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NOAA Climate Stewards Workshop – July 2017, Fairbanks

The Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges were asked to assist in a unique project, the Climate Stewards Workshop, which took place in Fairbanks in July. Two Friends, Jason Sodergren (Treasurer) and Barry Whitehill, Fairbanks Friend, spent many hours in preliminary tasks associated with acquiring a venue and housing as well as setting up the registration process online, and handling the registration and payments for the workshop expenses.

(Photos – Left: Permafrost Tunnel Tour; Right: UAF Geophysical Institute Tour)


What is NOAA Climate Stewards?

NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, has a mandate to educate in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics disciplines (STEM).

NOAA’s Climate Stewards Education Project (CSEP) was created to increase educators’ understanding of climate science and to reach youth as the beginning of a long-term strategy to make communities more resilient to climate change impacts. Over 1,000 educators participate in an online community that connects them with webinars with experts, regional workshops, and educational resources.

The NOAA Climate Stewards Education Project provides formal and informal educators working with elementary through university age students with sustained professional development, collaborative tools, and support to build a climate-literate public actively engaged in climate stewardship. CSEP also provides support for educators to develop and execute climate stewardship (mitigation and/or adaptation) projects with their audiences to increase understanding of climate science and take practical actions to reduce the impacts of climate change.



Comments from Peg Steffen, Education Coordinator, NOAA National Ocean Service

“My sincere thanks to all of you for making the STEM workshop a reality and a success last week.  I heard many great comments about the quality of the presentations, the engaging activities and the experiences that you provided to the educators.UAF was a wonderful place to hold the workshop. Who could not be impressed with the view of 501 IARC (International Arctic Research Center)? Having low-cost housing and excellent catering was essential to making the workshop affordable to many.  The local field trip options (natural areas, Permafrost tunnel, local scientific laboratories) provided amazing glimpses into the work of scientists.

Also, thanks to the Friends of Alaska Wildlife Refuges for serving as the fiscal agents for all of the expenses. It made planning so much easier.”

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Youth Volunteer Trip Report: Dalton Highway Weed Pull

Trip report by Friends volunteer Justin Simonton

This summer I volunteered for the weed pull along the Dalton Highway.  I am a 16-year-old rising-Junior at West High School in Anchorage Alaska.  The team consisted of a Chief Biologist, five Friends (including my grandfather), and three interns. We were looking for two specific types of invasive plants: Bird Vetch and White Sweet Clover. These species grow around river crossings. It is a threat because the rivers and streams along the Dalton run into the Kanuti National Wildlife Refuge. The seeds of these plants are transported along the Dalton mainly by vehicle traffic. This makes the job even more important because of the sheer number of big rigs taking supplies and equipment to and from the oil fields on the North Slope.

We worked for five days with the first and last day dedicated to traveling 260 miles between Fairbanks and Coldfoot. A typical day started at eight in the morning and ended at five in the evening. We lived in dry cabins and packed our lunches every morning; usually a sandwich, some chips, and maybe an apple. Sometimes we would travel hundreds of miles and comb each section of the river in two-man groups and come back around to clean up what the first group might have missed. In the evening, we ate at the Coldfoot Camp buffet and there was always something new to eat. After dinner, we would head back to the cabins and read or talk until we would try to go to sleep despite the sun never setting. My grandfather and I had such trouble that we put up towels in front of our window to block the sun.

Kanuti River, Crossing Dalton Hwy

This was my second year volunteering for this project. The only difference between this year and last year was that there appeared to be much less White Sweet Clover and Bird Vetch. This made me hope that our efforts were really helping protect the refuge.

Additionally, during my past year at West High School I made a presentation to my English class describing last year’s invasive species project and urged my classmates to join Friends and volunteer for future projects.

Hopefully, given my busy upcoming academic schedule, I will be able to continue to volunteer to Friends in future projects. 

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Dalton Highway Weed Pull – Kanuti NWR

Trip Report by Friends Volunteer Paul Allan

We just returned from our June 2017 week of pulling invasive weed species for the Friends of the Alaska National Wildlife Refuges. The volunteer work took us from Homer all the way north almost to the Arctic Ocean. It was a great experience and we hope we contributed to keeping invasives from spreading even more.


Monday morning we left Fairbanks early in two vehicles with the full weed pulling crew. A Fish & Wildlife biologist was the agency head for the crew, there was a summer intern working with him, and two other Friends volunteers. This is a typical view of the Dalton Highway or Haul Road.  The reason it is called the Haul Road–lots of big trucks bringing stuff up to and down from Prudhoe Bay.




Typical Black Spruce forest- some of these trees are 200 years old! Growing on permafrost tends to make for a hard life and stunted growth.












Made it to the Arctic Circle. We pretty much had 24 hours of daylight the whole time we were up there.








This is what we were looking for– white sweetclover. For about 150 miles of the highway, anywhere a river crossed the road, we pulled the clover we found. We split up into pairs and pulled weeds about 100 yards up from the bridges on both sides. The idea is to not allow the sweetclover to flower and go to seed so the seeds can’t travel down the rivers and invade the refuges. One mature sweetclover plant can produce 350,000 seeds and they are viable for 80+ years.






                                                   The crew working a particularly heavily grown-over area.




Our final morning and we headed north out of Coldfoot (the two previous days we worked to the south.) The mountains you can see are the start of the Brooks Range. The views were spectacular, like Sukapak (mountain – below).








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7th Annual Dragonfly Day – Arctic, Yukon Flats, & Kanuti NWR

July 1, 2017 – Fairbanks, AK

Approximately 400 people attended the 2017 Dragonfly Day, hosted by Arctic, Yukon Flats, and Kanuti National Wildlife Refuges.  This was a free event at Chena Lakes Recreation Area, open to all ages. Attendees had the opportunity to go on nature walks to catch and identify dragonflies. There were also crafts, educational activities, and more. It was a fun day for the whole family! 

Environmental Education Specialist  Allyssa Morris says, “Thank you to everyone who came out to Dragonfly Day 2017.  Returning families shared that “Dragonfly Day is the best event of the year.  Special thanks to SCA Interns Megan, Morgan, Lily, and Angelina who did a superb job finishing last minute tasks and leading the craft stations. Sheila, Tina, and Steve  took numerous photos. Morgan and Alfredo for wearing the Puddles costume in the heat- you are both rockstars! UAF grad student Adam for leading the popular aquatic bug station and lastly, to John Hudson and the Friends of Alaska NWRs for supporting this popular event and making it happen. A special thanks to Joe Morris, Friends Volunteer. See you next year at Dragonfly Day 2018! “





 
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2017 Chalkyitsik Open House – Event Report

Acting Refuge Manager Nathan Hawkaluk, Yukon Flats NWR, reports that the Chalkyitsik Open House was a huge success!  

“It was a hot and busy afternoon, but I felt it was very well received by the village residents and especially by all the youngsters that participated in all the arts and crafts projects and the archery shooting.

A huge thank you to our volunteers Mark Ross and Francesca Demgen, whose travel was funded by the Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges.  Your help and involvement was vital to the success of the event.  You are both invited next year as well!!”

The Friends also helped cover other event supplies and food for the celebration.

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Kodiak Refuge Salmon Camp

June-August, 2017

The mission of Salmon Camp is to educate Kodiak’s youth about the natural and cultural systems that define Kodiak’s geography and empower learners to investigate their own connections to this special place through hands-on learning, self-reflection and group discovery.


Since 1996, Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge, in conjunction with Alaska Geographic and the Kodiak community, has sponsored the Kodiak Summer Science and Salmon Camp. Within two years of its inception, Salmon Camp became the largest science-based camp in Alaska. In 2002, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recognized Salmon Camp as one of its top five environmental education programs in the nation. This camp serves students from kindergarten through 8th grade.  The Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges has supported the camp for several years, providing funding for educational experiences.


The camp kicked off in early June with “Fishing Day,” with 125 attendees.  Bird TLC from Anchorage was on hand with a live bird demonstration, featuring a merlin and a peregrine falcon. Check out some photos below.








(photos by Lisa Hupp/USFWS)
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Events Report: Spring Bird Walks (Kotzebue) & Fairbanks Film Night

May 20-23, 2017
Selawik National Wildlife Refuge hosted its annual Spring Bird Walks.  The Friends sent expert birder George Matz of Homer to Kotzebue to lead several walks.

“Thanks to everyone who ventured out on one of our bird watching events this weekend! We enjoyed looking at birds in their bright breeding colors, visiting with folks, and learning a bit more about the feathered travelers that are flying home to Alaska to nest. Thanks to Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges volunteer George Matz (center of photo above) for being a part of the fun!”
  -Susan Georgette, Selawik NWR Manager




June 3, 2017
Friends gathered for an encore screening of “The Million Dollar Duck,” with host Adam Grimm, at Morris Thompson Cultural Visitor Center in Fairbanks. Refreshments were served, duck stamps were sold, and fun was had by all!

BELOW: Friends in Action: Sarah Mathews, Joseph Morris, and Adam Grimm (signing duck stamps).  













 

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2017 Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival


This past May 4-7, the Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges co-sponsored the 25th Annual Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, in Homer, Alaska at Alaska Maritime NWR’s Headquarters, Islands & Ocean Visitor Center.










Our Special Guests included Keynote Speaker, J. Drew Lanham and Featured Author, Paul Bannick.   




 Both Speakers presented a variety of workshops & lectures.










Raymond VanBuskirk (BRANT Tours), Neil Gilbert (2017 Schantz Scholar), and Keynote J. Drew Lanham enjoy a boat trip with Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies


Festival Participants enjoy the “Birders Breakfast,” and learn more about the Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges.












Bird TLC of Anchorage presents an up close experience with some feathered friends.






















Junior Birders Award Ceremony – check out all these fledgling ornithologists!













David Raskin (Friends President) with Keynote J. Drew Lanham and Marga Raskin (Friends Member)


USFWS Service, working hard throughout the weekend to make sure everyone had a wonderful time at the Festival.

 
Viewing Stations!




Raymond and BJ bird watching during the Viewing Stations.












Save the Date!  May 10-13, 2018! 

(Photos courtesy of Lisa Hupp/USFWS and Robbi Mixon/FANWR)

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Growing New Birders & Public Lands Users at the Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival

What does it take to grow new birders and public lands users?  The U.S.  Fish and Wildlife Service in partnership with Alaska Geographic aim to figure this out through immersive experiences  for youth on and about public lands. In this spirit, a group of 9 young people, accompanied by Helen Strackeljahn of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Eileen Kazura and Reth Duir of Alaska Geographic, attended the 25th Annual Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival with generous support from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The group of current high school and college students from Anchorage, Alaska, were all first time birders when they arrived in Homer for the Shorebird Festival. Over the course of the Festival, they learned how to use binoculars, spent time in kayaks, and discovered their own personal bird story in a workshop with keynote presenter J. Drew Lanham.  These activities and more were made possible through a generous grant from the Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges.

Throughout the weekend, the group spotted Sandhill Cranes, Western Sandpipers, Greater White-Fronted Geese, and many more migratory species. They also had a number of close-up encounters with Homer’s resident Bald Eagles.

Highlights of the trip included kayaking around Yukon Island, pictured above, which began with entertainment on the water taxi provided by Dave Aplin of World Wildlife Fund, and culminated in a kayak race back to the shore. The group also enjoyed exploring Homer and attending the On the Wing Concert, Birder’s Breakfast and Keynote Speeches. 

Many thanks goes to the array of partners and sponsors, who made it possible to connect these urban youth to their Alaska Refuges.


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“The Million Dollar Duck” – Friends Film Screening with Adam Grimm

It’s movie night in Fairbanks! Come join the Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges for a free screening of the film The Million Dollar Duck.

When: Sat. June 3
Time: 7 – 9 pm
Where: The Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitor Center, Fairbanks, AK
Cost: FREE

This fun and quirky documentary "focuses on the strange and wonderful world of the Federal Duck Stamp Contest, the only juried art competition run by the U.S. government. This film explores the eccentric nature of the contestants who enter each year for a chance at wildlife art stardom, while also reflecting upon the history and challenges facing the continued existence of this successful conservation program”

The movie will be introduced by Adam Grimm, a two time winner of the Federal Duck Stamp competition.

Family friendly event, Light refreshments, and signed duck stamp art available for purchase.

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