Copper River Record- January 30, 2020
By Robin Mayo
Curious about the roles of tradition and science in the Copper River Basin? What can we do to become better stewards of this place? Or maybe your questions are more specific, like what is the meteorology of the debris-covered tongue of the Kennicott Glacier? How is language used to learn about the presence of the Dene people on the shores of Ancient Lake Atna? Or what is the preferred roost location for Little Brown Bats in the Copper Basin?
All these questions and many more will be answered at the Copper River Basin Symposium: Tradition, Science, and Stewardship to be held at the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park Visitor Center February 18-19, 2020. This will be more than just a science symposium, we will also explore traditional ecological knowledge and nurturing a stewardship ethic.
The conference is open to the public- you are invited to attend any of the sessions. A complementary lunch will be provided by Ahtna Intertribal Resource Commission, and breakfast and dinner will be available, but must be pre-purchased through the conference registration site by January 31. Anyone who wishes to attend is encouraged to register (no cost) at www.copperriver.org/copper-river-basin-symposium/
On Tuesday, February 18th, programming will begin at 8:30 am with the symposium opening, a visit from an Ahtna Elder, and a keynote address by Kathryn Martin, Senior Vice President at Ahtna Inc on the theme of tradition, science, and stewardship.
Each presentation at the conference will be about 20 minutes long, with a few minutes for questions. On Tuesday, topics will include climate research and modeling, glaciers, hydrology, aquatic ecology, and ancient Lake Atna. At 4:45 there will be a poster session at the Ahtna Cultural Center with about 20 different presenters available to share their projects.
On Tuesday Evening there will be a special presentation by William E. Simeone at Tazlina Hall at 7pm. He will speak on “A Convergence of Knowledge? Scientific and Ahtna Knowledge of Salmon Diversity in the Copper River.”
On Wednesday, February 19th, the symposium will begin at 8:30am with the second Keynote address, by F. Stuart (Terry) Chapin, Professor Emeritus of Ecology at University of Alaska Fairbanks. He will speak on “Linking Indigenous and Western Science to Adapt to Climate Change.” Topics for Wednesday sessions will include a panel discussion on working with indigenous communities for scientific studies, wildlife research and management, collaborative conservation and the human dimensions of natural resource management, and fisheries. The day will finish with a symposium wrap-up at 4:30.
On Thursday February 20th, a morning meeting will be held to synthesize salmon habitat topics from the symposium, and consider past and current research projects with the goal of identifying research gaps. This session will be held from 8:30 to 11:30 am at Tazlina Village Hall, and is open to the public.
This symposium, the first of its kind for the Copper River Basin, is being organized by a group of partners including WISE, Copper River Watershed Project, Wrangell Mountains Center, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, Alaska Department of Fish and Game, and Ahtna Intertribal Resource Commission. Funding or in-kind support is being provided by National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Alyeska Pipeline Service Company, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, and Ahtna Intertribal Resource Commission.
For more information visit the Symposium web page at www.copperriver.org/copper-river-basin-symposium/ or call the WISE office, 822-3575
The Symposium logo was designed by Copper River Stewardship Program Alumni Lindsey Gordon and Elvie Underwood.
Copper River Record- January 23, 2020
By Robin Mayo
My approval ratings are at a record low. I’m still holding my own with positive numbers in the areas of kibble pouring, water bowl rinsing, and ear scratches, with both felines and canines agreeing that my performance meets expectations. But in the all essential tasks of door opening and walkies, my constituents express extreme disapproval.
Of course, the felines rarely express satisfaction in anything but themselves, so I’m not too worried about their disdain. However this year I have a canine companion, my Granddog Tazlina, and her disapproval cuts to the bone.
Both species line up at the door expectantly, waiting for me to work my magic and reveal the great outdoors. When instead of fresh air a wall of ice fog rolls in, they all duck their heads, pin back their ears, and give me a look of deep disappointment. They hold me personally responsible for this travesty.
The cats slink away to visit the conveniently provided tub of wood chips, but Taz has no such option. Instead she gives me a long look that clearly says 1)“You are NOT my Favorite Person.” 2) “When Favorite Person opens the door, the air never hurts” and 3) “I fear I shall perish immediately, therefore I will only venture outside if you go too.”
Taz grew up in California and her previous Alaskan winter was spent in Girdwood, so her bewilderment is justified. Also, her ancestors were not wolves but dingoes, and her body is better adapted to extreme heat than bitter cold. I’ve tried to explain to her about the dire situation in Australia and how much better off she is here, but she isn’t buying it. I’ve even shown her pictures of scorched kangaroos and koalas, taking care that she doesn’t catch a glimpse of any photos of Favorite Person on a beach in Central America.
Making clothing for Taz has become a household obsession, another activity that she disapproves of thoroughly. Before leaving, my daughter re-tailored a nice Patagonia fleece pullover into very chic “PETagonia” complete with fitted sleeves and snaps down the back. Doing this required many fittings, and every time Taz stood with her legs locked, her head down, and a long-suffering look on her face.
For cold waits in the car, I adapted a loose fleece hoodie which gives her a cool thug look. A friend picked up a tacky Christmas sweater on clearance, the only piece of Taz’s wardrobe which was actually made for dogs. She grudgingly admits it is comfy but suspects the snowman makes her butt look big. Please don’t tell her, but it does.
My latest effort is a puffy jacket, repurposed from a well-worn North Face coat that has already survived a bad trip through the dryer and many wilderness adventures. I’m remodeling the hood as well, so it can protect her big dingo ears when we go fast on the snowmachine. For all this work Taz is profoundly ungrateful.
If you’d like to adapt castaway human clothing for your canine companion, here are a few tips. The easiest item to start with is a synthetic fleece jacket or vest. Almost anything is fair game, but stretchy is a plus, and cutting and resewing down-filled garments is not recommended unless you are an expert. Dogs come in so many shapes and sizes your best approach is to experiment and improvise. And chances are good the dog will loath it, so don’t sweat the details.
One approach is to choose a garment with the right chest circumference, sew up the armholes and cut new ones where needed. Another strategy is to find something large enough to use the existing armholes, sewing a giant tuck in the front or back to fit the animal’s chest. You can just go with something stretchy that you can pull on, or use existing fasteners on either the chest or back. For very small dogs, baby lambs or goats, or even cats if you are very brave, a piece of sweatshirt sleeve with strategically cut armholes works great.
As I write this the temperature has soared up to a balmy 8 below, and Taz is eternally grateful that she will not be wearing any clothing today, unless we need a photo shoot for this article. Two months ago she would have found this temperature miserable, so it appears our transplanted doggie is on her way to becoming a true Alaskan. I’m planning a long walk in the heat of the afternoon today, which should make my approval ratings soar.
Captions- Top: Taz did not choose the thug life, the thug life chose her.
Bottom: The dreaded Christmas Sweater.
Copper River Record January 16, 2020
By Robin Mayo
It has been a while since we had a good cold snap, and although I do not enjoy dealing with frozen fingers, frozen trucks, frozen pipes, and all the other tribulations, there is a certain fierce joy in this kind of weather. The alpenglow is gorgeous, the creak of the snow under your feet enticing, and there is a deep satisfaction in seeing the plume of woodsmoke rise from your chimney. And hey, the best part of going out in the cold to do chores is coming back in, defrosting your glasses, and settling in with tea and a good book. And a 160-degree sauna at 40 below, earning membership in the 200-degree club? Priceless.
This cold snap is treating me pretty well. The scores so far: Of the five Toyostoves I am responsible for, four are working. Of the three water/sewer systems, one is frozen, one is thawed, and one is good but may be out of water soon if the water truck can’t roll. Of the four vehicles I am responsible for, one is fine, one is startable (although I suspect each start takes years off its life,) and two are mercifully parked for the winter. Of the two woodpiles I am responsible for, both are fully stocked with well-seasoned spruce, cut to the right length. Of my two offspring, both are in tropical locations.
But I’m reminded that it isn’t easy for everyone. We took some extra propane tanks to a neighbor in a wheelchair who is going through a 20-pound tank almost every day keeping his water room warm. He figures he may have to go to Valdez for refills. Driving to work today, I noticed freshly cut branches where someone had been cutting firewood from the road right of way. Every one of us is just a split pipe, a broken fan belt, a gelled fuel line, or a chimney fire away from disaster.
Yet we lean into this weather instead of fleeing. I grew up in Fairbanks during the 70’s and 80’s, when very long cold snaps were more common, so it is tempting to dismiss this current one and tell some stories about the good old days. Were we just tougher back then, or are our memories short? Midwinter cold snaps bring back the smell of starter fluid squirted into a carburetor, the distinctive sound a vehicle makes when it barely turns over but it is not going to start. Not after being plugged in for 12 hours, not if you blast it with the propane weed burner, and especially not if the flame gets too close to the wiring.
I turned a mountain of moose into sausage and watched some football this weekend, ate too much bacon and cupcakes. My Mom has been wishing for some extra warm mittens, so I cut up an old sweater, layered it with polar fleece and quallofil, and stitched near the fire. In other words, a perfect winter weekend.
On Friday, town was full of dog mushers, hardy souls who know how to dress for winter. It is impossible to recognize anyone in their winter garb, so I waved to every round figure waddling about town in the smog from all the idling vehicles. And I waved to the teenagers in their hoodies, warmed by the energy and fire of youth. Some things don’t change.
Who We Are
WISEfriends are several writers connected with Wrangell Institute for Science and Environment, a nonprofit organization located in Alaska's Copper River Valley. Most of these articles originally appeared in our local newspaper, the Copper River Record.