Northern Bones

Pat Druckenmiller

Last week, the PBS series Nova highlighted University of Alaska Museum of the North Director and paleontologist Pat Druckenmiller’s work on Alaskan dinosaurs. Like most kids, I entered a dinosaur phase where I poured over books and collected toy dinosaurs. Unlike most kids, I never really emerged. In fact, one of my joys as a parent was reliving that fascination with my kids. So, I was in geek heaven when I talked with Pat about his research and what discoveries lie ahead. 

The Boreal Forest and One Tree

Jan Dawe woking with budding botanists.

On this episode, I talk with botanist Jan Dawe who heads up One Tree Alaska, a program that celebrates the boreal forest in relationship to the humans that live in, on and with it. 

And painter and art historian Kesler Woodward has long attracted praise for his portraits of birch. Now, he is drawing inspiration from an exotic tree plantation at the University of Alaska Fairbanks arboretum. 

Peggy Ferguson: A Vital Link

Peggy Ferguson

Last week, a long-time creative icon of the Fairbanks theatre community died. Fairbanks Drama Association Executive Director Peggy MacDonald Ferguson succumbed to complications following a fall. She was 75. 

To pay tribute to a woman who forged so many vital connections across Fairbanks and Alaska, I’m replaying our conversation that originally aired in 2019. Along with that, I’m grateful to include insights from three of Peggy’s long-time friends and colleagues: former Alaska Writer Laureate and playwright Anne Hanley, Fairbanks Drama Association board Vice-President Steve Mitchell and actor and KUAC host Susie Hackett.

Honey, Value Added and Then Some

Top: Bill and ‘Becka Angell with one of their hives. Below: Bill savoring the transformed fruits of their labor.

As we approach the depths of winter, many of us are casting about for a hobby to keep our minds and hands active amidst the cold and dark. My guest this show doesn’t lack for interesting avocations. Bill Angell is a senior mining engineer at Ft. Knox Gold Mine, but he’s also a bee-keeper and first-rate brewer and crafter of wine. We’ll hear about raising bees, harvesting honey and the alchemical magic that transforms it into mead, honey wine.

For those looking to put their toe into the sea of home-brewing, Bill says he got his first recipe for mead from Charlie Papazian’s The Complete Joy of Homebrewing.

Serendipitous Visions

Charles Mason – Image by J.R. Ancheta

Charles Mason has been snapping images since he was eleven. In his long career, he has earned international awards, and he’s passed along his knowledge to generations of students at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. He continues to explore the limits of his art, even if it means turning back to earlier times with “wet plate photography.” I talk to him about his career and what’s ahead for photojournalism.

Also on the show, Chris Lott examines, if one can use that expression in this context, the parenthetical aside on a new episode of Katexic Clippings.

Singing Truth to Power

Lydia Violet Harutoonian

With divisive politics, climate change and a pandemic to worry about, it is difficult to see a positive way forward. But for musician, composer and teacher Lydia Violet Harutoonian imagination and creative presence offer a dependable ground from which to respond to these and other challenges. Harutoonian draws deeply from the thoughts and insights of Buddhist scholar and ecologist Joanna Macy. Harutoonian was in Fairbanks this summer and I had a chance to visit with her.

A Broader Community of Life

Ronnie Rosenberg

Ronnie Rosenberg is known for her volunteer work in Fairbanks and with those in need. She has a number of skills to draw on. Trained as a nurse, she practiced in a war zone, and on the streets of New York. Later, she decided she needed other challenges and went to law school and practised law for a number of years. Here in Fairbanks, she is on the Golden Heart Community Foundation. But it is probably through her work with animals that she is best known. She heads up the Fairbanks Animal Shelter Fund Board. Indeed, this year the students of UAF’s Department of Veterinary Medicine recognized her work with an award.

The Consolation of Words

Erik Wisland heading off to college Image courtesy of Jim Wisland

We often hear about speaking truth to power. What isn’t often spoken is truth to the pain and suffering suicides leave in their wake. When pastor Jim Wisland’s son Erik took his own life Jim went in search of answers. Scripture, of course, but also other ancient texts. He then founded the Arctic Resource Center for Suicide Prevention to bring the latest thinking about suicide to others. He also co-founded the Epic Warrior Training program to address the high number of suicides our Armed Forces veterans experience. That program recently attracted a large grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Creative Learning

Michelle Bartlett credit JR Ancheta

Many, maybe all, of us get good ideas. Unfortunately, when a great notion strikes me, I quickly find ways it won’t work. That doesn’t seem to trouble University of Alaska Fairbanks Director of Summer Sessions and Lifelong Learning Michelle Bartlett. She combines a zest for life and learning with an entrepreneurial spirit.

Also on the show, award-winning filmmaker and UAF professor emeritus Len Kamerling, co-edits the Journal of Anthropological Films. I talk with him about it and the new series of recommended films available to watch free on-line. This episode he points us to Unless the Water is Safer than the Land.