Presented by Brittany Sweeney, Outreach Specialist, Selawik Refuge
Tuesday, February 21
Zoom link will be posted here prior to meeting.
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
Tuesday, January 17, LIVE Option AND Watch Parties!
This webinar was recorded. The recording will be posted here.
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.
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.
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