Volunteer Trip Report by Marci Johnson
I just returned from my second trip to Kaktovik as a Friends volunteer. From 9/13 to 9/24 I had the opportunity to return to Barter Island to assist the Arctic Refuge staff in their efforts to manage boat-based polar bear viewing with the community of Kaktovik. Having spent a month volunteering in 2017, it was a privilege to be able to return and experience another season. My job was to greet visitors to provide an orientation, and I was pleased to meet several Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges members who had made the trip north.
I also assisted monitoring efforts on the water as the certified gun bearer and boat operator; this year I brought ski goggles so I could see more clearly, as you have to discern whitecaps from polar bears from far away. The dynamics of bear viewing on Arctic Refuge waters is complicated, but the Refuge and Marine Mammals staff have forged a long-term commitment and dedication to the community, and I feel lucky to have learned from them. I am grateful to the Friends for this twice-in-a-lifetime experience.