Join us and learn more about refuges and wildlife at our meetings held from 5-6 pm AKT, the 3rd Tuesday of the month.
January 16: Winter recreation on the Kenai Refuge presented by the Gaia GIrls: Laura Pillifant and Mary King: live at the Kenai Refuge plus zoom
February 20: Archeology of the Aleutian Islands with archeologist and author Debra Corbett; live at the Alaska Maritime Refuge in Homer plus zoom
March 19: Gravel to Gravel Initiative: Saving Pacific Salmon from the river deltas of Norton Sound and the Bering Sea to the headwater streams in Canada with program director Boyd Blihovde; live at the Fish & Wildlife Regional office, Anchorage plus zoom
April 16: Researching the Porcupine caribou herd with Arctic Refuge biologist Willliam Leacock and USGS biologist Heather Johnson; live at the Morris Thompson Center in Fairbanks plus zoomNo matter where you are, you can join us via ZOOM, link will be on the website Meeting Page.
As we are able, we are holding in-person meetings safely along with livestreaming to all who choose to attend via the internet or call in to the teleconference number by phone.
The program and connection info will be available below no later than the morning of the meeting. Can’t make the meeting time? Our programs are recorded and posted with the meeting descriptions after the meeting. You do not need to be a member.
Every meeting will feature an engaging speaker from one of Alaska’s 16 Refuges or who is closely involved with our Refuges.
Tuesday, October 17, 5-6 pm AKDT, Randall Friendly, Waterfowl Biologist
This presentation was recorded; watch recording below.
Bethel – Randall, Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge Waterfowl Biologist, will be speaking live at the Refuge Visitor Center (across from the hospital) with potluck to follow. Bring your favorite dish to share. Homer – Watch Party with snacks at Alaska Maritime’s Islands & Ocean Visitor Center Soldotna – Watch Party at Kenai Refuge Visitor Center on Ski Hill Road Kodiak – Watch Party at Kodiak Refuge Visitor Center
The vast, watery Yukon Delta Refuge nestles between Alaska’s largest rivers, the Yukon and the Kuskokwim Rivers, where the tundra meets the Bering Sea. At 19 million acres, Yukon Delta has edged out the Arctic Refuge as the largest wildlife refuge in the country. Its diversity of habitats supports one of the largest aggregations of waterbirds in the world. Presenter Randall Friendly was raised on this land, went off to college and has recently returned as waterfowl biologist for the Yukon Delta Refuge. Let him show you his homeland and hear from him why waterfowl has so inspired him. He will talk about how and why the refuge manages waterfowl from banding programs with Cackling geese and Brant and capture-mark-recapture with Emperor geese.
Greater White-fronted Goose, Kigigak Island, Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge pc: Kristine Sowl, USFWS
Biography by Randall Friendly. I am from Tuntutuliak a Yupik village of about 800 people. It is located along the Kuskokwim River on the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge in western Alaska about 40 miles downriver from Bethel, the largest town on the Delta. I grew up with a subsistence lifestyle of hunting and fishing with my family. I found out I wanted to work with ducks and geese after my first season working as a technician for the US Fish and Wildlife Service working in remote places on the Yukon Delta. I saw how incredible it was to see the diversity of nesting birds like on Kigigak Island. Since then, I decided one day I wanted to continue working with waterfowl and learn more about them. With mentoring by ANSEP (Alaska Native Science & Engineering Program) I studied for my Bachelor’s at the University of Alaska Anchorage in biology. I completed my Master’s from the University of Alaska Fairbanks this summer in wildlife biology. My thesis was on threatened Spectacled Eiders and how their wintering conditions affect reproduction. While in college, I had a chance to work on Kodiak, and Arctic Refuges as well as Yukon Delta. What I like most about my job is that I get to work with amazing people who are enthusiastic about wildlife and that I get to work outside of the office environment.
I recently moved to Bethel to work full time for the Yukon Delta Refuge as a waterfowl biologist. I have been enjoying some family time after being away for college for quite some time. I like to spend time outdoors whether it is fishing, hunting, or gathering. Having moved to Bethel, I am looking forward to the opportunities to enjoy the outdoors with family and friends.
Read an interview with Randall about how the ANSEP program welcomed a boy from the village and helped him realize his dreams. And hear from Randall in this podcast about his hopes for his work, a chance to inspire others and his masters work on spectacled eiders.
The Most Amazing Refuge You’ve Never Seen: The Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge Presented by Jeff Williams, Deputy Refuge Manager
This presentation was recorded. Watch below:
In Homer and Soldotna – bring sides or desserts to the soup/chili after gathering or just come. Refuge staff will share upcoming winter events and volunteer opportunities.
by Jeff Williams
Remote. Difficult to access. Harsh weather. Thousands of Islands. Millions of Birds. Erupting volcanoes. You’ve heard about it, but few people have actually had the privilege of visiting this spectacular refuge. Spanning in extent from southeast Alaska, west to the end of the Aleutian Chain, and north above the Arctic Circle, a distance equivalent to that from the East Coast to the West Coast of the lower 48, the 4 million acre refuge is comprised of several thousand islands. It’s also home to 80% of all the breeding seabirds in North America – we guess that is over 40 million birds, but our tally counters don’t go that high. Oh, and don’t forget the hundreds of thousands of seals, sea lions, and otters too. Remote field camps on uninhabited islands and the largest ship in the Fish and Wildlife Service, the 120 foot R/V Tiglax, carry out the work of the refuge. The Refuge’s Islands and Ocean Visitor Center is in Homer at refuge headquarters. Jeff will provide an overview of the unique scenic beauty of the refuge and give you a look into the current refuge projects from the biological program to tribal engagement, ship operations and more.
Most of North America’s seabirds nest on this one refuge and crested auklets are some of the coolest. PC USFWS
Jeff came to the Alaska Maritime Refuge in 1990 when the refuge was only 10 years old. He has worked for this refuge probably longer than anyone else working his way up from Biological Technician, to Biologist, to Refuge Operations Specialist, to Assistant Manager and now Deputy Refuge Manager. Jeff says he remains passionate about the refuge after all these years because the work is always new, people and projects are interesting, and the refuge is a spectacular crown jewel in the refuge system. He even met his wife working for the refuge. In his current position, Jeff oversees the day-to-day operations of the refuge and staff, serves as supervisor and scheduler for the R/V Tiĝlax̂, and wishes he could do more surveys in a skiff. Jeff was based in the Adak office for 12 years and moved to the Homer office in 2001. Jeff enjoys spending time with his family, reading widely, working in his shop on projects and woodworking.
Jeff Williams on Segula Island in the Aleutian Islands. pc: USFWS
Presented by Dan Rizzolo,Endangered Species Biologist.
Tuesday, April 18, 5 p.m. – 6 p.m. AKDT Dan’s presentation was recorded. Watch below:
Spectacled eiders were in rapid decline in the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge in 1993 when they received the protection of the Endangered Species Act by being listed as a Threatened species. They were a mystery then. Western science knew very little about this sea duck species with the spectacled plumage. We knew they made their nests in the coastal tundra along the Bering Sea and Arctic coasts of Alaska and Siberia, but not where they molted their feathers or spent the winter. How many were there? What did they eat? And, importantly, why were they in such rapid decline? In the 30 years since they were listed, we have learned much about this tough duck that winters among the pack ice in the Bering Sea. In this 50th anniversary year of the Endangered Species Act, join us for Dan’s review of what has been learned since listing, including how spectacled eiders are responding to changes in sea ice in the Bering Sea. But knowledge does not always bring recovery and with ongoing anthropogenic climate change, the spectacled eider continues to face an uncertain future.
‘ Dan, Mist Netting birds on the river. pc Mark Lindberg
Dan Rizzolo is a wildlife biologist who works with a great team of biologists and support staff in the Endangered Species Recovery program of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, based in Fairbanks. He found his way to Alaska from the east coast for a summer job after finishing his undergraduate studies and has remained in the Great Land since, working as a biologist throughout the state, primarily with birds. Dan enjoys spending time in remote areas of Alaska, both for work and for play. In Fairbanks, you will often find him pedaling his fat tire bike up O’Connor Creek trail, or at local ice rinks cheering on his favorite hockey players, his wife Adrian and son Gavin.
Presented by Dave Atcheson author, fly fisherman, canoeist
Watch Dave’s recorded presentation below:
Dave will be in person at the Kenai Refuge with a book signing at 4:30 pm, talk at 5 and reception at 6. A watch party will be at the Alaska Maritime Refuge in Homer with Dave’s books available for purchase.
Come learn about the vast canoe country of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge with Dave Atcheson, author of the newly released book, Canoeing Yaghanen. Swan Lake and Swanson River canoe trails, just north of Sterling, Alaska, cover over 100 miles with more than 70 lakes, two river systems and portage trails. These routes are a national treasure having been recognized as Water Trails within the National Recreation Trail System. The Swan Lake trails and most of the Swanson River trails are within designated Wilderness, closed to motorized equipment and boats. All you will hear will be loon calls, beaver tail slaps, swans honking and wind in the spruce. Dave will share his images and thoughts on what makes this place so special, its wildlife and waterbirds, incredible trout fishing and of course, how you can plan your own adventure into this wonderful network of wilderness trails and waterways. From easy family weekend trips to weeklong adventures, paddlers of all abilities and ages will enjoy this unique wilderness experience.
‘ Portages varying in length from a hundred yards to nearly a mile connect the lakes of the canoe system. Dave Atcheson portaging. pc Cindy Atcheson
Dave Atcheson is an avid canoeist, sports fisher and hunter and has spent much of the last 30 years exploring the Swan Lake and Swanson River canoe systems. Dave writes that the canoe trails are one of his favorite places, not only in Alaska, but anywhere. He also writes that “this still-water wonderland contains some of the finest lake fishing Alaska has to offer.” (from Canoeing Yaghanen) Dave has written for a variety of periodicals from Outdoor Life to Boy’s Life to Alaska Magazine and is a past contributing editor to Fish Alaska. He is the author of the memoir of his commercial fishing days, Dead Reckoning, Navigating a Life on the Last Frontier, Courting Tragedy on its High Seas. He also wrote National Geographic’s Hidden Alaska, Bristol Bay and Beyond and the guidebook Fishing Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula. Dave teaches fly fishing and has run the Kenai Fishing Academy at the University of Alaska Anchorage, Kenai Peninsula College. Originally from upstate New York, Atcheson has traveled all over Alaska and lives in Sterling close to the canoe country.
Dave Atcheson with Kenai River rainbow. pc: Lee Keuper
Canoeing Yaghanen (the Good Land): A Guide to Kenai National Wildlife Refuge’s Swan Lake and Swanson River Canoe Systems was published by Alaska Geographic and is available from their online store here or at the Alaska Geographic bookstores at the Kenai Refuge and Alaska Maritime Refuge Visitor Centers.
Presented by Brittany Sweeney, Outreach Specialist, Selawik Refuge
Tuesday, February 21, 5 p.m. – 6 p.m. AKDT
What should environmental education be like on Alaska’s National Wildlife Refuges that are simultaneously public lands and homelands for Indigenous peoples? Iñupiaq residents in northwest Alaska have deep knowledge and longstanding connections to these lands that are now part of Selawik Refuge. In their environmental education program, Selawik Refuge centers cultural relevance, uplifting traditional stewardship, and building community partnerships. The annual Selawik Science-Culture Camp is a key example of this approach, but you can also see it in all of the refuge’s outreach and management approaches.
Brittany Sweeney has lived in Kotzebue, in the homeland of the Iñupiat, since 2010, with her husband and two kids. Brittany grew up in Yupi’k communities around Alaska refuges, first in Stebbins on the Yukon Delta Refuge, then in Dillingham where she started working for Togiak Refuge as a college student in 1998.
Presented by Bryce Lake, Wildlife Biologist, Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge
Speaker Reception with Bryce and light refreshments: Morris Thompson Cultural Center, 101 Dunkel Street, Fairbanks, or join others at Alaska Maritime Refuge Islands & Ocean Visitor Center, 95 Sterling Hwy or Kenai Refuge Visitor Center, 33398 Ski Hill Road or Kodiak Refuge Visitor Center, 402 Center St.
Doors open at with light refreshment at 4:30pm, presentation begins at 5pm at all 4 locations!
Bryce Lake with sedated wolf after the radio collar was attached. His red coat was a deliberate choice so the helicopter capture crew could easily find Bryce in the expansive landscape to deliver a wolf to him for collaring.
Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge is unique because wolves and moose occur there at some of the lowest densities in North America. With moose the only large prey available to wolves on the Yukon Flats, how does the low prey density change the wolves behavior? Do wolves eat fewer moose when moose are scarce (wolf kill rate)? How do wolves adapt to few prey (search behavior)? Join Yukon Flats Wildlife Biologist Bryce Lake to hear his stories about his four years of field work trying to answer these questions. He will share moose numbers, wolf numbers, and what he has learned about this unusual predator/prey situation.
Yukon Flats Refuge, a vast complex of wetlands, is the third largest refuge in the country.. pc: USFWS
Bryce Lake says the most rewarding aspect of his job is the inspiration he draws from interacting with and learning about the hidden ways of nature, some of which he will share in this talk. Bryce has been a wildlife biologist for the Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge since 2008. He has broad experience in Alaska having spent 13 summers from 1998 to 2008 living in a tent and working as a field technician on the Copper River Delta, North Slope, Yukon Delta, and the Interior. He has had prior experience on other Alaska National Wildlife Refuges including Yukon Delta Refuge and as an intern at Kanuti Refuge. Bryce’s job as a wildlife biologist is to conduct biology to inform management decisions. This usually means aerial surveys to count wildlife, capture and radio collar birds and mammals, and band ducks. His latest experiment is using trail cameras to monitor furbearers, particularly lynx. You can read about surprising things that Bryce has discovered with his trail cameras in the Science Corner of our February 2021 issue of our newsletter.
Bryce holds a master’s degree from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. His thesis focused on how early environment shapes the growth of goslings. In his spare time, he enjoys all things outdoors, usually fishing, camping, hunting, and hiking with his two dogs. He also enjoys watching a close hockey or football game. Bryce lives in Fairbanks.
Moose and wolf research takes place during the lovely but often brutally cold winter with temperatures frequently below zero. pc: USFWS
With Dr. Jeremy Littell of the Alaska Climate Adaptation Science Center
This presentation was recorded. View below:
How might climate change affect Alaska’s national wildlife refuges? Climate change is already affecting the high latitudes, including Alaska, in profound ways – warming in the Arctic is now three to four times faster than the average for Earth as a whole. How and how fast the climate will change in the future varies considerably across Alaska, and how those changes will affect the ecosystems, habitats, and species are a critical science need for refuges attempting to adapt to and plan for these futures. Littell will discuss what we know about likely future changes, the impacts that are likely to occur, and how those vary among Alaska’s National Wildlife Refuges. Along the way, he’ll describe how we develop climate projections for the future and where the uncertainties about those futures come from.
Jeremy Littell is a climate impacts ecologist at the Alaska Climate Adaptation Science Center (USGS). He conducts research at the intersection of climate change, ecological responses, and science needs of resource managers and decision makers and works to provide climate information that is relevant to decision makers’ adaptation to climate change. He has 20 years’ experience in climate impacts research. Jeremy grew up in southcentral Alaska, studied and worked outside, and returned in 2012. His doctoral work at the University of Washington focused on ecological and climatic controls on wildfire in the western U.S. and the role of climate in Douglas-fir tree growth across its climatic range. He also worked as a research scientist at the UW Climate Impacts Group, collaborating with resource managers in Federal and state agencies to better understand and use climate information in planning and adaptation. When he’s not working (and sometimes while working), he can be found trying to find out how much of Alaska can be crossed via human powered locomotion in a day or spending time with his family.
The bobbing orange and yellow bills of Tufted and Horned Puffins are signs of summer off the coast of Alaska. These beloved birds have sometimes been called “clowns of the seas” due to their playful appearance. However, little is known about where these iconic species overwinter when they spend eight to nine months at sea away from breeding colonies. Join Robin Corcoran and Katie Stoner to learn about the ecology of Tufted and Horned puffins. Discover the habitats of Kodiak’s puffins and hear how Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge, in cooperation with Oregon State University, is working to better understand and investigate factors that might be impacting populations of these two charismatic seabirds within the Kodiak Archipelago.
Katie Stoner “grubbing” puffins on Chiniak Island. It takes a long arm to reach into the puffin burrows. pc:Robin Corcoran/USFWS
In Kodiak, join us for the presentation at the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center with a speaker reception starting at 4:30.
In Soldotna, a watch party at 5 p.m. at the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center on Ski Hill Road followed by volunteer orientation for those interested.
In Homer, a watch party at 5 p.m. at the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge’s Islands & Ocean Visitor Center followed by an opportunity to join Friends and learn about volunteer opportunities with the Refuges.
Robin Corcoran has said that it is a dream come true that part of her duties as Avian Biologist for Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge are the same things that she would do in her free time – watch and photograph birds. In spite of growing up on Long Island outside of New York, she got to play unsupervised in a woods, a marsh and shore where she developed her passion for all wild things. She particularly likes birds because they are more diverse than mammals. Since Robin started working at Kodiak Refuge in 2009, she has studied everything from Kittzlitz’s Murrelets nesting on rocky mountain tops, to the rapidly declining Aleutian Tern. Robin oversees an annual songbird mist netting and banding program and spends much of each summer navigating the Kodiak Archipelago coastline by skiff to count nearshore marine birds. Hear more about Robin’s interesting career on this podcast.
Katie Stoner is an Oregon State University PhD student working in collaboration with Kodiak Refuge for her dissertation research assessing the conservation status and threats to Tufted and Horned Puffins breeding in the Kodiak Archipelago within the Gulf of Alaska. She developed a passion for wildlife and birdwatching while attending summer camps with the Audubon Society of Portland in her hometown of Portland, Oregon. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Wildlife Biology and Natural Resource Ecology from the University of Vermont. During her undergraduate degree, she had the opportunity to volunteer for Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge on the refuge’s Kittlitz’s Murrelet Nesting Ecology Project, and she used data from her fieldwork on this project to complete her undergraduate thesis.
After graduating, Katie gained experience studying avian ecology as part of several different research programs. She contributed to the conservation of threatened and endangered petrels and shearwaters in the tropical mountains of Kauai’s Na Pali Coast and monitored tree nests of the Marbled Murrelet in Oregon’s coastal forests. She lived in remote field camps for her work including in the backcountry of the Kodiak Archipelago, on Chowiet Island in the Gulf of Alaska, and on the windy slopes of Cape Crozier on Ross Island, Antarctica studying Adelie Penguins for Point Blue Conservation Science.
Katie is thrilled to return to Alaska and Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge to learn the secrets of Alaska’s “clowns of the seas.”
Presentation by Alison Williams, Widlife Biologist
Izembek National Wildlife Refuge is a remote refuge in southwest Alaska that contains one of the world’s largest eelgrass beds and hosts a huge diversity of wildlife. In particular, the refuge is critical habitat for several iconic Alaskan goose species that rely on the refuge as migratory staging and wintering areas. So why are these geese at Izembek, and where do they come from? How are geese at Izembek affected by changing environmental conditions? Come learn about the life of Alaska’s geese and how Izembek is a key piece of their life history!
Hundreds of thousands of waterfowl, including virtually the entire population of Pacific Black Brant, visit the lagoon to feed on eelgrass and rest during migration. pc: Kristine Sowls/USFWS
Alison Williams is a wildlife biologist at Izembek National Wildlife Refuge, stationed in Cold Bay, Alaska. Originally from Colorado, she grew up in the wild foothills of the Rocky Mountains with a love for wildlife, open spaces, and a special interest in birds. She earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Wildlife and Wildlands Conservation, before coming to Alaska as a seasonal Biological Science Technician for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Through her work, she spent several remarkable years traveling to various Wildlife Refuges within Alaska, including multiple visits to Izembek, which piqued her interest in seaducks, seabirds, and life on the remote edges of Alaska. She started her current, dream job at Izembek in March 2021, and has enjoyed learning about and seeing the huge diversity of wildlife Izembek has to offer. Alison also recently completed a Master of Science Degree in Avian Sciences from University of California Davis on Common Goldeneye reproductive ecology in interior Alaska
There are islands in Alaska where hundreds of thousands of seabirds gather annually to breed. These islands are critical to the survival of these species. Imagine yourself living on one of these islands with one other person. Sound picturesque? It is, but you won’t be spending your days sipping umbrellaed drinks while lounging on the beach. You’re here to do a job. You’re here to collect long-term monitoring data on the seabirds (and other species) that breed on your island. You’re going to be cold, wet, and generally uncomfortable for most of your stay. It’s not an easy life, but it’s worth it. You’ll see and hear things very few ever will. You’ll get to collect data that monitors the health of Alaskan seabird populations and the ocean they, and mankind, depend on for survival. Join Sarah and Dan for a summer field season on Aiktak Island, in the Eastern Aleutians, as biological technicians for the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge. They will show you what it takes to work in this rugged and remote refuge.
Sarah Youngren and Dan Rapp are seabird researchers. Most people have no idea what they do, because they work where very few people go and with species that spend most of their lives at sea (or in these places few people get to go). Between Sarah and Dan, they have 28 years of experience working with seabirds on remote islands in Alaska and Hawaii (and a stint in Louisiana). They both started their professional careers working with Alaskan salmon, and dabbled in other fieldwork, but both eventually found their way to a remote seabird colony. All parts of living and working on these islands spoke to them, and their addiction hasn’t let up. They have worked with a plethora of seabird species, ranging in size from the armful Black-footed albatross, to the fit in your palm Leaches storm-petrel. Most of the data they collect contributes to long-term datasets for the purpose of detecting trends / changes within seabird populations. But they also conduct and participate in original research, most recently they helped outfit albatross with tags to track their movements across the North Pacific from their breeding colony at Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge. Both Sarah and Dan earned their Masters degrees in marine science from Hawaii Pacific University in 2015, with theses that addressed patterns and impacts of plastic ingestion in Hawaiian seabirds. After completing their graduate work, they returned to seasonal fieldwork. Since 2015 they have been spending summers working for Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge, specifically on Aiktak Island in the Eastern Aleutians.