Read individual stories from the 2015 issue of SNRE Annual Highlights below, read the entire issue online or download the PDF

4-H develops leaders

An Alaska Herb Garden cover image

Geneva Wright  was a high school senior this past spring when she met with President Obama in the White House. 

Eight 4-H members from rural communities around the country were asked to give short presentations to the president. Wright said she led a line of youth to the Oval Office and was surprised when the president himself opened the door.

Wright said the president asked about rural poverty. She told him about the conditions in Tanana, where she lives, and in rural Alaska, where there are high rates of domestic violence and suicide and getting fresh food is a challenge.

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Conducting surveys of recreation areas

Visitors raft on the Nenana River near Denali National Park. UAF photo by Todd Paris

When the Bureau of Land Management  assesses user demand for recreation areas, it frequently turns to Peter Fix for help. 

Fix, an associate professor of outdoor recreation management, has conducted surveys for BLM for 10 years. The work is part of a Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Unit collaboration between public agencies and universities. The unit that covers most of Alaska is coordinated by the University of Alaska Fairbanks, under the direction of Fix. 

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Researching a changing climate

Sam Demientieff takes a core sample from a mature white spruce along the lower Yukon River as part of research on white spruce growth over time. Photo by Claire Alix

Scientists say  the average temperature across Alaska has increased by approximately 3 degrees Fahrenheit in the last 60 years and additional warming is expected, along with drier conditions. 

Researchers with the School of Natural Resources and Extension are studying how the changing climate affects the distribution of vegetation, forest productivity, regrowth and management, arctic and subarctic soils and new agricultural possibilities. Some of this research is highlighted here. 

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Preserving the harvest safely

Sarah Lewis loads jars of soup into a canner during a July 2015 food preservation class at the Sitka Kitch. Photo by Charles Bingham

Juneau agent Sarah Lewis teamed up  with the Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium last year to teach workshops on food preservation and developing small foods businesses in more than a dozen Southeast communities. 

Working with community contacts, Lewis offered classes based on local interest in everything from canning fish and making sauerkraut to knowing what to do when your freezer conks out. While visiting communities from Hydaburg and Ketchikan to Skagway and Klukwan, she also checked the accuracy of pressure canner gauges. 

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Identifying invasive species with technology

AK Weeds ID app logo

Gino Graziano, an invasive plants instructor with Extension, worked with the University of Georgia to develop the Alaska Weeds Identification app. 

Graziano said the app will make it easier for people to identify invasive weeds and to report them if they are unsure about the identification or are concerned about the presence of invasive weeds on their property or public lands. The app provides photographs, descriptions of the plants by type or region, and management practices. 

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Gardening in an adopted home

Bhakti Dhakal shows off some of the produce grown for Fresh International Gardens. Photo by Edwin Remsberg

Extension has been teaching refugees how to garden Anchorage since 2007 as part of its Refugee Farmers Market Project. 

Working with Anchorage horticulture agent Julie Riley, they learn how to grow Alaska vegetables and herbs in an 8,000-square-foot garden on city parkland. The refugees harvest their crops and, with the help of volunteers, sell them at Anchorage farmers markets under the name Fresh International Gardens. 

Participants have come from Congo, Togo, Sudan, Thailand and, most recently, Bhutan. Bhutanese refugee Phul Niroula resettled in Anchorage with her family in 2011 through the Refugee Assistance and Immigration Services Program. She enjoys working in the garden. 

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Academic programs develop farmers

University of Alaska Fairbanks students visit the Northern Lights Dairy in Delta Junction as part of a natural resources management field tour.

Roger Ridenour grew up on a farm  in western Pennsylvania, but he is learning about farming in Alaska from the School of Natural Resources and Extension.

“I know farming in Pennsylvania but Alaska makes it twice as hard,” says Ridenour, who came to Alaska as a tuba player with the Army and stayed. He and his wife bought 63 acres to farm near North Pole.

So far he has taken classes on greenhouse management, plant science, soils, sustainable agriculture and plant propagation. He hopes to have a producing greenhouse within four years, and also raise vegetables, pigs, chickens and cows.  

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Researching light

Meriam Karlsson is developing a set of guidelines for using LEDs in Alaska greenhouses.

Horticulture professor Meriam Karlsson  is studying the use of LEDs in high-latitude greenhouses and developing guidelines for their use. She says that LEDs are a good research tool because they allow researchers to “hone in on different aspects of light.” 

Although it has always been assumed that full-spectrum light is the best, Karlsson says that may not be the case. For example, she has found that for photosynthesis to occur you need to increase red and blue light, but you also need to “tweak” the mix of red(s), blue and even white and yellow to get exactly what you want.

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Note from the Vice Provost

The UAF School of Natural Resources and Extension encompasses teaching, research and outreach. On the academic side, the school provides relevant, hands-on natural resources research and instruction for undergraduate and graduate students. During the past two years, our enrollment has increased. We have added a new minor in forest management and are also seeking professional accreditation of our natural resources management degree by the Society of American Foresters. Representatives will visit the school this spring.

Our researchers study natural resources management, including the impact of how a changing climate affects Alaska’s forests, soils and agriculture. Other research focuses on greenhouse management, animal science, agronomy, horticulture, policy law and public lands tourism. The research arm of the school includes the Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station, a research institute with more than 100 years of history. It was founded in 1906 as the federal Agricultural Experiment Station.

Extension agents continue their 85-year history of exemplary work in communities throughout Alaska. Extension makes a significant impact, whether it’s science, technology, engineering and math  (STEM) school programs, youth mentoring, working with rhodiola and peony growers, or helping families with food preservation or gardening.

As with other university departments, we face funding challenges but intend to keep the school’s credit and noncredit offerings strong and relevant to Alaska. We are capitalizing on videoconference and online course delivery technology to extend our reach to more students.

Please contact me with any concerns or ideas you have on how we can do a better job.


Fred Schlutt

Vice Provost, School of Natural Resources and Extension

Fred Schlutt, Vice Provost
Fred Schlutt, Vice Provost
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