top of page
Welcome to the fifth annual Prince William Sound Natural History Symposium!
The 18 videos below are recordings from this year's Symposium, hosted at the Public Safety Building in Whittier and online.
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.

Recommended Resources from Willow and Allison:

Jane Belovarac, Halley Werner, and Savannah Costner, “Northern Sea Otters and the Alaska SeaLife Center: 25 Years of Care”

The concept for the Alaska SeaLife Center (ASLC) began in the aftermath of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill, where there was a need for a facility that could support scientific research and marine animal rehabilitation.  Since its opening in 1998, the ASLC remains to be the only marine mammal rehabilitation facility in Alaska. Over the last 25 years, the ASLC has received thousands of calls from the public reporting distressed marine mammals and birds throughout the state, resulting in the rehabilitation and release of over 600 individual animals. Of these responses, over 50 stranded sea otter pups have been raised to become ambassadors for this species, living in aquariums and zoos around the world. In 2012, the ASLC initiated the Oil Spill Wildlife Response Team where animal care staff work with oil spill response organizations to prepare for a potential event. Mobile response units can respond to an incident when called into service.  Meet the ASLC's Wildlife Response team, and learn about their role in sea otter rehabilitation and oil spill preparedness.

 

Jane Belovarac, Wildlife Response Curator; Halley Werner and Savannah Costner, Animal Care Specialists.

Jane, Halley, and Savannah have over 40 years of combined experience caring for marine mammals. Over the years, they have had the honor to work closely with a wide variety of Alaskan marine animals - ranging from ducklings to beluga whales, and of course northern sea otters. As members of the Oiled Wildlife Response Team at the ASLC, they help train colleagues and volunteers about caring for these animals in the event of a catastrophic spill. 

Recommended Resource from the Alaska SeaLife Center:
  • ASLC Stranded Marine Mammal Hotline: 1-888-744-SEAL (7325)

Dennis Staley, “Progress in Understanding Landslide Hazards in Prince William Sound, Alaska”

Should it fail catastrophically, the Barry Arm landslide, located in northwestern Prince William Sound, Alaska, represents a significant hazard to nearby communities, infrastructure, commercial and recreational interests, and important natural and cultural resources. In July of 2021, an interagency team of interdisciplinary scientists began a focused effort to better understand not only the Barry Arm landslide, but also other potentially hazardous landslides in Prince William Sound. The purpose of this presentation is to highlight the broad scope of these efforts and provide brief updates on the progress of different components of this interagency collaboration. This presentation will highlight updates on the progress on characterizing regional controls on landslide size and distribution in Prince William Sound, the monitoring efforts at the Barry Arm landslide and how these are used to inform operations at the National Tsunami Warning Center, and plans for future work.


Dennis Staley is a Research Scientist in the U.S. Geological Survey Alaska Volcano Observatory in Anchorage, Alaska, where he is the USGS lead of a multi-agency effort that aims to improve our understanding of landslide hazards in Prince William Sound, Alaska.

Scott Langley, “Meaningful Measurements for Rapid Tsunami Detection”

Timely and accurate measurement of an impactful tsunami wave leads to effective alerting for at-risk communities.  The U.S. National Tsunami Warning Center (NTWC) has installed critical water-level gauges that provide necessary reporting of discrete changes from remote and wild Alaska. This observation method is challenged by the remote environment, communication and power challenges, and ability to physically reach each station for upgrades and repairs.  This design, while used in other parts of the Alaskan outer coast, is experimental for landslide tsunami monitoring- but may be a critical tool in future work within Prince William Sound.

Scott Langley is an IT Specialist & Senior Electronics Technician at the National Tsunami Warning Center. He has an extensive background in telecommunications, satellite communications, electronic systems integration, sea level monitoring and seismic station installations.

Recommended Resources from Scott:

Jack Blackwell, John Johnson, and Ashley Christensen, “Chugach Alaska Corporation: Lands, Cultural Resources, and Community Section”

Jack Blackwell will give an overview of the ANCSA land history, Chugach mission, and land management update.  John Johnson will talk about cultural resources and the Nuuciq Spirit Camp, including playing a short video of the camp.  Ashley Christiansen will provide an update on how CAC supports local communities.

 

Jack Blackwell is the Vice President of Lands and Resources for Chugach Alaska Corporation.  After a 32-year career with the Alaska Department of Natural Resources, which included serving as the Superintendent of the Kenai Peninsula and Prince William Sound state parks, he retired from state service to work for Chugach Alaska Corporation.  Jack was raised in Southeast Alaska and has a Bachelor of Science in Natural Resource Management from the University of Alaska – Fairbanks.
 

John Johnson is the Vice President of Cultural Resources for Chugach Alaska Corporation.  John has worked for the corporation since 1975 and much of his work has been documenting historic and prehistoric sites in Prince William Sound.  In addition, John also helps manage the Nuuciq Spirit Camp on Hinchinbrook Island.
 

Ashley Christensen works collaboratively with community leaders and regional partners as the Community Development Program Director for Chugach Alaska Corporation. From a Cordova fishing family, Ashley spent her childhood commercial fishing and recreating in Prince William Sound and the Copper River. Ashley also serves her village corporation on The Eyak Corporations Shareholder Advisory Committee and as a Board Trustee for The Eyak Foundation.

Recommended Resource from Jack, John, and Ashley:

Erin Cooper, "Black Oystercatchers in Prince William Sound"

The Chugach National Forest has been monitoring black oystercatchers in Prince William Sound since 1999. By monitoring black oystercatcher populations and human activity in Prince William Sound, the USDA Forest Service can locate shorelines that may be sensitive to disturbance. Resource managers can then make informed decisions and require preventative management actions as needed.


Erin Cooper is the Wildlife Program Manager for the U.S. Forest Service in Prince William Sound and the Copper River Delta, and she has worked in Cordova for the past 27 years. Her projects have ranged from birds to mammals, covering issues from recreation impacts to climate change.

Dave Goldstein, "Prince William Sound Weather"

Dave covers general weather around Alaska, from land to sea to air. He shares information sources, how to interpret that information and how to use it for your work and play. The end goal is to help you be safe, prepared for weather challenges that may develop and to keep inconveniences to a bare minimum.

 

Dave Goldstein completed his Meteorology degree from Penn State in 1970. He worked for 36 years with the National Weather Service, 29 of those years in Alaska, retiring in 2003. He owns Alaska Weather Consulting, LLC and serves as its chief meteorologist. Through his company, he provides high-quality weather services designed to meet specific weather needs across the State of Alaska. His services are used by private, public, and governmental interests. Since retiring, Dave shares his time with many organizations. He is as a member of the Prince William Sound RCAC and the Greater Whittier Chamber of Commerce. He stays active in the Begich Towers condo project, serving on its Board and on several of its committees. He was part of the effort that created the Whittier Museum, ran an active charter business out of Whittier from 2000-2017, served time on the City Council and currently sits on the Whittier Ports and Harbor Commission. He deeply appreciates his time in Whittier. He marvels at the uniqueness of living in a community that not only boasts some of the best water in the country but provides access to both the ocean and mountains/glaciers…all literally within walking distance of his home. Dave says some of the best things about “ semi-retirement” are the increased opportunities to spend time with family and friends and the expanded ability to contribute to making life better for all.

Charla Hughes and Tim Lydon, “Join the PWSSF Party!”

In addition to putting on the annual PWS Natural History Symposium, the Prince William Sound Stewardship Foundation coordinates a number of volunteer opportunities each year. Learn more about PWSSF, their growing network of partners, and opportunities to get involved.

Charla Hughes is the Executive 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.


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.

Klara Maisch, "Resilience Through Art - Painting in Nellie Juan-College Fiord"

Klara shares about her time as an artist-in-residence for Voices of the Wilderness and how art is a tool for connecting people with place, coping with change, and creating resilience.  


Klara Maisch is a visual artist who lives and works in Alaska. She often travels to remote regions to paint on location, where direct experiences with the physical forces that shape a landscape inform the visual dynamics in her work.

Recommended Resource from Klara:

Tim Lydon, “Intro to Land Management in Chugach National Forest

Tim will give an introduction to the Chugach National Forest and Nellie Juan-College Fiord Wilderness Study Area.


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.

Dave Borg, “City of Whittier Updates”

 

Dave will discuss the latest updates from the City of Whittier, including the most recent news on the Huna Totem Head of the Bay development.


Dave Borg is the Whittier Harbor Master.

Maryann Fidel, “AK DEC Marine Water Quality Monitoring and EVOS Lingering Oil”

Some of DEC’s work in PWS includes water quality monitoring and assessment of EVOS lingering oil.

 

To understand the impact of cruise ships on local water quality, DEC has been monitoring ambient conditions in and around Alaska’s high traffic ports and shipping lanes since 2015. This information can be used to identify locations of concern where additional sampling is needed and to inform discharge permits. During the COVID pandemic large cruise ships were absent from Alaskan waters. This provided the perfect situation to measure water quality minus this potential impact. Results demonstrate little differences among 2022 with cruise ships present and 2020-21 when cruise ships were absent. Locations have been identified with concerning levels of fecal coliform and enterococci, but levels were not elevated by the presence of cruise ships. Additional work is planned in Whittier to collect baseline water quality data before the new cruise ship dock becomes operational.

 

Information is also provided about DEC’s assessment of EVOS lingering oil. This is a public process, so input is welcome.


Maryann Fidel manages water quality monitoring in ports and shipping lanes for the State of Alaska, Department of Environmental Conservation. Before that, she provided science support for Alaska Native nonprofits on a variety of different research topics, often with a focus on water quality. She has a BIG love for Prince William Sound that began while growing up in Anchorage and grew while guiding kayak trips out of Valdez, working on her thesis at APU, and as a Wilderness Kayak Ranger for the Glacier Ranger District.

Harmony Wayner, “Alaska’s Marine Debris Action Plan”

Marine debris is a complicated issue worldwide and uniquely challenging and impactful in Alaska. Work is beginning on a Marine Debris Action Plan for Alaska. This is a collaborative process to identify and capture the existing actions, identified needs, and proposed priorities within the marine debris issues in Alaska. In this listening session, participants can share their perspectives and knowledge on the marine debris issues they observe, current actions underway, and proposed solutions moving forward.


Harmony Wayner is a Tribal member of Naknek Native Village and a 5th generation commercial fisherwoman. She has a B.S. in Biology from the University of Alaska Southeast and a Masters in natural resource management from the University Centre of the Westfjords, Iceland. She works as a Sea Grant Fellow with the NOAA marine debris program on an Alaska Marine Debris Action plan.

Maia Draper-Reich, “Then & Now: 34 Years Since the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill”

Since shortly after the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill, the Prince William Sound Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council has given a voice to the people who live and work in the impacted region. Maia Draper-Reich from PWSRCAC shares about the impacts of the spill and the ongoing oil spill prevention and response work done to protect Prince William Sound and the downstream communities.


Maia Draper-Reich is the Outreach Coordinator for the Prince William Sound Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council where she communicates about oil spill science and community oversight to the region impacted by the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Before joining the Council staff in 2022, Maia worked as an environmental educator and naturalist for the Chugach National Forest, Kenai Fjords National Park, and the Bureau of Land Management Campbell Creek Science Center in addition to work with gynecologic cancer non-profit Let Every Woman Know-Alaska.

Recommended Resource from Maia:

Sarah Schoen, “Marine Food Webs and Climate Change in Prince William Sound”

When thousands of dead seabirds washed ashore in Prince William Sound during the winter of 2015-2016 they signaled a major disruption in the marine food web. In this presentation, Sarah discusses current research regarding marine predator response to changes in their prey populations following a prolonged marine heatwave in Prince William Sound and the northern Gulf of Alaska.


Sarah Schoen is a biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey Alaska Science Center in Anchorage, Alaska. Her research has focused on seabird die-offs, harmful algal bloom toxins, predator-prey interactions, marine ecosystems, and impacts of climate change on seabirds and forage fish.

Recommended Resource from Sarah:

Scott Pegau, “Status of PWS Herring”

The Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council has been supporting research and monitoring of herring in Prince William Sound. This presentation will cover the latest observations on the herring population and some of the research highlights. The results of the 2023 spawn surveys, preliminary views on the age of the spawning population will be provided along with what they may mean to the 2023 population estimate. Ways to follow our efforts will be provided.

“Volunteer Monitoring of Intertidal Habitats”

Understanding the recovery of habitats from oil spills is difficult because the recovery must be considered in the context of natural variability. After the Exxon Valdez oil spill, Dr. Alan Mearns of NOAA began photographing features in Prince William Sound as a tool for monitoring the recovery of the intertidal habitat. The photographs now have value in understanding the ecology of the intertidal zone. We are seeking assistance in collecting pictures of these features so we can follow how our environment is changing through time.

 

Scott Pegau is the Research Program Manager for the Oil Spill Recovery Institute and has been coordinating the Herring Research and Monitoring program in Prince William Sound since 2009. Understanding the recovery of the intertidal habitat and herring populations from the Exxon Valdez oil spill are important components of his work. He received his Ph.D. in physical oceanography from Oregon State University where he specialized in remote sensing and in-water optics.

Recommended Resources from Scott:

Heather Reiss, “Contributing to a Culturally Aware Natural History”

We all live and work on Indigenous lands, and our outdoor jobs have us actively participating in the stewardship of these places. Heather Reiss guides us to take the conversation further and talk about how we can communicate the natural history of the lands we work on in a culturally responsible and respectful way. 


Heather Reiss has worked in the travel and tourism industry for sixteen years in federal, nonprofit, and private capacities, with her work primarily focused on educational and cultural tourism and supervising and training guide staff. She is currently working on an M.S. in Outdoor and Environmental Education through Alaska Pacific University and is nearing completion on her thesis project of developing guide-specific training curricula to help develop culturally sensitive skills and teaching aptitudes. 

Recommended Resources from Heather:
 
Poster and Table Session
While we cannot totally recreate the Poster and Table Session in this digital space, we are happy to share the following resources from our presenters!

Arctic T-SLIP welcomes people interested in landslide-generated tsunamis to their collaborative group that they call Arctic T-SLIP (Tsunamigenic SLope Instabilities Partnership), which brings together communities, researchers, and agencies to increase our understanding and preparedness of this hazard in glacier and/or permafrost affected regions.

Anna Liljedahl lives east of Homer in the southern Caribou Hills where she is starting a farm. In her day job as an Associate Scientist at the Woodwell Climate Research Center, where she studies permafrost hydrology and enjoys making big geospatial data accessible to anyone with an internet connection via the Permafrost Discovery Gateway. Anna is also an Affiliated Research Professor with UAF.

Erin Shew is the Climate Change Coordinator for Chugach Regional Resources Commission, where she works with Tribes around Prince William Sound and the lower Kenai Peninsula to research, understand, and adapt to climate impacts, with a focus on the connections between climate change’s impacts on traditional foods, food sovereignty, and community resilience.  She lives on Dena’ina lands in Anchorage, AK.

Kristin Carpenter is the Executive Director of the Prince William Sound Economic Development District. She would like to request feedback on the PWSEDD Wilderness Values Survey, which can help inform the ongoing voluntary Tourism and Wilderness Best Management Practices programs.

Samatha Lilly is the Community Outreach Manager for Alaska Geographic. Find out more about Alaska Geographic's programming here.

Outdoor Workshops

We hosted two interactive outdoor workshops in the afternoon for our in-person attendees:

Paul Twardock and Barbara Lydon, “Tsunami Emergency Response and Risk Management Planning”

 

Paul Twardock is a Professor Emeritus of Outdoor Studies at Alaska Pacific University.


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.

Carolyn Spencer, Lani Lockwood, and Kathleen Keusenkothen, "What is a Glacier?"

Carolyn Spencer comes to the interpretive world with a background in outdoor education from Colorado. Her vibrant perspective generates curiosity among participants as she most often engages audiences through activities and hands-on teaching.

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.”

Boat Tour, May 15th
For the first time, this year's Symposium included an extra half day of opportunities.

Participants journeyed up to Blackstone Bay with Lazy Otter Charters, going close to shore and admiring the sheer cliff walls and tumbling waterfalls in route to two tidewater glaciers, Beloit and Blackstone. They learned from interpreters while sitting at the face of a wall of ice. They learned about bird ecology as they cruised up to a rookery where thousands of birds nest and raise their young. They experienced the natural geology of this glacier-carved fjord and learned about the common plants found in this area. The captain assisted in a plankton tow while underway, and participants got a chance to look in microscopes at the plankton, which is the start of the food chain supporting our rich marine life. Participants left this tour with foundational knowledge and experience to share and build upon this summer.
Boat Tour Blackstone.HEIC
Boat Tour Capt Mike Map.HEIC
Coffee with Scientists

After the Boat Tour, we gathered for an informal meet & greet with U.S.G.S. scientists to chat about landslide research in PWS, local landslide and tsunami monitoring, the current status of the Barry Arm Landslide, and the history of tsunami-landslides in Alaska.
THANK YOU

The fifth annual PWS Natural History Symposium is made possible through the generosity of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council, the Chugach Alaska Corporation, and the PWS Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council, as well as the support of many generous corporate and individual sponsors.

We look forward to the sixth annual PWS Natural History Symposium in May 2024!
bottom of page