Living in Fairbanks
by Amanda Byrd, former student
Fairbanks often differs considerably from what most people expect prior to their arrival. Contrary to portrayals on television (such as Northern Exposure), Fairbanks is not a vast wilderness with wild animals running through it (for the most part, anyway), though a short drive in any direction will take you to wilderness. Instead, it is a fairly typical city: larger than some, smaller than others. You can find many of the conveniences you would expect to find in a city of its size in the lower 48. Fairbanks has fast food chains, national department and discount stores (Sam’s Club, Home Depot, and Walmart), and restaurants. In addition to the many taxidermy shops, we have a few Chinese restaurants, a few Italian restaurants, five Thai restaurants, a Regal 16 screen movie theater, sporting goods stores, and the list goes on. The point is we have many of the stores that people in the lower 48 have become accustomed to.
The cost of living in Fairbanks is thought to be high, primarily because of the expense of shipping. However, perspectives vary. Fairbanks prices are very similar to Long Island, NY, but expensive compared to those in Charlottesville, VA. It is possible to live here at varying levels of comfort, solely on a stipend if you budget your funds. Grocery bills vary from person to person, depending on what they eat and where they shop. In general, monthly grocery bills begin around $100. For comparison, milk is generally around $3.50-$4.00 a gallon, bread is around $1.79-$2.89, and soup is around $1.10. Noodles can be purchased for 5/$1.00 during sales. As far as other expenses go, gas prices range $4.00-$4.50/gallon, theater movies are $8.50 ($5.50 on cheap night), rental movies are around $3.75, and dining out averages $20.00.
Now that you have an idea of what sort of place to expect, let’s discuss the weather. As you might know, Alaska is the “Land of the Midnight Sun”. In Fairbanks, the number of daylight hours varies from about 21 hours in June to about 3 hours in December. Winter is often long, usually lasting from early October through April. Spring and fall are virtually non-existent, lasting only a couple of weeks, often in September and May. And summer always feels a lot shorter than it really is. Temperatures range from an occasional bitter -60°F during the coldest, darkest winter months to well into the sweltering 90°’s during the daylight-filled summer months. However, more typical extreme temperatures lie around -30°F in the winter and the upper 80°’s in the summer. Interior Alaska is so dry that it is likened to an arctic desert and UAF is situated to receive very little wind. So, it is a dry cold rather than the wet cold you would find in Minnesota. Being prepared for both of these extremes is a must. When it is -30°F or colder, you will want to have the warmest clothes on. Frostbite is a real danger, but can be easily avoided with simple common sense. Bunny boots (military issue pressurized boots), Sorels (pac-type boots with wool felt liners), or similar types of footwear are highly recommended, although you can survive without them. Some people adjust to the weather behaviorally by spending shorter periods of time outdoors and wearing hiking boots with two pairs of warm socks. However, this is not advisable in extreme weather. A very warm arctic parka is a necessity, as well as a thick wool hat, a scarf, wool socks, and heavy long underwear. Mittens are preferable, as they provide more warmth for your fingers than do gloves. These items can be purchased here in Fairbanks, but if you already have them, then you can save money by bringing them with you. Shopping at Big Rays and The Prospector is the best place for warm weather gear. Big Rays is locally owned, and a huge range of great priced boots and clothes. The Prospector is the best place for gloves. When it warms up you don’t want to be stuck wearing all these heavy clothes, so bring summer and spring clothes as well. You can expect to be wearing shorts once temperatures reach 45-50° F. This may sound absurd to you now, but it’s true. The vast range of temperatures requires you to be prepared for both extremes and everything in between. Oh, and don’t forget the bug spray. The mosquitoes are as big as they say.
What to do in your spare time: Ski on the beautiful UAF trails right from your back door (literally). The trails are groomed for skate skiing and classical and are perfect for a leisurely ski or a hard workout. Ski equipment is available at many stores in town including Raven Cross-country, Play-it-Again-Sports and Beaver Sports. Also ski rental is very affordable at Outdoor Adventures (www.uaf.edu/outdoor/) on lower campus in the Wood Center. This organization is run for students, staff and affiliates and provides equipment rentals and amazing Alaskan trips. Trips range from 1day hikes, bike trips or whitewater rafting, to weeklong sea kayaking in Prince William Sound or hiking in the Brooks Range. The Pub on campus is a great venue for live music, wine and beer tasting, movies and a whole lot more, and it is smoke free, (remember you must be 21 years to enter)! Student activities organizes events for students and through them you will meet a wide range of students and partake in social events. The UAF trails also cater for walkers, snowshoers and dogs. There is a Pooch Loop, which is around 1 mile, and weaves through the ski trails. On weekends in winter, Alaska Dog Mushers Association (www.sleddog.org/) holds sled dog races at Mushers Hall on Farmers Loop (5 miles from campus). This is a spectator sport and you may even be asked to help in holding the sleds or dogs before the races. Chena Hot Springs is 50 miles along Chena Hot Springs Road. This a great place to visit after a backpacking, ski, or hiking trip.
Living in Juneau
by Katie Palof, current graduate student
Juneau is not what people expect when they think of Alaska. It is situated in a temperate rainforest and surrounded on three sides by water and the other by glacial ice fields. Living in Juneau is much like living on an island– the only way out is either by plane or ferry. Besides that Juneau is a typical town. We have modern conveniences but are definitely limited in choices. Living in Juneau definitely makes you experienced in Internet shopping! We have a Wal-Mart, Fred Meyers, Costco, and a couple grocery stores. In addition to all of the tourist’s shops downtown, we also have a few good restaurants, a movie theater, a couple gyms, etc. So, we have many of the stores and conveniences that people in the lower 48 have become accustomed to. In addition, Juneau has miles of beautiful, breathtaking trails that can be explored in the summer and winter (with snow shoes or skies), along with Eaglecrest ski area, which is open November through April for ski enthusiasts.
The cost of living in Juneau is thought to be high, primarily because of the increased shipping costs. However, this opinion varies from person to person. It all depends on your perspective. For example, the Juneau cost of living is slightly lower than that of Long Island, NY, but far higher than Charlottesville, VA. It is possible to live here, at varying levels of comfort, solely on a graduate stipend…if you budget your funds. Grocery bills vary, of course, from household to household, depending on what you eat and where you shop. In general, monthly grocery bills begin around $300. For a ball park idea of some prices: milk is about $3.00 a gallon, bread ranges from $2.00 to $5.00, and canned soup is around $1.00 to $4.00. Top Ramen Noodles can be purchased for 4/$1.00 usually. As far as other expenses go, gas prices are currently $4.26/gallon (but are climbing in accordance with the economy), movie tickets are $10.00, movie rentals are around $3.95, and dining out averages around $20.00.
Checks are accepted almost anywhere in Juneau (and in Alaska in general). Photo identification is required, usually a driver’s license (preferably Alaskan), and a phone number. Many local banks offer free checking accounts to students and do not require much of a minimum balance. For this reason, an account register is a must. Plan to switch your bank accounts to a local bank or credit union as soon as possible after you arrive. This will make banking a lot easier for you. We are finding that more and more businesses do not accept checks and many Juneau businesses do not accept all types of credit cards and some (including the movie theater) do not accept any credit cards. It’s a good idea to carry come cash with you just in case.
As you have probably noticed transportation to and from Alaska is expensive. Unfortunately, there is almost no way around this. Alaska Airlines is the ONLY airline that flies in and out of Juneau, and you can expect to pay at least $500 to get from Juneau to Seattle, WA. Tickets to the East Coast often range in the upper $800. You can get the best deal by purchasing your ticket about three to six months in advance, although at least one month in advance should produce a decent price. Also it’s a good plan to keep up with the sales available through Alaska Airlines (www.alaskaair.com) and to get a mileage plan number, because there are lots of ways to earn miles. If you plan on driving to Juneau you will need to take the Alaska Marine Highway (ferry system) to actually bring your vehicle into the city. You can catch a ferry to Juneau from the west coast in either Bellingham, Washington or Prince Rupert, British Columbia. Or you could take the scenic route through Canada and end up in either Skagway or Haines, AK. If driving is your plan consult the Alaska Marine Highway website (www.dot.state.ak.us/amhs/) for schedules and remember that advanced reservations are needed for vehicles.
It is a good idea to have a place to stay when you first arrive in Juneau. Many new students get a room in the dorms at UAS (University of Alaska Southeast) or stay at their advisor’s house. If you get in touch with some of the current grad students before you arrive, we can arrange some bed/couch/floor space for you. Phone numbers or email addresses for grad students can be obtained from your advisor or Gabrielle Hazelton, our go to person here in Juneau. Your best plan is to get to know Gabrielle, as well as the other office workers, once you arrive here in Juneau to ensure that your stay here is well informed and stress-free.
Please take a moment to get in touch with us, so we can help you get set up. If you would rather stay in a hotel/motel, there are several in Juneau for you to choose from. If you arrive in the fall, you can expect a student orientation in the beginning of the semester, along with some type of welcoming get together. Make sure you check your new UAF e-mail account for updates on these events.
Now that you have an idea of what sort of place to expect, let’s discuss the weather. As you might know, Alaska is the “Land of the Midnight Sun”. However, in Juneau our daylight is not as extreme as northern Alaska, the number of daylight hours varies from about 18 hours in June to about 6.5 hours in December. Juneau is situated in a temperature rainforest and we joke that we have 2 seasons: winter (snow) and spring/summer/fall (rain). Winter can be long, but usually lasts from late November through March. Spring and summer are virtually non-existent, lasting only a couple of weeks, often in May and June. Fall always feels like the longest season, some years starting in August and continuing until December or so, depending on when we get snow.
Juneau has a fairly temperate climate, and most of the year temperatures range from 20°F is the cold winter months to high 60°’s during the daylight-filled summer months. However, the majority of the year (spring, summer, and fall) the temperature is Juneau is a comfortable 55°F. Juneau receives an annual average of 57 to 90 inches of rainfall and 98 inches of snow. Being situated between multiple tall mountains Juneau tends to be a rainy, foggy valley, so be prepared for many overcast days, but also be prepared to enjoy the sun when it shines. Investing in a good waterproof yet breathable raincoat is a MUST HAVE for getting by in Juneau.
Juneau does not face the extreme cold temperatures that you have in northern Alaska, therefore “winterizing” your vehicle is NOT necessary. Snow tires and/or 4-wheel drive are helpful for dealing with the snow and ice, as well as the large number of hills and steep driveways. The majority of your lower 48 cars will work out just fine up here, and if you decide you need snow tires Costco offers them at a fairly normal price.
If you do not have a car or truck, getting around Juneau can be hard. Bicycling is a very good possibility, with the proper gear and information and if you don’t mind riding in the rain most of the time. Keep in mind that cycling in the winter can be hazardous. Great care needs to be taken, especially when it’s dark and the roads are icy. We do have a public transportation system that covers most of the highly populated areas of Juneau. However, as of summer 2008 it does not run out to the CFOS building at Lena Point, which we are moving into fall of 2008. From the last bus stop to the Lena Point facility is about 5.5 miles, easily doable by bike, but a pretty far walk. To see the most current maps and bus routes, visit www.juneau.org/capitaltransit/index.php.
Finding a place to live in Juneau can be hard, but it isn’t impossible. You will want to make arrangements as soon as you can. Graduate students live in a variety of accommodations: a dorm room, a room in someone’s house, or an apartment. Most students try to live in the Auke Bay or Back Loop area, both of which are closer to the University, but any apartment in the “valley” area would be good. If you are looking at apartments in downtown Juneau or “West” Juneau (really Douglas island –definitely your furthest housing option) you will probably drive about 30 miles roundtrip to the University and back, however it will take you about 30 minutes one way to make this commute. Due to the tourist season many apartments are occupied until late September by seasonal employees, so if you don’t have much luck for an apartment at first you may want to find temporary housing and wait. Additionally, housing is difficult to fine from January to May due to the influx of all the legislature staffers. Landlords vary in whether or not they will allow pets, especially dogs. It can be a big gamble and severely limit your housing possibilities if you have a pet of any kind.
Newspaper ads (visit http://www.juneauempire.com), signs posted on campus, and word of mouth exchanges tend to dominate as advertisement. If you want to peruse a paper for housing before you get here, our local paper is the Juneau Empire. It would probably be easiest to have your advisor send you a copy or check out their WEB site: http://www.juneauempire.com. The listings in the classifieds may give you an idea of what you can expect in terms of housing and other things. Be forewarned! Good housing vacancies are filled extremely quickly, as is true at most universities. Generally, there are more vacancies in May than there are in September. Don’t get too discouraged. Just keep your eyes open and realize that one semester in a less than ideal location is merely an opportunity to seek out a prime spot. Rent varies according to proximity to the University, size, and quality. Check the housing information flyer you receive with other UAF propaganda for the cost of a dorm room. Renting a room in someone’s home is a fairly easy option, costing about $500 per month. Rent for a furnished, one bedroom apartment begins around $850 a month, plus utilities. Unfurnished and one room efficiency apartments are usually a little bit less.
The Juneau Center of the CFOS will be your home away from home during your time here as a student. As already mentioned, once you arrive in Juneau make contact with our office here. The staff will all be helpful and essential to settling you in to your Juneau-CFOS home. They are the ones you’ll see for access to buildings, labs, and offices as well as information on getting paid (an essential) and registering for classes. Also, please consult the office if you need to ship items to Juneau and do not yet have an address.
Mark Young, Bachelor of Arts in Fisheries
by Katie Murra Straub, Recruitment & Retention Coordinator
Q: What first brought you to Alaska?
The Army brought my family and me to Alaska. My involvement with UAF started almost immediately upon my arrival, both as a student and an adjunct instructor in the music department. When I agreed to come to Alaska I was in mylast semester of grad school at Auburn University as a percussion performance major and I only needed two elective courses to complete my degree. I was able to take those courses at UAF and I was asked if I would teach a couple of percussion courses at UAF.
Q: Tell me a little more about your educational background.
I received my Bachelor of Music in Percussion Performance in 1991 from Henderson State University. If you think being a broke college graduate is bad, add a degree in music performance to the mix! What was an undergrad musician to do? Join the Army, of course! It was while I was in the Army that I was offered the opportunity to earn my master’s degree in music. My focus in grad school was on Guatemalan marimba and Indonesian gamelan. When my wife and I decided to stay in Alaska I knew that I would have to either go back to school for a teaching credential or do something completely different.
Q: How did you decide to pursue a B.A. in Fisheries?
I was flying from Kodiak back to Fairbanks when I saw an article in a magazine about the B.A. in Fisheries. I knew I had to check it out. I am a Coast Guard accredited mariner, an AMSEA certified drill conductor, licensed Alaska Saltwater Guide and Charter operator and I serve as a trainer for marine oil spill response training. The program just seemed to fit my interests and background.
Q: What do you look forward to in your fisheries education?
I really like the diverse faculty and the way CFOS connects students and faculty together in a manner that is geared toward common interests. Katie Murra Straub did a fantastic job at looking at my background and matching me with an awesome advisor, Courtney Carothers. Carothers’ background in commercial fisheries, community development and the human dimension of fisheries is a great match.
Q: How do you feel your fisheries education will benefit you?
It has already benefited me. Andrew Seitz’s “Fishes of Alaska” course has given me a great appreciation and respect for all of the fish that come aboard, including those pesky spiny dogfish. John Kelley’s “The Oceans” class has opened my eyes to the role of the ocean in the Earth system.
Q: What do you like about Alaska?
My family and I have lived in Alaska for almost 15 years and we cannot imagine living anywhere else. I enjoy all of the incredible resources Alaska has to offer, not only the natural resources, but the great cultural resources as well. I have performed with the Fairbanks Symphony and through the Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival I studied with principal players from the Boston Pops and performed with artists from the recording studios of Hollywood and Broadway. My point is this is an amazing place to live and study– no matter what your interests are.
I really enjoy CFOS, because it is “experiential.” The way the School has developed their programs so that the curriculum has integrated classroom learning and “real world” opportunities is fantastic. In a lot of ways it reminds me of when I was an undergrad in music. There is so much energy throughout CFOS.
Q: What is your favorite thing about UAF?
For a university that is not that large, I am amazed at the breadth and depth of the programs. UAF has it all. What do you hope to do in the future? I would really like to work for Sea Grant, specifically, the Marine Advisory Program as a marine advisory agent. When I was the director of training at Prince William Sound Community College, I had the privilege of interfacing with two members of the Marine Advisory Program, Don Kramer and Torie Baker. Both were absolutely fascinating to talk to about their individual specialties.
MAP is appealing to me because I would like to work with rural communities in the areas of seafood quality, marketing, business planning, education and marine safety. I have worked with commercial fishermen throughout Prince William Sound, Kodiak, Seward and Homer for the last several years training them in oil spill response. Working in and around fish and the people who make it a living would be an awesome job.
I am very excited about being an CFOS student and pursuing the B.A. fisheries degree. In the short amount of time I have been involved with CFOS, I can tell there is a lot of energy from the students, staff and faculty. I am proud to be a part of that.
Kevin Fraley, Bachelor of Science in Fisheries
By Kevin Fraley
Spring 2012 Graduate
Kevin Fraley is a freshman studying fisheries at the UAF College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences. In this autobiographical piece, Fraley tells us why he decided to study fisheries and why he chose to come to UAF for college.
I grew up in Kalispell, Montana, as the son of a fisheries biologist. I was exposed to the outdoors and fish when I was very young. My dad got me interested in fishing and aquatic insects, and I often helped him when he made presentations about natural resources and fisheries.
Later, when I was in fourth grade, I volunteered in the “Hooked on Fishing not on Drugs Program” at my elementary school. “Hooked on Fishing” is a program where kids are taken out on fishing trips at local bodies of water to increase their connection with the outdoors and wildlife. I continued to help with this program until I graduated from high school.
Another fisheries-related activity I participated in was the “Fishing Without Barriers Day.” This is an activity where disabled anglers from all over Montana were taken out on Flathead Lake in charter boats to fish for the sporty and succulent lake trout. I helped these anglers fight and land the fish, and also assisted the charter boat captains with various nautical tasks.
I was and still am an avid fisherman, and this helped me appreciate the world of fish even more. I liked to fish for different and interesting fish, and I marveled at their strange and intriguing habits. It was then, in about seventh grade, that I decided I wanted to become a fish biologist like my father.
I continued to participate in “Hooked on Fishing” and “Fishing Without Barriers Day,” and I also began to volunteer for my dad at Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks.
I went with him several times to count Westslope cutthroat trout (Montana’s state fish) and bull trout redd (a nest made by fish in gravel to lay eggs and spawn) counts in the area.
I also tagged along on genetic surveys, population estimates, and fish stocking efforts.
Two summers ago I went on a three day mark and recapture population estimate with the Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks Fisheries crew.
This was a hook and line capture estimate, so it was lots of fun. It was also nice to hang out with the biologists on this trip. I realized that the field of fisheries must draw some pretty good people because everybody on the crew was very likeable and easy to relate to.
Last summer I was chosen as an American Fisheries Society Hutton Scholarship/Internship winner. During this internship I learned about fisheries techniques and the importance of public opinion. I was able to get the feel of what a fisheries biologist’s job is really like. I participated in a wide variety of fun jobs such as gill-netting, plankton sampling, electrofishing from boat and backpack, and stocking fish. I even learned how to sort aquatic insects by order.
All these experiences have made me realize that fisheries is the career for me, and I wouldn’t be happy doing anything else. It also makes me feel good to know that I’m contributing to the health and good management of the fish populations that I love.
I decided to come to the University of Alaska Fairbanks for several reasons, chiefly because I wanted to experience the wildness of Alaska. It also helped that the unit leader of a prestigious fisheries school in the Lower 48 recommended UAF’s program over his own.
The staff at UAF and the College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences were more personable and helpful than those at other universities. I also earned several substantial scholarships that have allowed me to attend UAF.
I am currently taking “Introduction to Fisheries” because it is a requirement for the degree, and because it will help me jump right in to the next upper-level fisheries courses I take. As a fisheries student at UAF, I am looking forward to gaining new perspectives on what fisheries management is like in Alaska and learn about Alaska’s fish, many of which are new to me.
Shelley Woods, Bachelor of Science in Fisheries
Fall 2009 Graduate
by Shelley Woods
My name is Shelley Woods. I am 22 years old and I am pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Fisheries from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Fisheries has not always been my career choice, although I have been involved in subsistence and commercial fisheries since I was very young.
I grew up in Dillingham, Alaska subsisting and being involved with commercial fishing. I went off to a private college after high school to study biology, with the intent to go to medical school. After a summer internship counting salmon in a remote field setting I changed my course of studies to fisheries.
I have a particular interest in fisheries management as I have experience as a fisherwoman and an intern biologist. I am in my second semester of the fisheries program at UAF and have nothing but good things to say about my professors and peers at UAF. Because of the community atmosphere I plan to stay in Fairbanks and enter into the graduate program. I look forward to being a part of the exciting growth and development that the College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences is undergoing.
(Note: In Spring 2010 fisheries senior Shelley Woods received the Outstanding Student Award for the College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences. She was recognized at the UAF annual student awards breakfast in late April and at an American Fisheries Society Fairbanks Sub-Unit barbecue in May.
Woods also received a $2,000 scholarship from CFOS as the outstanding senior in the fisheries undergraduate program. She plans to graduate this fall with a B.S. in fisheries and then continue on to graduate studies in fisheries at CFOS.
Other scholarship winners for the fisheries program include outstanding junior Keegan Birchfield ($2,000), sophomore Chris Oliver ($1,500) and freshman Mark Setzer ($1,500). Learn more about fisheries scholarships here.
Jessica Johnson, Bachelor of Science in Fisheries,
Hello, my name is Jess Johnson and I am originally from Montana. I came to the University of Alaska Fairbanks College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences to pursue a Bachelor of Science degree in fisheries. I will graduate with my B.S. in fisheries this spring [spring 2008]. At UAF, I have been an active member of our student subunit of the American Fisheries Society. Last year, I was the secretary for the subunit and I am currently serving as the president.
I have had two great job experiences in fisheries during my undergraduate career at UAF. The first one was with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game where I worked as a College Intern II with Lisa Stuby on her project that involved radio-tagging Chinook salmon on the Kuskokwim River. The second opportunity I had was with the Bureau of Land Management where I worked as a Biological Aide with Jason Post on his project that involved taking age, sex, and length on Chinook and chum salmon on the Tozitna River. After graduation, I plan to use these valuable fisheries experiences and the knowledge I gained from my education at UAF to find a position as a Fisheries Biologist with a state department or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.