Alpine studies and climate change
Professor Dave Verbyla is working with a team of scientists trying to find out why Dall sheep populations in Alaska and western Canada have declined by more than 20 percent since 1990. The decline is most pronounced in the western Brooks Range, where the population has dropped 70 percent. Declining populations have led to emergency harvest closures and a contentious wildlife management issue that affects sport and subsistence hunters and wildlife viewers.
Verbyla, along with UAF Assistant Professor Todd Brinkman, is participating in a four-year study funded by NASA that will look at the changing habitat of Dall sheep in Alaska, the Northwest Territories, northern British Columbia and the Yukon Territory. The study will consider how vegetation and snow conditions are changing in alpine ecosystems and how those changes affect Dall sheep.
Sustainable agriculture for Alaskans
UAF students may now earn a minor in sustainable agriculture through the School of Natural Resources and Extension.
Horticulture Professor Meriam Karlsson, who heads the SNRE Agriculture and Horticulture Department, said the university approved the new minor last May. “It’s a good addition,” she said. “There are a lot of concerns and interest in food security, local production and the use of sustainable production methods. This is a trend nationwide, although the remoteness and environmentally challenging conditions make sustainable agriculture especially relevant to Alaska.”
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Getting information to rural Alaskans
When Heidi Rader started working as a tribes Extension educator, she already knew a lot about gardening and farming; since then, she has added food preservation, blogging, teaching and technology to her list of skills.
Rader delivers workshops in villages and communities throughout Alaska, including Arctic Village in the foothills of the Brooks Range, Holy Cross on the lower Yukon River and Dot Lake near Tok. She teaches whatever a community requests from a list of workshops she has developed. They include topics like cooking fresh foods from the garden, seed starting, composting with worms, extending the growing season and even applying for grants.
Teaching home food preservers
Sarah Lewis is what you might call a renaissance Extension agent. Based in Juneau, Lewis became the Southeast Alaska family and community development agent after working as an architect for 20 years and receiving a master’s degree in social work.
Lewis already had a strong interest in food security and emergency planning before she joined Extension, and she had trained as a Master Gardener and served on local foods groups for several years. She also wrote a freelance column for the Juneau Empire called Main Street Homesteader with articles about cooking, urban homesteading, food security, sustainable architecture and other topics.
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Note from the Vice Provost
As the university moves through difficult financial times, the School of Natural Resources and Extension continues its focus on teaching, research and outreach in our great state. The strength and the quality of our faculty continue to shine.
On the academic side, the school provides relevant, hands-on natural resources instruction and research opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students. Over the last five years, our enrollment has been increasing and we added a minor in sustainable agriculture this past year.
SNRE researchers are leaders in natural resources management, studying the impact of how a changing arctic climate affects Alaska’s forests, soils and agriculture. As the University of Alaska begins its centennial celebration, it’s important to remember that the Fairbanks Experiment Station, which was founded in 1906, became the nucleus around which the Alaska Agricultural College and School of Mines and later the university would grow.
Our agents continue Extension’s 86-year history of taking research-based practical information and disseminating it to Alaskan communities. Even though the size of our organization may shrink, we are still relevant in delivering science-based curricula through our youth programs, encouraging food and production agriculture and helping families with food preservation, food safety, energy and health programs.
I thank the faculty and staff for their hard work and dedication to our land-grant mission. I also thank our many stakeholders who continuously advocate for our school.
Vice Provost, School of Natural Resources and Extension