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2022 Natural History Symposium

On May 23rd, the Prince William Sound Stewardship Foundation hosted our fourth annual Natural History Symposium in hybrid format at the Public Safety Building in Whittier and online via Crowdcast. Originally conceived of as a resource for guides, this free day-long community event brings together the latest in news and research from around the Sound. This year's Symposium also features our first "Student Strand," a series of talks well-suited for students (indicated below with ***). The PWSSF would like to thank the Tatitlek Corporation, the Prince William Sound Regional Citizen's Advisory Council, and our many individual and corporate sponsors for their support of the Natural History Symposium. Enjoy!

Natural History Symposium Welcome Remarks

Dave Dickason, Mayor of the City of Whittier
Paul Twardock, Board Chair, Prince William Sound Stewardship Foundation

Willow Hetrick and Allison Carl, “Introduction to the Chugach Peoples and Land Acknowledgement”

Chugach Regional Resources Commission, the natural resource entity for the Chugach region, will give a brief overview of their organization and the Tribes in the Prince William Sound. They will begin the day with a conversation about land acknowledgment, why it is so important and suggested considerations for developing your own. Lastly, they will present the land acknowledgment used by the CRRC Board and employees.

 

Willow Hetrick has a BA in marine resource management, a MS in Natural Resources and Environmental Management, and a MPA in Public Administration with a focus on Natural Resource Policy. She takes pride in serving the Chugach region to this day as the Executive Director of the Chugach Regional Resources Commission. She is on the board of the Anchorage Advisory Committee, Kenai Mountains-Turnagain Arm (KMTA) National Heritage Area, and the Prince William Sound Stewardship Foundation. She and her family go somewhere in Prince William Sound multiple times a summer but spend most of their time on the island of LaTouche at their family cabin. 

 

Allison Carl was born and raised in Anchorage and has recently graduated with her B.S. in biological sciences at University of Alaska Anchorage. On her mother’s side, her family is from Cordova and originated on Hinchinbrook Island, and her father’s family is from Pennsylvania. A partnership between Chugach Alaska Corporation (CAC) and Chugach Regional Resources Commission (CRRC) has allowed Allison to participate in the CAC Apprenticeship Program as a Research Scientist with CRRC. Her educational and career interests include water and food security in Alaska’s rural communities.

Dennis Staley, “Barry Arm Landslide in Prince William Sound: Background & Updates”

In May of 2020, scientists publicized a large slow-moving landslide in Barry Arm, a recently deglaciated fjord in Prince William Sound, Alaska. After rapid retreat of the glacial terminus, partial or catastrophic failure of the landslide has the potential to directly enter the fjord and generate a tsunami. Although the Barry Arm landslide is currently the most well-known landslide in this region, numerous other large, potentially tsunamigenic landslides exist in Prince William Sound.  To address these hazards, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Landslide Hazards Program was authorized by Congress to conduct targeted research on landslides in Prince William Sound, Alaska, conduct hazard assessments, and coordinate with partner agencies to support the development of an early warning system. This presentation will describe ongoing efforts for advancing our understanding of landslide hazards for the purposes of reducing risk to the public, infrastructure, and critical natural and cultural resources.


Dennis Staley is a Research Physical Scientist in the U.S. Geological Survey Alaska Volcano Observatory in Anchorage, Alaska, where he leads a project related to landslide hazards in Prince William Sound.  This project is currently aimed at improving our understanding of large landslides and slope instabilities in recently deglaciated fiords.

Josie Hickel, Jack Blackwell, Tim Lydon, “Management of Public and Private Lands Surrounding Prince William Sound”

Representatives from Chugach Alaska Corporation, Alaska State Parks, and the Chugach National Forest will provide the latest news on land management in the Sound.

 

Josie Hickel is responsible for leading strategy related to lands, cultural and community plans related to Chugach’s ANCSA resources, as well as pursuing economic development in the Chugach region. She has garnered more than three decades of experience in Alaska, serving in key leadership roles within the Alaska Native Corporation, natural resource and financial sectors. She is an active Board member and volunteer for several nonprofits, including the Alaska Sealife Center and the Prince William Sound Economic Development District. She was inducted into the Athena Society for outstanding leadership in business and community service. Josie is a lifelong Alaskan who holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration and human resources. She is of Aleut descent and a shareholder of Chugach Alaska Corporation. She grew up in a remote homestead near Moose Pass, Alaska.

 

Jack Blackwell has had the pleasure of managing state parks in coastal Alaska for over 30 years. He started working with Alaska State Parks in 1985 on a trails and cabin crew in Juneau.  He spent 11 years in Sitka as a state park ranger.  In 2005 he began managing the state parks in Prince William Sound and Resurrection Bay and for the last eight years he has served as the superintendent for the Kenai and Prince William Sound Region.

 

Tim Lydon has been with the US Forest Service for much of the last three decades, mostly in the field of federal wilderness and wilderness study area management. He began his career in Juneau on the Tongass National Forest, where in addition to wilderness he worked in interpretation and trails. He also spent many years as an outdoor guide. Tim moved to the Chugach National Forest in 2011 to lead the wilderness program on the Glacier Ranger District. He is also a freelance writer for various magazines and is the author of a book on sea kayaking in British Columbia and Alaska. He is a founding member of the Prince William Sound Stewardship Foundation and with his wife, Barbara, enjoys every chance he gets to show their young daughter the wonders of the Sound.

Betsi Oliver, “Community Resources in Case of a Big Spill”

Prince William Sound Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council has a series of resources that are kept up to date and on standby to support communities in the case of another big spill. Exxon Valdez oil spill had vast impacts, not just on the environment, but also the economy, utilities and civic systems, culture, and community mental health. Betsi Oliver from PWSRCAC will share about the resources on hand and why they matter.

 

Betsi Oliver communicates about oil spill science to the region impacted by the Exxon Valdez oil spill and implements programs to involve younger generations in oil spill prevention and awareness. She has worked extensively as an environmental educator in Anchorage and the Kenai Peninsula, a kayak guide in Kenai Fjords and Prince William Sound, a wilderness first aid/responder instructor, and a program manager working with at-risk Alaska youth in the outdoors.

Tim Lydon and Charla Hughes, “Join the (Work) Party: Volunteer Opportunities in Prince William Sound”

The PWS Stewardship Foundation and its partners offer incredible opportunities to help make a positive difference in Prince William Sound. Projects include trail maintenance, beach clean-ups, weed pulls, citizen science, site restoration projects, and much more. Work projects occur throughout the summer and often include free transportation into the Sound for volunteers. Learn about what we’re up to in 2022 and how you might be able to help.

 

Tim Lydon has been with the US Forest Service for much of the last three decades, mostly in the field of federal wilderness and wilderness study area management. He began his career in Juneau on the Tongass National Forest, where in addition to wilderness he worked in interpretation and trails. He also spent many years as an outdoor guide. Tim moved to the Chugach National Forest in 2011 to lead the wilderness program on the Glacier Ranger District. He is also a freelance writer for various magazines and is the author of a book on sea kayaking in British Columbia and Alaska. He is a founding member of the Prince William Sound Stewardship Foundation and with his wife, Barbara, enjoys every chance he gets to show their young daughter the wonders of the Sound.

 

Charla Hughes is the Program Director of the Prince William Sound Stewardship Foundation. She joined PWSSF in 2021 after a decade in academia. Charla has a Ph.D. in English from Louisiana State University, and her writing has appeared in various popular and academic publications.

Alysha Cypher, “Herring Patterns in Prince William Sound”

Dedicated herring research and monitoring in Prince William Sound has generated many insights into the natural history of this ecologically and economically valuable species.  It remains unclear, however, why Pacific herring have yet to recover from their 1993 collapse following the Exxon Valdez oil spill.  Since 2020, spawning observations, age class structure, and the occurrence of a strong year class indicate that there is reason to hope for this once lucrative fishery.  During this talk, you will learn about patterns indicative of Pacific herring populations and recent observations that leave both scientists and fishermen crossing their fingers for herring. 

 

Alysha Cypher is a postdoctoral researcher who has studied fish heart physiology, herring migration, and crude oil effects on young herring.  She grew up in western Pennsylvania, where she learned to be a naturalist while chasing frogs.  She has lived in Alaska for two short years and has developed a deep appreciation for the relationship between land, food, and Alaskan people.

 

Jackie Wilde, “Whittier Head of the Bay Development Plan”

Jackie Wilde discusses the Huna Totem Head of the Bay Development Plan in Whittier. Please go to https://www.whittieralaska.gov/contact/ to join the voluntary Tourism Best Management Practices (TBMP) mailing list.


Jackie Wilde is the Assistant City Manager of the City of Whittier.

Geoff Clark, “PWSAC – Sustainable Salmon Fisheries for Alaska and the World”

Prince William Sound Aquaculture Corporation (PWSAC) is a private, non-profit hatchery association founded in 1974 by a local commercial fishermen’s organization to optimize Alaska’s wild salmon resources. PWSAC produces hatchery-born, ocean raised wild salmon for the commercial, sport, personal use, and subsistence fisheries in the Prince William Sound and Copper River regions. PWSAC rears all five salmon species from five hatcheries, four located in Prince William Sound and one located inland on the Gulkana River. To accomplish this mission, PWSAC hires and employs approximately 100 seasonal fish technicians annually. Most of these technicians’ first experience of Prince William Sound will be traveling through Whittier to the hatchery sites.

 

Geoff Clark has a 27-year history working with salmonid aquaculture and hatchery programs.  He started as a fish technician and experienced multiple, progressive roles until arriving as the current General Manager of Prince William Sound Aquaculture Corporation.  Geoff has a Bachelor of Science in Environmental and Forest Biology from the State University Of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry.  When not in the office, he can be found enjoying all that Alaska offers or at the studio deepening his knowledge of Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

 

***Mia Siebenmorgen Cresswell, “Alien Invaders!? Monitoring and extracting Invasive Species in Prince William Sound”

What is the difference between a native, non-native, and invasive species? Which species are a particular threat to the Copper River Watershed? How do we prevent the spread of invasive species in our region? Mia will share information about the major threats invasive species pose, how we can stop their spread, and the importance of citizen science in monitoring for them!

 

Mia Siebenmorgen Cresswell is a recent graduate from Cordova Jr./Sr. High. She plans to take a gap year before pursuing a degree in Earth Sciences or Environmental Studies at Dartmouth College. Mia has been involved in invasive species monitoring in Cordova since her sophomore year of high school when she interned with the Prince William Sound Regional Citizens Advisory Council for two seasons. Since then, she has continued to work on invasive species extraction and education with the Copper River Watershed Project in Cordova, AK.

***Chris Conlon, Caitlyn Tetterton, Hope Uele, Josie Martin, “Building Connections for Alaska Teens through Stewardship Expeditions in the Chugach National Forest”

Hear from the students and staff who worked on Blackstone Bay conservation projects in 2021 and are now preparing for their next Prince William Sound expedition this summer. Alaska’s public lands are inherently challenging to access, and professional careers in public lands can seem far away to the average Alaska teen. Learn about what Alaska Geographic is doing to break down these barriers of access through full-tuition scholarships, paid outdoor leadership opportunities for older teens, networking opportunities for students, and the full summer of free expeditions we’re running for 90+ Alaska students in partnership with the Chugach National Forest and Denali National Park & Preserve. Alaska Geographic is the official non-profit partner of Alaska’s public land agencies. We work in partnership to connect people with Alaska’s national parks, forests, refuges, and conservation lands through the creation and delivery of exceptional educational products and programs.

For more than 20 years, Chris Conlon’s leadership, programming, and management skills have served organizations that are focused on improving the quality of life for all people and promoting positive youth development through recreation and education. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Outdoor Education from the University of New Hampshire and a master’s degree in Recreation Management from Springfield College. 

Caitlyn Tetterton came to Alaska Geographic after a decade of seasonal guiding and instructing. These years in the field with students fostered a passion for making public lands accessible through educational programming and community engagement. Caitlyn first moved to Alaska in 2016 and now calls Anchorage home. She has a BS in Outdoor Recreation & Education from Ohio University.

Nick Docken, “Kittlitz’s Murrelet Space Use in Columbia Bay, Prince William Sound, Alaska"

The Kittlitz’s murrelet is a small seabird that nests in remote, alpine habitats, often associated with glaciers. They are found throughout Prince William Sound, but one area of particular interest is Columbia Bay where, due rapid glacial retreat, new shorelines are exposed providing ideal camping and hiking conditions for recreationalists. The potential for increased human disturbance in Kittlitz’s murrelet nesting habitat led to the need to better understand Kittlitz’s murrelet space use throughout the nesting season. During May of 2021, we marked 17 adult Kittlitz’s murrelets with satellite transmitters (Pinpoint Argos 75) in Columbia Bay. Our objectives were to: 1) identify nesting habitat characteristics, 2) determine feeding and roosting habitat, and 3) assess overlap of Kittlitz’s murrelet space use and human activity. Of 13 transmitters that collected substantial location data, 5 demonstrated nesting behavior. Apparent nest initiation dates ranged from 28 May to 19 June and nests were active for 10–24 days ( = 21d). Nest sites were in steep terrain at elevations of 800–1400m; nesting birds showed strong fidelity to foraging locations that were 11–30km from the nest. The 4 transmitters operational during late July showed a migration along the west coast of Alaska to the Seward Peninsula and the north slope. 

 

Nick Docken grew up in Wisconsin and went to UW Stevens Point, getting a wildlife degree.  Grad school at South Dakota State University deepened his passion to work with waterfowl and wetlands and ultimately led him to Alaska to work amongst all the amazing breeding grounds and avian diversity that our great state attracts from afar.  Nick has been the lead field technician with the wildlife crew on the Cordova Ranger District since 2015, working on the Copper River Delta and Prince William Sound.

***Jim Sumner, Lani Lockwood, Kathleen Keusenkothen, “Glaciers from the Interpreters' Perspective: What do you want, the facts or the story? Either way, we've gotcha covered!”

Three experienced rangers from the Glacier Ranger District will share experiences and tips on navigating the world of glaciers from tour boats in Prince William Sound. Their goal is to explain glaciers, help people understand what they are seeing, face climate realities and have a fabulous time along the way. Here’s how they do it.

 

Jim Sumner is an Alaskan that has been watching our glaciers change for over 50 years. The last 20 years he has been explaining the glaciers to the passengers on board the tour boats and ferries in Prince William Sound.  Jim has tried to help people better understand glaciers throughout the Chugach National Forest.

 

Lani Lockwood grew up in Connecticut, a once glaciated landscape she didn’t truly appreciate till coming to Alaska. 46 years living just a few miles from Harding Icefield, 9 seasons with Kenai Fjords NP, and 5 on the Forest help her give visitors a greater understanding and appreciation of all things glacier.

 

Kathleen Keusenkothen has been learning about and explaining  glaciers every day for 18 seasons on Portage Lake, PWS tour boats, the ferry and the train to Spencer/Grandview.  She loves sharing stories with the public and is  guided  by  the educational concept, “better to be the guide on the side, than the sage on the stage.”

Dave Snider, “Tsunami Safety and Alerting Challenges for Prince William Sound”

The National Tsunami Warning Center’s mission is to provide timely, reliable, and accurate tsunami forecasts and warnings, and to promote community resilience. World history tells us that 80% percent of tsunami are generated by earthquakes.  This fact has defined the scope and capability of tsunami warning centers’ work for decades. Alaska history tells us that the risk of landslide-induced tsunami is all around us, and points to the need for new efforts to detect and warn for tsunami in Prince William Sound. Dave Snider will discuss the National Tsunami Warning Center’s mission and capability and talk about ongoing efforts with the USGS and partners to keep Prince William Sound communities aware and ready for local tsunami hazards.

 

Dave Snider works at National Tsunami Warning Center (NTWC) to ensure the science of detection and forecasting is clearly coordinated through NTWC’s official national alert and warning messaging. He ensures that this message is shared correctly through National Weather Service and Emergency Alert System connections. And he directs NTWC message to be as clear as possible so that partners and the public are enabled to respond immediately with the most appropriate action no matter when and where a message is received. Dave has performed 25 years of award-winning broadcast weather and social media work in Colorado, North Carolina, Missouri, and Alaska and is the NWS Alaska’s “Alaska Weather” TV Program Leader. Dave enjoys helping scientists become better communicators- so that complicated topics turn into usable information for all of us to make better decisions, inspire improved collaboration among scientists, and to encourage a sense of wonder about our world.

Barbara Lydon and Caio Poletti, “Tsunami Preparedness for Shore Camping and Kayaking”

This breakout session is a chance for guides, outfitters, and recreational paddlers to come together and talk about best practices around tsunami preparedness when shore camping and kayaking. NOLS has developed written practices for our expedition with the help of Bret Higman. Topics will include: Preparing for a possible tsunami on all your trips. How best to communicate out of cell service and get information about tsunami/earthquake danger. Responding to a tsunami if onshore or on the water close to shore. Many companies and guides have developed similar plans, and this will be a time to share what is practical and what paddling in Prince William Sound has been like with the pronounced risk of landslides in the past few years.

 

Barbara Lydon has been with the US Forest Service for nearly two decades, working in the field of federal Wilderness and Wilderness Study Area management. She began her career in Juneau on the Tongass National Forest, and has also spent many years as an outdoor guide. Barbara moved to the Chugach National Forest in 2011 to work in the Wilderness program on the Glacier Ranger District. She was previously a public school teacher, and when she’s not in the field, she also works an artist and coordinates the Voices of the Wilderness Artist Residency Program for the NPS, USF&WS and USFS in Alaska.  She is a founding member of the Prince William Sound Stewardship Foundation and with her husband, Tim, enjoys every chance she gets to show their young daughter the wonders of the Sound.

 

Caio Poletti is a Program Supervisor and Curriculum Project Manager at NOLS. He comes from Brazil and has been living in Alaska for the past few years. He is passionate about education and all sea-related topics. As a sea kayaker, he has 12 years of instructing experience around the world.

***Skye Steritz, “Kelp Farming in Prince William Sound”

Mariculture has the potential to be a positive force for this region, if done thoughtfully and responsibly. Kelp farming is becoming more popular across Alaska. In fall 2021, the first few small-scale commercial kelp farms in Prince William Sound seeded their lines for the first time. Among them was Noble Ocean Farms, owned and operated by a young, local couple: Skye Steritz and Sean Den Adel. Noble Ocean Farms’ mission is to enhance food security and resilience for coastal Alaskan communities. 

In this presentation, Skye will walk us through her journey of becoming an ocean farmer at age 28. She will describe what kelp farming entails, why it is regenerative for both the sea and our bodies, and some of the challenges beginner farmers in this nascent industry are facing. Skye will also touch on the ways of cooking with kelp and some of the nutritional benefits of eating sea vegetables, such as kelp. 

 

Skye Steritz is a Celtic descendant working on Eyak land (Cordova, Alaska). She is a regenerative kelp farmer, environmental educator, and elementary school Special Education Aide. Steritz’ top passions are social and environmental justice. Steritz is a volunteer for Prince William Sound Regional Citizen Advisory Council and sits on the Advisory Circle of the international RIVER Collective. She studied International Water Cooperation and Diplomacy in graduate school, focusing on ways countries collaborate to manage transboundary waterways.

Andrew Abyo, “Indigenous Kayaks of Alaska”

Andrew Abyo will discuss different Indigenous kayaks of Alaska and how culture and environment influenced their design. Besides kayak design, topics will include materials used,  hunting implements, and clothing. 

 

Andrew Abyo is an Alutiiq carver and kayak builder who was raised in the Bristol Bay village of Pilot Point. Andrew's goal is to learn and pass on cultural traditions by showing and teaching different things than you normally don't get to see except in museums.  Andrew's work is recognized as museum quality and he has taught for Alaska Pacific University, the Alaska Native Heritage Center, and many other organizations. 

Closing Remarks and Thanks

Charla Hughes, Program Director, Prince William Sound Stewardship Foundation