All posts by University Relations

UAF professor weighs in on patriotism

A recent WalletHub article naming Alaska as the nation’s second-most patriotic state quoted Brandon Boylan, UAF assistant professor of political science.

The article, published before the July 4 weekend, reported on a study of 12 metrics that address military engagement, voting habits and civil-education requirements. The study found that Alaska ranks behind only Virginia in patriotism.

Boylan distinguished between critical and uncritical patriots. “Both types support the country, but a critical patriot recognizes the country’s strengths while working to remedy its weaknesses,” he said.

Alaska has the most veterans per capita of any state. Only Georgia has a higher percentage of residents who enlisted in the military. WalletHub, a personal finance website that has branched into diverse topics, asked Boylan to comment on economic and patriotic incentives to join the military.

“These considerations are weighed differently by individuals,” Boylan said. Distrust of U.S. policies has grown, especially since the Vietnam War, he noted. “If it is possible that the government could commit troops to an unjust or unnecessary war, then potential recruits require, and rightfully so, an array of personal economic benefits and assurances to join.”

Moose not easy to see on big Alaska river

<i>Photo by Jason Clark</i><br>A bull moose dunks for aquatic plants to eat in Fish Creek, a tributary of the lower Tanana River.
Photo by Jason Clark
A bull moose dunks for aquatic plants in Fish Creek, a tributary of the lower Tanana River.

LOWER TANANA RIVER — On a day like this 121 years ago, a hungry U.S. Army explorer passed here at the mouth of Fish Creek, where clear water collides with the cloudy Tanana. Henry Allen did not stop to fish. He had food, and further exploration, on his mind as he and his party paddled by in a skin boat.

We have stopped our canoes, squirted on insect repellant and cast lures hoping for pike or especially sheefish, the giant whitefish that lives here. We are also simply being present on this big Alaska river, making a count of animals Henry Allen did not see during his 1885 journey across Alaska.

In one summer, Allen ascended the full length of the Copper River and descended the entire Tanana River and portions of the Koyukuk and the Yukon. Allen and his scurvied companions saw zero moose from March to September. Nor did they see any caribou (and just one bear). Allen wrote this in a report to his superiors after his trip. His document is one of the first written accounts of Alaska’s vast interior.

This summer 2016 trip was inspired by Allen’s. Our party is two canoes launched from the town of Nenana. One contains me and my dog, Cora. Graduate students Jason Clark and Alison Beamish are in the other.

Clark is here to help with a project envisioned by his advisor, UAF ecologist Ken Tape. Tape studies moose populations and their fluctuations in Alaska. He finds it remarkable that a group of explorers did not see a moose in five months of crisscrossing the state. So do I.

Tape is recreating Allen’s journey as best he can. Last year, he and Clark floated the Tanana River from Tok to Delta Junction. They saw 19 moose in that stretch. Like this trip, that one took place at the same time of year Allen traveled. Tape thinks observers would see at least 100 moose if the entire trip were taken today.

Tape sees retracing Allen’s route as a nice tale of change. Why were there so few moose then, when the state hosts about 200,000 now?

What has changed to make things more favorable for moose? More willows? Less wolves? A steady warming trend that seemed to begin just before Allen’s expedition in 1880?

Our trip from Nenana to Tanana, executed during the week of summer solstice, is not moosey. We see Arctic terns scissoring the sky above islands, fledgling great horned owls that resemble their lordly parents but are much fuzzier, beavers that slap the water with displeasure at our presence.

But no moose. A few fresh tracks of mamas and the whitetail-size prints of new calves in the mud, but not the big bodies you would expect to see while living outside on an Alaska river for seven bright days and nights.

<i>Photo by Ned Rozell</i><br>Jason Clark and Alison Beamer float the lower Tanana River.
Photo by Ned Rozell
Jason Clark and Alison Beamer float the lower Tanana River in June 2016.

We knew moose were there, just out of sight on clear tributaries with more shade and water in which to stand — for both insect relief and tasty aquatic plants that don’t grow in the Tanana or Yukon.

Not seeing a moose on a summerlong trip on Alaska rivers seems pretty unlikely. But as we paddled along for days without seeing one, we felt it was possible. And at this point in Allen’s journey with Sgt. Cody Robertson and Pvt. Fred Fickett in 1885, the men were more concerned with making miles than seeing moose (though they surely would have harvested any large mammal within reach of their bullets). They anticipated there might be food for beg or barter at today’s village site of Tanana, where the Tanana River empties into the Yukon. They paddled their skin boat for at least 12 hours each day to make it to the junction of the big rivers. When they got there, to a place they called Nuklukyet, the paddlewheelers with supplies were still far downriver; the trading post proprietor had little left of the previous winter’s supplies. “We must live on fish fried in machine oil,” Allen wrote.

On our last full day of floating, Clark stands up in his moving canoe to better survey a break in the spruce trees. To his surprise, there is a bull moose with velveted antlers. It stands, ears flicking at flies, in a field of wet grasses. Our first moose shows up about 12 miles from Tanana, near the end of our 160-mile portion of Allen’s route.

One-half mile later, we pull into the mouth of Fish Creek. Clark and Beamish paddle around a bend of the creek and see again a bull moose in velvet, now standing in the creek. It might be the same one Clark saw from the Tanana, he thinks.

Our score, for a small portion of Allen’s route: Two (or one) moose, to his zero.

Since the late 1970s, the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute has provided this column free in cooperation with the UAF research community. Ned Rozell is a science writer for the Geophysical Institute.

Featured photo of the week

Inside Out participants and their parents divide into groups for campus tours Friday, June 24, 2016, at the Murie Building. Three times a year, admissions personnel turn UAF "inside out" to give prospective students the real story on financial aid, the admission process, classes, professors and extracurricular fun.
UAF photo by JR Ancheta

Inside Out participants and their parents divide into groups for campus tours Friday, June 24, 2016, at the Murie Building. Three times a year, admissions personnel turn UAF “inside out” to give prospective students the real story on financial aid, the admission process, classes, professors and extracurricular fun.

New location added for food trucks on campus

Zorba on the Run and Between the Buns AK will start once-a-week food truck service in the area between Rasmuson Library and the Signers’ Hall parking lot, UAF Dining Services has announced.

Starting June 30, Zorba on the Run will serve Persian and Mediterranean cuisine on Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Between the Buns AK will offer gourmet hot dogs on Fridays at the same time. The trucks will serve food through Aug. 19.

The food truck service is in addition to that available at the International Arctic Research Center and Facilities Services parking lots on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

Please see the Dining Services website at http://uaf.edu/finserv/aux-bus/dining-services-meal-plan/break-hours/ for complete schedules and menus.

Rural policy institute to meet at UAF

Experts and graduate students from around the world will spend two weeks at the University of Alaska Fairbanks discussing rural policy and sustainability at the 13th International Comparative Rural Policy Studies Summer Institute, July 14-26. The institutes are held in North America and Europe in alternating years.

The theme of this year’s institute is “Northern Perspectives on Global Challenges.” Participants will hear about issues such as rural education, climate change, food security and migration. They will also enjoy several field trips, including visits to Calypso Farm and Ecology Center and Chena Hot Springs Resort. At the resort, they’ll learn about its efforts to harness renewable energy.

Since 2004, more than 300 graduate students from North America and Europe have benefited from the institutes’ innovative blend of classroom instruction, rural visits and research meetings.

This year, the institute is hosted by Sustainable Futures North, a research project funded in part by grants from the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

SFN’s principal investigator, Philip Loring, said the institute is an “opportunity to expose the best and brightest minds thinking about rural issues to the unique challenges being experienced in the North.” Loring is an adjunct faculty member at UAF’s Institute of Northern Engineering and an assistant professor at the University of Saskatchewan.

“Each year, the summer institute provides a venue for students and faculty from universities in Europe, Canada, Mexico and the U.S. to learn both about the issues that rural people face but also how best to communicate science so that it can inform rural policy,” Loring said.

Next year, the institute returns to Europe and will be held in Madrid.

Partial funding for the ICRPS Summer Institute is provided by the National Science Foundation (PLR-1263853) and by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Higher Education Challenge Grants Program (C00041710-3).

For more information, please contact Loring at ploring@alaska.edu and go online to http://2016.icrps.org.

Featured photo of the week

Pedestrians cross Koyukuk Drive from the Elvey Building on Troth Yeddha' during a sunny, mid-June afternoon. This view is from the Akasofu Building, looking east toward the UA Museum of the North and the rest of campus.
UAF photo by JR Ancheta

Pedestrians cross Koyukuk Drive from the Elvey Building on Troth Yeddha’ during a sunny, mid-June afternoon. This view is from the Akasofu Building, looking east toward the UA Museum of the North and the rest of campus.

University’s surplus auction to be held Saturday, June 25

The University of Alaska Fairbanks will auction off surplus property on Saturday, June 25, from 10 a.m. until all items are sold.

Great North Auction Co. will conduct the event in the university’s warehouse at 1855 Marika Drive. Auction items may be viewed at www.greatnorthauction.com/uaf-surplus-auction-june-25th.-.html.  Interested persons may also inspect auction items at the warehouse from 8:30 a.m.–4 p.m. on Friday, June 24.

Items will be sold as is, where is. All sales will be final.

No UAF employee working in a department from which an item for sale in this auction came may purchase or agree with another person to purchase the item if the employee has been directly or indirectly involved in the purchase, disposal, maintenance or preparation for sale of the surplus property.    

For more information, please contact Saber Ebadpour at 474-6143.