2018 Kaktovik – Volunteer Report

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 t
he 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.