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Employee Spotlight
Division of Subsistence

Margaret Cunningham, Research Analyst

Photo of Margaret Cunningham

Education and Background

I earned my Bachelor of Science with an emphasis in Biology at the College of Idaho in Caldwell, Idaho.

What brought you to Alaska or where did you grow up in Alaska?

I came to Eagle River from Ohio at the age of seven. I remember crying because I thought we would be living in an igloo! My father transferred to Alaska with the Federal Aviation Administration because he loved to hunt and fish.

Why did you pick this career?

I wanted to work for the Alaska Department of Fish & Game since high school. I had an outstanding teacher at Chugiak High who fostered in me a love for the biological sciences. I especially enjoyed studying ornithology. It was always great fun heading to Potter Marsh to discover how many different species you could check off in one day!

What is the best part of your job?

The best part of my job is that I get to be part of such a dedicated and hard working team. I also enjoy responding to the internet inquiries that are forwarded to me. Since I don’t always know the answers, I get to spend time doing research. It’s fun poking around the website, and I learn a lot in the process.

What is the hardest part of your job?

The hardest part of my job is that sometimes the days get a little long when there is a lot of data entry to be done.

Tell us something about your life outside of work - or what drives you as a person.

I think what drives me as a person is that I like to challenge myself. I like being pushed out of my comfort zone and learning new things. I participate in a wide variety of athletic races, where I am continually challenging myself to improve. I love being outdoors, especially in the mountains. I spend most of my time outside of work skiing, biking, running, and hiking.



Hiroko Ikuta, Subsistence Resource Specialist III

Photo of Hiroko Ikuta

Education and Background

I am a social/cultural anthropologist. I graduated from the Toyo Women’s College in Tokyo (Japan). I was also a one-year visiting student at the Queens University in Kingston, Ontario (Canada). I completed a BA & MA at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (USA) and a Ph.D. at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland (UK). I was a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute of Arctic Studies, Dartmouth College in New Hampshire (USA).

What brought you to Alaska or where did you grow up in Alaska?

I was born and raised in Kamakura, Japan. Kamakura is located near Tokyo. It was the capital of Japan 800 years ago when the Samurai period began. After graduating from college in Japan, I worked for a financial institution for four years. In 1998 when I was traveling from Toronto, Canada to Tokyo, Japan, I stopped by Alaska and fell in love with the beauty of the country. Like many other Alaskans coming from Outside, the visit to Alaska changed my life and the rest was history as they say.

Why did you pick this career?

The primary reason that I wanted to become an anthropologist was to visit Eskimo villages and learn about their lives from an insider’s perspective. While I was a student at UAF, I had a chance to visit Barrow, Anaktuvuk Pass, Ambler, and Bethel. The people that I met in Eskimo villages were always welcoming to me. Perhaps because of my Asian phenotype, taste of food, and interest in Eskimo cultures, people tended to treat me like one of their own, and I quickly made friends. Such experiences led me to pursue a Ph.D. For my Ph.D. project, I lived in Barrow and St. Lawrence Island in Alaska for two years and learned about Eskimo dance in relation to language retention, perception of the environment, and socio-economic and political factors. When I went back to Great Britain to complete the write-up of my dissertation, I realized that I wanted to directly work with Alaska Natives peoples, instead of theorizing about them from an academic distance. Since then, I looked for a job in which I could contribute to Alaskan residents, including Eskimos, using my anthropological knowledge and training. I feel very fortunate to have found my current job at the Division of Subsistence.

What is the best part of your job?

I enjoy traveling to different parts of Alaska and meet and work with inspiring people from various backgrounds. I also appreciate my very supportive mentors and wonderful colleagues.

What is the hardest part of your job?

I am new to the field and to the department. Every day presents new challenges and experiences for me.

Tell us something about your life outside of work - or what drives you as a person.

My husband and I love to go canoeing and biking during summer. I like to play piano, clarinet, and trumpet. I also enjoy keeping up with my family and friends across the globe. I wish it were easier to visit my parents in Japan.