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.
Join us in the field to collect ecological monitoring data and learn about our projects! SCS is part of the Southeast Alaska Long-term Monitoring Network, which integrates citizen science with long-term monitoring of the environment. There are multiple opportunities to join SCS on our field projects this summer. Check this link to learn more....
"I love how Fred's Creek comes into focus." My dad is talking about the way the blurred contours of Kruzof Island have shifted into misty green coastline, and, as we motor into the anchorage, the warm honey timber of the cabin appears out of the trees. It's the Fourth of July and my dad, our dog, and I are pulling up to the beach, ready to relax around a campfire with our plethora of nose flutes and a cooler full of black cod collars.
Over the years I've found that it's not just the shore that comes into focus when we pack up the boat and head out of town for the weekend. There is a clarity that comes with camping in Southeast Alaska. A repeated realization; remembering again and again why we live here. It's probably different for everybody, but for me it's the ability to walk out my door and into the heart of the Tongass whenever I feel like it. There are so many mountains I haven't climbed yet, and miles of water left to travel. Every day holds that celebrated promise of adventure. There is something about Southeast Alaska that gets to me, and it's not just the wilderness; I think it's the people. It's amazing what a little isolation and rainforest can do for a community. I feel so lucky to share my love of this place with a whole 14 miles of small town hospitality and charm. That "love thy neighbor" goodwill I've grown up with also comes into focus when we get to Fred's Creek. Later, my stomach full of black cod collars grilled over the campfire, I'll begin to think of it as "cabin culture."
Cabin culture, unlike the better known "cabin fever," does not have me itching to get out and gallop full speed into the nearest wide open alpine. Cabin culture is what keeps us grounded. It is the silent nod of freshly chopped wood piled next to the stove. It is the knowing smile of the cabin floor swept clean of sand and the sticky table wiped down and tidily tucked over its benches. It is the conspiratorial wink of a new rope swing tied up to replace a retired buoy. Cabin culture is our shared respect for the next boat load of escapees that will land on this beach and eat dinner around this fire. It's our quiet understanding of our common love of living with the land here in Southeast Alaska, and I think it deserves to be recognized every once in a while.As my dad pulls off the beach to tie our boat to the buoy, a full and brilliant rainbow breaks out, stretching from one end of Sitka Sound to the other. It hangs above the water where a few minutes earlier we had driven through a sheet of rain. Now, drying out under the warm sunshine of a textbook suckerhole, I lift my camera and bring the moment into focus.
The Science Mentor Program is accepting applications for the 2013/2014 school year. This is the third year of this highly popular and successful program. Last year, students studied wintering songbirds in Sitka and conducted genetic research on the decline of Alaska yellow cedar. Students from any of Sitka's 3 high schools are encouraged to apply. We will also have an informational meeting at Sitka High School, May 7, 1145am to 1220pm. Follow the links below for a program description and application. Contact Scott Harris at [email protected] for more information.
Want to learn more about the genetics of Alaska yellow cedar or intertidal beetles, marine mammal bioacoustics, winter song bird hangouts, the effects of forest thinning on deer habitat, and stream chemistry?
The Second Annual Sitka Science Sharing Night from 7-8:30 p.m. on Monday, April 29, at the University of Alaska Southeast Sitka Campus Room 229 will highlight the work by several student scientists from Sitka schools, including projects conducted through the Science Mentoring program. During the past school year, these students have been active stewards of our local forest, freshwater and marine ecosystems by developing and conducting their own research studies.
The Sitka Science Sharing Night gives these students a chance to share with the general public about their projects. It will be set up just like a poster session at a scientific conference, and the students will be available to share their work and answer questions.
This event features students from Sitka High School, Mt. Edgecumbe High School, Blatchley Middle School, and Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School. Student projects are funded by the Sitka Charitable Trust, the National Forest Foundation, and the Bio-Prep Program at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
The Sitka Science Sharing Night is a joint project of the Sitka Conservation Society, Sitka Sound Science Center, UAS Sitka Campus, Sitka School District, and Mt. Edgecumbe High School. For more information, contact Kitty LaBounty at 738-0174 or Scott Harris at [email protected]
Last weekend, SCS organized a work party to replace a broken bridge behind Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School. The bridge is used by students who monitor the stream and its surrounding habitat, but it recently sustained serious damage due to rot and falling trees, and became too unsafe for classroom use.
Requests were made to several organizations and agencies but every one of them lacked either the time, the money or the workers needed to perform the work. SCS turned out to be the perfect catalyst for drawing resources from around the community and turning them into an effective bridge-building team.
- Spenard Builders' Supply paid for about half of the material, and delivered them almost immediately.
- Sitka Trails Work covered the rest of the expenses, and provided tools, a truck, and invaluable expertise.
- Science teacher Rebecca Himschoot and her crew of Keet Gooshi Heen parent volunteers contributed their labor and tools. They also set up an impromptu class on the physics of levers.
- Carpenter Mike Venetti directed the project and designed the bridge.
- Sitka Community Schools and the Sitka Conservation Society contributed volunteer labor.
This school year, SCS partnered with the Sitka High School Construction Tech program to explore and demonstrate ways that young-growth red alder and Sitka spruce from the Tongass can be used in building and woodworking. The projects that resulted are profiled, along with others from throughout the region, in "Alaskan Grown: A Guide to Tongass Young Growth Timber and its Uses," published by SCS this month.
Funding for this guide was provided by the U.S. Forest Service and the National Forest Foundation as part of an ongoing effort to support sustainable timber harvest and local markets in the Tongass National Forest. The purpose is to invigorate markets for Tongass young-growth timber products, particularly in Southeast Alaska, by exploring their performance in a variety of interior and exterior applications. By sharing practical information, broadening the knowledge base, and connecting local producers with consumers, we hope to help builders, woodworkers, resource managers and others make more informed decisions about using Tongass young-growth.
Check out the guide to learn more about:
- Why Tongass young-growth is important right now
- What the most common species are, and how they can be used
- Where Tongass young growth is being used, including in the Sitka High School construction tech program, U.S. Forest Service public recreation cabins, and private homes
- When experts predict economic harvest of young-growth will be possible on the Tongass
- What it will take to start shaping a sustainable local young-growth industry with the opportunities we have today
On January 16, 2013 at 6:30pm at Centennial Hall, Sitkans can share their ideas and priorities with the Forest Service regarding the future management of Kruzof Island. Over the next few years, multiple habitat restoration, timber management, and recreational developments and maintenance can occur on Kruzof Island. The community survey we conducted also identified the Central Kruzof - Iris Meadows area as the #3 priority for future restoration work. As part of this process, we sent a small crew to Kruzof Island to ground-truth these opportunities. You can read their report here....
Click on this link to to download a hi-res (approx. 50Mb) version of this document
[box style="0"]listen to this article by KCAW radio.
Background: The US Forest Service has adopted the Tongass Transition Framework, a program intended to shift forest management away from the out-dated and ill-fated old growth logging paradigm toward management that support multiple uses of the forest, including recreation, restoration, subsistence, and second-growth management. This is an encouraging recognition of the region's important natural resources, but the figures don't match the Forest Service's transition plan. Check out the figures here.
For example, the Forest Service still spends over $22 million a year on logging and road building, but only $6 million on recreation and tourism and $8 million on restoration and watershed. Our fishing industry relies on healthy watersheds and restoring damaged salmon stream. Our tourism industry relies on recreational facilities and wildplaces for visitors to get the Alaska experience. It just so happens that these are also the two biggest industries in Southeast, together supporting over 15,000 jobs and providing just under $2 BILLION to the local economy. Logging on the other hand only supports 200 jobs.
Take Action: Please ask the Forest Service to follow through with their Transition Framework and put their money where their mouth is. Write to the Undersecretary of Natural Resources, Harris Sherman.
Contact:Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell U.S. Dept. of Agriculture 1400 Independence Ave. S.W. Washington, D.C. 20250 Please also send a copy to SCS at [email protected] so we can hand-deliver all of your letters to the Undersecretary himself in Washington, DC.
Some key point to include in your letter:
- Tourism and fishing are the two largest economic drivers in Southeast Alaska.
- Logging and road building cost tax payers $22.1M annually, while the Forest Service only spends $6.1 M annually on tourism and $8.1M annually on fisheries and watershed management. BUT, the timber industry only supports 200 jobs— tourism supports 10,200 and fishing supports 7,200.
- The Forest Service has adopted the Tongass Transition Framework, a program to transition from timber harvesting in roadless areas and old-growth forests to long-term stewardship contracts and young growth management. This is an encouraging recognition of the need to protect the region's natural resources and fundamental economic drivers: tourism and fishing, BUT the Forest Service needs to reflect this transition in their budget.
- Be sure to include your personal connection to the Tongass, it's forests and natural resources.
- Also, be sure to include how you rely on the Tongass—for subsistence, recreation, business, etc.