Monday, May 8, 2017

Class of 2017: UAF graduates SNRE students

Twenty-five students with the School of Natural Resources and Extension completed their studies during the past year and many of them were recognized during the UAF commencement on Saturday.

Dave Valentine congratulates Kelly Schmitz.
During the past year, students received two doctorates, 13 bachelor’s degrees and 10 master’s degrees.

Miho Morimoto was hooded during last year’s commencement but she completed her doctorate in Natural Resources and Sustainability during the summer of 2017. 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. Her dissertation looks at how regeneration has worked on harvested forestlands and how regeneration might be affected by warmer, drier temperatures. It offers adaptive management suggestions.

Jon Skinner, who was hooded on Saturday, received his interdisciplinary doctorate in Polar Geography and Strategic Studies. His  major advisor was Professor Lawson Brigham. Skinner's thesis is titled “Russian Capacity to Develop its Offshore Hydrocarbon Resources in the Kara Sea: Arctic and Global Implications.” The Kara Sea represents the largest unexploited oil and gas potential remaining for Russia. 

Other degree recipients included:

Bachelor of Science in Natural Resources Management
From left, Zoe Marshall, Lin Barron, Samantha Knutson and Kelly
Schmitz pose before graduation.
Lin Barron
Chad Bear
David Dwyer Jr.
Brandy Flores
Cascade Galasso-Irish
Emily Garrett
Zoe Marshall
Eric Mattek
Kelly Schmitz
Jennifer Sybert
Kirsten Williams

Bachelor of Arts
Samantha Knutson, Rural Subsistence Farming and Management: Interdisciplinary Program

Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences
Brandon Elkins, Conservation Leadership
From left, master's candidates Olivia Lunsford and
 Alice Orlich get ready to walk. Orlich's other credentials
include Belle of the Woods.

Master of Science in Natural Resources Management
Christin Anderson

Shannon Busby
John Krapek
Lauren Lynch
Jacobus Noordeloos
Ronald Strom
Laura Starr

Master’s in Natural Resources Management
Sarah Liben
Tricia Kent
Suzanne McCarthy

Olivia Lunsford and Alice Orlich, who will earn their master's degrees this summer, also participated in the ceremony.

Faculty, from left, include Emeritus Extension Professor Natalie Thomas,
 and Professors Josh Greenberg, Mingchu Zhang, Milan Shipka and
 Meriam Karlsson.
Professor John Yarie, who continued teaching forestry classes for the school despite retiring in 2016, was honored at commencement for receiving emeritus status and for his teaching, research and public service, which began in 1978. Yarie was honored for teaching forestry and nature resource management courses, for his research on boreal forest ecology and productivity and for his public service roles as director of the Forest Soils laboratory, department chair and chair of the regional section of the Society of American Foresters.

Ph.D recipient Jon Skinner is hooded on Saturday by Doug Reynolds
 and Provost Susan Henrichs.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

NRM 290 field trip and road tour to head out on Monday

Students on the 2016 NRM 290 field trip pose near Exit Glacier.
Photos by Jennifer Sybert

Associate Professor Pete Fix and 11 students enrolled in NRM 290 will leave May 8 for the 10-day natural resources tour and road trip.

Students study soil samples at the Matanuska
 Experiment Farm.
They will get to see Alaska resources and meet the people who manage them as part of the two-credit class, Resource Management Issues at High Latitudes. Students get to hear from and talk with various individuals in the natural resources field, including farmers, foresters, land managers, educators, Extension agents and biologists.

They will hear about natural resource issues and get to see operations and sites first-hand, such as Bryce Wrigley’s farm and flour mill in Delta Junction, an oilfield in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, impacts of the spruce bark beetle on forestlands, and an Alaska potato chip factory in Anchorage.

Stops are planned at Harding Lake, Delta Clearwater, Delta Junction, Glennallen, Anchorage, the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center near Portage, the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, Seward, the Matanuska Experiment Farm in Palmer, Denali National Park and the coal plant near Healy.

A few of the subjects students will hear about will include hydrology, fisheries management, agriculture, construction of the trans-Alaska pipeline, economic development, oil and gas development, refuge management and environmental education. They’ll also hear about renewable energy, forest and fire management, environmental studies, recreation management and offshore energy management.

Fix said the tour is valuable to students. “They see things they would not see in the classroom,” he said.

They also get to learn more about natural resources management careers and the diversity of agencies and their management plans, he said.

Students utilize a snow resource near Hatcher Pass.
Along the route, they will stay at churches, the Matanuska Experiment Farm and cabins at the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. Associate Professor Norm Harris will join the group for most of the tour.  The group will also be accompanied by a UAF graduate student driving a supply vehicle.

The class, which began in the 1980s, is required for natural resources management students. Students must keep journals and write a paper.

Chris Smith, a junior who participated in last year’s tour, said, “I loved the trip. It’s really helped me in my upper-level classes.”

When certain topics come up in his classes, Smith said he thinks of examples he’s seen on the tour. He especially enjoyed visiting Denali National Park and hearing different perspectives about its management and the areas around it. For instance, the state eliminated a no-kill wolf buffer zone near the northeast side of the park in 2010, and representatives from the park want to reinstate the buffer, which they believed increased opportunities to see wolves in the park.

“You get to see the different types of management plans,” he said.
Thanks to photo support from 2016 participant Jennifer Sybert.

The 2016 group waits on the beach near Kenai and observes a tanker.

Interior farmers learn microscale farming techniques

Visiting farmer Joel Salatin, left, visits with Calypso Farm founders Tom Zimmer and Susan Willsrud. Salatin's first stop during the three-city tour of Alaska was in Fairbanks on May 2. Nancy Tarnai photo

By Nancy Tarnai
“Scalability is a big deal,” Virginia farmer Joel Salatin told 60 people who attended an Alaska Design Forum agriculture workshop Tuesday at Calypso Farm and Ecology Center.

Salatin, who calls himself “a libertarian environmentalist capitalist lunatic farmer,” was on his first of three stops in Alaska.

“We are so lucky to have you here,” Calypso founder Susan Willsrud said. Attendees gathered for a potluck meal and then listened to Salatin’s advice on raising chickens, goats and sheep. Guests came from as far away as Palmer and Kenai.

Exploring the economics of farming, Salatin said, “As soon as you start using anything other than human power to move things, things start to happen.” He encouraged farmers to study how their time is spent. “A farm is more than a business,” he said. “But it is also a business. We get caught up in the altruism of it. All farm procedures have a sweet spot and tip-over points.”

Salatin likes to operate his farm ( as simply as possible, staying clear of procedures that would require government paperwork. “I try to stay outside the system,” he said.

With 4,000 chickens, his farm produces 200 dozen eggs per day. Salatin is prolific in chicken psychology and colorfully shared ways to manage egg production, with placement of nests and even lighting being key. Make sure nesting boxes are in the morning shade and place them higher so the bird has to leap in to lay eggs. “You want funky material in the nest box,” he said. “Not edible alfalfa. Put moldy hay or moldy straw or wood shavings.”

He doesn’t recommend having free range chickens on less than 50 acres and he’s a huge fan of deep-bedded composting. “There is nothing cleaner or more healthful than having animals on rapidly decomposing bedding,” Salatin said, adding that 95 percent of bugs are good and only 5 percent are bad. Dirt yards without deep bedding are terrible for the animals and ecology.

Americans should get rid of their cats, dogs, gerbils and TV and on that same carbon footprint put a couple of chickens on composting bedding that is at least a foot deep, he said. At Polyface, old, healthy, productive hens are bred to produce chickens that are larger and eggs with strong shells. “Forget about color and plumage and hairy feet and select for good offspring,” Salatin said.

Recommending the book, Rodale’s ”Complete Book of Composting,” Salatin said, “There’s a magic that happens when you link plants and animals.”

Tackling such sacred cows as Whole Foods, land-grant universities and the space program, Salatin said, “We’d be a healthier culture if no one from the government told us what to eat.”

Nicky Eiseman loved the practical advice she got from the talk. “I learned basic animal husbandry,” she said.

Kimberly Maxwell said, “I can’t wait to get home and deep bed my chicken coop. That really resonated with me. If we keep talking farmers learn from each other.”

Kimberly Jensen said she learned that scalability is key. Her husband Brian Jensen said, “I’m excited about chickens and composting.”

Ben Shaw said during the workshop he realized Alaska is 25 years behind the Lower 48 in agriculture. “That’s a good thing; it’s exciting,” he said. “Our competition is 2,000 miles away. It just takes people believing they can do it and starting it.”
Guest contributor Nancy Tarnai is freelance writer who worked for School of Natural Resources and Extension from 2008 to 2015 as its public information officer. She can be reached at  

Thursday, April 27, 2017

NRM student takes top honors at URSA competition

Jessica Herzog, a natural resources management student, won first place overall Tuesday at the 2017 Research and Creative Activity Day hosted by URSA.

Jessica Herzog shows her first-place certificate with URSA
Director Trent Sutton. UAF photo by J.R. Ancheta
Her research poster on golden eagles’ diets was chosen from more than 100 entries displayed Tuesday on the first floor of Wood Center. The event is an annual celebration of undergraduate student research and creative projects.  Each school chose a Dean’s Choice Award and representatives from URSA, Undergraduate Research Scholarly Activity program, picked the top three finishers.

Herzog’s poster also received a Dean’s Choice Award from the School of Natural Resources and Extension. She will receive $250 for her SNRE award and $1,000 for her first place overall.

The event was reminiscent of a science fair with undergraduate students standing by their projects to discuss their work. Research and creative posters ranged from tsunami wave action and engineering projects to costume design and food sustainability.

Six students from the School of Natural Resources and Extension displayed their work, including Trish Levasseur, Kimberly Diamond, Zoe Marshall, Roger Ridenour and Kelly Schmitz.

Kimberly Diamond poses with her research poster on
Prunus Padus.
Herzog’s project looked at differences in the diets of male and female golden eagles on the Seward Peninsula. Her poster is titled “Trophic Niche Partitioning Between Male and Female Golden Eagles in Western Alaska.”

Herzog said the point of her project was “to see if male and female eagles consumed a different size of prey to avoid competition.” Niche partitioning refers to the process by which competing species use the environment differently in a way that helps them coexist. Golden eagle females are larger than males so she theorized that males might eat smaller prey.

Her project built on undergraduate research done by Joseph Eisaguirre, who is now a doctoral student with the UAF Department of Wildlife and Biology. As part of her research, Herzog analyzed his data and she examined 349 regurgitated pellets and 52 uneaten prey remains from nests and perches. They were drawn from 46 occupied eagle sites visited in 2014 and 2015 by Eisaguirre and wildlife biologist Travis Booms, who is with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s Threatened, Endangered and Diversity Program. They assumed that perch samples were from males and nest samples came from females.

Trisha Levasseur stands by her research poster that analyzes a visitor survey.
Herzog, who is a junior, hopes to continue to study predator-prey relationships as a graduate student. She is from Butte, Montana.

SNRE Academic Director Dave Valentine, who chose the dean’s award after consulting with Research Director Milan Shipka, said it was hard to choose among the projects.

Students displayed the following work: 

• Trisha Levasseur, with mentor Pete Fix: “Recreation and Travel Across Federally Managed Lands in Alaska: Analysis of Management Meeting Informational Needs of Visitors.”  She examined data collected as part of a visitor survey conducted last year in Alaska to determine what type of information is sought by different types of visitors.

• Kimberly Diamond, with Gino Graziano and Katie DiCristina, “Factors Impacting Dormancy and Viability of Prunus Padus Seeds.” Diamond studied the dormancy and viability of invasive bird cherry seed. 

•  Kelly Schmitz, with assistance of Greg Finstad, George Aguiar and Christopher Maio, “Nutritional Impact of Willow Leaves on Reindeer Calves.”

• Roger Ridenour, “The Arctic Biosphere Container: Beginning the Process of Eliminating Food Insecurity in Remote Alaska.”

• Zoe Marshall, with mentor Milan Shipka, “Sustainable Agriculture Education Through the Case Study of Wrigley Farm and Alaska Flour Co.”

• Zoe Marshall, with mentor Pat Holloway: “Vegetative Propagation of Four Northern Berry Species to Promote Sustainable Fruit Production in Alaska.” She explored methods of cutting propagation to seek the best way to propagate honeyberry, haskap, Saskatoon serviceberry and blueberries.