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).
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! “
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.
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).
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.
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)
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.
Education Specialist Allyssa Morris and Friends of Alaska Refuges Volunteer Jeff Walters visited the Allakaket school in mid-December where they presented programs to pre-k to 12th grade classrooms about mustelids, which are mammals that belong to the weasel family. Students learned about behavior, diet, and movement patterns of weasels such as the wolverine, marten, ermine, and river otter. Students also played games that allowed them to behave like a weasel and use their sense of smell to find food caches hidden around the classroom.
by Allyssa Morris, Environmental Education Specialist (USFWS)
National Wildlife Refuge Week reminds Americans how nature enriches our lives and adds to the beauty of our country. This special week highlights the National Wildlife Refuge System – the network of lands and waters that protect wildlife and their habitats. This year Arctic, Kanuti, and Yukon Flats Refuges celebrated that connection with the natural world by hosting two events in Fairbanks with the help of the Friends of Alaska Refuges.
Archery Night was held at the Morris Thompson Center on October 11, 2016. The event was geared for youth ages 9+ years old. Trained Service staff and volunteers taught youth proper techniques and skills in an outdoor setting. Inside the main lobby there was an array of activities such as owl pellet dissections, pelts and skulls, and the opportunity to make a nature-inspired rubber stamp card. Visitors were also able to warm up with a cup of hot cocoa. Friends of Alaska Refuges member Dave greeted visitors at the entrance and member Joseph grilled hotdogs. It was a brisk and cold evening full of activities and smiling faces.
The second event was Refuge Day at the Fairbanks Children’s Museum. This event was geared for youth ages toddler to 8 years old. Attendees were able to make a squishy sensory fish pouch, play an animal matching game and even receive a blue goose removable tattoo. The highlight of the event was meeting Puddles the Blue Goose, who received many hugs throughout the event. Friends member Jeff handed out juice boxes and cookies and Friends member Sarah led a craft on making blue goose clothespin magnets. This was a fun day to learn and celebrate the refuges!
Friends Member Dave Personius greets visitors at the Morris Thompson Center at Archery Night
The Cotter Family dissects owl pellets and learns about food chains with Botanist Janet Jorgenson
Betty Morris, age 2, demonstrates how big a polar bear can be
Refuge Day at the Children’s Museum: Puddles with Children’s Museum Staff; Friends members Jeff Walters and Sarah Mathews hand out cookies and juice to attendees.
The Kaktovik Polar Bear Conservation Project is a collaboration between the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Marine Mammal Management Program to address increases in polar bear concentrations and visitor use around the native village of Kaktovik. Friends is sponsoring Jacqueline Keating to volunteer for three weeks, assisting with daily bear counts, visitor education, and school outreach. She is completing graduate work on managing bear viewing on the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge and is really thankful for the opportunity to experience a different type of bear viewing management.
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:
Animal tracking and drawing
Dog sled construction
Caribou butchering and processing
“I 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.
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.