Thursday, April 17, 2014

Celebrate Earth Day by tapping for sap

Tanana Middle School science students will host a community event on Earth Day, April 22, to demonstrate the science of one of Alaska’s purest natural resources, birch sap. “Sap to Syrup: The Birch Way” is the theme.

Working in conjunction with the University of Alaska Fairbanks OneTree Alaska program, the students will demonstrate tapping sap from a birch tree, explain sap processing, give taste tests, manufacture knitting needles and show off the new OneTree reverse osmosis unit.

Instructional Designer Zachary Meyers taps a birch tree for sap.
Two UAF engineering students will help explain the reverse osmosis unit and Birch Pavelsky, local wood crafter, will be manufacturing the knitting needles out of birch.

OneTree Alaska has been working with Carri Forbes' science students at Tanana Middle School for several years.

The event will occur at the UAF University Park Building, 1000 University Ave., Room 102, Tuesday, April 22 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

For more information, contact Zachary Meyers. Parking is available on campus by permit; a parking kiosk is located at the building.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

SNRE hosts controlled environment meeting

"Controlled environments are the future of growing food," proclaimed businessman Bernie Karl at a meeting of the Committee on Controlled Environment Technology and Use April 12-15 at Chena Hot Springs Resort.

Meeting participants, hailing from the U.S., Canada, Finland and Sweden, heartily agreed.

NCERA-101 participants paused for a group photo at Chena Hot Springs Resort.
NCERA-101 is composed of an eclectic balance of academic researchers and extension personnel, graduate students, companies supporting controlled environment agriculture research by offering facilities, equipment and technical services, plus researchers and administrators from federal agencies such as NIFA (National Institutes of Food and Agriculture) and NASA.

UAF Professor Meriam Karlsson headed up the planning committee for the meeting and was elected chair during the proceedings.

Following the annual business meeting, participants heard reports from researchers representing their agricultural experiment stations. Scientific posters and industry exhibits were on display throughout the three-day event.

Professor Meriam Karlsson, at right, accepts the chairmanship of the Committee on Controlled Environment Technology and Use. It was passed on by Henry Imberti of Percival Scientific Co., Perry, Iowa, at left.
While at Chena Hot Springs Resort, NCERA-101 participants were treated to tours of the power plant, greenhouse and ice museum. The final day found the group in Fairbanks at the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center, UAF greenhouses and the Reindeer Research Program at the Fairbanks Experiment Farm.

The finale was an Alaska-grown meal at Pike's Waterfront Lodge where Chef Jeffrey Brooks prepared locally grown reindeer, vegetables and salad, along with rhubarb and blueberry pies baked by volunteer Susan Risse.

Past organizers have stated that the informal, friendly nature of NCERA is conducive to information exchange, learning and network building.
Graduate students submitting posters were, from left, Jacob Nelson (Utah State University), Garrett Owen (Purdue University), Celina Gomez (Purdue University) and William Meng (Michigan State University). Meng took first place.
See also "NCERA-101: Controlled environment technology and use"

Spring Employee of the Quarter named

Research Forester Tom Malone has been named the Employee of the Quarter for spring 2014.

He was recognized for his outstanding efforts over the past three decades of service to the School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences.

Tom Malone
For details of Malone's illustrious career, please visit an April 2 blog post.

The award, which recognizes staff who have gone above and beyond the call of duty, is coordinated through the dean's office and the business office.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Lecture to recount Peace Corps service in Peru

The Natural Resources Management 692 lecture Thursday, April 17 will be on graduate student Sarah Liben's Peace Corps Service in Peru.

The title of Liben's talk will be "Stories from Peru: My Time as a Peace Corps Volunteer," a timeline of her journey before going abroad, what got her interested in joining in the first place, a description of what she did in Peru, a bit about the country itself, the communities, work, trials and tribulations, traveling and what it has been like since she has been back.

Liben with friends in Peru.

The lecture will be in Arctic Health Research Building 183 Thursday from 3:40 to 5:10 p.m. Guests are welcome. For more information, contact Professor John Yarie,

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

NCERA-101: Controlled environment technology and use

The Committee on Controlled Environment Technology and Use will gather for its annual meeting April 12–15 at Chena Hot Springs Resort. Sponsored by SNRE, the resort, the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and the US Department of Agriculture, the event is a gathering of plant science researchers and controlled environment developers. SNRE Professor of Horticulture Meriam Karlsson is the current committee Chair-Elect and a major organizer of the event. Hosts and locations of the annual meetings rotate among the membership. The UAF Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station is an official member of the NCERA-101 and is the host for this year’s meeting.

Dr. Meriam Karlsson,
professor of horticulture
North Central Extension & Research Activity-101 (NCERA-101) is a project of the USDA, organized to help plant scientists understand how to use, develop and improve greenhouse and controlled environment technology for research and commercial applications. The meetings provide a forum for exchange of information on new technologies and problems and solutions in controlled environments. In Alaska, controlled environments are important for extending the growing season and sheltering crops.

This year's meeting is likely to include 75 attendees. The interactions among academic, government and industry representatives are among the strengths of the NCERA-101 group.

Lettuces grown under LED lighting at Chena Hot Springs Resort.
The use and adaptation of controlled environment technology are essential for Alaska in any effort to extend growing seasons or to produce crops throughout the year. The challenging climatic conditions make Alaska a suitable location to research, develop and evaluate controlled environment technology for various climatic regions and conditions. The long and successful history of greenhouse and controlled environment technology that Chena Hot Springs Resort has had in running a year-round greenhouse in often severe weather conditions makes the resort an appropriate place for this meeting. Many other businesses in the Tanana Valley and the state use greenhouses or other controlled environments, and some are experimenting in LED technology. Karlsson's research at SNRE includes studies of lighting effects of LEDs on various horticultural crops, including day length and color combinations. 

Predicting the effects of climate change

This Thursday's Natural Resources Management 692 graduate seminar, "Monitoring and Predicting the Effects of Climate Change on Coastal Ecosystems on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta," will be given by Torre Jorgenson, of ABR, Inc., Environmental Research and Services. The talk will be held on West Ridge of the UAF campus, April 10, 3:40 to 5:10 pm in the Arctic Health Research Building, room 183.

Jorgenson is a senior scientist at ABR, leading the company's Ecological Land Survey Program, and has directed and participated in more than 100 Alaska studies involving vegetation classification and mapping, permafrost and geomorphology, restoration, bioremediation, climate change, and wetland science. He has worked on assessing the effects of global warming on sea-level rise and ecological changes on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, coastal erosion along the Beaufort Sea coast, permafrost degradation in central and northern Alaska, and monitoring landscape change through repeat photography in southwestern Alaska.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

New reindeer calves at the Fairbanks Experiment Farm

On Saturday, April 5, the Reindeer Research Program's first two calves of 2014 were born, a male weighing 6.4 kg (14 lbs) and a female weighing 5.9 kg (13 lbs). It was a snowy beginning for the youngsters, but they weren't the first reindeer in the Interior! Archipelago Farms' herd had a hefty newborn male calf (17.25 lbs) on April 1. (George Aguiar, who founded Archipelago, is an alumnus of SNRE and works with the Reindeer Research Program.)
Cow and new female calf  at the Fairbanks Experiment Farm.

Most calves are born in April and May, so in anticipation of their births, farm staff begin checking the pens and pastures three times a day, monitoring any cows in labor. New mothers and their young are left alone together for at least 12 hours and preferably a full day to bond and for observation. After this period is over, calves are tagged, weighed, and swabbed with iodine solution to prevent infections, and then returned to their mothers. While the youngsters are at first wobbly on their long legs, this doesn't last, and catching them for weighing can be tricky if the observation period is too long.

By tradition, the calves are named later in the summer, with names drawn from a list of suggestions offered by the public. You can see the names of the current reindeer, the names suggested for 2014, and offer your own suggestion here.

Erin Carr, herd manager, disentangling the female calf's leg from the fence. The calf's mother was at first very upset by this, but Carr spoke quietly and calmly to the cow, and she relaxed and let Carr release the calf.

Once the calf was freed, the cow nudged her baby, encouraging it to get up. 

Then they left, the calf on its wobbly legs following its mother and complaining.