This past week, I checked an usual piece of luggage with me on the plane down to Albuquerque: a box of frozen Marten, Ermine, and River Otter skulls, femurs, and intestinal parasites. I was delivering my parcel to Steve O. MacDonald and Dr. Joe Cook (who literally wrote the book on Alaskan mammals) and Jonathan Dunnum, the collections manager at the University of New Mexico Museum of Southwest Biology as part of the ISLES (Island Surveys to Locate Endemic Species) project. ISLES is attempting to create a Tongass-wide catalog of mammal species to use in future research. SCS has been collecting vole in alpine areas of Chichagof and Baranof Island for the past 3 years as part of the Wilderness Project. But it's not just scientists and researchers who are involved.
"Trappers and hunters are clearly stakeholders in the maintenance of sustainably harvestable wildlife populations in SE Alaska and typically have the best local knowledgeable about the animals they are interested in."ISLES relies on trappers and hunters to do what they do best and provide specimens of furbearers and big game animals to help create an archive of mammal species throughout Southeast Alaska. The samples will be included with non-game species collected by biologists and field crews, in the archive at the University of New Mexico and will be a valuable resource for management by providing a baseline of for future studies. Check out the ISLES site to learn more about the project and to learn how you can help by collecting and contributing samples.
ISLES is a progressive type of project because it recognizes the need to involve the folks who are actually on the ground. Its a new breed of conservation biology that we are likely to see a lot more of in the future if budgets for agencies and funds for research grants decrease. Budget realities are one impetus for projects like this, but it is also just common sense. The hunters, trappers, fishermen and women, recreationists, and other folks who spend countless hours in the field already have a more intuitive understanding of the environment and the most familiarity with conditions in the field. These folks are also those with the most invested in research that promotes conservation of the very resources they rely on.
If you would like to collect specimens for the ISLES Project contact:Jon Martin Assistant Professor of Biology Department of Natural Sciences University of Alaska Southeast-Sitka 1332 Seward St. Sitka, AK 99835 firstname.lastname@example.org 907-747-7752
All of us at SCS are excited about this hybridization of science and in situ, on-the-ground data collection. Soon, we will be compiling all of the citizen science initiatives that Sitkans can take part in on our Citizen Science page. Be sure to check back as we populate that page to see how you can get involved.
US Forest Service
Alaska Department of Fish and Game
US Fish and Wildlife Service
University of Alaska Southeast
Sitka High School
Sitka Conservation Society