or on paper and are sent follow-up surveys by email.

Fix said that more than three-quarters of visitors contacted completed the survey and 40 percent of individuals who were sent the follow-up survey completed that.

Fix said that visitors to Alaska have been slightly more willing to complete the surveys than residents. He theorizes why: “It’s a pretty unique experience for them and they’re jazzed about telling people about it.” 

Coordinating a statewide survey was challenging, Fix said, but it was made possible with the assistance of Cooperative Extension Service faculty and staff who helped the aides with logistics and training.

Trisha Levasseur, a senior at UAF this fall, traveled Interior Alaska this summer interviewing visitors and is helping Fix analyze the data as part of a university internship. She enjoyed going to the sites, hanging out and talking to people.

Levasseur, who is French-Canadian, got to use her French to interpret the survey for tourists in Denali.

“It was pretty friendly,” she said.