Steve Lewis: How a grizzly bear hide resulted in safer tanker traffic in Alaska

Volunteer profile Steve Lewis hails from a large family of farmers and ranchers who settled in Colorado and Nebraska in the late 1800s. When he was little, his father was in the U.S. Navy and often at sea, so Lewis spent a lot of time at his Uncle Chester’s house. “It was a typical high-plains two story farmhouse,” Lewis recalls. Uncle Chester loved hunting and fishing, and Lewis has vivid memories of his uncle’s trophies from a trip to Alaska. Along the stairwell, a Kodiak brown bear pelt reached from bottom of the first floor almost to the ceiling of the second floor. Little Lewis had to run past that bear to get to his bedroom, where a moose head hung. “I KNEW that the other half of that moose was on the other side of that wall, and he was going to come through and get me.” “So that was my introduction to Alaska.” North to Alaska Fortunately for the Council, that imaginative kid never lost his fascination with the state. … Continue reading

Davin Holen: Social scientist uses knowledge of subsistence fisheries to help communities adapt to changing environments

At 17, Davin Holen left his home in the woods outside of Wasilla, Alaska, to travel the world. He lived and studied in South America and Europe for several years before joining the Peace Corps, where he ended up in Mali, West Africa, living in a small mud hut on the edge of the Sierra Desert with his wife, Cara. “No running water, no electricity. It was like camping in the desert for two and a half years,” Holen says. Holen’s experience in Africa sparked a curiosity about human culture that has turned into his life’s work. “I was really interested in people’s interactions with the environment, especially in a subsistence economy.” He realized that even though he grew up in Alaska, he did not know much about the cultures in his home state. He returned from Africa and enrolled in the Master’s program at the University of Alaska Anchorage in Applied Cultural Anthropology. The department was brand new, and Holen was its first graduate. After earning his degree, he went to work for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s Division of Subsistence, working his way up from an internship to program manager over 15 years. Holen assessed subsistence harvests all over the state, from Southeast Alaska to the Arctic. He tried to understand and document these fisheries, in order to anticipate problems that could arise, so he could find ways to address upcoming expected needs. … Continue reading

Tom Kuckertz: Retired staff member still contributes engineering expertise to council’s mission

The council has benefited from Chicago-born Tom Kuckertz’ broad experience in engineering for 16 years and counting. After his retirement from the council in 2014, Kuckertz continued on as a volunteer for the committee he worked with most closely, the Terminal Operations and Environmental Monitoring Committee. A young Kuckertz earned degrees in electrical engineering at the University of Illinois and the University of Idaho, followed by two years in the U.S. Army as a Signal Corps officer, where he was involved in the design and implementation of large communications systems. “Basically, it involved how to move information from one place to another, and in most cases, deny access to adversaries,” explained Kuckertz. … Continue reading

Kate Morse: Volunteer helps connect new generations with council’s mission

Kate Morse was nine years old and living in Pennsylvania when the Exxon Valdez hit Bligh Reef in 1989. Although she didn’t directly experience the spill personally, she now works to bring the spill to life for a new generation. Morse has been the Program Director for Cordova’s Copper River Watershed Project since 2008. The organization is based in Cordova but does work throughout the Copper River watershed drainage area, which includes not only Cordova, but Glennallen, Kenny Lake, Mentasta Lake, and Paxson. Morse says the area is about the size of West Virginia, and the population of the region depends on healthy salmon runs. “It takes an entire watershed to support healthy salmon populations due to their complex life cycle from salt to fresh water and back to salt water again,” says Morse. “Our education programs really aim at getting people to see themselves as part of a watershed community, rather than just the stream in their backyard.” She says her organization tracks the council’s projects closely because the Trans-Alaska pipeline runs through the Copper River basin. “There are major river systems in the area,” Morse says. “The prospect of removing oil from a glacial river, how the oil would contaminate the entire water column and the glacial sediments, it would be impossible to clean it up.” “Prevention is definitely the key.” … Continue reading