OneTree Alaska: Every Tree Tells a Story

OneTree Alaska: Every Tree Tells a Story

Janice Dawe

OneTree Alaska: Every Tree Tells a Story

The table you see before you was inspired by the bounty of our local boreal forest. 

Our environment is the remarkable meeting ground of three vast donor floras from Siberia, Canada, and the Rocky Mountains/Great Plains. Combined with native species that survived the last glaciation, these regions all helped form today’s Interior Alaska boreal forest.  Our backyard is a very special place in the worldwide boreal biome. With a bit of grounding in the basics of botany, anyone of any age will be even more excited by our good fortune to live here.

What you see on the table are birch tree seedlings. Birch is fascinating because it hybridizes extensively. As such, it can symbolize the entire boreal forest, ready to adapt, combine, and proliferate.

Those physical inspirations are complemented by what has excited Drs. Joan Parker-Webster and Jan Dawe, and K-12 teachers like Chris Greenfield-Pastro and Ronda Schlumbohm, since the 2009 founding of OneTree Alaska. We are motivated by the delight non-scientists discover in  the riches of birch, as they follow the creative arc of curiosity, close observation, and documentation. These are the first steps in all scientific inquiry. It’s what exhibit visitors are doing, on the table, as they document their observations in an open notebook known as a Grinnell Journal.  

On the wall, a vertical Grinnell Journal chronicles the 2022 spring birch sap season. This birch tree graphic owes much to Alaskan climate scientist Rick Thoman and is populated with data contributed by participants in the 2022 Fairbanks Birch Sap Cooperative. OneTree Alaska would like you to join the 2023 Cooperative and to do so for many years to come. To find out how to join, see our website:

OneTree’s primary goals are to encourage devoted stewards of the environment who can help make well-informed decisions about natural resource use and management in this age of galloping climate change and to inspire people to ask and explore questions piqued by their own curiosity.

From seeds to trees: Rearing the next generation

OneTree Alaska, University of Alaska Fairbanks

OneTree Alaska’s mission is to engage learners of all ages in boreal forest education, citizen science, and forest product development. We work year-round with Interior Alaska white birch—Betula neoalaskana Sarg—using a spiraling K-12 curriculum that explores one core concept: “How Do Plants and Animals Tell Time?” All of OneTree’s activities are collaborative: please join us in our “T-field” research garden (the Generation OneTree Long-Term Monitoring Plot) and program hub (the OneTree Alaska STEM to STEAM Studio) to help rear the next generation of committed forest stewards, decision-makers, and design thinkers.

One Tree Alaska

Janice Dawe

Jan Dawe is a Research Assistant Professor of Natural Resource Education and Community Engagement with the Alaska Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

She is currently the director of  OneTree Alaska and K-20 STEAM Education, based in the  OneTree Alaska STEM to STEAM Studio in the Lola Tilly Commons building on the UAF campus. Part production kitchen, part classroom-makerspace, part science center—the STEAM Studio welcomes visitors and volunteers year-round. Please call ahead: 907-474-5517 to schedule a tour or K-12 field trip or email me at

Websites: OneTree AlaskaGive to OneTree Alaska

To order the products we make (birch syrup and whiskey-barrel-aged birch syrup, birch caramels, birch honey sticks, birch sap tapping kits), please visit our online store.

Janice Dawe