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.
Board Friends, past and present, joined current and prospective Fairbanks members and U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff to float several miles into the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge via the Atigun River from the Dalton Highway. The outing,proposed by National Wildlife Refuge Association (NWRA) Director David Houghton, had a two-fold mission:
Reward members for long-time Board service, and
Recruit and engage Fairbanks individuals as active Friends members
This intrepid and diverse group of 14 met in Fairbanks on July 15, 2016 and ventured up the Dalton Highway in a van and several pick-ups, first stopping at the Hot Spot Cafe for the establishment’s notably huge burgers, and then touring the Arctic Interagency Visitor Center in Coldfoot. After a night camping at Marion Creek, the group drove on to the Atigun River, where they inflated rafts and prepared for the three hour boating journey.
The following photos exemplify some of the beautiful scenery and exciting moments experienced, as well as the challenges of enduring mosquitos, rain, and an arduous hike back to the road the next day.
Everyone felt this event achieved its goals in every way, as the camaraderie and shared experience reinvigorated the Board, past and present, while Fairbanks members brought new ideas and commitment to the Friends organization.
A huge thank you goes to NWRA and the Wilburforce Foundation for encouraging and funding the trip, and to Steve Berendzen and Barry Whitehill of Fairbanks for planning and coordinating logistics and equipment for the float.