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16 June, 2002

Happy Father's Day!!! I miss you, Dad!

Another day of bird searching in the Camp Olak area. I began the day by frying some bacon and pancakes, then packed the backpack and headed out for a planned easy walking day. Well, my mind got to wandering, so I ended up going much further than I intended. My ultimate goal was to head back out to the site of the newly found tundra swan nest and get measurements on the eggs. As I was about there, I found a King Eider nest and searched around for more (no luck). After wading through 50 meters of water only 2 inches below the top of my hipwaders, I got the tundra nest data collected, then hiked up a bluff and ate a little lunch under the bright blue sky. During lunch, I was entertained by birds down by the marsh, a curious caribou that walked up within 30 yards of me, and a black-bellied plover who decided a nearby hummock was the place to sit and jabber.

After I was rested, I wanted to go West and look around another marshy area for King Eiders. On my way there, I got a little sidetracked and explored a chain of lakes instead (which had 14 pairs of king eiders swimming around). I then wanted to see how and where the chain of lakes joined with Wyoming creek which passes just East of our camp. So, I followed Pearl Creek back until it joined with Wyoming Creek. Not that the "whats" and "wheres" are important, but what I saw was exciting. Pearl Creek is only about 1-2 feet wide in most places, but the running water has cut a deep trench down through the permafrost. With ice walls on the sides and bottom, it bends back and forth randomly, forming pools at many of its sharp turns. While walking along, I scared up many ptarmigan, but even cooler -- all the fish zipping around! I am told they are grayling - and I will be intent on catching some within the week!

When I finally made it to the main Wyoming Creek, there was a red fox on the other side just looking at me (this was the first one of these seen so far). I figured I had about an hour of walking on streambed to go, so I took off the hipwaders, replaced them with my Teva's, loaded the hipwaders on my backpack and set off. About an hour and forty-five minutes later I was back at camp - just a little tired! As we sat around and ate fried potatoes and caribou meat for supper, we shared our days experiences. My red fox sighting was definitely topped . . . Yumiko and Rebecca saw a brown bear! It was a couple miles from camp and about a mile from them, so no real close contact. We proceeded to discuss how to handle a bear encounter or a bear visiting camp. I will be sleeping with my pepper spray can close by and Qaiyaan is sleeping with the shotgun (she is probably the best with the gun). I'm sure all will be fine, but it is good to know we are a little prepared. (Mom, donā! t worry!!!!!!!!)

OK, back to the people I am working with out here. As I mentioned a couple of days ago, my primary investigator - the one that is in charge - is Robert Suydam of the North Slope Borough. Robert actually just left last night via helicopter. He is returning to Barrow to do some of his office work and then on to Point Lay to continue some research with Belugas. He will return back here some time in mid-July.

Besides Robert, there are three others I am working with - all female (maybe that is why Robert needed to leave already?????) Actually all three are great to work with. I will begin telling you about Rebecca McGuire, as she is now "in charge" of research work out here.

Rebecca is a 28 year old wildlife biology graduate student at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks. She earned her BS from UAF in biology, and a Master's degree in animal ecology in Sweden (she did her research on the population dynamics of moose). As I mentioned, Rebecca is now in charge of the day to day research out here - this is for a couple of reasons. First, her experience in field research and capability of leading. Secondly, and most importantly, the King Eider research done out here this summer and next is the center of her thesis research toward her Master's degree. Thus, the success of this field season is extremely important to her, personally.

As I previously said, Rebecca is experienced in field research and field life. She has always enjoyed camping and has grown up living in a house with no running water or electricity - she knows how life in the field is! She also spent a summer in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta of Alaska as a field biology technician, helping with research involving the breeding biology of the black brant. She has spent one winter as an observer for the National Marine Fisheries Service. Her job was to take a sample of the catch made by the commercial fishing crew and estimate the total amount of catch and make-up of the catch. Primarily, she was to observe and report any violations. She was also a lab and field tech for 1.5 years, helping with a study looking at nutrient cycling after a fire within Boreal Forests.

Rebecca has a very interesting background - home schooled while living in Haines, Alaska; living in a primitive cabin and learning much about the simplicity of life. She is hoping to earn her MA in 2004. When asked why she decided to work toward this degree, she wasn't real sure of an answer. Mainly, she thought, it was because she wanted to study waterfowl, she liked the tundra, and has always enjoyed working with the scientific community. But basically, she is continuing her education because she thinks biology is INTERESTING!!!!

Next in line of experience as a biologist is Yumiko Uchiro, from in Toyama, Japan. Yumiko, a 5 foot 2 inch bundle of energy (referred to as the shrew) moved to the US when she was 19 years old, spent 10 weeks in Spokane, WA studying English, then began college in Fairbanks, AK in 1997. She has earned a BS in wildlife biology, and has been continuing her education and working as a biological technician on a variety of research projects. She, also, spent time in the Y-K Delta studying black brant breeding biology. In addition, she was a wildlife biologist with the forest service in Priest Lake, Idaho, helping with habitat assessment and spending some time fighting fires. In addition, she has done some volunteer work involving Goldeneyes, habitat regeneration and more!

Yumiko's background, obviously, is quite interesting. She was raised, and continues the practice of Buddhism (Jyodo-shinshu). This religion focuses on prayer to help them go to heaven. Their belief includes no violence to other life (in its extreme, this would include bugs and would encourage a vegetarian diet). Although she seems to miss much about her culture and home, she wanted to come to the US to see a place other than Japan. Her interest in Alaska was sparked by an arcticle and photographs by a professional photographer, Michio, who did much work with wildlife in Alaska. As wildlife, conservation issues and environmental studies have always interested her, Michio's writing and photos were the inspiration she needed to come to this area. While here in camp, I hope to learn much more about Yumiko's background and culture. I already admire the appreciation she shows for all life the desire she demonstrates to learn all she can about each plant and animal around here! .

Finally, my third "campmate" is Qaiyaan Opie. We definitely have a diversity of heritage within our small camp group. Qaiyann was born and raised in Barrow, AK, within a traditional Inupiak home. Although her dad is non-native, her mom is Inupiak. Her mom's family is still involved in many traditional practices such as whaling. During the summer, Qaiyann's family spends much time out at their traditional family camp, where they pass the time by hunting caribou, taking day boat grips, salmon berry picking, fishing and playing cards.

With this traditional family setting, and other experiences, Qaiyaan has a great appreciation for the Inupiak culture. She is currently as undergraduate student at the University of Alaska in Anchorage. She is majoring in Anthropology, with a minor in Alaska native studies. After she graduates, she hopes to return to Barrow to do work dealing with the education of the Barrow youth, with an emphasis of the need to preserve their language and their culture. Qaiyann had the opportunity to grow up within two different cultures, and believes the preservation of the Inupiak culture within the world view is important.

During this summer, I not only hope to learn how about field research and the breeding biology of tundra waterfall, but am also looking forward to learning more about each of our group. Qaiyann has already been teaching us the Inupiak names for many of the birds, so I hope my education continues!

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