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Chasing Eiders: My Summers in the High Arctic

Please join us on Tuesday, October 15, 2019, 5-6pm (AKDT), for our Friends October membership meeting with featured guest speaker, Elyssa Watford.


Want to hear an eider’s heartbeat?  Be taken along through ice and fog to the off-shore world of the barrier islands of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge?  Wonder what it would be like to live and work in a remote field camp on the edge of the Beaufort Sea?  Then join us, the Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges, to hear Elyssa Watford share stories and stunning photos and videos of her three years of eider research on the barrier islands.  Elyssa, a PhD candidate at UAF, has been working with Common Eiders, North America’s largest duck, for three years.  The focus of her work has been the potential impacts of climate change on these special birds and their habitats.  Come learn about these birds and this important work and find out about volunteering and advocacy opportunities.

Elyssa will be at the Fairbanks meeting; our other gatherings will join via Zoom Meetings. 

  • Fairbanks: Noel Wein Library, 1215 Cowles, reception at 4:30; meet at 5
  • Anchorage: Fish & Wildlife Service Regional Office, 1011 E. Tudor, gathering and snacks at 4:30, meet at 5 p.m.
  • Homer: Islands and Ocean Visitor Center, 95 Sterling Highway, meet at 5
  • Soldotna: Kenai National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center, Ski Hill Road, meet at 5

    If you can’t make it in person, join us by phone or by computer:

  • By phone:
    Dial-in number: 720-707-2699
    Meeting ID: 619 207 040
    (Press ‘#’ if you are asked for a participant ID)

  • By computer:
    Join Zoom Meeting
    (We are only using audio in this meeting; please join this meeting without video.)

If you are joining us by phone or computer, please download Elyssa’s presentation and follow along:
Download Presentation (PowerPoint .pptx)


Introductions and Discussion (5 minutes)
  • Introductions: Where do you live?
  • New People: Why did you join the call today?
  • Reminder to please mute yourselves when you aren’t talking
Board Activities/Decisions
  • Refuge Projects and Reports 
Committee Reports (2-5 minutes each): Volunteer Report – (Betty) Membership/Outreach Events: Upcoming events (Tara) Advocacy Updates (David, Dave)

Speaker/Presentation (30-40 minutes) –
Elyssa Watford
Topic: Chasing Eiders 

Next Meeting: Tuesday, January 21, 5-6pm Guest Speaker TBA
Six meetings yearly: January, February, March, April, September, October


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Kodiak Refuge Week Events 2019

Poster Details:

Sunday September 29 4 pm – 8 pm:

Stamp with us @ the Salmon Life Celebration

Look for our table and join us for some salmon-inspired art projects! 

At the Fort Abercrombie Group Recreation Site.


At the Refuge Visitor Center, 402 Center Ave. All Events FREE:

Monday September 30 7 pm – 8 pm
From Arctic to Attu: A Photo Journey with Trivia

A slideshow-style presentation of landscape and wildlife photography from several Alaska Refuges with trivia challenge by Lisa Hupp, Refuge Outreach Specialist


Tuesday October 1st 5 pm – 7 pm
Art Night for All Ages: Watercolor Night Scenes  

Join our Education Specialist Shelly Lawson and paint your night fun! Option to enter paintings into the Arts Council Trading Card Show.


Wednesday October 2nd
10:30 am: 10:30 AM: Recycling F.U.N. Program (3-5 yr olds & families)

7 pm: Film – “Bag It: Is Your Life Too Plastic?”

This FREE award-winning film focuses on the politics of bags, single-use disposables, waste and recycling and the health of our oceans. Popcorn provided!


Thursday October 3rd 12 pm – 1 pm

Seabird Science: Die-Offs, Tern Tagging, & Surveys

Join Robin Corcoran, Refuge Bird Biologist, for an update about our seabirds and the science that monitors their health. Bring Your Own Lunch.


Friday October 4th 5 pm – 7 pm
Welcome to Wild: Photography & Art Show

Community show for First Friday with light refreshments.

We welcome submissions!



Trash Pickup Challenge and lottery

Love Your Lands by cleaning up Kodiak and reducing waste!

Starting now – take a picture of your trash clean up and share it in order to earn entries into the lottery to win Refuge prizes!  You can enter a pic everyday by emailing your photo to Ranger Robins at, and you can earn another entry by sharing your photo on social media with both #TrashChallenge and #KodiakTrashChallenge. We’ll draw for a winner every day during Refuge Week..

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Togiak Refuge 5k Salmon Color Run

Togiak National Wildlife Refuge partnered with the Bristol Bay Area Health Corporation in the Annual 5K Salmon Color Run held this year on Saturday, July 27th in Dillingham, Alaska.  There were 203 registrants for the free event which featured free t-shirts emblazoned on the back with the meaning of each color – one for each featured health and wellness topic.  For example, green is for smoking cessation. 

Walkers and runners were able to view informational signs along the route with health facts that incorporated Refuge and outdoor themes.  For example, in the red section for substance abuse avoidance, there was a sign showing hikers on Togiak Refuge and the message is “Get a Natural High – Visit a National Wildlife Refuge!”

At the end of each section, walkers and runners were doused with colored corn starch powder that showed up well on the predominantly white t-shirts.  After completing the course, participants were treated to free fruit provided by the Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges, along with plenty of fresh water to drink.

Togiak Refuge Artist-in-Residence Penny Creasy provided an art activity for young people before the run officially began at 1:00 pm.  Penny donated one of her prints of a sleepy bear (she completed the original in pastel) and the drawing for the print was won by a young Haven Mae Chapman.

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2019 Dragonfly Day

The 9th annual Dragonfly Day was a huge success. The all-outdoor event was held on a warm and sunny day and welcomed 481 attendees to Tanana Lakes Recreation Area. Attendees were able to meet co-author of Dragonflies of Alaska, John Hudson. John led nature walks and shared tips on how to catch dragonflies using an aerial net. Some of the common species caught included the Boreal Whiteface, Lake Darner, and Alaska’s state insect, the Four-spotted Skimmer.

After catching and identifying dragonflies, participants had an array of activities and games to choose from including Dragonfly Twister, dragonfly q-tip art, face painting, or taking a photo with Puddles the Blue Goose at the photo booth.

The Fairbanks Market Grocery and Deli donated an array of fruits and vegetables for youth to make their own dragonfly-inspired snack! Friends Joseph Morris and Moira O’Malley were on site answering questions regarding Friends memberships and projects. Joseph and Moira also sold Dragonflies of Alaska field guides. All proceeds from the sale of the field guide was donated to the Friends group from John Hudson.

Blue Flame food truck was on site with food for purchase. This event was made possible by the Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges, Fairbanks North Star Parks and Recreation, National Park Service, University of Alaska Fairbanks, and Fairbanks Co-op Market Grocery and Deli. Hope to see you at Dragonfly Day 2020!

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CANCELLED-Get Involved: Kenai River Clean-up, September 6 – 8, 2019

ATTENTION: The Kenai River clean up event is cancelled due to the Swan Lake Fire.

Do good, have fun and see more of the Kenai Refuge.  September 6-8.  Sportsmen’s Landing, Cooper Landing. 

Friends will join Alaska Fly Fishers in doing an end of season clean-up of Sportsmen Landing, and downstream beaches all of which are on the Kenai Refuge.  This is our second year partnering with the Fly Fishers, the Kenai Watershed Forum, the Refuge and the Forest Service on this event.  We had such a great time last year what with raft trips, free food, and live music,  we are making it an annual event. See our trip report from last year here.

Arrive Friday evening and set up your trailer or tent in the Sportsman Landing campground reserved just for this event.  Saturday morning, after a continental breakfast, teams will either float the river cleaning beaches or clean around the landing, campgrounds and parking areas.  The Kenai Refuge will bring several boats to take Friends downriver to clean refuge beaches.  That evening the Alaska Fly Fishers will put on a BBQ for all participants with prizes and live music!  Sunday morning, breakfast is followed by a Friends sponsored hike on a yet to be determined trail in the Skilak Lake Road area  

For more information and to sign up, contact Tim Shipman, trip coordinator, at or call (907) 252-8450

This promises to be a very fun event that will continue to help build an alliance with the Fly Fishers, Kenai Watershed Forum, the refuge, and other partners.

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2019 Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival Recap

Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges and Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge co-sponsored the 27th Annual Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival in Homer, Alaska, May 9-12, 2019. The combination of new Coordinator Mallory Primm and outgoing Coordinator Robbi Mixon was magical! Registration was up by over 100 participants from the previous year and the Keynote speaker, Jennifer Ackerman, sold out for both talks and her workshop. Mark Omascik shared his new book on the Battle of Attu and feature presenters Raymond VanBuskirkand the Tropical Birding Crew led field trips and talks. The stunning artwork by Valisa Higman sold for a record bid, along with over 30 donated 6×6 Alaskan bird art pieces and trips. Much of our merchandise sold out quickly – stop by Islands and Ocean in Homer to see what’s left. Around 100 volunteers donated their time and talents to make this event successful along with the huge contributions of many sponsors and supporters.

Congrats to Mallory on her first year as coordinator, and to Robbi on her last!

We hope you’ll save the date for next year’s event: May 7-10, 2020!

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Fairbanks Art Crowd Loves Refuges – 4th Annual Art in the Arctic

Event report filed by Poppy Benson, Friends Vice President

Art in the Arctic in its 4th year was a big hit once again drawing a younger and diverse crowd of 250 on March 7.  Friends cosponsored this art show showcasing works highlighting the three northern refuges – Arctic, Yukon Flats, and Kanuti.  This year’s theme was “Public Lands – Open to all Americans to Use and Enjoy“.  Various works portrayed hunting, fishing, hiking, wildlife viewing, river-floating, photography, sightseeing and other uses of public lands.  Eight artists were selected to exhibit in the show which will be up for the entire month at the popular coffee house and art gallery, VENUE, located at 514 – 2nd Avenue Fairbanks, Alaska.  Mediums ranged from wood carvings to oil to photography, fabric art, and large-scale watercolors.  It was a lovely evening with great food, good messaging about the refuge system and high visibility for the three refuges.  Featured artists included Lindsay Carron who has completed two Artist in Residence programs at the Arctic Refuge as well as spent time on the Yukon Delta Refuge.  Special Tee shirts were created for the event – one Art in the Arctic Tee and one – Find Your Refuge Tee.  Both are available for sale online and 10% of the proceeds go to Friends.  

Fairbanks Friend Jeff Walters and Homer Friends Poppy Benson and Frank Cloyd were on hand to greet and orient attendees and recruit for Friends.  Several new members signed up at this event and at the Alaska Bird Conference which was also held in Fairbanks earlier in the week.  At the end of the week, plans were afoot for a face to face meeting of Fairbanks Friends during our April 16 monthly membership meeting.  Contact Poppy Benson, for more details.

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Togiak NWR Bird Feeder Building (Nov. 2018)

Thank you and the Friends group for the contribution to the Togiak NWR Bird Feeder Building project this year. We had great fun with the kids and the adults too. Through these community events, we hope to educate people about our hardy winter birds and inspire interest in citizen science projects like Feeder Watch and the Christmas Bird Count. We held the event on the weekend before Thanksgiving and it was well attended.
In the first photo, you can see a handout we made picturing the most common feeder birds in Dillingham and a baggie of birdseed with the Friends and the Fish and Wildlife logos. These were included with each feeder kit. For the littlest kids, we provided a pinecone finger painting project with some creamy peanut butter as the artistic media. Most of the peanut butter ended up on the pinecones as planned to stick the seeds in place.

A creative outlet with some brightly colored paint and tablecloths always help brighten spirits on winter days, as does watching feeder birds from a cozy spot inside a warm house.

Thank you again for your contribution to this event. It was enjoyed by all!

Warm Regards,
Kara Hilwig, Pilot/Biologist
Togiak National Wildlife Refuge

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Selawik Art Night and Open House – Fall 2018

Selawik National Wildlife Refuge: Art Night & Open House, October 17, 2018 

In celebration of Refuge Week, we hosted an Art Night and Open House event. About 25-30 people of mixed ages young children, teenagers, parents, and elders, attended. We hosted activities like plant printing on stationery, acrylic painting on small canvases, and “blind drawing” of various items (antlers, skulls, etc.). Many of the people in attendance had never been in our office before. One of the National Park Service seasonal staff assisted us with the event as well. We greatly appreciate the refreshments that Friends provided—everyone in attendance enjoyed them!

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