The juvenile salmon behind the curved glass of the newest aquarium installation at the Sitka Sound Science Center are a pretty dour crowd. Their grey lips curl down in fishy frowns, or pucker around their next microscopic meal. But one doesn’t need to look far to find a smiling face in this fish tank. A large bubble of glass is built into the bottom of the salmon’s tank, allowing visitors to crawl under the aquarium and look up into the tank, smiling widely as they view the world from a salmon’s underwater perspective.
This interactive aquarium is part of a larger exhibit called “The Salmon Connection” that opened last week at the Science Center. The new display includes the salmon tank, educational artwork by Ketchikan artist Ray Troll, and a Salmon Olympics competition. The exhibit is the result of a partnership between the Science Center and the University of Washington School of Aquatic and Fisheries Science. It was funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation that supports projects and organizations who communicate research to a public audience. The display highlights the work of UW researchers currently studying how a range of habitat variety in salmon streams can lead to healthier, stronger salmon populations, which in turn lead to healthier coastal communities. Science Center Director Lisa Busch says that the goal of the new display is to draw an ecological and educational connection between the Center’s traditional exhibits focused on intertidal and marine environments, and its work running the Sheldon Jackson Salmon Hatchery. The exhibit will also include a video, under production, and a new game designed by Ray Troll that will be unveiled at Sitka’s Whalefest celebration in the fall.
At the gala opening of the Salmon Connections exhibit, the aquarium’s main room was crowded with visitors. Adults and toddlers alike slurped rootbeer floats and poked at the huge colorful starfish in the touch tanks. Locals and tourists mingled, examining the cleverly drawn interpretative signs and Ray Troll’s beautiful painted mural on the back wall. Outside, competition was fierce as several dozen kids raced to perform “egg-takes,” netting “female” water balloons out of holding bins, then transporting their slippery load across the yard to slice the balloons open and collect the precious “eggs” (pinto beans) that lay within. At the end of a frantic, wet 15 minutes, there didn’t seem to be a clear winner, but everyone was having a great time.
Amidst all the bustle, I was drawn back inside to stand in front of Ray Troll’s mural, which depicts the huge variety of rainforest flora, fauna, and fishermen that rely on Southeast Alaska’s salmon runs. An illustrated salmon lifecycle chart frames the entire piece, encompassing the bears and gulls, trees and fisherfolk in a perpetual circle of death and renewal. The title arches across the top: “A Wild, Salmon-Centric World.” It seems a fitting label for both the mural, and the Science Center itself.
For Sitka locals, it’s no surprise to walk through Totem Park in late July and see evidence of salmon. From the flopping in the river, to the eagles snacking on the banks, to the smell of rotting fish which permeates the air, the salmon cycle is a constant for summer in Sitka.
On June 19th, visitors to the park also got a taste of how important salmon are to the forest. Instead of finding salmon in the river, they walked through the park to find fish hanging decorated in the trees – quilted salmon, copper-colored salmon adorned with pennies, salmon covered in poems – and instead of an olfactory reminder, there was an auditory one: the sound of strings from the Sitka Summer Music Festival, playing a concert on the old battlefield where Tlingit warriors defended their lands from Russian traders. “It’s a natural amphitheater,” said musician Tali Goldberg. “The acoustics are great. It sounds like a concert hall.”
From celebrating our unique artistic and environmental history, or simply getting out in the woods to enjoy some music and Vitamin D, the 2nd Annual Salmon in the Trees event offered an interdisciplinary glimpse into how important salmon are to the people of Sitka. Drawing on the region’s history of mixing art and environment, community members decorated 30 wooden salmon that were hung by volunteers (many of them from the Forest Service), giving a modern day twist to the long-standing celebration of salmon culture. Adding world famous musicians into the mix highlights just how much Indian River, named Katzdaheen in Tlingit, means to the people of Sitka. “People listen with their hearts and really absorb [the music],” said Joachim Eylander, one of the cellists.
And it’s not just the music they’re hearing: it’s the raven calls between the movements, and the sounds of the river, which flows through the middle of the park. It has had salmon returning for thousands of years to spawn in the waters, from the estuary in what is now the Sitka National Historic park to the river’s upper reaches deep in the Tongass National Forest. Salmon in the Trees is a chance to share with visitors how strong the cultural forces of salmon and the Tongass are to Southeast Alaskans, an opportunity to use art and music to celebrate the important relationship between forest and fish. It’s a way to illustrate how that relationship, which begins in the rivers throughout Southeast Alaska can flow out to affect the entire community – just like the music in the trees.
The summer boat tour adventure continues to the
West Chichagof-Yakobi Wilderness on Tuesday July 23rd.
The West Chichagof-Yakobi Wilderness Area is near and dear to our hearts here at SCS, as the central focus of our founding as an organization. Thirty-three years after its federal designation as a Wilderness Area, West Chichagof-Yakobi Wilderness is still a place treasured by many Alaskans. Come with as we explore just some of the many reasons that this Wilderness is such a special place.
Guest speakers from the US Forest Service and the Sitka Conservation Society will guide us through the dramatic beginnings of the West Chichagof-Yakobi Wilderness Area, what makes a wilderness a Wilderness, why these places are so important, and more.
This special tour will take place on Tuesday July 23rd, from 5:30 to 9:30pm. TIckets can be purchased from Old Harbor Books 201 Lincoln Street for $45 or (if available) at the Crescent Harbor loading dock at time of the cruise. It is suggested that tickets be purchased in advance to assure participation. Boarding begins at 5:15 pm. at Crescent Harbor. Due to the discounted rate of this trip, we are unable to offer additionally reduced rates for seniors or children.
This cruise is great for locals who want to get out on the water, for visitors to Sitka who want to learn more about our surrounding natural environment, or for family members visiting Sitka. Complimentary hot drinks are available on board and you may bring your own snacks. Binoculars are available on board for your use. Allen Marine generously offers this boat trip at a reduced rate for non-profits. Please call 747-7509 for more information or email firstname.lastname@example.org
See you on the boat!
Mark your calendars! The next tour in our Summer Boat Tours series will be exploring the History of Sitka Sound on Thursday June 27th.
We’ll be exploring the islands, forests and waters of Sitka Sound and learning about the rich history of this amazing place: how it has shaped the lives of those who’ve called Sitka home, and how Sitka Sound has been shaped in turn.
Guest speakers from the Sitka Historical Society, the Sitka Maritime Heritage Society, as well as local Sitkans with a love of history and unique knowledge of this amazing place will help bring the days of Sitka’s yesteryear to life.
Boarding for the tour will begin at 5:15pm from Crescent Harbor Shelter, departing at 5:30pm, and returning home at 8pm. Tickets can be purchased at Old Harbor Books for $35.
Any questions? Call 747-7509 or email email@example.com.
See you on the boat!
Join the Alaska Way-of-Life club for fun summer activities.The clubs will begin on June 10th and run through July 21st. To register, contact Courtney at 747.7509 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alaska way-of-life Hiking Club . Every Wednesday from 2:30 to 4:00 pm Every week, this club will explore a different trail in Sitka and learn new skills like wild edible identification and harvesting, tracking, and GPS/ map work. Open to all ages.
Gardening Club Every Monday from 2:30-4:00 at St. Peters Fellowship Farm and Thursdays (community outteach/filed trips), Kids will be able to get their hands dirty every week at St. Peters Fellowship Farm while learning gardening techniques and skills. Open to all ages.
Water/Kayaking Club Tuesdays 2:30-3:30 pm:
This club will incorporate classes in tides, tying knots, intertidal life, creating survival kits, and kayaking. Ages 8 and older
On May 25, 2013, tens of thousands of people from around the world will gather in more than 300 cities in protest of the agrochemical giant, Monsanto.
Sitka’s March Against Monsanto will be held on Castle Hill, the location where Russia sold the vast territory of Alaska—land it did not own—to the U.S.A.
March organizer, Brett Wilcox, chose Castle Hill for Sitka’s March Against Monsanto for its symbolic significance. “There are many similarities between the original ‘Land Grab’ that took place with the first European expansion and Monsanto’s current global ‘Seed Grab,’ Wilcox states. “Both involve the privatization of Nature, a concept that was largely foreign to Native Americans and Alaska Natives. And both have resulted in loss of freedom and loss of life. The difference is that Monsanto’s seed grab not only further disenfranchises Native Americans; it disenfranchises all nations and all people. The citizens of the world are, as it were, sitting in our canoes in Sitka Sound, watching powerful people and corporations claim and repackage life as their own, thereby stealing our seed sovereignty and seed freedom.”
Chuck Miller, a Tlingit “Elder in Training”, will preside at the event. “My grandmother used to teach my family that we need to treat our food with respect or it will not provide for us,” Miller states. “My ancestors’ teachings are still a very big part of my life and I want to be able to pass that on to my children, grandchildren and those yet to come. GMOs are not the way to treat Mother Earth and the generations yet to come. I urge all the Native people of Alaska and our non-Native brothers and sisters to come and support this cause.”
“Sitka’s March Against Monsanto will not be a traditional march,” says Wilcox. “Sitka’s event will be a ceremony to honor nature as well as the indigenous people of Alaska and the Americas. We will stand on Castle Hill united with the people of the world in defense and protection of life and nature.”
Sitka’s March Against Monsanto will take place at 2:00 pm on Castle Hill in Sitka, Alaska.
For Further Information:
Chuck Miller, 907-752-9955, email@example.com
Brett Wilcox, 907-747-7437, firstname.lastname@example.org
Facebook: “March Against Monsanto Sitka”
Saturday, June 8th and Sunday June 9th (we will be camping overnight at Starrigavan Campground, Sitka)
Description: This course will allow participants to learn, practice, and teach the principles of Leave-No-Trace outdoor ethics and will certify participants as LNT Trainers. The Leave-No-Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics is a national organization dedicated to teaching people how to use the outdoor responsibly. It is the largest and most widely accepted and widely used outdoor ethics accreditation program in the nation.
The Training includes 16 hours of hands-on instruction and overnight camping. The course will be held at Starrigavan Campground.
This LNT Trainer Course will focus on the skills to teach Leave-No-Trace as well as practical low-impact outdoor skills. Participants will be asked to prepare a short 10-15 minute lesson on of the Leave-No-Trace principles or other minimum impact topic before the class, then present the lesson during the course. (These lessons are not expected to be perfect. They will provide a learning tool for the group to improve their outdoor teaching skills.)
Who: This course is intended for outfitters, guides, naturalists, Scout leaders, etc., and anyone who would like to have certification to teach Leave-No-Trace skills.
Course Times: The course will begin at 9:30am on Saturday, June 8th and will conclude by 5:00pm on Sunday, June 9th.
Gear: Participants need to bring their own camping gear. SCS has a limited amount of camping gear to loan if necessary. Please pack a lunch for the first day.
Cost: $35.00 per person. The fee covers dinner on Saturday, lunch and dinner on Sunday, drinks, and course materials.
Contact: Please reserve your spot by registering before May 31st. To facilitate your preparation for the course, we recommend an earlier registration if possible. You can register by contacting the Sitka Conservation Society at 907-747-7409 or by emailing email@example.com.
Instructors: Adam Andis, Master Educator, Sitka Conservation Society
Bryan Anaclerio, Master Educator Trainer, Sitka Conservation Society
Darrin Kelly, Master Educator, USDA Forest Service
The first of six boat tours to take place throughout the summer. Mark your calendars!
- June 1st, Saturday 10am
- June 11th, Tuesday 5:30pm – Cancelled
- June 27th, Thursday 5:30pm
- July 23rd, Tuesday 5:30pm
- August 13th, Tuesday 5:30pm
Check back soon for more information on tour topics and speakers. See you on the boat!
A special thanks to Allen Marine for offering discounted charter prices for our non-profit summer tours, which makes this series possible.
THIS CLASS IS FULL. To sign up for the waiting list, send your name, email and phone number to firstname.lastname@example.org..
SCS is organizing a spring edibles course with the Kayaani Commission and instructors Scott Brylinsky and Kitty LaBounty. Students will learn how to identify, harvest, and prepare wild edibles from three distinct habitats in the Tongass.
Registration is required for all three classes:
May 7 and 9, 6:00 to 8:00 p.m
May 11 10:00 am – 1:00 pm
The class is free and space is limited. For more information or to register contact email@example.com or call 747-7509