Early life for Cora Demit was defined by family and fish: two concepts that may seem disparate, but in Cora’s case they combined to create the foundation for a joyous childhood.
“I was born in Northway south of Tok, but my four siblings and I grew up in a fish camp,” recalls Cora, an Upper Tanana Athabascan tribal member. “It was on an allotment my mother owned, about 20 miles from the village. My father died when I was three years old, so my mother and grandmother raised us. And that camp was our world.”
Only one other family — friends of Cora’s mother — lived on the allotment. Everyone toiled endlessly from late spring through early fall, harvesting whitefish, pike and suckers from adjacent waterways, drying the fish on racks, trapping and hunting. …
One of Sylvia Pitka’s earliest chores was caring for the family dogs. That’s not unusual in American households, but these dogs were more than pets: they were hard-working household members, essential to the family’s prosperity. And their health and well-being depended on Sylvia’s diligence.
Of fifty warbler species regularly found throughout the U.S. and Canada, 11 make their way to Alaska each summer to breed. Like many other migratory birds, warblers take advantage of abundant insects and prime nesting habitat to raise young in the U.S. and Canada, before traveling to warmer areas like Mexico, Central and South America, and the Caribbean to spend the winter.
Migration is no easy task for any bird, let alone warblers, which average less than the weight of one AAA battery! Prior to our understanding of bird migration, people had many interesting ideas about where migratory birds went during the colder winter months. Centuries ago, people thought birds hibernated underground or underwater, while others proposed they transformed into new species (as people noticed seeing different birds at different times of the year). Some even thought birds flew to the moon and spent the winter there. …
Alaska is famously called Land of the Midnight Sun in summer for its nearly endless daylight— and in the winter, there is the aptly-named Polar Night of lengthy darkness. But for a few days each year, these wild swings of light find momentary balance, hanging equally between night and day. This temporary truce happens during the fall and spring equinox, when we experience the same amount of sunlight no matter where we live. Fall equinox might officially mark the start of the season, but in Alaska, our fall colors are already well on their way:
Alaska’s National Wildlife Refuges are vast, full of fascinating animals, and there’s always so much to learn. While we may not find ourselves in the same classroom together this fall, there are still plenty of ways to explore nature and wildlife with us — virtually!
Alaska’s short, sweet summer is usually in full swing by the time you really notice it. “Better hurry and enjoy it,” the fireweed says as blooms march up its stem. Another beautiful Alaska summer gone by, marked by fireweed flowers going to seed as salmon runs shift to Coho and start to dwindle. As the saying goes: “when fireweed turns to cotton, summer will soon be forgotten.”
If you’ve visited Kenai National Wildlife Refuge or taken a drive through the Kenai Peninsula recently, you’ll notice a contrast along the blackened scar left by the Swan Lake Fire of 2019: carpets of fireweed, easily visible from the Sterling Highway. …
The Directorate Fellowship Program functions like the apprenticeships of past eras: a period of extended training that leads to secure employment. That’s especially the case in the conservation sphere, where the need for talented, diverse staff has never been greater.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service partners with multiple conservation organizations to identify and recruit approximately 100 participants annually for a rigorous, 11-week experience. Fellows are paired with supervisors and pursue projects that dovetail their interests and expertise with the Service’s needs.
The Fellows must be enrolled in an undergraduate program or graduate school, and must have a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher. They’re provided housing, living and travel allowances, and participate in a week-long orientation course at the Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, before they’re dispatched to U.S. …
Battered by the wind, lonely and remote, Tugidak Island faces into the brunt of North Pacific Ocean currents in the Gulf of Alaska. Though currently uninhabited, it catches and holds the evidence of humans: lines and nets from fishing boats, water bottles, food packaging, and tiny fragments of flotsam. Tugidak shares the fate of many Alaskan beaches along more than 46,000 miles of coastline (more than the entire continental United States combined). Trash, mostly plastic, arrives from around the world and washes ashore above the tideline to stay, perhaps for hundreds of years.
Alaska has 46,000 miles of coasts — more than any other state — including 9,900 miles of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service-managed National Wildlife Refuge coastline. Coastal habitats support fish, migratory birds, shellfish, marine mammals, and myriad jobs, recreational opportunities, and ways of life. Protecting unique coastlines and providing ecological, cultural and economic resilience through coastal habitat conservation is one of the most important landscape-scale conservation priorities of today.
After over 20 years of hard work by many Kodiak residents, Leisnoi, Inc., Great Land Trust, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and others, 1,259-acre Long Island was conserved in early 2019. …
It was a woman walking her dog on the beach near Seward late in the summer of 2015 who first noticed it: dead seabirds, mostly Common Murres, washing up on the shingle.
Similar reports began coming in from various locales around the Gulf of Alaska, and by December the number of incidents was “off the charts,” says Robb Kaler, the Alaska Seabird Die-off Coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Tens of thousands of dead birds were confirmed — common murres mostly, but other species as well, including Thick-billed Murres, Tufted Puffins and Black-legged Kittiwakes.
Seabird die-offs have been recorded sporadically in Alaska over the years, but the magnitude and scope of the Gulf of Alaska die-off event made it extraordinary. And 2015 didn’t mark the end of the crisis. Similar die-offs occurred in the Gulf of Alaska in 2016, and in the Bering and Chukchi Seas in 2017, 2018 and 2019, with the list of impacted species expanding to Short-tailed Shearwaters, Northern Fulmars, Crested Auklets and Horned Puffins. …