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Alaska Fish & Wildlife News
April 2004

New Wildlife Education Programs
Reach Thousands of Alaskans

By Robin Dublin
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Mike Taras, a wildlife educator in Fairbanks, teaches kids about bears.

Bears, wildfires, hummingbirds, moose and owls have the attention of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game's new Wildlife Education program. In the past year, the new program's five-person staff has developed presentations, programs, and publications to help Alaskans appreciate and conserve wildlife.

The diversity of offerings, like the rich diversity of Alaska's wildlife, comes in many shapes and sizes. The program addresses two key areas. The first focuses on the kind of short-term wildlife management concerns that biologists tackle every day. The second area is the long-term goal of teaching Alaskans of all ages about Alaska's wildlife and their habitat.

Some of the issues being addressed are seasonal, like human-bear encounters and wildfire issues, which concern and involve the public. Outreach programs that teach bear awareness and safety have been developed because, with well-mannered human activity, bears and people can coexist.

Anchorage-based wildlife educator Lilly Goodman developed an elementary school volunteer wildlife presentation program for students throughout Anchorage and the Mat-Su Valley. The program comes complete with bear hides and skulls, educational stickers, interactive activities and a presentation, and new Be Bear Aware coloring book, which is available online. The take-home messages help students take actions that will prevent bears from being attracted to their homes as spring approaches.

In Juneau, wildlife educator Kristen Romanoff launched a neighborhood bear watch program enabling neighbors to help remove bear-attracting food and garbage smells from their yards. Juneau has struggled with severe urban bear problems in recent years, and the new program was implemented with cooperation from the city of Juneau and the Juneau Bear Committee.

Romanoff also brought Dzantik'I Heeni Middle School students into the world of bear biology with a hands-on, ongoing project. Students assisted area biologist Neil Barten in collaring a black bear, and students have been working with the GPS tracking data provided by "their" bear.

In Fairbanks, wildlife is a "hot" issue because wildfires, a natural process in the boreal forest, are important for wildlife and habitat but problematic for people. Wildlife educator Mike Taras in Fairbanks developed programs to teach people about the benefits of wildlife to healthy boreal forests. He's delivered the programs at the University of Alaska Museum, the Fairbanks Sportsman Show and through brochures and community lectures.

In western Alaska, Nome-based wildlife educator Sue Steinacher worked with wildlife biologist Jim Dau on an interactive program bringing students and biologists together to collar and track caribou. The people of this region, who depend on the Western Arctic Caribou Herd, can learn from and offer traditional knowledge to biologists in a cooperative effort to conserve caribou. In addition to supporting the annual tracking and collaring activities, Steinacher worked with teacher Chris Brown and students of White Mountain on school-based caribou education. Brown's students will present their experiences to biologists at the 10th North American Caribou Workshop this spring.

caption follows
Wildlife educator Kristin Romanoff works with children at the Mendenhall Glacier visitor center in Juneau.

Statewide, school-based programs continue to grow. The Alaska Wildlife Curriculum and Project WILD workshops and presentations for K-12 teachers were redesigned to meet No Child Left Behind requirements. Presentations to the teachers of the Yukon-Koyukuk School District and the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta School District reached almost all teachers in those districts. These programs are filled with interactive, hands-on activities that integrate wildlife into all subject areas.

Wildlife education coordinator Robin Dublin is proud to announce two new distance-learning opportunities for teachers. These courses in the Alaska Wildlife Curriculum and Project WILD are designed to reach educators in hard-to-access bush communities, as well as teachers in urban settings with tight schedules. These courses, using the University of Alaska Anchorage's distance learning technologies, have had waiting lists from the start and are very popular with teachers.

Dublin is also happy to announce a new program for early childhood educators. After years of requests from teachers of very young children, we now have materials and training presentations developed specifically for this audience. The Alaska Early Childhood Project WILD program takes all that is magical and engaging from Project WILD, adds some puppets, books and snacks, and makes for educational experiences for our youngest conservationists.

In the past year, the wildlife program supported presentations, naturalist walks, teacher training workshops and publications to well over 5,000 Alaskans across the state. We continue to develop and revise programs and publications. The ever popular Owlmanac and Upland Game Birds of the Forest and Tundra are under revision and will be re-issued in the coming year. Also, look for a new natural history guide for Nome in the year ahead.

In addition, the wildlife education program will be developing web pages for young and old alike. These are but a smattering of more than 40 new programs and projects launched this year. We are developing new publications, new web sites, and new presentations across the state.


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