Liv

Alaska – 2 years later

In life, wildlife on August 29, 2014 at 3:47 am

 

 

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As bloggers go, I am about as random as they come, but looking back at old posts reminds me of how far I’ve come since starting this blog of puppies, art and Alaska. Amazingly two years have flown by and Alaska continues to throw us adventures, opportunities and challenges. This year summer didn’t really happen with all the rain and cool weather.My garden was pretty neglected which is just as well since our friendly moose helped herself to what little I had. 

no moose

In the end, I’ve learned that I really don’t have what it takes to be a gardener, and that’s ok. Not everyone can grow a 60 lb cabbage. Alaska has been the backdrop for so much professional and personal growth. Long winter nights can bring out the worst in people – depression, self-doubt, loneliness. Yet – I love the darkness for the opportunities it brings to capture this:

aurora

Chasing auroras is something I highly recommend doing at least once in your life. Which brings me to the point of this post – at the age of 31, I’ve learned that life is too, too short to spend it worrying about how you look to the world. Celebrate what makes you unique and give back! Volunteer (I like Fairbanks Youth Advocates), do something nice for someone for no reason. Host a charity event like this one benefiting Marley’s Mutt’s.

movie

(Chloe and Connor are always happy to model for my event promotions)

In the end, you can’t take anything with you when you’ve reached the end of the road – but you can make sure you’ve left something good behind. Oh, and hug your puppy every chance you get, because that’s always good for the soul.

puppy

 

 

 

 

 

Bering Strait: gateway to the Arctic Ocean

In Uncategorized on April 16, 2013 at 11:47 pm

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-Mike, our ice guide takes us to the edge of the shorefast ice in Wales, Alaska -

You will find few places left on earth where people remain so intimately dependent on their environment. The native communities along Bering Strait do not hunt for sport, but they hunt for meat to supplement their diets particularly when the small bush planes stop bringing in outside food as winter weather sets in. You eat what you can hunt and what you have left in storage. No last minute trips to the grocery store here.

In case you were wondering, Bering Strait is a fairly narrow channel that connects the Bering Sea to the Arctic, and Wales, Alaska is so close to the Russian coast that you can see it across the strait on a fair day.

It has been an amazing experience to visit with villages of Wales and Shishmaref in Alaska where my boss, colleague and I went to talk to students in the schools and conduct some research on the sea ice. The smaller community in Wales has a runway accessible by snow machine, and strong winds frequently change the availability of open leads in the ice. People have noticed changes in snowfall patterns and thickness of the ice, as confirmed by our most recent ice core measurements. The ice is thinner in Wales this year. Whalers are readying their crews in hopes of catching another bowhead whale this year – hopes buoyed by seeing a few beluga whales a few days ago. We also saw some bearded, ringed and ribbon seals out on the ice and our ice guides referred to them half-jokingly as juicy steaks.

The changing Arctic affects these communities in a very real way that is hard to imagine as an outsider. Shishmaref is facing erosion problems as waves batter their coast, no longer protected by ice. Changing sea ice affects animal migrations and can sometimes shorten hunting seasons, as described by some hunters we talked to. However, in a world where elementary school students continue with their ski meets in 30 to 40 mph winds in freezing temperatures with bear guards on the lookout for polar bears during the event – it struck me that people here are tough, and they live with an interesting dichotomy of resources. For example, most people do not have running water, but almost everyone has a cell phone and are internet-savvy. Despite the strong relationship to their environment here, I get the feeling that not too many students have ambitions to study this fascinating ecosystem that they live in. Doubtless, the resilient spirit of the communities will continue to adapt to changes from natural and human-based impacts, but as a biologist I feel that I’m no longer just interested in what the walrus are doing – but also in how the people adapt.

Living in the sticks

In dogs, house, wildlife on March 16, 2013 at 6:41 pm

It has been a little bit busy since moving to Alaska and starting a new job, hence the absence from blogging. It is also still bitterly cold some days, but the dark winters are fading into bright spring evenings which makes the cold much more bearable.

As my husband and I promised, we finally got the dogs a house with a big yard in Alaska. It’s not so far from town, but we do live on a dirt road that has been appropriately named for its notoriety for getting cars, trucks and trailers stuck in deep snow or mud. Personally, we have only experienced the snow trap (at great expense) and this spring when the snow melts we will see the full extent of the mud problem.

However, there are benefits to living off the beaten road and having several acres of wild Alaskan land. For instance, we sometimes get to see the auroras off our porch.

Aurora from home

And we occasionally get visitors to our yard.

watching the moose

Moose cow and calf

And sometimes those visitors decide to sleep in our yard overnight and stop at our place the next day for breakfast. Chloe and Connor go nuts when we see moose – and this results in much barking, whining and leaving of nose prints all over the glass windows. However, they will listen to voice commands to leave them alone when they are outside with the moose, which I can imagine is difficult for them because their first instinct is to chase it. Fortunately the moose are large enough to be intimidating up close.

connor is vigilant

Arguably there’s a price for living out in the sticks – but so far we really like it and we would love to be able to share the experience with others.

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