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UAF launches new forestry research and outreach project

Fairbanks, Alaska—Two new projects at the University of Alaska Fairbanks will increase research on sustainable management of boreal forests for biomass use and offer new opportunities for K-12 and college students to learn about the subject.

Both projects fall under the auspices of BAK LAP, short for Boreal Alaska – Learning, Adaptation and Production, a project funded by a $1 million appropriation from the Alaska Legislature.

The research side of the project seeks to upgrade Alaska forest research facilities, improving the value of forests to meet the rapidly expanding need for wood. Researchers will identify management techniques that have successfully met demands for wood biomass and examine the results of new species trials.

In order to do that, the scientists will visit a network of plots and stands established in the 1980s or earlier across central Alaska’s forest lands. They will use a variety of measurement methods and record those measurements in relation to their location. They then will establish permanent marked data collection points and develop a database to track data over time.

“Species and management practices that were appropriate for the circumstances of decades ago when the installations were established need to be re-evaluated for the new products and environment of today,” said Glenn Juday, project director and professor of forest ecology at the UAF School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences. “Collecting these measurements and conducting evaluations will provide the basis for identifying optimum management practices for the new products, especially biomass, in today’s shifting environment. These facilities make an essential contribution to achieving local self-reliance in energy production using wood biomass and to avoid forest management practices likely to fail.”

The second component of BAK LAP will expand an existing K-12 education and outreach program called OneTree Alaska that the School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences has been leading for three years.

Jan Dawe, adjunct faculty in SNRAS, is co-principal investigator and director for education and outreach. She will lead the education and outreach portion of BAK LAP.

“BAK LAP represents the next step in developing a full-scale set of facilities and project-based curriculum, designed to improve science and math learning outcomes and meet 21st-century workforce needs,” Dawe said.

BAK LAP is funded by a $1 million capital legislative appropriation to the Alaska Department of Natural Resources, Division of Forestry, contracted to the Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station.

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