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.
pc: Grubbing arms.
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.
Come join us and learn more about refuges and wildlife at our 7 meetings per year held from 5-6 pm, on the 3rd Tuesday of January, February, March, April, September, October and November of 2022. We take the summer and holiday months off. Presenters share first-hand experiences, current issues, conservation threats and great stories.
January 18: Bridging the Gap/Manigtengnaqsaraq: Native Alaskans employed as Refuge Information Technicians are the connection between villages and refuge management; presented by Christopher Tulik from Yukon Delta Refuge and Jacki Cleveland from Togiak Refuge.
February 15: An Eye to the Future: How the Kenai Refuge is preparing for climate and landscape change with supervisory biologist Kristine Inman.
March 15: Kodiak Refuge Bears
April 19: Bird Camp! Alone on an Aleutian Island with 100,000 seabirds with Sarah Youngren and Daniel Rapp of the Alaska Maritime Refuge
You can always hop on the Friends website to view any presentation that you miss: recordings here
Presentation recorded on Tuesday, November 16, 2021
Fran Mauer, Arctic Refuge Senior Biologist, retired
Fran Mauer started his career in Alaska 50 years ago at a pivotal point in wildlife conservation. He worked on some of the most high-profile projects such as the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) andevaluating the coastal plain of the Arctic Refuge 1002 area for likely impacts of oil development. After that exciting and controversial work, Fran got off the hot seat in 1988 to spend the next 14 years surveying Peregrine Falcons on the Porcupine River. This annual survey of nesting falcons was necessitated by their endangered status as a result of DDT exposure in the lower 48, as well as in Central and South America. Fran will tell us the story of this bird’s recovery and what he learned from this work about the interconnectedness of the Porcupine country with the rest of the Arctic Refuge, adjacent Canada and beyond. He will also describe some of the interesting geological history that created the Peregrine habitat and share human stories of the Porcupine River region including some unexpected discoveries.
Porcupine River by Callie Gesmundo
Fran Mauer has a BS degree in Wildlife biology from South Dakota State University and a MS degree in Zoology from the University of Alaska – Fairbanks. He served two years in the US Army as a med lab technician during the VietNam war, before arriving in Alaska.
He started with the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) as a seasonal bio-tech in 1974 to help identify salmon habitat that may be affected by the Chena River Flood Control Project but quickly landed his first permanent position with the Service working for the Western Alaska Ecological Service office in Anchorage. One of his earliest assignments was to identify potential effects of the proposed Bradley Lake hydropower project. In 1976, Fran joined the FWS Alaska planning team which provided resource information to guide the Congressional process underway to establish new National Wildlife Refuges, National Parks, Wild Rivers and Wilderness designations in Alaska. Fran covered the northwest and arctic areas of Alaska which got him involved with the prospect of expanding the Arctic National Wildlife Range, as well as the controversy over potential oil development on the coastal plain and wilderness protection.
Following passage of ANILCA in 1980, Fran joined the staff of the Arctic Refuge as a field biologist and became involved with the Congressionally mandated “1002” studies of the coastal plain. His primary work involved an inter-agency baseline study of neonatal calf mortality on the calving grounds of the Porcupine caribou herd for the purpose of predicting what impact oil development might have on the caribou. During 1988 to 2001 his work expanded to include Dall Sheep, moose, peregrine falcons and other birds of prey. Fran served as a senior biologist at the Arctic Refuge for 21years.
Fran has authored several scientific papers, governmental reports and essays for books and magazines. Fran’s essay “Our Geography of Hope ” about an imaginary walk across the Arctic Refuge from north to south was featured in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: Seasons of Life and Land: A Photographic Portrait by Subhankar Banerjee. This 2003 book may have been instrumental in holding off the leasing threat to the refuge at that time. A just published book, Defending the Arctic Refuge by Finis Dunaway, devotes a chapter entitled “Science and Skulduggery” to Fran’s and also co-worker Pam Miller’s experiences in getting the correct data on expected oil development impacts on wildlife to Congress in spite of data suppression and the doctoring of Fran’s caribou calving information at high levels. The data doctoring led to a new role for Fran – whistleblower!
Following retirement in 2002, Fran has served on the board of Wilderness Watch and represented its Alaska chapter. He lives in Fairbanks and continues to advocate for maintaining the ecological integrity and the wilderness character of our Alaska National Wildlife Refuges and National Parks.
Ambrose, S., C. Florian, R.J. Ritchie, D. Payer, and R.M. O’Brien. 2016. Recovery of American peregrine falcons along the upper Yukon River, Alaska. Journal of Wildlife Management.
Join us to discover the rich cultural and historic legacy of Alaska’s Refuges. Jeremy Karchut will provide an overview of the refuges’ vast array of cultural resources representing 14,000 years of human history. Sites range from those associated with the earliest humans to set foot in North America to mid-20th century aircraft hangars. Prehistoric archaeological sites in the Arctic, rock art on the Kodiak coast, historic cabins on the Kenai Peninsula, WWII battlefield sites in the Aleutians, and historic Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) facilities critical to the agency’s Alaska mission are some of the cultural resources to be highlighted in this talk.
The FWS recognizes cultural resources as fragile, irreplaceable assets with potential public and scientific uses, representing an important and integral part of the heritage of our Nation and descendant communities. It is FWS policy to identify, protect, and manage cultural resources located on refuge lands. Jeremy will consider some of the challenges and rewards of managing these nonrenewable resources in an era of rapid environmental change and include highlights of key federal historic preservation legislation.
B-24D Liberator Bomber that crashed in 1942 on Atka Island, in what is now part of the Alaska Maritime NWR. Photo by Steve Hillebrand, USFWS.
Jeremy is the FWS Regional Archaeologist in Anchorage. He is interested in high altitude and high latitude archaeology and for more than 20 years he’s been involved with projects focusing on the effects of climate change on archaeological resources and what archaeology can teach us about how humans adapted to environmental change in the past. Jeremy is a native of Colorado, having earned a BA in Anthropology from Fort Lewis College, Durango in 1998, and a MA in Archaeology and Ancient History from University of Leicester, UK in 2003. He has served as a federal archaeologist since 1995, including with the US Forest Service and the National Park Service in the US Southwest, Central and Southern Rocky Mountains, Great Plains, and 12 years in Alaska.
From weed pulls to gelding feral horses, Friends have been concerned and involved in invasive species on Alaska Refuges. We continue that involvement with Lisa Dlugolecki sharing her results and thoughts from this summer’s field work surveying several northern wildlife Refuges for invasive species. Refuges in northern Alaska have been traditionally spared from invasive species, but the risk of introduction is increasing. This is especially true for Refuges along or downstream from the road systems.Consistent surveying for invasive species has also been challenging in this region because of the large land mass and unavailability of staff resources. From Kanuti Refuge to Tetlin Refuge, Lisa’s team conducted road surveys looking for invasive plants such as white sweet clover. Some findings included finding white sweet clover growing along the Dalton Highway, but finding none growing on the gravel bars in the surrounding waterways. Friends volunteered for many years eradicating white sweet clover along the Dalton in the hopes of preventing its spread downstream into the refuges. Join us on Zoom to hear the latest on what else she discovered and what her thoughts are on the future of invasive species management on northern refuges.
Lisa Dlugolecki is the “North Region Early Detection Rapid Response Project Manager Alaska” for the Fish and Wildlife Service. She is based out of Fairbanks. Lisa has worked across the country in wildlife and habitat management. She began working full time for Fish and Wildlife Service in 2015 in invasive species management and habitat restoration. Before moving to Alaska to continue her work in invasive species management, Lisa worked in Idaho on Endangered Species Act consultations.
Dial(for higher quality, dial a number based on your current location): US: +1 253 215 8782 or +1 346 248 7799 or +1 669 900 6833 or +1 301 715 8592 or +1 312 626 6799 or +1 929 205 6099 Webinar ID: 848 4313 9530 Passcode: 018201 International numbers available: https://zoom.us/u/aBX3IPxrw
Membership Meetings & Newsletters Our monthly meet-ups and newsletters provide unique opportunities for us all to listen, learn, and speak up about important and fun happenings on Alaska’s 16 Wildlife Refuges.
We’ll be taking a pause for the summer, so look forward to a July/August Newsletter and set a reminder for 9/21/2021 when we’ll all meet again for our membership meeting!
pc:After a long winter of feeding on tree bark, the North American porcupine (Iluqtaq) is on the search for nutrient rich food sources. In addition to fresh leaves and buds, you may notice chew marks from porcupines on antlers, bones, glued plywood and even paint. What summer meal are you looking forward to? Photo of porcupine eating fresh green leaves by Moosealope FlickrCC/Selawik NWR
If you love gigantic bears, clouds of migrating birds filling the skies, waves of salmon running up the rivers and truly wild conditions — then you will love Izembek Refuge. Patrick Magrath will give you a whirlwind tour of the anthropological history, biodiversity, and significance of Izembek’s magnificent lagoons with their extensive eelgrass meadows. In addition, long time Arctic nesting waterfowl researcher, David Ward, will contribute to this presentation. Most of the world’s population of Pacific Black Brant as well as Steller’s Eiders, Emperor Geese and Cackling Geese visit these lagoons during migration. Located in Southwest Alaska, it is the smallest of the National Wildlife Refuges in Alaska but mighty in terms of sheer numbers of birds and species diversity. It was the first area in the US to be recognized as a Wetland of International Importance by the Ramsar Convention and was designated as a Globally Important Bird Area by the National Audubon Society.
. Brown Bear at Grant Point, Izembek Refuge, pc Kristine Sowl/USFWS
Patrick Magrath grew up outside the nation’s capital. He would get in trouble for skipping classes to hike in solitude and visit the National Zoo. Where traditional studies were lacking, Patrick found his education being supplemented by nature and museums. He gained a footing in public lands through the conservation corps with the Forest Service in central Idaho in 2013. Since then, he has worked at: 6 National Parks, 2 National Monuments, and 1 other National Forest, all before arriving at Izembek for the Fish & Wildlife Service. His esotericism includes art, wilderness, ruins, and international cuisine. Good wine, good cheese, and a great conversation make for an entertaining night for Patrick and his far better half Kayleigh. Patrick lives in Cold Bay, Alaska headquarters for the Izembek Refuge.
David Ward recently retired as a research wildlife biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey- Alaska Science Center. During his 33 year career, he led an international research program on the population ecology of arctic-nesting waterfowl and their use of coastal habitats, principally seagrass ecosystems. He has authored numerous papers on the waterfowl and eelgrass habitats of Izembek Refuge.
Pacific Black Brant in Izembek Lagoon, pc Kristine Sowl/USFWS