Virtual Alaska

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!

Photos: Arctic Refuge field work studies the tiny nests of shorebirds (left, credit Lisa Hupp/USFWS); brown bear mother and cub spend some quality time together (center, credit Lisa Hupp/USFWS); the research vessel Tiglax covers thousands of miles and brings scientists to some of the most remote areas of Alaska’s coast (right, courtesy of Ian Shive).

Take a self-guided 3D tour through a visitor center, join a science education program, or get immersed in augmented reality games and online wildlife festivals. Need a resource for a class? From videos to art activities, we share new ideas across our social media platforms. Browse through different opportunities in this article and follow our Facebook pages for more.

Virtual 360 and 3D Tours

Thousands of islands, millions of seabirds, and your window into the extensive Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge: jump in to a 3D interactive exploration of the Islands and Ocean Visitor Center in Homer, Alaska. Find exhibits, videos, and more in this self-guided tour.

Embedded 3D experience for the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center.

Have you ever wanted to travel into the Alaska wilderness? Now you can (sort of) through a virtual reality exhibit. Using a free downloadable app, explore the diverse habitats of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge Wilderness and celebrate the 56th anniversary of the Wilderness Act with us!

Image: a screenshot from the Timelooper app featuring a 360 interactive exhibit: Alaska Wilderness — Adventure into Wilderness on Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, federally-protected public land representing nearly every Alaskan ecosystem. This experience was developed in partnership with Alaska Geographic.

How to try it for yourself:

  1. Download the Timelooper app from your app store (requires a smartphone or tablet) then navigate to the “Alaska Wilderness” experience. If you have a VR headset, great! But you can also navigate just using your phone or tablet.
  2. Download the experience to your device. In the app, starting in the Refuge’s Visitor Center, check out the three real-life exhibits (icefield, wetlands and mountains) then enter portals to these ecosystems to travel to the virtual Wilderness Units through immersive 360 degree imagery.
  3. After listening to the introductions, gaze at points of interest to learn more.

Place-based Augmented Reality Apps

Take on a mission to explore! If you live on or plan to visit the Kenai Peninsula, stop by our nature trails outside of the Kenai Refuge Visitor Center in Soldotna or the Alaska Maritime Refuge Visitor Center in Homer. Download the free Agents of Discovery app on your mobile device. This augmented reality mobile game uses hints and clues from your surroundings to solve mysteries of nature. Help biologists in Kenai figure out their ecosystem and explore a seabird study along the Beluga Slough in Homer. Agents Tuff and Raven will be your guides.

Images: A raven in a ranger hat shows the Agents of Discovery app on a phone screen (left); a puffin in a ranger uniform gives a friendly wave (right).

Online Virtual Programs for K-6

Fish and Wildlife Club: an online program hosted on Zoom with a rotation of curriculum topics and guest speakers each Wednesday at 3:30 pm from September through December, 2020. This is an open program, with no registration required. Although this is part of our urban outreach in the city of Anchorage, all are welcome (programming is geared towards grade 6 and below).

Poster with images of caribou, tufted puffin, and brown bear cubs, with text advertising the Fish and Wildlife Club program.
Image: Poster for Fish and Wildlife Club, grades 6 and under, Wednesdays at 3:30 on Zoom. Link to join is in the Facebook Event.

Arctic Education Programs on Request

Photo: a caribou walks along an Arctic river. Credit: Alexis Bonogofsky for USFWS.

Allyssa Morris, Education Specialist for Arctic, Kanuti, and Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuges, is offering virtual environmental education programs for grades K-6. Programs will focus on the diverse wildlife, fish, and habitats of the subarctic and arctic regions. Allyssa can modify programs to focus on specific concepts to fit your learner’s needs. Programs are offered Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays from 10 am — 3 pm AKST. Each program is approximately 40 minutes which includes a Q+A session. Contact or 907–456–0224 for more information.

Virtual Festivals: Alaska’s Birds and Dragonflies

Take a deeper dive and celebrate wildlife with dedicated festivals. Two of our in-person festivals moved online in 2020, and we look forward to co-hosting our annual Virtual Arctic Refuge Bird Festival November 8th-14th, 2020.

Poster of dragonfly on grass. Text: Virtual Dragonfly Day Saturday July 11th.
Poster for Virtual Dragonfly Day, with a link to the Kanuti Refuge Facebook page.
  • Kanuti Refuge Virtual Dragonfly Day
    Did you know that Kanuti National Wildlife Refuge holds the state record for dragonfly diversity? Learn about these dazzling insects through videos, coloring pages, photos and more.
  • Kachemak Bay Virtual Shorebird Festival
    Alaska’s largest wildlife viewing festival honors the return of spring and the breathtaking migration of shorebirds through Kachemak Bay. In 2020, for the first time in 28 years, the festival moved online to a virtual event. Find videos, photos, articles, games, field blogs, and more on the festival website.
  • Arctic Refuge Virtual Bird Festival
    Journey virtually to the farthest northern reaches of Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, summer breeding grounds for birds from all over the world. Tour through an online archive of videos, photos, and articles about this unique place.
Phalarope chicks in a nest on the Arctic tundra. Credit: Lisa Hupp/USFWS

Online Education Videos

Teachers rule! Our education specialists have been busy this summer, creating videos and sharing lessons about the wonders of the natural world. Browse through just a few of their short classes here, and follow along on Refuge Facebook pages for more!

Join Ranger Michelle for a program all about the difference between antlers and horns. Check out the Kenai Refuge facebook page for regular online programs.
Kodiak Refuge hosts a weekly Neighborhood Nature Quest video with Ranger Danielle on Facebook. This video helps you look around to look for different kinds of animal sign, like tracks, trails, and scat.
Join Ranger Shelly every week on the Kodiak Refuge Facebook page for a Families Understanding Nature program — virtually! This video takes you out to beautiful Fossil Beach on Kodiak Island.
Ranger Kendra hosts virtual science lessons at the Alaska Maritime Refuge Facebook page. In this episode, check out how Alaska’s marine mammals stay warm in icy waters. A collection of lessons is available as a series here.
Learn and move at the same time: Ranger Allyssa leads you through yoga poses, with a wildlife twist!
No matter where you are, anyone can bird! Check out a series on beginning bird ID on the Selawik Refuge Facebook page. Learn how to identify three of the most common ducks in Northwest Alaska: the northern pintail, American wigeon, and green-winged teal. Which one is also known as the cup-a-soup duck? Which was named based on the way it sounds?

In Alaska we are shared stewards of world renowned natural resources and our nation’s last true wild places. Our hope is that each generation has the opportunity to live with, live from, discover and enjoy the wildness of this awe-inspiring land and the people who love and depend on it.

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U.S.Fish&Wildlife Alaska

U.S.Fish&Wildlife Alaska

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