Friday, August 29, 2014

UAF explores range management opportunities with Cal Poly

Associate Professor Greg Finstad is seeking students who understand Alaska's tundra ecosystem and want to become range managers.

Finstad, manager of the Reindeer Research Program, is exploring options for a partnership with California Polytechnic Institute. He discussed the idea at a Range Science Education Council meeting last winter. "We can work across institutions to build strong range science programs," Finstad said.

Greg Finstad
He envisions a two plus two program, where students would study their first two years at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and finish the last two at Cal Poly. Ideally, Alaska students would be able to pay in-state tuition in California. "Cal Poly has its own slaughter plant for beef, swine and cattle," Finstad said. "Their motto is to learn by doing."

A precedent for the UAF/Cal Poly ties has already been set with the Reindeer Research Program having hosted six Cal Poly interns over the past few years. These Bureau of Land Management-funded positions have met with success on behalf of both institutions.

"There is a lot of rangeland in Alaska that needs good range scientists and range management," Finstad said.

He hopes to work with Cal Poly's Mark Horney,  assistant professor of rangeland resource management, to work out the details of the degree. "We could make a really nice package," Finstad said. "The students would come out really well qualified."

The need for land managers is nearing urgency, as much of the agency work force in the field is nearing retirement age.

"I just need a couple of students to teach the traditional range management principles," Finstad said. "We want to develop a program to train future range scientists for Alaska."

Thursday, August 28, 2014

New Peace Corp Fellow learned value of community while serving in Panama

Growing up in the suburbs of Detroit, Julie Cislo always had a burning desire to help underprivileged people.

After earning a B.S. in environmental conservation at Northern Michigan University in 2007, she worked for General Motors but found time to volunteer at an adult literacy center. Cislo couldn’t shake the notion of doing more for people in poverty so she joined the Peace Corps.

Julie Cislo celebrates the local holiday of San Isidro with students in Panama.

“They made it financially feasible and I felt I could make an impact,” she said. “There are so many volunteer programs but the Peace Corps is the best. They support the volunteers a lot.”

Panama was her assignment. “It was a nice choice,” Cislo said. “I wanted rural and Spanish-speaking.”

She served in a site in the province of Coclé four hours away from Panama City, teaching English to elementary school children from January 2012 to February 2014. Outside the classroom, Cislo started a recycling program, helped manage a seed bank and trained Peace Corps volunteers in the principles of organic gardening.

Cislo was the dedicated “Seeder” for her province, preserving and distributing seeds to volunteers and people in the community.
Julie Cislo, right, works with a Peace Corps volunteer to prepare plants to be sold at a community nursery.

The Peace Corps taught her to work with limited resources. She also learned the value of working with others. “If I didn’t have a pot or food I could ask my neighbors,” she said.

Some of her most vivid memories will be the “wildlife” she saw on visits to the outhouse. “There were snakes, tarantulas and loose cows. It was like camping for two years. It was great.”

Cislo was unique in that she avoided social media in preparation for her service. “I didn’t know anybody who had served; I wanted to avoid going in with any preconceived notions of what my Peace Corps experience would be like," she said. "I’m glad I did it my way.” She explained that most volunteers had gotten to know each other on Facebook and had read Peace Corps blogs prior to their assignments. “They had more of a culture shock when they would get to their site and see that even a volunteer in the same province could have a very different experience.”

Cislo, the UAF School of Natural Resources’ third Paul Coverdell Fellow, said Alaska was the natural choice for her graduate work. “It all seemed to fall into place,” she said. “I always wanted to come to Alaska.”

Her research will focus on forest soils and she plans to do environmental education volunteer work while at UAF. “I like Fairbanks. Everybody is so personable. Everybody wants to talk to you; there is friendliness and people have a happy demeanor.”

Cislo’s career goal is to work for the Natural Resources Conservation Service and to some day volunteer for the Peace Corps a second time.

In her spare time, she enjoys reading, crossword and jigsaw puzzles, camping, hiking and hanging out with her cat.

Associate Professor Susan Todd, SNRE Peace Corps Master's International and Coverdell advisor, said, “Julie has a great background in natural resources management. She’s also very adventurous; she’s a natural for our program.”

Julie Cislo celebrates a student's birthday under their "rancho."

Professor David Valentine and Associate Professor Susan Todd welcome Julie Cislo to the School of Natural Resources at UAF.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Japanese undergrad experiences Alaska

Ayana Nagamori learned how to determine the age of trees while serving an internship at the University of Alaska Fairbanks in August, but it is the mosquitoes she will remember the most.

While doing field work for Professor Glenn Juday, Nagamori quickly learned how to suit up with rain gear, head net and bug spray to combat the pesky presence of the "Alaska state bird."

Ayana Nagamori works in the forest near Fairbanks, Alaska. (Miho Morimoto photo)
Nagamori, a sophomore in applied bioscience at Hokkaido University in Japan, kept busy counting tree rings, measuring trees and doing data entry throughout her three weeks in Fairbanks. She went camping in Denali National Park and soaked in the healing waters at Chena Hot Springs Resort. She especially loved seeing the birds at Denali.

Working with School of Natural Resources technician Ryan Jess, Nagamori was amazed that he could point out where there had been fire, competition or drought simply by observing the rings of a tree's core.

She said one difference between Alaska and her home, Toyama, Japan, is that Alaska has only a few varieties of trees and Japan has multitudes. "We have many varieties of just pine trees," she said.

In Alaska, the people are tolerant, Nagamori said. "I want to come back again to see the nature and landscape. I appreciate the people's kindness."

Nagamori's career goal is to become a researcher. "I haven't decided what field yet but forestry is very attractive," she said. For fun Nagamori enjoys riding bicycles and singing karaoke.

Jess said the exchange student fit into the forest sciences field team well. "We wanted to show her what a job like this would entail," he explained. "She had the opportunity to do everything from measuring trees to coring and going through the analysis process."

Donna Anger, director of the UAF Office of International Programs and Initiatives, said the university has partnered with Hokkaido University since 1986. The new aspect is that she was asked to create short programs, including internship opportunities, for students of Hokkaido's Nitobe College, which helps students improve English skills while deepening their understanding of other cultures.

"We're really excited about it," Anger said. "Having Ayana here and working with Natural Resources Management  has been a good learning experience for everybody."

Monday, August 25, 2014

Bret Luick named editor of scientific journal

Bret Luick, associate professor of foods and nutrition at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, has been named associate editor of the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, the official journal of the Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior.

Bret Luick
Luick's research interests include social and environmental determinants of food security and diet quality, with particular emphasis on local economic pressures. His currently funded research programs include developing the use of locally harvested fish in schools and the use of social marketing for the prevention of childhood obesity. He has served on JNEB’s board of editors.

Luick conducts the Alaska Food Cost Survey for the UAF Cooperative Extension Service. He can be reached at 907-474-5170.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Noted ski mountaineer to visit UAF Sept. 3

The first ski mountaineer to ski off the highest point of all seven continents will be at UAF Wednesday, Sept. 3 for a 5-K fun run and a lecture.

Kit DesLauriers
Kit DesLauriers will be in Alaska to help celebrate the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Wilderness Act. To commemorate the landmark conservation law that ensured protection of pristine wildlands for future generations, DesLauriers will lead a 5-K fun run and present a lecture.

The run starts at 2 p.m. Sept. 3 at the climbing tower near the Student Recreation Center. The lecture, "Finding Adventure in Wild Places," is at 7 p.m. in the Davis Concert Hall. All activities are free.

At the lecture, there will be door prizes and the first 200 attendees get a commemorative poster. The events are sponsored by UAF, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service and the Alaska Alpine Club.

DesLauriers has several first descents to her name, including the first ski descent of the Polish Glacier on Aconcagua in Argentina, first female ski descent of Vinson Massif in Antarctica and the first woman to ski from the summit of Mt. Everest, Nepal. In addition to being an accomplished skier and ski mountaineer, she is an experienced rock climber and road and mountain bike racer.

During a 2010 ski expedition to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, DesLauriers skied the highest mountain in the Brooks Range/Arctic Refuge and then traveled 60 miles north to the Beaufort Sea. "It is the one place in the world that I have been that I know I will go back to," she said. "The Arctic Refuge has the wildest silence of any place I’ve visited and I believe strongly in protecting the entire ecosystem with a wilderness designation.”

DesLauriers is raising her two young daughters to appreciate the natural world and is teaching them the skills to move around comfortably in the outdoors. Both Grace and Tia love to hike, ski, camp, climb and grow vegetables with their parents.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Traveling cranes and geese wreak havoc on UAF grain fields

South-bound sandhill cranes and Canada geese are decimating experiment plots and barley fields at the Fairbanks Experiment Farm, located on the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus.

Over 400 cranes and 100 geese visited the Fairbanks Experiment Farm the morning of Aug. 18.
The combination of massive flocks of wildfowl and a late ripening of grains is causing quite a conundrum.

"It's a mess," said experiment farm worker Charles Ashlock. "Last year we had drought and this year rain. But you can't control the weather."

In National Weather Service observations at the farm this summer, June had 3.97 inches of rain, July 5.43 and August (up to Aug. 18) 1.54, totaling 10.94 inches to date. The normal average for June in Fairbanks is 1.67 inches, July 2.52 and August 2.13. June had 18 days of rain, July 11 and August 14 so far.

The cool, wet conditions  have kept the grain from ripening as it should. Usually, the farm crew would have harvested the grain prior to the birds' arrival in the Interior.
Charles Ashlock makes loud noises with a starter gun, hoping the visiting wildfowl will go elsewhere. The birds are not harmed.

Ashlock visits the fields three times a day to shoot a starter gun, hoping the loud noises from firing off "bird bangers" will send the interlopers scurrying to Creamer's Field  Migratory Wildlife Refuge, where a bounty is spread deliberately for them. Meanwhile, some determined and wayward fowl obviously prefer the vittles at the UAF farm and Fairbanks International Airport. The two entities are in frequent contact with each other this time of year about the status of the unwelcome visitors.
Birds have trampled grain plots at the Fairbanks Experiment Farm.

For the past two weeks, thousands of cranes and geese have stopped by the farm, chowing down on the barley intended for the research reindeer herd and grain plots where varieties of wheat, barley, oilseeds and oats are tested. The cranes' trampling effect has also been detrimental. The farm produces 90 percent of the components crucial for the reindeer herd's nutritional needs and any decrease in crop production will have a financial impact, said Reindeer Research Program Manager Greg Finstad. "Whatever the cranes eat we won't have to meet our annual feeding needs and we will have to buy."

"We usually start counting birds Aug. 15 and we've been counting here since Aug. 5," said Fairbanks Experiment Farm Manager Alan Tonne. "We've had a phenomenal number of birds early on. It's usually Aug. 25 before we have large numbers of birds but it fluctuates."

"They are hammering the grain," Ashlock said. "They are wiping out entire corners of the fields. That's our battle right now."

Friday, August 15, 2014

Alaska growers school registration opens

Heidi Rader teaches a session of the Alaska Growers School by distance delivery.
Registration is open for the next session of the Alaska Growers School, which begins Sept. 24.

The 12-week farm training by the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service will be offered across Alaska by webinar or teleconference Wednesdays at 5:30 p.m. through Dec. 17.

Alaska Growers School project director Heidi Rader said the school is ideal for Alaskans who wish to start a farm or expand an existing one for profit or subsistence.

“It’s for anyone in Alaska regardless of production goals,” she said.

Training will emphasize farm planning and risk management but will include the basics of growing vegetables, berries and fruit, raising poultry and livestock, and using season extension techniques. Resources for financial and technical expertise and loan programs also will be covered.

Instructors will include Extension agents and staff, agriculture professionals and farmers from across the state. The fee is $95, and tuition waivers are available. The waiver deadline is Sept. 8. Register and see details about the waivers and the course here.

The school is supported by the Washington State University Western Extension Risk Management Education Center and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture. For more information, contact Glenna Gannon, the Alaska Growers School coordinator, at 907-452-8251, ext. 3281, or