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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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Kanuti’s Annual Winter Celebration, Community Dinner & Outreach Event

Kanuti’s Annual Winter Celebration, held recently in Allakaket, AK, was attended by over 60 people from Allakaket and Alatna and was once again a hit with kids and adults alike. This year, Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve helped support the effort. Marcy Okada, the Subsistence Coordinator for Gates of the Arctic National Park & Preserve and Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve, and Maria Berger, the Lead Education Specialist (NPS) at the Fairbanks, Alaska Public Lands Information Center, attended the event and provided a well-received after-dinner presentation about Gates and NPS, and a craft table that was very popular with the youth.

Kanuti truly enjoyed partnering with NPS during this event, and very much appreciated the support NPS provided. The community seemed to greatly enjoy being able to learn so much in one stop. UAF representatives were also at the School during the evening event, providing excellent information about their programs and a table of information and free items. The community had a full night of fun! Of course, one of the most enjoyed parts of the evening, was the Taco dinner, provided by Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges and fully prepared by Friends Volunteer Sarah Matthews, who worked hard during the entire event to make sure everything we needed was taken care of – thank you Sarah for your hard work making a wonderful dinner for so many! And thank you to UAF for providing a great dessert! In the spirit of doing more with less, working together can fill in gaps while also strengthening ties. Kanuti looks forward to continuing to work with partners and the communities of Allakaket and Alatna in the future.





(Report filed by: USFWS)

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Kenai Refuge Celebrates 75 Years of Conservation



by Leah Eskelin, Park Ranger
(all photos by USFWS)

 Celebrating 75 years of conservation at Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, Refuge staff hosted an evening celebration on Friday, December 16th at the new Refuge Visitor Center in Soldotna.  Sponsored by the Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges, National Wildlife Refuge Association, Alaska Geographic and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Retirees Association, the party showcased the Refuge’s diverse landscapes through artwork by volunteer photographers Tom Collopy and Mary Frische, family activities and a centerpiece cake that, well, took the cake.


Seventy-five years ago, on the heels of the attack on Pearl Harbor that led the United States into World War II, the President signed the document that created the Kenai National Moose Range. Later, in 1980, the passage of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) would change its name to Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, and broaden its purpose. A grassroots effort to protect wildlife being over harvested on the Kenai Peninsula resulted in this federal action, and without it the landscapes that are so beloved by residents and visitors alike would have been lost long ago.  With this protection, wildlife habitats, recreational opportunities and the integrity of salmon-rearing streams that are the linchpin of much of the local fishery have survived the decades, and will endure beyond our years here.


More than 200 guests attended this event, where they dressed as their favorite Kenai animal in the photo booth, “became” moose, the Refuge’s signature wildlife, by designing moose headbands and decorated reusable canvas tote bags. It was a great celebration and one that would have been impossible without the support of the Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges.  Refuge staff send their thanks to each member of the Friends organization, for this and other efforts to spread the word about these majestic public lands across the state.








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Arctic Village Science and Culture Camp Goonzhii

dolma1

Friends Volunteer Brenda Dolma had the opportunity to work with youth, refuge staff, and community elders of Arctic Village, during their annual Science and Culture Camp.  Camp Goonzhii (meaning “wisdom and knowledge” in Gwich’in) took place in late August 2016.  Thirty youths ranging from kindergarten through twelfth grade participated. The Science and Culture Camp includes curriculum in western science and traditional ecological knowledge, combined with indoor and outdoor learning experiences through demonstrations and hands on environmental education activities. Community elders share their wisdom about the land and animals, while Refuge staff offer exposure to new technologies.   Some camp topics and activities included:
  • Migratory birds
  • Animal tracking and drawing
  • Archery
  • Dog sled construction
  • Skin sewing
  • Caribou butchering and processing
  • Blueberry picking
  • Plant identification
dolma2I had the opportunity to meet Sarah James [community elder and Friends member], who has been speaking to protect the habitat for the future.   It was a treat to get out on the field trips and experience the beauty of Arctic Village in fall,” says Brenda.

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  To learn more about the Camp, check out this article by News Miner, in Fairbanks. The Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges provided funding for nightly community dinners and Brenda’s travel. Membership comes with the chance to Volunteer. Check out our current opportunities.