In a Time of Change

ITOC: Boreal Forest Stories

Forming an emerald ring around the circumpolar North, the boreal forest is the world’s largest land-based biome. Also known as taiga, it accounts for approximately one third of Earth’s total forest area and covers the majority of Interior Alaska.

“Boreal Forest Stories” is a cross-disciplinary, collaborative project examining change in the boreal forest through narrative. For over a year and a half, 44 creators, including artists, writers, environmental educators, and humanities scholars, exchanged knowledge and perspectives on the boreal forest with scientists and explored narrative as it applies across the disciplines. Through their original works, participants relate stories rooted in the boreal forest, including its ecology, its inhabitants, and their interactions.

Boreal Forest Stories is ITOC’s sixth major project since it was founded by the Bonanza Creek Long-Term Ecological Research program in 2007. ITOC recognizes that collaborations between the arts, humanities, and sciences can foster community engagement and build capacity for transdisciplinary collaboration, helping society to address complex environmental problems. ITOC is part of a growing network of place-based, environmental arts-humanities-science programs across the U.S. and around the world.     

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In a Time of Change is directed by Mary Beth Leigh. Artists Margo Klass, Ree Nancarrow, and Susan Campbell curated the visual art exhibit and artist Jennifer Moss contributed graphic and web design. Writers Carolyn Kremers and Daryl Farmer led the writers’ cohort and musician Susan Grace directed the live performance. Geographer Elizabeth Alexander provided organizational assistance and artist Klara Maisch coordinated social media. Lissy Goralnik performed research and evaluation of the collaborative process and its impacts. 

ITOC: Boreal Forest Stories was funded by the National Science Foundation through the Bonanza Creek Long Term Ecological Research Program with additional support from the UAF Institute of Arctic Biology and other sponsors. Special thanks to Arctic Fest and the Fairbanks Arts Association for hosting the premiere of Boreal Forest Stories (September, 2022, Fairbanks).

We acknowledge the many Alaska Native Nations upon whose unceded ancestral lands our program resides. Indigenous peoples have been in relationship for thousands of years with the boreal landscapes of Interior Alaska. Members of the Bonanza Creek Long-Term Ecological Research program, including ITOC, strive to learn about, value, and be mindful of this relationship in our work and our actions, and to strive for collaborative, community decision making.

Mary Beth Leigh

Mary Beth Leigh is the director of the ITOC  program, which she co-founded in 2007. As a professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF), she teaches and conducts research in environmental microbiology and the integration of the arts, humanities, and sciences. Prior to joining UAF in 2006, she earned her B.F.A. in Modern Dance, M.S. in Botany, and Ph.D. in Microbiology — all at the University of Oklahoma – and conducted postdoctoral research at Michigan State University. As a dancer and a cellist, she’s performed in stylistically diverse ensembles over the years, often choreographing or composing pieces with a splash of science.


Mary Beth Leigh