Tag Archives: Residence Life

2014 in Review : A Good Year!

It’s incredible that one 36th of the year is already gone as I type this. Weren’t we just clinking champagne glasses as the ball dropped in New York just last night? As 2015 begins, I wanted to take the time to thank all who support this blog and my writing. I would not just write to myself; your comments and input are much appreciated!

I am incredibly thankful for my time here in Alaska. My travels have taken me to hundreds of miles south to enjoy the coastal ranges in Anchorage and Seward. In the opposite direction, I have beaten the punishing gravel of the haul road to cross the Brooks Range onto the Northslope three times. Within the Alaskan wilderness I have hunted big game, fished its rivers, and enjoyed bears, fox, and wolves, along with a plethora of bird species. During the dark skies of winter I have been graced by the dancing Northern Lights and cloaked in inky darkness. I have found there is always something to do in Alaska, and I feel that in the last 365 days I have had the adventures worthy of two year. It has indeed been a good year!

Below is a small gallery of the hundreds of photos that have been taken in Alaska during 2014 and featured in the blog. I have opted out of any captions, but if you would like to know more about an image, leave a comment. Thanks again everyone, and here’s to 2015!


Burbot Fishing



























Igloo Campground Fall Color Pan 2











An Aurora Portrait

Last night I was grinning ear to ear, and as I write this the corners of my lips are still curled into a smile. In September, I wrote about the joy of bringing someone out for their first aurora. Last night I was able to enjoy a whole new facet and spectacular joy of aurora photography by hosting an “Aurora Portraits” program through the University of Alaska Fairbanks Residence Life. When we arrived at our destination 10 miles out of Fairbanks the thin layer clouds had just started to burn off. A full moon lit the landscape around us allowing even the naked eye to see to the horizon line 10’s of miles away. A flash of green in the sky around 10:30 indicated to us that the auroral show was just starting to kick off and from that point on the aurora continued to build. As the green shifted and danced in the sky groups and individuals jumped in front of the camera and we proceeded to make memories. Between drinking hot cocoa and warm cider we laughed and enjoyed a beautiful night out. Last night’s aurora will be memorable for its beauty, and its friendship!

Incredibly, these shots are lit only by the moon. The gallery here is a select few images from the night – if you are getting this post via email be sure to click on the gallery images to enlarge them :). I also captured one shot (without people) that I’m particularly proud of. It is featured below this gallery.

I am particularly happy with this shot! One of the elements I have been working on is foreground composition when shooting the aurora. I love the snowshoe hare tracks and the spruces of this capture. They are certainly two iconic boreal forest signatures on the landscape!
Spinach Creek Aurora
The aurora and landscape lit by a full moon on 11/08/14 was beautiful!
Capturing the full moon and an aurora through the spruces. What an incredibly beautiful night!!

Bringing Ideas to Reality : Life at University of Alaska Fairbank’s Sustainable Village

Ahoy Readers!

As some of you know, I have been living and working in the Sustainable Village here on campus and it’s been a really significant part of my life here; I wanted to spend a little time talking about my experiences here so far.

Once I knew that I was coming to grad-school I immediately started looking for positions at Residence Life. I worked for two years as an RA at my undergrad at Northland College in Ashland, Wisconsin (www.northland.edu) and one year as hall director; I was in charge of a staff of five and accountable for all of the residents in my building. I learned a lot during those three years, and had great experiences and relationships with my residents which made it worthwhile. During my graduate study I looked to continue what I had learned  and wanted to use Residence Life at UAF as a way to integrate myself into the campus system and meet new friends and people. I felt my experience as a graduate student would be beneficial to my residents, who I assumed would be largely undergrads. I went through the interview process and ended up landing a position at the UAF Sustainable Village which is a perfect place for me;  I feel my previous background and ideas fit into this position in a fate-like fashion . The Village was established in 2012 and was UAF’s first sustainable housing development. It integrates a community style living approach and sustainable-living guidelines in an approach that matched much of what I learned from Northland’s environmental mission. I was genuinely excited for the position as it offered a strong leadership role with almost endless amounts of innovation and self-motivation. When I came in, in fall of 2013, it was the second cohort of students and we are still setting precedence for what a cohort of students will look like in the future.

As part of my involvement in the Village I have had great interactions with the Cold Climate Housing Research Center (CCHRC; http://www.cchrc.org/) which were responsible for the design and construction of these buildings; however, it should be noted that the original design concepts of these houses were generated by a student based competition, which is very cool! CCHRC is interested in understanding sustainable development in the arctic; they are an outstanding research group and built the Sustainable Village with several systems that have not necessarily been attempted or tried before in hopes of improving housing for the future. Although I’m sure my list is not exhaustive, here are just some of the concepts demonstrated within the four houses:

  • Above-ground contained septic treatment
  • Heat Recovery Ventillator (HRV)
  • Energy Recovery Ventilation (ERV)
  • Superior Envelop design
  • Solar-thermal, radiant floor heating
  • Insulated floors (r-60)
  • Polyurethane floor Raft (to protect the permafrost)

These concepts are all designed to make the houses energy efficient and sustainable in a northern climate where we have already surpassed -40 degrees this winter (as of 11/21/2013) and will continue to do so through March. So, how effective are these houses? CCHRC published their first year results here : http://www.cchrc.org/docs/snapshots/SustainableVillageSnapshot.pdf. An important graph from that publications shows the usage of energy from the Village houses compared to the average house in Fairbanks.

The average house in Fairbanks uses 76,400 BTU/ square foot for heating and hot water (or about 920 galloons of fuel oil for a 1,600 square foot house) according to the Alaska Finance Corporation’s Alaska Retrofit Information System database (ARIS). The average new *BEES energy efficient home of the same size uses 660 gallons of fuel oil a year. In summary, the Sustainable Village homes use less than half the energy of the average new home in Fairbanks, and significantly less than new energy efficient homes in Fairbanks.

The graph demonstrates pretty well the effectiveness of the design of these houses! Of course sustainability is more than technology driven and should contain lifestyle changes as well. The residents at the Village are required to compost and recycle. The compost is used for community vegetable gardens, which are tended in the summer. The residents are asked to think consciously about their energy and water consumption and use alternative forms of transportation such as walking, biking, public transportation, or carpooling when a personal car is necessary. Community is a critical part of mission of the village and is something I play a critical role in; it my interest and job description to create programming that residents can have fun with and learn from. As part of the demonstration of this, I had a great opportunity to put together this video of life in the Sustainable Village. If you watch it all the way to the end I will say you get to see some very special footage from above the Sustainable Village which demonstrates its relation to the UAF campus, as well as some of the beauty of winter here!

Thanks for checking in everyone! Have a great Thanksgiving which is next week, and Christmas will be here before we know it which is a much anticipated break for this college student!!