As Alaska Gets Darker

Fall colors amongst the short plants of the Alaskan alpine and tundra are beautiful!

I left Alaska on the 21st of September, the Fall equinox. When Alaska becomes darker than the rest of the world. Where Fairbanks loses 8 minutes of light everyday. On the winter solstice there isn’t even 4 hours of sunlight there. Now I’m just another seasonal employee who came to enjoy the easy months of the year while skipping out for the brutal winter. I’m alright with that. I don’t think I like winter enough to want 7 months of it!

Myself very excited about picking wild blueberries. In my hand is a blueberry-picker, which combs the berries off of bushes. I had no ideas these existed until I was in Alaska.

On top of Crow Pass, a classing Anchorage hike. It’s 23 miles, so I took three days to do it but many Alaskans I met enjoy it as a single day hike. Alaskans are crazy about the hardcore.

Over the course of my CLM internship I got to work with people from so many disciplines and agencies. Of course I worked with BLM employees, who gave me insight into the Federal world that is almost impossible to get from the outside. I worked with Soil and Water conservation district people, who end up being contracted out to all sorts of projects. I liked their gig a lot, because they were able to be full-time professional ecologists with fewer bureaucratic hoops. I spent lots of time with the University of Alaska botanists, who were more academic in their efforts. On one hitch, we camped with a private contracter who had a crew of 5 field techs that were doing forest inventories for the BLM. There were plenty of other types of natural resources people I got to meet and talk to. I understand the options in this field of work better than before, and know about some job pathways that I didn’t know were options before. The ‘career seasonal’, for example, where you only need to work 6 months out of the year but still get Federal benefits for the entire year, and can work up to 50 weeks a year if there is funding. This sounds like an awesome gig! Too bad there aren’t a ton of them out there…

Denali summit! Highest point in North America.

My supervisor suggested that I attend the Society of American Foresters conference in Portland for the end of my internship. He was there and thought it would be a good alternative training opportunity. I recently attended and learned more about forestry than I ever have before. I haven’t taken any classes on forestry and wouldn’t consider myself a forester by any stretch of the imagination. This meant that, while some of the talks were way over my head, I had a lot of room to learn during the conference. I networked with some industry professionals and participated in the job fairs, which are arguably the most important part of these events. My supervisor and I closed out there, and he headed off to Europe for a month to unwind from the crazy-busy Alaskan summer. Enjoy it over there, Eric! This is the second conference CBG has helped me attend. The first was the Entomology Society of America conference in Minneapolis in 2015 for my senior thesis in college. It’s so special that the CBG is willing to help out with these sorts of events, because they invigorate the imagination and allow for invaluable connections.

I can’t overstate how special it was to get to spend so much time in remote parts of Alaska. Places very few people every get to see. While the mosquitoes and rain and conditions were usually tough, I deeply appreciated being out there. This was ecology on a mega-landscape level, and there are precious few places left in the world where people can actually experience this sort of biologist’s dream. Growing up in Seattle, I have had a dream of seeing Wild Alaska since I was 4. My dream was certainly fulfilled this season, which means a lot to me. I got to see the salmon run up river and the bears who eat them. I saw where the fish remains sink into the soil to help the trees grow. I saw the caribou who eat the lichen and forage nomadically across millions of acres of wilderness. I saw the musk oxen, who stand stoically in -60F temperatures on the tundra. I got to experience endless sunlight for 2 months. My job brought me up to 70 degrees north. So species. Thank you, CBG, for employing me and offering me such an incredible internship.

A mandala we made on the beach out of natural materials in Seward, Alaska.

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