The Senior Thesis Series presents papers prepared for the course NRM 405-6, Senior Thesis in Natural Resources Management.

Recent Submissions

  • Micro-hardiness Agriculture Zones in the North Star Borough, Alaska: Past and Future Scenarios

    Hatch, Ellen W. (2010-05)
    Agriculture in the Arctic is often limited by the low receipt of heat energy, which is often measured in growing degree days (GDD). With the advent of increasingly powerful climate modeling, projection and downscaling techniques, it is becoming possible to examine future climates in high resolution. Recent availability in Alaska has prompted interest in examining the distribution of current and the potential future of local agriculture. The goal of this study was to utilize Scenarios Network for Alaska Planning (SNAP) downscaled, ensemble projections to examine this in terms of GDDs in the Fairbanks North Star Borough of Alaska. Historic and projected monthly mean temperatures were utilized to calculate GDDs and then map the borough at a 4 km2 scale. Additionally, local agriculturalists were interviewed in order to put these theoretical calculations into context. Ultimately, projections of the examined agricultural locations showed an average of a 2% increase in GDD per decade and a 26% increase in GDDs from 1949 to 2099. This project indicated that the North Star Borough will receive increased heat energy due to climate change over the next century that may further enable increased yields and varieties of crops.
  • Assessing Food Security in Fairbanks, Alaska: A Survey Approach to Community Food Production

    Caster, Charles David (2011-05)
    Since the arrival of non-Native peoples to Alaska, the state has heavily relied on importing most food. Food security concerns have been raised related to supply disruptions, cost, and health. This thesis was designed as a pilot study and intended to provide information on local vegetable and fruit production in the Tanana Valley. The results from the study could inform subsequent studies that determine state vegetable and fruit production. Commercial vegetable and fruit producers in the Tanana Valley were surveyed. The response rate was 38.5%. The survey provided insight into characteristics of producers, production, and marketing practices. Increasing crop production in the Tanana Valley is possible, but measuring current production may require a more complex measuring system that is more consistent with producer practices. Alaska faces many challenges if it is to transition from an un-integrated food system to a more comprehensive food system that generates value to local communities.

    Pylant, Cortney (2009)
    Red-Legged Kittiwakes (Rissa brevirostris) are small, cliff-nesting gulls endemic to the Bering Sea region. Of the four known breeding colonies, the island of St. George, the second largest of the Pribilof Island group, supports 80% of the breeding population annually. Despite a location in one of the most energy-rich regions of the western hemisphere, coupled with minimal depredation of nests and adult birds, long-term monitoring trends show low average reproductive success to complete failure. Although numerous studies have correlated changes in oceanic systems with the long-term decline of many seabird species, little effort has been allocated to understanding how alterations in nesting habitat affect population size. The dynamic cliffs of St. George Island provide a unique opportunity to examine this question by incorporating habitat mapping and small-scale GIS with long-term monitoring efforts and predictive modeling. The purpose of this paper was to investigate the effects of nesting habitat on the productivity of R. brevirostris, and to suggest new applications of small-scale GIS and predictive modeling. The information presented herein represents the initial phase of a pilot study; however, the potential for similar application may exist for a broad array of research endeavors currently underway. The incorporation of such analyses into monitoring and conservation efforts may provide new insight into the factors influencing population size, affording a more complete understanding of population dynamics and change.
  • Comparison of Paper- and Electronic-Formatted Hydroacoustic Data Charts used for Salmon Enumeration on the Yukon River near Pilot Station

    Brodersen, Naomi (2009-04-03)
    The Yukon River Sonar Project estimates salmon passage through the river near Pilot Station, Alaska. The hydroacoustic data collected by the sonar is currently printed on paper charts in a series of grey marks called “traces.” Technicians count traces that were generated by fish, and these numbers are used to calculate daily abundance estimates. New technology allows the hydroacoustic data to be presented on electronic charts viewed on a computer. The electronic charts also present the data in a series of grey marks, and fish traces must be identified manually by technicians. However, the electronic charts present the data in greater detail, and settings that are used to optimize the visibility of fish traces are more easily adjusted. Both of these features may improve fish detection, which would result in more accurate estimates. Project leaders are planning to make a complete switchover from paper to electronic charts. The principle aim of this study was to compare the fish counts produced by the paper and electronic formats in order to expose any biases and explain why they occur. Due to variation in the slope of the river bottom, the area of river covered by the sonar is divided into several horizontal strata by distance from the transducer. Due to the properties of sound and the variation in the shape of fish traces at different ranges, it is possible that the level and direction of bias may differ among strata. A sample of 150 electronic files, out of approximately 1,700, from the 2008 season was selected for this comparison. Files were counted using Echotastic, a program written by AYK Regional Sonar Biologist, Carl Pfisterer. The electronic chart counts were higher than the paper chart counts for strata one through four, while the electronic counts were lower than the paper counts for stratum five (linear regression output: stratum one: slope=1.112, y-intercept=44.662, stratum two: slope=1.344, y-intercept=13.615, stratum three: slope=1.098, y-intercept=-7.052, stratum four: slope=1.077, y-intercept=-8.566, stratum five: slope=0.827, y-intercept=-0.688). Both the positive and negative biases are likely a result of improved fish detection on the electronic charts and a high level of subjectivity associated with counting fish using sonar. If project leaders conclude that these biases are acceptable, a transition from paper to electronic charts would be advantageous, although correcting for differences will be necessary to make past and future fish estimates comparable.
  • Irish-American Nationalism: From the Kennedy Administration to the Clinton Administration

    Boyd, Zack (2009-05-07)
    The Irish in America have always had a complex relationship with their government and with American society. Few groups have resisted cultural assimilation more fervently than the Irish, and arguably none have retained so strong a political link to the current affairs of their homeland. This interest has not always been constructive; Irish-American contributions to violent organizations in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, which span over a hundred years, have led to characterizations by the British press and international opinion of Irish-Americans as radical interlopers in ‘The Troubles’ who worsen the conflict and encourage bloodshed. The image of Irish- Americans that has been painted by British tabloids, Unionist agitators and popular perceptions in the US and UK are frankly incorrect. The new class of Irish-Americans that began their evolution and ascent with the election of the Kennedy finally matured into an active group of citizens ready to speak out for moderation and constitutional means to Irish unity in the late 1970s. This class represented the interest of the vast majority of Irish-Americans in their moderation, but were active in politics rather than reserving themselves to economic and career pursuits. Though occasionally taken with wistful visions of a romantic Irish history, these modern, educated citizens were not the rabid plotters of destruction they have been made out to be and deserve an accurate description of their politics and actions. The emergence of these well-informed moderates drowned out the influence of violent radicals, voiced concerns for peace in Northern Ireland to the governments of the United States, United Kingdom and Ireland, and heavily contributed to the peace process.
  • Alaska's State-Funded Agricultural Projects and Policy - Have They Been a Success?

    Davies, Darcy Denton (2007-05)
    In the 1970s and 1980s the state of Alaska invested millions of dollars to develop a large-scale agricultural industry. The Delta Barley Project and the Point MacKenzie Dairy Project were created to show that large-scale agriculture was possible in Alaska. This study looks at the major events and policy decisions that occurred and determines how the outcome of the demonstration projects was affected. An extensive literature review was conducted, focusing on state documents; key persons were also interviewed. The projects did not accomplish their original goals for a number of economic and politic reasons. The positive aspects of development are that Alaska now has more land in private ownership, more infrastructure to support the industry, and a thriving agricultural community at Delta Junction.
  • Producing Fresh Herbs for Fairbanks Restaurants: a market survey

    Meriam Karlsson, Chair; Hans Geier, Kristy Long; J. Greenberg, Chair, H.Geier, S. Sparrow; Goss, Jacquelyn Denise (2007-05)
    Buyers and producers were surveyed to estimate the demand for fresh culinary herbs among chefs at local Fairbanks restaurants. When thirteen chefs were interviewed, twelve restaurants were found to purchase fresh herbs, primarily basil, parsley, and cilantro. During the summer, the restaurants combined purchased 68 pounds of fresh herbs per week, with 56 percent procured from local growers. Sixty-two percent of the chefs expressed a preference for locally grown products, including herbs. Local producers felt they were able to meet the demand for restaurant herbs and could accommodate additional clients. Many chefs, on the other hand, wished that tomatoes, vegetables, and potted herbs would be available for purchase from farmers in addition to fresh-cut herbs. While there was not a great demand for fresh herbs alone, farmers offering a variety of products can build sufficiently large accounts to justify selling and distributing to individual restaurants.
  • Native Plant Materials for Economic Development in Southeast Alaska

    Pat Holloway, chair, Glenn Juday, Bob Gorman, Tony Gasbarro; Downing, Jason (1996-09)
    Current economic situations such as mill closures from timber industry reconstruction in southeast Alaska have stimulated interest in commercial development of secondary forest products; resources and opportunities other than wood pulp and saw log production. Twenty native species of southeast Alaska were chosen based on a score of their combined economic value and abundance throughout southeast Alaska. Details about the potential uses, ecological requirements, propagation, and management related to the marketable attributes provided the foundation for scoring. Eleven of the twenty species were utilized for their fruits and berries. Six species could be sold as floral products. Once species was used for seedling production concurrently with floral product production. Finally, the last two species produced botanical products. There is substantial potential for development in southeast Alaska with these secondary forest products, as well as others that were not mentioned in detail.
  • Preliminary Investigation Into the Use of a Dehumidifying for Drying Wild Herbal Teas in Southeast Alaska

    P.S. Holloway, Chair, V.A. Barber, R.R. Dinstel; Slakey, Daniel Joseph (2005-12-16)
    This project investigates the use of a dehumidifying dry kiln (traditionally used for drying lumber) for drying wild herbal teas in Southeast Alaska. Its major considerations are kiln design, moisture content data (for use in drying schedules), and preliminary drying schedules. Project conclusions result from literature review and experimentation. Regarding kiln design for uniformity and efficiency, the researcher found the following principles of utmost importance: 1) proper direction of airflow (achieved by incorporating measures that will direct the airflow, such as baffling and air deflectors); 2) maximizing space by fitting the maximum number of drying racks into the kiln and using a small spacing (9cm) between drying trays; and 3) minimizing electric costs by installing a heat source other than electric auxiliary heat, as well as operating the kiln continuously until materials are dry. Regarding moisture content (MC), the research found that herbal teas should be dried to 5-10 percent MC (green basis), and that the moisture contents of most green materials collected in Haines were too variable to use for creating drying schedules. Regarding drying schedules, the research found that pre-drying plant materials in ambient air for about a day improves quality and efficiency of the kiln drying process. Material depth for some materials, including dandelion and fireweed leaf. The main problem identified was the variation in drying rates between different leaf parts (leaf blades dried out much faster than midveins and became brittle). This problem could be avoided in the future by using water sorption isotherm data to ensure that no part of any material will dry out below a given MC. It is still unclear whether a dehumidifying kiln is an economically viable option for drying wild herbs.
  • "Throw All Experiments to the Winds": Practical Farming and the Fairbanks Agricultural Experiment Station, 1907-1915

    Pigors, Rochelle Lee (1996-12)
    The objective of this thesis was to compile a succinct but comprehensive history of the establishment and progress of the Fairbanks Experiment Station from 1905 to 1915, and determine the station's influence on agriculture in the Tanana Valley. An extensive survey of the University of Alaska Fairbanks' archive records, experiment station documents at the National Archives of the Alaska Range in Anchorage, annual reports of the experiment station, Fairbanks newspapers, and the Congressional Record was completed and the literature evaluated. It was concluded that agriculture in Alaska was seen as a secondary industry to mining and fishing and was generally dismissed by Congress. Some Alaskans, however, took up the call for agriculture when mining slowed down and established an agricultural college, which renewed people's hopes for agriculture and saved the Fairbanks station from fading into history.
  • Production and Transportation Considerations in the Export of Peonies from Fairbanks, Alaska

    J.A. Greenberg, Chair, H.T. Geier, P.S. Holloway, C.E. Lewis; Klingman, Marie A. (2002-04)
    Peonies are grown and harvested as a marketable cut flower worldwide. They are commercially available throughout the seasons, except for July and August. However, this is a time when they bloom in Fairbanks, Alaska. This paper examines the potential of developing peonies as a cut flower industry in this region. Specific considerations of production and transportation and the feasibility of such a venture are addressed. Methods include interviews with persons involved in the industry as well as extensive Internet research. A cost analysis table was constructed to consider potential profitability. Developing peonies as a cut flower industry in Fairbanks, Alaska is promising. However, this study serves as only a guide. Potential growers need to conduct their own research and adapt these results to their own individual circumstances.