This February, three Kodiak High School students head to the big city of Anchorage to present at their first conference: the annual Alaska Forum on the Environment (AFE).
Hannah Villaroya, Keegan Ryder, and Leif King all served as crew members on the 2017 Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge Youth Conservation Corp (YCC). They will share their summer experiences working with the Refuge, and will present about their leadership role for programs such as Pop-Up Salmon Camp. Pop-up Salmon Camp is an innovative way to bring the Refuge’s popular science camp to children of Kodiak at the summer lunch program. The teens each led two stations on topics of their choice; they took the initiative to study their topic, and then developed activities and hosted over 100 participants!
The Kodiak Refuge YCC program is a service learning program for students: as they learn, they are actively engaged in efforts to either teach others what they have learned and/or to make improvements on environmental issues or needs within public lands. For example, a biologist from the Sun’aq Tribe taught them about invasive species, and the crew then helped to remove invasive crayfish from the Buskin River. They received training on trail maintenance and then helped to improve a number of trails on the Refuge and on partner public lands such as Shuyak State Park.
As many as 1,800 people are expected to participate in the 2018 Alaska Forum on the Environment, a state-wide gathering of environmental professionals and leaders. In addition to presenting at the Forum, the teens will be staff the youth-track booth and will collaborate with other youth involved in environmental projects around the state. They are scheduled to present Tuesday February 13th at 9am, and plan to have a hands-on activity for participants to create their own reusable shopping bag out of a t-shirt (an activity they learned at Kodiak’s Threshold Recycling Center).
Environmental Education Specialist Shelly Lawson will work with the teens as they prepare their presentation, and will act as chaperone for their big trip. She is a strong advocate for their participation, observing, “youth are among the most popular presenters at AFE – I think it is due to their optimism and can-do attitude. They inspire and bring hope to all in attendance.”
The Friends provided financial support a trip to the Pacific Marine Expo this past fall in Seattle, to help educate the public about invasive species. Check out this report by Aaron Poe – Coordinator, Aleutian and Bering Sea Islands LCC, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
The impacts from introduced species like rats, foxes, cattle, and reindeer on the Alaska Maritime Wildlife Refuge are far-reaching. These non-indigenous species damage the abundance and diversity of native species including seabirds through predation, competition, and habitat transformation. A decades-long effort led by the Refuge has restored ecosystems on many islands thanks to the work of a large team to meticulously remove species on an island-by-island basis.
This issue has been a key focus of the Aleutian and Bering Sea Islands Landscape Conservation Cooperative (ABSI), a public-private partnership composed of agencies, Alaska Native tribes, and nongovernmental organizations working on collaborative conservation solutions in the North Pacific. Since 2012, ABSI has worked closely with the Maritime Refuge and the University of Alaska, Anchorage to document the distribution of invasive species on islands in in the Aleutians and Bering Sea.
With funding from the North Pacific Research Board, researchers have had a chance to look ahead and prepare for lesser known potential threats from aquatic species inadvertently introduced by ships transiting through the Aleutians or from fishing fleets active in the region. These vessels can introduce species by exchanging ballast water or from species that grow on vessel hulls, known as “hull fouling”. A recent ranking analysis of marine invasive species completed by the University of Alaska and a number of partners identified a ‘Top 10’ group of marine invaders that could potentially infest the Bering Sea and Aleutians.
We know after decades of restoration work in the Aleutians that prevention efforts are a worthwhile investment. This study included a targeted outreach component focused on the maritime industry to spread awareness and foster some discussion about how industry can work with scientists and resource managers.
The Pacific Marine Expo held in Seattle each November is the largest gathering of marine industry professionals on the west coast. A team including Captain John Faris, Skipper of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service research vessel Tiglax, Aaron Poe (ABSI) and Melissa Good with (Alaska Sea Grant) staffed a booth for three days at this year’s expo to connect with vessel operators and owners.
The educational materials sponsored by Friends of Alaska Refuges for their www.StopRats.org website provided a vital messaging hook that drew people into our booth. Mariners revile rats and the problems they can cause on ships. This helped us underscore the importance of finding ways to prevent introductions of invasive species from becoming established rather than fighting them once they are in place.
Throughout the expo we reached more than 250 people, gave out hundreds of StopRats.org magnets and made key connections with potential partners from a range of industries. We hope that being able to reach this key audience in Seattle with messages of prevention can ultimately help protect the islands and waters of Alaska thousands of miles away.
The main items on the agenda will be: Communications using social media, Member recruitment and engagement, Board development and retention. Five board members and our Coordinator will attend, joined by Steve Delehanty and Helen Strackeljahn of USFWS.
Friends expect to return to Alaska with fresh ideas and new tools to use for greater benefit to our Alaska Refuges. They hope that new or inactive members will be encouraged to take on leadership roles so they may also take advantage of ongoing training and educational opportunities both in and outside of Alaska.
BECOME A FRIEND – GET INVOLVED!
Field Report by Christina Whiting
I first participated in a science and culture camp in Arctic Village in 2010, when I helped the other teachers with their lessons. This year, I taught storytelling with the theme of home and through the mediums of photography, writing and art. On the first day, I taught four photography classes – one to grades K-3, one to grades 4-8 and two to grades 9-12. I had thought that the 9-12’s would be the most excited about photography, but the 4-8’s actually showed the most interest and took some terrific photographs of one another. On the second day, I taught writing, one class to each grade group, with the 9-12’s doing a great job with their assignment of taking written articles, circling existing words and making poems and stories out of them. On the third day, I taught art, using collage materials to make posters. This is where the K-3’s excelled. I was excited to see that most of the students really connected with the activities and the projects they were creating. I was surprised to see a theme of zombies emerge time and again! Several student gave me their writings and drawings to take home, while the remainder were given to the principal to post in the hallway and in the gym.
This year’s camp was very organized, with a flexible structure and the pre-camp communication was excellent. The activities, meals and accommodations were perfect! While I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the kids and in the village, there were several special highlights for me. The first was the arrival of snow during our first night and subsequently watching it coat the surrounding landscape as the days went by. Second was when a teacher asked her class what their favorite activity was on that day and they all shouted out ‘photography’. Third was when students, teachers and instructors were shuttled upriver, where we dropped off on a little hill and spent hours poking around the area and soaking up the sunshine. The fourth was going on a walking tour of the village, guided by a young man born in Arctic Village. And the last highlight for me was giving two of the older students a camera to wander around the school and village to take photographs and videos on the last day and having a teacher tell me that she had not seen these young men so excited about anything before.
I left Camp Goonzhii knowing that I had shared a great deal with the students, giving them tools to capture and share their own stories. I also left knowing that I learned a great deal from the students, teachers and community members. Everyone, from the principal, teachers, students, custodians, cooks and community members we interacted with, were gracious and helpful. I would love to return to this camp again next year.
The Friends funded Christina’s travel to and from Camp Goonzhii in Arctic Village.
Refuge Discovery Trip: Kenai National Wildlife Refuge Canoe Trip
September 16 and 17, 2017 (Saturday-Sunday)
Discover the canoe country of the Dave Spencer Wilderness Area within the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge during the height of fall color. Canoe, fish, berry pick, listen to loons from your sleeping bag, and enjoy good company.
Meet at Refuge headquarters in Soldotna at 9:00am Saturday, September 16th. Refuge staff will orient participants to refuge issues, resources and volunteer opportunities and we will tour their new (2015) Visitor Center. Carpool to the Swan Lakes Canoe System north of Sterling. Canoe across the lovely Canoe Lake and make a base camp at the far end. Portage to other lakes as time and weather allows. A small volunteer project, as yet to be determined, will be part of this experience. Return to cars about 4 p.m. on Sunday.
This trip is suitable for beginners as we will not be traveling far to the base camp. Those with the desire to see more will be able to portage to other lakes. Trout fishing can be very good in Canoe Lake and all the lakes and lowbush cranberry picking can be excellent right at the campsite.
Trip Leader: Poppy Benson, email@example.com; (907) 299-0092; Poppy has over 30 years of experience in the canoe country, has taught canoeing, and is Wilderness First Aid certified. Poppy serves on the Friends Board as Outreach Coordinator.
Cost: $20 for dinner and Sunday breakfast plus a Welcome Coffee with pastries on Saturday morning. Bring your own lunches for Saturday and Sunday, plus snacks. Indicate on your registration if you have dietary restrictions.
Weather: This Refuge Discovery Trip is a rain or shine event. Fall in the canoe country will be cool and possibly rainy. A communal dry tented area will be provided for cooking, as well as a campfire.
Equipment needed: Please provide your own personal camping gear, including fishing gear and berry pickers if desired. Canoes can be supplied by the Refuge but please bring your own if you have a light one. Contact Poppy if you don’t have a tent or would like to borrow a Refuge canoe. Given the possibility of rainy/cold weather, please bring a 30 degree and below sleeping bag, rain gear – jacket and pants, and waterproof knee high boots. Poppy recommends Gortex fishing waders with wading boots, which allow one to stay dry and to walk into the lake when launching canoes. Please bring them if you have them. A complete equipment list will be furnished to participants after registration.
Please leave your furry friends at home.
How to sign up: Trip will be limited to the first 12 to complete the registration, including paying the $20 fee. Please fill out the registration form below. Registration payment options will be presented after the form is completed and submitted. All participants who are not yet
signed up as Fish and Wildlife volunteers will be required to fill out a Volunteer Agreement at the Saturday meeting.
Trip Report by Friends Volunteer Paul Allan
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!
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.
(photos by Lisa Hupp/USFWS)
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).