Babkin Marine Stewardship Expedition
This summer middle school students from across Alaska spent eight days aboard the Babkin Marine Research Vessel in Prince William Sound. The students engaged in hands-on learning about a range of topics including oceanography, plant ecology, fisheries and issues facing the Sound such as lingering oil from the Exxon-Valdez Oil Spill and coastal accumulation of marine debris.
The students hiked into the Chugach National Forest from the coast to explore plant ecology. They also visited a fish hatchery, and went kayaking, tide pooling and fishing. The students dug up traces of oil from the now 25-year-old Exxon-Valdez oil spill, helped pick up marine debris, and assisted the Forest Service with river otter research. Throughout the trip the students documented their experiences with journals, recorders, and video cameras.
On the Babkin, these middle school-aged youth get the opportunity to meet a range of outdoor professionals who are dedicated to the environment and who have a variety of interesting positions. The hope is that it sparks interests or passions for the youth, or simply plants the seeds of a lifelong commitment to stewardship. The next step for these Babkin alum could be a Chugach Children’s Forest Habitat Restoration Kayak Expedition!
Leadership Development Kayak Expedition
In June the Chugach National Forest and Alaska Geographic hosted a Leadership Development Kayak Expedition for alumni of previous Chugach Children’s Forest Expeditions. Teens from urban and rural communities across Southcentral Alaska spent six days in Prince William Sound improving their kayak skills, and learning more about way-finding, trip planning, local ecology, natural history, and Leave No Trace principles.
In order to build confidence and self-reliance in the outdoors, the teens took turns as trip navigators. Each day, a new pair of students would work with their trip leaders to plan the day’s paddle. The navigators-in-training made observations about wind and waves, listened to weather reports, checked tide charts, charted courses on maps, and ultimately helped make decisions about when and where the group would paddle. While on the water, the student-navigators lead the way to the day’s destination.
Habitat Restoration Kayak Expedition – June
In June, nine students from across Southcentral Alaska ventured out to Prince William Sound by kayak accompanied by two trip leaders, a media specialist, and the Forest Service’s Environment for the Americas intern, Jimena Cuenca. Forest Service Rangers Tim and Barbara Lydon met the group out in the field. The team traveled to Eshamy Bay, Prince of Wales island, and Lighthouse in Prince William Sound searching for European black slugs, an invasive species beginning to show up in the Chugach National Forest—a species the Forest Service is proactively working to eradicate before it gets a stronghold in Prince William Sound.
The teens kayaked from locale to locale monitoring for these slugs and stopping to remove them when they were found. The main area the team found slugs was Eshamy Bay—they happily noted that they could find no evidence of slugs on Prince of Wales island or in Lighthouse. In Eshamy Bay, the teens worked together to set up rope transects and remove the slugs in an organized, thorough fashion. The slugs range in size but most are about 6 inches long and love to hang out around the skunk cabbage near the shore. The understanding is that they were introduced to the area by boats. After collecting the slugs in plastic bags (as you can see above), the group had to create burn piles—burning is the most effective way to kill the slugs. The group successfully collected and burned hundreds of slugs!
Habitat Restoration Kayak Expedition – July
This July, eleven Alaskan students explored Hobo Bay and Knight Island in Prince William Sound with Alaska Geographic and the Forest Service. The students volunteered everyday while out in the Sound: they cleared litter from beaches and hauled out debris to the shoreline for pick-up and removal. Here’s a short video showing the impressive work these students accomplished! In the first half, the students remove a heavy boom trapped under an even heavier log. In the second half of the video, our awesome students dismantle and clear out the debris left over from a century-old gold mine.
These expeditions were made possible by the hard work of our students and support of their families, as well as significant contributions from partners, primarily the Chugach National Forest, Prince William Sound Resource Advisory Committee, Chugach School District, PWSRCAC, Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies, Gulf of Alaska Keepers, EVOS Trustees Council, Copper River Watershed Project, and REI!