Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Grad students wow foresters with research presentations

Given the chance to present their research to professional foresters, natural resources management graduate students represented the University of Alaska Fairbanks in fine fashion.

Presenting Sept. 30 to members of the state Reforestation Science and Technical Committee (an advisory committee for the Board of Forestry), Andrew Allaby and Miho Morimoto shared their work on forest regeneration. Both are involved in Professor Glenn Juday's Boreal Alaska -- Learning, Adaptation and Production research project.

From left, Professor Glenn Juday, Andrew Allaby and Miho Morimoto presented their research findings to the Reforestation Science and Technical Committee on Sept. 30.
"I was so proud of those students," Juday said. "Their presentations affect the actual process of our state's regulatory authority for forest management practices. This was an invaluable experience for graduate students in natural resources management. This is one of the things characteristic of our degree program; we do research with consequences."

Both students reported on white spruce regeneration in the Tanana Valley State Forest since the 1983 Rosie Creek Fire decimated the area. Prior to BAKLAP, foresters were relying on information researched in other geographic areas. With state funding, BAKLAP researchers have been measuring and documenting that specific area. "We only had 12 years of work before," Juday explained. "I knew there was more to the story. With BAKLAP we were able to salvage that investment and make it pay off 30 years later. That's really gratifying to see."

Morimoto, a doctoral student, spoke on forest regeneration post-harvest in Fairbanks area of the Tanana Valley State Forest: meeting emerging biomass energy demands.

She has been evaluating harvest for sustainable yield, noting if harvest units are adequately regenerated, testing for significant differences in regeneration among different types of management and examining how much biomass was accumulated in 40 years post-harvest.

Morimoto studies harvest activities and reforestation by thoroughly examining existing databases. She also sampled 27 harvest units to study regeneration over the long term. Throughout the summer of 2013, she walked every plot, comparing techniques; and since then has been analyzing data.

She concluded harvest units are adequately regenerated, based on the State Sustainable Yield Standard and that site preparation and natural regeneration tended to produce denser and larger stems of regeneration and greater amounts of biomass. To produce larger spruce, she recommended planting seedlings and for biomass, she said site preparation and natural regeneration are the preferred method.

Grad student Allaby addressed which white spruce regeneration techniques were most effective in producing biomass. "When the Rosie Creek Fire burned a fair portion of the university forest it gave us an opportunity for new research," he said.

In a 66-acre study area, he has measured 140 units for white spruce stocking and scarification. He counted trees and measured the height of 16,000 trees on 4 1/2 acres. "It's starting to look like a forest," he said. "It's pleasing to see 60-foot tall aspens and birch and 28-year-old white spruce pushing 40 feet.

"Should we scarify?" he asked. "It depends on the forest management objectives. Should we plant spruce? Broadcasting and planting seedlings has a positive impact on biomass."

Juday added that the BAKLAP work and graduate student research help researchers focus on climate challenges. "They are actually playing out in pretty understandable ways but not always exact ways," he said.

The foresters at the Fairbanks meeting Tuesday and those on the phone from around the state were impressed with the UAF students' presentations. "The foresters seemed delighted," he said. "The relevance of our research now is very high. This is squarely on target for natural resources management information needs."

Friday, September 26, 2014

UAF applauded for 10 years of Master's International Program

Since 2004, the University of Alaska Fairbanks has hosted the Peace Corps Master's International Program.

MIP allows students to earn a master's degree in conjunction with Peace Corps service. UAF offers the program through the School of Natural Resources and Extension and Alaska Native Studies and Rural Development.
Tony Gasbarro accepts a certificate of appreciation for UAF's 10th anniversary of participating in the Master's International Program from Stephanie Nys, Peace Corps regional representative. Nys is wearing traditional clothing from Liberia, where she served in the Peace Corps.

Stephanie Nys, Peace Corps regional representative, was in Fairbanks Sept. 25 to talk to students about Peace Corps service and presented certificates of appreciation to Tony Gasbarro, volunteer Peace Corps campus coordinator.

A returned Peace Corps volunteer, Gasbarro was instrumental in bringing the MIP and Coverdell Fellows programs to UAF. He credited retired Extension employee Kristy Long, also a returned Peace Corps volunteer, with helping get MIP set up and Associate Professor Susan Todd with keeping the momentum going. SNRE has 15 Peace Corps-affiliated students this semester. "She is the one making this work," Gasbarro said of Todd.

The certificate stated, "Your expertise and service have enabled the Peace Corps to provide quality volunteers who have had a lasting impact throughout the world."

OneTree gets expert advice from birch artist

When researchers need help, who better to ask than experts?

As OneTree Alaska staff worked to record data on birch trees in their progeny evaluation trial at the University of Alaska Fairbanks T-field, they had a little trouble distinguishing bark color.

From left Professor David Valentine, OneTree Director Janice Dawe, artist Kesler Woodward and instructional designer Zachary Meyers examine birch trees in the OneTree Alaska progeny evaluation trial plots, UAF campus.
One Tree Director Janice Dawe consulted with renowned artist Kesler Woodward. Curious, Woodward took Dawe up on her request and along with Professor David Valentine, he showed up on a sunny September afternoon to examine the trees.

Woodward said he chose birch trees as the inspiration for his art because of their extraordinary variety. "You can have the same seeds, same conditions, same soil and the trees are more varied in character from individual tree to individual tree than any other tree in the world," he said.

Dawe explained that scientists don't really know why that is. "There are so many factors," she said. "There are more variables than can be neatly summarized."

After consulting with Woodward and Valentine, Dawe came up with a new way to record color of bark when gathering data. "We measure the tree in thirds to count branches and compare between parts of the tree so now we are going to add bark color. Making comparisons between the three parts will be useful. This got us thinking."

Another thing Woodward suggested was having students who participate in OneTree's field excursions to stare at a leaf intensely for one minute then look at a piece of white paper. He said the three things that matter with color are hue, value (brightness) and chroma (purity).

Valentine suggested using the Munsell soil color chart that soil scientists use. Dawe was excited to use this tool to label birch bark color.

"We got a lot of good ideas this afternoon," she said.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

SNRE grad student heads up Red Cross disaster preparedness

Family and the Peace Corps Master's International Program drew Celia Jackson to the University of Alaska Fairbanks, but a great job with the American Red Cross will keep her here.

Jackson grew up in Seattle and earned a bachelor's degree in environmental policy and planning at Western Washington University. She came to UAF's School of Natural Resources two years ago to study natural resources management, having been chosen for the Master's International Program.

After receiving notice that her Peace Corps assignment would be Ghana, Jackson injured her back and had to have surgery. "I realized the healing process would take a year," she said. While taking a semester off, she made the difficult decision to postpone Peace Corps service and withdraw from the Master's International Program.
Celia Jackson at the confluence of the Yukon and Tanana Rivers in Tanana, Alaska.
"I can join the Peace Corps later," she said stoically.

Jackson is finishing her master's degree and hopes to graduate in May.  She was a Red Cross volunteer in Seattle, helping fire victims find shelter.

She began working for the Red Cross as a part-time disaster specialist, assisting with volunteer management and outreach. Recently she was promoted to disaster program manager and is managing disaster services and volunteers. The area covered includes Fairbanks, the Yukon-Kuskokwim region, the North Slope Borough, the Northwest Arctic Borough, Nome and Valdez.

Jackson enjoys partnering with other agencies, planning events and looking out for the safety of Alaskans. And she loves working with volunteers. "They really care about the mission of the Red Cross," she said. "Volunteering is such a powerful thing. It gives you the control to do something positive. Even if your job or your personal life are not going well you can lift yourself up through volunteering."

She is especially passionate about disaster preparedness in rural Alaska and in August flew to Tanana to meet with Red Cross volunteers.

Jackson has been able to incorporate her graduate research with her job, working with volunteers to survey the Yukon-Kuskokwim area to determine disaster readiness She wants to publish preparedness materials targeted to each region. "As far as I can tell, that has never been done," she said. "I want to grow this program in the villages.

"I'm lucky this fell into my lap. This is a great research project; it's relevant and timely."

Working in disaster readiness take flexibility, Jackson said. "You have to be willing to go with the flow, to change plans at a second's notice. And you have to smile and laugh and keep a positive attitude."

Ironically, Peace Corps service and working for the Red Cross require some of the same skills and mindsets, Jackson said. "You live or die by your attitude."

She is glad she came to UAF. "It is a safe and friendly place to get acquainted with Alaska," she said. Jackson enjoys the camaraderie with Peace Corps students in the natural resources management program. "They provide a network of friends even though I didn't go into the Peace Corps."

Anyone interested in volunteering with the Red Cross is welcome to contact Jackson. "The Red Cross is always looking for volunteers," she said. "It would give students professional level volunteerism to add to their resume."

When not working or studying, Jackson likes to walk her dog, backpack, ski, climb and read. She is a volunteer EMT and firefighter for Chena-Goldstream Fire Department.

Birch bark workshop offered at Matanuska Experiment Farm

The University of Alaska Fairbanks is offering a birch bark weaving workshop at the Matanuska Experiment Farm Tuesday, Oct. 7 from 3 to 9 p.m.

John Zasada, retired silviculturist with the U.S. Forest Service of Alaska, is the instructor. A master bark weaver, Zasada has been teaching birch bark classes for over a decade. He teaches at North House Folk School in Minnesota.
Working with birch bark is fun!
Participants will learn how to weave birch bark to make a beautiful, functional wall basket. No prior experience is necessary but students are advised to come ready to learn and bring plenty of patience, as well as scissors, spring-type clothespins and a knife. Snacks will be available.

The farm is located at 1509 S. Georgeson Drive, Palmer.

The fee is $40 and a maximum of eight students will be accepted. Register here or contact Valerie Barber, 907-746-9466.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Forest Sports Festival set for Oct. 4

You never know what you’ll see at the Farthest North Forest Sports Festival. Last year, a man in a g-string shocked the crowds during the birling event, showing himself in almost all his glory before being hurled into the frigid Ballaine Lake.
From one extreme to the other, birlers last year dressed in dry suits or nothing at all.

On the opposite spectrum, another birler dressed out in a full dry suit. Neither man won the “walk on a big log in a cold lake” event but both were memorable.

Hosted by the University of Alaska Fairbanks forestry professors, their colleagues and the UAF student club Resource Management Society for 17 years, the Forest Fest draws more competitors and spectators every year. Come Oct. 4, it will be time to haul out the axes and saws once again.

The fun begins at the Fairbanks Experiment Farm at 10 a.m. with ax throwing, crosscut sawing, pulp toss and log rolling. At around 1 p.m. the competition moves to Ballaine Lake off of Farmers Loop where three crowd-loving episodes occur: campfire building, nail pounding and birling. Teams are charged with splitting wood, making kindling, building a fire and bringing a can of water to boil. The most popular activity with crowds, birling, concludes the day. Competitors try to stay aloft on a big floating log. Just about every birler ends up drenched by the chilly waters of Ballaine Lake.
Pete Buist builds a campfire. (UAF Photo by JR Ancheta)

Individuals or teams of four to six compete. Even the team names are entertaining. Last year, a three-way tie had to be broken between the Wood Chips, Schaeffer Cox Freedom Riders and the Lumber Jerks.

 At the end of the day, the top team, the “Belle of the Woods” and the “Bull of the Woods” are awarded certificates.

UAF School of Natural Resources faculty developed the competition to commemorate the rich history of forestry and logging and re-enact old-fashioned forest festivals. While high-technology tools are the norm for forest professionals today, the festival pays tribute to a time when traditional woods activities were the basis for work and play, survival and revival.

Last year’s Belle of the Woods, Alice Orlich, said, “It is always such a delight to see Fairbanksans come out on a crisp fall day to test their mettle.”

Competitors toss pulp wood during the Forest Sports Festival.

There are no entry fees. Contact Professor John Yarie for more information, 474-5650,

USDA official to meet with UAF faculty

Christian J. Foster, deputy administrator for the Office of Trade Programs, Foreign Agricultural Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, will meet with SNRE faculty and students Friday, Sept. 26.

In Alaska to meet with businesses about export marketing opportunities, Foster will set aside a day for UAF. He will discuss opportunities with agriculture and forestry faculty, as well as Bryce Wrigley, owner of Alaska Flour Co. and Delta Junction farmer.

At 3:15 p.m. on Sept. 26, Foster will give a talk on the role of FAS in international trade and exports, future trends expected in global agricultural trade and career opportunities with the USDA. The lecture is in Arctic Health Research Building 183.

Further reading:

USDA officials to meet with Alaska businesses about export marketing opportunities, Alaska Business Monthly, Sept. 19, 2014