Monday, April 16, 2018

First reindeer of the season born at the experiment farm

See video footage of the calves.

The first reindeer calves of 2018 arrived this weekend at the Fairbanks Experiment Farm.

Reindeer calves rest by their mothers at the Fairbanks Experiment Farm.
A student worker found the first calf at 10 a.m. Sunday, and reindeer caretaker Erin Carr discovered two more calves when she arrived to work this morning.

The arrival of first reindeer calf at the farm is a rite of spring. The newest calves, born to Bella and Nina, wobbled unsteadily this morning and enjoyed breakfast in the fenced fields opposite the Georgeson Botanical Garden.

Carr said the calves, two males  and a female, seemed healthy. The bulls weighed 15 and 15.6 pounds and the female was 13.6 pounds.

The first calf usually arrives in early April so it’s a little later than usual. Altogether, 14 calves are expected this spring.

“April 20 is usually peak calving,” she said.

A reindeer calf and his mother.
The herd now includes 33 adults and three calves. All are part of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Reindeer Research Program, which conducts research on nutrition, animal health, meat quality and range management in support of the reindeer industry. It is the only program devoted to reindeer research that is affiliated with a U.S. university.

As is tradition, schoolchildren are encouraged to submit names for the calves, which are named in July or August, after they are weaned. Children may submit names on the Reindeer Research Program website at Names selected last year include Olivia, Sebastian, Blaze, Mr. Antlers, Anouk, Boris, Mabel and Kobuk.

SNRE names outstanding students for 2017-2018

The School of Natural Resources and Extension has named its outstanding students for the 2017-2018 year — Kimberly Diamond and Sagen Maddalena.

Kimberly Diamond
Diamond will be recognized in the agriculture and horticulture area and Maddalena for natural resources management.

Diamond, who is from Anchorage, started life at UAF as a biology major, but she switched to natural resources management because she wanted to study the environment and liked the social component of the degree.

 “It’s so interdisciplinary, she said. “It’s kind of hard to explain to people, but it gives you a good foundation to go many directions.”

In her case, she discovered an interest in environmental law and policy while earning the degree. She has enjoyed taking political science courses and, in particular, Julie Joly’s course on public lands law and policy. After some time off, and possibly an internship, she may apply for graduate school in environmental policy or law school.

The graduating senior has been an active researcher while at SNRE. Diamond has participated twice in the UAF Research and Creative Activity Day. Last year, she studied the dormancy and viability of invasive European bird cherry seed and this year is surveying commuters to identify perceived barriers to commuting by bicycle to campus.

Diamond said she likes the student group at SNRE and the small, friendly school. She is working this semester as a research assistant for Associate Professor Pete Fix on his recreation surveys for the Bureau of Land Management. She may continue the work this summer or participate in an internship of some kind.

Diamond grew up at the base of the Chugach Mountains and enjoys rock climbing, cross-country skiing and backcountry skiing.

Sagen Maddalena
Diamond and Maddalena will be honored at any awards breakfast Saturday, April 21, at Wood Center. Maddalena won’t be at the breakfast because she will be competing in a World Cup rifle competition in Korea.

Maddalena, the co-captain of the UAF rifle team, is considered one of the best shooters in the U.S. She will return for finals, graduate and then compete in Munich before relocating to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. She would like to compete in the 2020 Olympics.

Maddalena got her first shooting experience with a 4-H club. She thought she might try it out but after the first meeting, she said, “I was hooked.”

Maddalena, who is from central California, chose to study at UAF because she wanted a school that had a good rifle team and a natural resources management degree.

She found both in Kentucky and UAF and figured Alaska would have more opportunities to study forestry, which is her prime interest.

She became interested in forestry after working for a timber and brush management company following high school. Also, a large fire in 2013, known as the Rim Fire, burned to within a few miles of her family home, which is near Yosemite National Park. The forest was particularly vulnerable to fire and western bark beetle infestation because of drought conditions.

“It was at that point I realized the importance of forest management,” she said.

Sagen Maddalena competes internationally
with an air rifle. UAF photo by J.R. Ancheta
Since several forestry faculty have retired, Maddalena completed some independent and directed study with John Yarie and Karen Hutton, who works for the U.S. Forest Service. That allowed her to work one-of-one with foresters and to go out in the field with resource foresters, which was a great opportunity, she said. She is studying forestry management with an emphasis on sustainable harvesting and forest restoration.

Maddalena enjoyed in-depth and detail-oriented courses such as Mingchu Zhang’s soils class and Julie Joly’s law and policy course . She also particularly liked Susan Todd’s introductory natural resources management class.

At some point in the coming year, she plans to join the Army’s marksmanship unit that trains and competes.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Students recognized for their research posters

Kimberly Diamond explains her project on commuting to Dave Valentine.
Four students and groups affiliated with the School of Natural Resources and Extension earned Dean’s Choice Awards at the UAF Research and Creative Activity Day.

The awards come with recognition and $250. In previous years, only one project per school had been recognized, but deans and academic directors were allowed to award additional prizes this year. Students winning awards included:

David Rhodes
, for his project on the T-field exotic tree plantation history, interpretive trail and signage project. Rhodes says the project combined his interests in history and forestry. Rhodes is developing a trail to showcase trees that were planted by the Institute of Northern Forestry, beginning in the 1960s. This includes research trials of trees from Finland, Sweden, Norway and Russia. The stand includes a Raviola larch whose genetics can be tracked back to trees developed by Peter the Great (17th century). Rhodes interviewed faculty about the history of the research plots, and he is clearing brush, pruning and developing a trail. He is working with Jan Dawe and hopes the area can be used for outreach with K-12 students.

“I look at it as an outdoor lab,” he said.

David Rhodes stands by his poster on the exotic tree plantation
history, trail and signage.
David Rhodes stands by his poster on the exotic tree plantation
history, trail and signage project.

Roger Ridenour, for his Arctic Biosphere Container. The container is housed in a shipping container, which could be shipped via barge, truck and aircraft from a fabrication site to a final location. The idea is that that vegetables could be produced year-round in the container and would be fresher than vegetables that were shipped in. Power would only be needed during the winter, he said. Ridenour originally developed the concept as part of the Food Security in the Arctic Competition.

Kimberly Diamond, for her bike vs. car commuting survey, which she will conduct this spring. She will survey commuters on the benefits and costs associated with traveling by bicycle or car and identify barriers to commuting.

Max Newton of SNRE and Hannah Gerrish of the Wildlife and Biology Department, Kumi Rattenbury, NRM graduate student Mark Melham and Professor Dave Verbyla, for their project detecting changes in the shrub cover in the Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve since the 1980s and the consequences for Dall sheep. They used high-resolution satellite imagery to develop shrub distribution models. A student crew checked data on the ground in the summer of 2017.

Academic Director Dave Valentine evaluated the projects. Congratulations, all.

Roger Ridenour explains the Arctic Biosphere Container to a visitor.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Birch sap cooperative to meet Friday at UAF

OneTree Alaska will host a birch sap cooperative organizational meeting Friday at 5:30 p.m. at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Birch sap is collected around campus every year.
Todd Paris photo
Ain the OneTree Alaska studio and processing facility in the old Lola Tilly Commons kitchen. OneTree program lead Jan Dawe and her birch sap crew will also discuss plans for the season and show individuals how to tap trees. The equipment checkout will continue Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Anyone who wishes to participate may check out equipment, including taps, buckets and lids or tubing. The meeting will take place

This is the second year for the cooperative, through which individuals collect birch sap in exchange for a share of the birch syrup that is processed. Last year, more than 40 individuals and school groups collected sap for the university program, which is conducting research on birch sap processing methods. Dawe said that community members contributed nearly half the 6,000-plus gallons that were collected and staff harvested the rest.

Much of the processed sap was lost last October when a freezer failed, but Dawe said the program and freezer are back on track. Dawe says is she is modeling the UAF birch sap work on successful maple research programs at the University of Vermont and Cornell University, which make and sell maple products to support their programs. OneTree hopes to sell birch caramels and other birch products made from the sap that is collected. Although the ratio varies from year to year, Dawe said, last year it took 113 to 117 gallons of sap to create one gallon of birch syrup.

Dawe said sap flow will generally begin in the Fairbanks area between April 16-21. The OneTree Alaska program is an educational and research program affiliated with the School of Natural Resources and Extension. This year’s birch sap program is also supported by the Alaska Center for Energy and Power. For more information, contact Dawe at or at 907-474-5517 or 907-474-5907.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Undergraduates show research posters Tuesday at UAF

Kimberly Diamond poses by her research poster at last's year's competition. Her poster
was on Prunus padus, or bird cherry.

Four SNRE undergraduates will show their research posters Tuesday as part of the UAF Research and Creative Activity Day hosted by URSA, the Undergraduate Research Scholarly Activity program.

UAF undergraduate students from all disciplines are invited to share their work from the past year at Wood Center. Deans or academic directors will award $250 prizes for the best entries from their college or school. The posters and displays are available for public viewing from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Tuesday and judges will visit with students from noon to 2 p.m. Last year's top overall award winner, Jessica Herzog, is a SNRE senior.

SNRE students participating this year and their projects include Trevor Schoening, ''Distribution Patterns of Alaska Grown Vegetables";  Kimberly Diamond, "Cost-Benefit Analysis of Commuting Methods in Alaska: Drive or Ride?"; David Rhodes, "Interpretive Trail of the T-field Exotic Tree Plantation"; and Roger Ridenour, "The Arctic Biosphere Container."

Friday, April 6, 2018

Spring green-up lecture scheduled April 10 at UAF

A birch tree leafs out during a previous green-up. Photo by Ned Rozell/
UAF Geophysical Institute

National Weather Service meteorologist Rick Thoman will lecture April 10 on the timing of green-up in Fairbanks and will announce his forecast of this year’s spring leaf-out.

Rick Thoman
His lecture begins at 6:30 p.m. at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Murie Building auditorium. Thoman, the climate science and services manager for the National Weather Service in Alaska, will review past efforts at understanding the timing of green-up in the Fairbanks area, which were based on simple climate records, and will discuss progress in forecasting green-up. Thoman said modern tools hold the potential for longer-range forecasts of environmentally sensitive events, such as green-up, sap flow and even river ice breakup and freeze-up.

The lecture is co-sponsored by OneTree Alaska, a forest education program affiliated with the university's School of Natural Resources and Extension, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Northwest Climate Change Hub. For more information, contact Jan Dawe at 907-474-5907, 907-474-5517 or

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Georgeson Society, ThrivAlaska host green-up raffle

Leaf buds on an aspen are primed to unfold in this
2010 photo. Photo by Eugenie Euskirchen
Guess the first day of spring “green-up” on Chena Ridge correctly and you can be entered in a drawing for two Alaska Railroad tickets from Fairbanks to Anchorage.

The Georgeson Botanical Garden Society and ThrivAlaska are hosting the 2018 Spring Green-up Raffle. Guesses are $5 each. Proceeds will benefit both groups. The botanical society helps support the operations of the Georgeson Botanical Garden, and ThrivAlaska is a parent-run nonprofit group that provides services to families.

Green-up is defined as the first day when buds in birch and aspen open just enough to produce a “faint but distinct green flush through the forest canopy.” The National Weather Service will make the call. In 2016, green-up was April 26, the earliest date on record, and last year it was May 8.

Second prize is a 10-punch card to Heart Stream Yoga. Raffle ticket buyers must be 18 or older. Tickets may be purchased through 6 p.m. April 22 at locations around town, including If Only, Sipping Streams, Northern Business Systems, Ivory Jack’s, River City CafĂ©, the Fairbanks Children’s Museum and Sunshine Health Foods. Tickets may also be purchased at the Georgeson Botanical Garden office at 117 West Tanana Drive.

Raffle ticket holders will also receive a $2 discount to the Earth Day Celebration from 2-4 p.m. April 22 at the Fairbanks Children’s Museum. The botanical society and the children’s museum will host the event, at which participants will make an edible terrarium, learn about the environment, browse the museum and more. For more information, see or call 474-7222.