Wednesday, October 8, 2008
Mobile lab approved for reindeer research in Nome
A mobile meat processing lab scheduled to arrive at the UAF Northwest Campus in Nome in July 2009 will add an important element to the high latitude range management certificate program. The USDA-funded equipment will support the meat production courses offered at the Northwest Campus. Dr. Greg Finstad, SNRAS assistant professor and manager of the Reindeer Research Program, said the lab will bring together researchers from the University of Alaska and universities across the circumpolar north to engage with students and local residents in the design and conduct of animal production research. “This project exemplifies how local community colleges can engage in partnerships, which encourage economic sustainability through university educational certificates and research that directly applies to local concerns,” he said. Dr. Lee Haugen, director of the Northwest Campus, worked with Finstad to write the grant proposal and was instrumental in developing the curriculum.
With the portable lab, students and researchers will be able to conduct meat science experiments, and the information will be incorporated into training protocols, coursework, published scientific journals, and public information forums. Local applications in animal husbandry and slaughtering techniques are expected to become more responsive to regional needs.
Of the 20,000 reindeer in Alaska, 17,000 are on the Seward Peninsula at Nome. Finstad is excited by the opportunity to prepare Alaska Native students for careers in natural resources management. Ten students are enrolled in the program.
The self-contained lab, which will be able to move from one remote community to another, will make possible on-site USDA inspections of reindeer meat for the first time. Such labs are in use in various locations across the Lower 48, and this one will be winterized to prepare it for the extreme climate. “This lab is a critical link to integrate a local educational platform with animal research,” Finstad said.