COVID pandemic underscores connections

I think one of the things that COVID has laid to bare in our rural communities…that you’re seeing more apparently, are the connections between things like food security, mental well-being, and cultural sovereignty.” — Arctic Youth Ambassador Samuel Uuyavuk Schimmel

March 2020 was set to be an eventful one for a group of young bright Alaskans. Those young people — the third and latest cohort of the Arctic Youth Ambassadors (AYA) Program — were packing their bags for Anchorage, where they would be taking part in the AYA Program’s orientation summit. Through a multi-day event at the Anchorage Museum, the…


Virtual Arctic Refuge Bird Festival

Spring Arrivals in the Arctic

Migratory birds connect us to the wider world. In spring, when birds arrive from hundreds or even thousands of miles away, we marvel at the distances they’ve traveled, the places they’ve been. Birds don’t heed borders or language barriers. They transcend them in every sense, soaring beyond the confines of the human-built world and showing us — when we take the time to look — how interconnected we are as inhabitants of this planet.

Two Dunlin sandpipers chase one another on a tundra road
Two Dunlin sandpipers chase one another on a tundra road
Dunlin in the Arctic. 📷USFWS/Peter Pearsall

Spring migration brings birds from around the world to Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to breed. Many of the birds migrating through the lower 48 eventually make…


Careers

Two Decades of Service to Alaska

In Alaska, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service employs a small army of dedicated and passionate staff with a large spectrum of roots. Some were born and raised in Alaska. Others have come from around the world. Regardless, some stay to do a job they feel is important enough to spend a lifetime doing. Like Greg Siekaniec, who has served the people of Alaska in numerous roles across the state for nearly two decades.

Greg Siekaniec gives a warm handshake to 90 year old internment survivor Haretina Krukoff
Greg Siekaniec gives a warm handshake to 90 year old internment survivor Haretina Krukoff
Greg Siekaniec gives a warm handshake to 90 year old internment survivor Haretina Krukoff following the USFWS’s apology 📷 USFWS/Lisa Hupp

Where are you from? How did you get introduced into nature?

I grew up in Minnesota—the western prairie region—and was fortunate enough to have exposure to what I call the “lakes country.” My parents had a cabin…


All The Fish

Metallic. Salmon turn steely too when they enter the salt as young smolts. And while they may share the same genus and species as Rainbow Trout, something bigger draws Steelhead to leave their birth rivers for the open water.

silvery fish with a fly in its mouth in the water
silvery fish with a fly in its mouth in the water
Steelhead Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss). 📷 Mark Hieronymus

Listen to the full conversation with Trout Unlimited’s Mark Hieronymus and retired Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologist Roger Harding about this special variety of Rainbow Trout on episode 17 of Fish of the Week!


Shorebirds

Lessons of Patience and Resilience

A backlit shorebird with a geolocator tag perches in a spruce tree
A backlit shorebird with a geolocator tag perches in a spruce tree
A banded Lesser Yellowlegs atop a black spruce on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson (JBER). A metal band, a dark green color band, an alpha character leg flag and in some instances, a 4g Argos PinPoint satellite-GPS unit are deployed on captured adults. 📷 USFWS/Alec Blair

I read that Lesser Yellowlegs are under-studied on their breeding grounds because they nest in inhospitable environments: difficult to access and mosquito-ridden, boreal bogs. That doesn’t sound like the most romantic fieldwork location, and those conditions definitely weren’t how I imagined wild Alaska prior to visiting the state. However, where the birds are, the birders are — and in this case, the ornithologists.


All The Fish

Living Dinosaurs of the Pacific Coast

We sat down with sturgeon biologists Laura Heironimus and Ken Lepla to talk about two living dinosaurs found along the Pacific Coast. (Listen to the full conversation on episode 16 of Fish of the Week!).

3 men holding a large sturgeon by a boat
3 men holding a large sturgeon by a boat
An adult White Sturgeon held boat-side in the Snake River. 📷 Ken Lepla/Idaho Power Company

Green and White Sturgeon are found throughout the major river basins on the West Coast of North America—the Columbia, Sacramento-San Joaquin, Snake and Fraser. That said, these wanderers can be found from California to Alaska in freshwater, in saltwater, and all the estuaries in between.


All The Fish

Conversation with Fishery Biologist Brittany Blain

(Listen to the full exchange on episode 14 of Fish of the Week!)

woman holds a large yelloweye rockfish on a boat
woman holds a large yelloweye rockfish on a boat
Brittany with a 22 pound Yelloweye Rockfish (Sebastes ruberrimus). 📷 Courtesy Brittany Blain

Rockfish are amazing. Reproduction-wise, for instance, they actually copulate and give live birth. In Alaska, they’re either full of eggs or starting to release larvae anywhere from April to July. They give birth to a lot of babies. The larvae are swept away and the survivors settle on the ocean floor, hiding in rocks, kelp, and eelgrass.

Why are they called “rockfish”?

Rockfish are in the Sebastes family and there are over 30 different species in Alaska’s waters. They tend to like rocks!


All The Fish

Denizens of the Deep

Kodiak-born angler Stewart Valladolid gave an enthusiastic “Sablefish all the way to the grill!” when we asked which fish he wanted to talk about. So that’s our Fish of the Week!

Stewart with a Coho Salmon.

Sablefish (Anoplopoma fimbria) are a deep-sea fish common to the North Pacific.

How’d you get hooked on Sablefish?

My background with Sablefish was through my dad. He ran a processing plant out of Kodiak and would buy Sablefish from the boats. He’d bring them home—black cod is what we called them. It was a staple in our household. It was really, really good.

“Taking a bite of Sablefish is…I don’t know how to explain it…


All The Fish

Q&A with Dr. Solomon David — Part 2

In part 1, we learned about gar biology. Now we’re going fishing and will learn about the culinary traditions in gar country. (Listen to both podcast episodes here).

man holds a large gar on a boat
man holds a large gar on a boat

We’ve never gone fishing for alligator gar in Louisiana before. Where should we go? We’re blank slates and need some advice.

It says on the license plate Sportsman’s Paradise, so there are plenty of places to go fishing. You can get alligator gars in the bayous, lakes, and also along the coast. Say you’re flying into New Orleans. There are even places around the outskirts of the city where you can catch alligator gar like Lake Pontchartrain.

If you head north you’re going to be in oxbow lakes off the Mississippi River and…


All The Fish

Q&A with Dr. Solomon David — Part 1

[Want to listen instead? Two-part podcast episode here.]

Alligator gars are one of the largest freshwater fishes in North America, the largest freshwater fish in the Mississippi River Valley, and the apex predator in that system.

How did you first learn about gar?

I was always interested in dinosaurs. If you think of prehistoric animals, of course dinosaurs come to mind, but gars have been around since the late Jurassic period. I first saw a gar in an issue of Ranger Rick. I was about 11 years old, flipped to the middle, and saw this fish that looked like an alligator with fins. It had this really…

U.S.Fish&Wildlife Alaska

Stories from Alaska by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

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