Thursday, September 8, 2011

Fall Fall Fall

Here it is the first "full" week of September and I am just updating... wow, it's been a month since I last wrote on here, but it has been an extremely busy month! The college interns are gone and in school, the high school internship program is done and our educator is working on the Fisheries Science in the Schools, and the fish weirs are about to be taken out. And then I can't grasp the concept I have been in Aniak for almost four months. It really is "blowing my mind", to say the least.
On the 10th Mike, the interns, and I all flew to Anchorage for our Partners College Intern Day. What a blast! Our college interns are funded through the USFWS Partner's program. It is an extremely beneficial program because it allows students to experience working in the field of fisheries. They work on several different projects and gain an array of different experiences for their resumes. Our hope is that one day they will be doing our jobs, we are of course, training the next group to follow after us. I must say, I was extremely proud of the interns for KNA this summer (not that I knew any of the others), but they did a great job! They also gave very good presentations to the rest of the Partners biologists and other staff who came to watch. I believe both Jared and Charles will go far and we may see them again next summer, although it would be great if they were able to experience other opportunities.
After coming back from Anchorage it was the weekend of the Aniak fair. I must say it was pretty interesting. There were more bingo games, games for the kids and on Saturday booths set up selling food, crafts, etc. On Friday night I helped Esther (who owns the Hound House here, it is a little resteraunt type place where Esther sells pizzas, sandwhiches, burgers and other things) along with Connie make kabobs for the fair. It was so much fun! We danced around Esther's kitchen singing and putting together kabobs! The next day I helped Esther grill and sell them at the fair. So much fun!
Sunday, after the fair, I was sent out to the George River weir to cover for one of our technicians who was on break. I like being out at the weir because there is really nothing. It was just Spenser and I with the weir. Unfortunately the weir was underwater so we were unable to count fish for most of the week. We did manage to pull up the panels after awhile and get the weir "fish tight" so we could count again. It was a real struggle, though, because the water was high and the current was strong. Spenser was awesome, and I'll admit it, he did the hard parts. While we weren't working on the weir or fixing things around camp, Spenser and I played some Volleyball and helped Ann down in Georgetown. We helped Ann with cutting down willows, making sure she was good, other yard work, and keeping her company when everyone else was gone. I think Ann is one of the greatest people I've ever met. She is so nice and kind-hearted and she has great stories about living on the Kuskokwim her whole life. It is really neat to hear her history. Connie was also there for part of the time I was at the George and I got to meet Ann's sister Irene. Irene is crazy awesome and we had a good time together. Well, after a week I was supposed to go back to Aniak and switch out with James, but he ended up quitting and I ended up staying at the weir camp for an extra week and a half, until we could find a replacement. I almsot thought I was going to have to stay up there till weir take out. Fortunately we found someone for the last few weeks of the season. It was really nice up there, though. The sun was out for a few days while we were doing ASL sampling and I even got a tan! Pretty sweet!
I've only been back for a little over a week, but Aniak has been busy and Mike left for the AFS meeting in Seattle last Friday. Scott and I have been coordinating with the school district for our Fisheries in the Schools program and it's been fun to go over lesson plans and teaching strategies. I'm excited for Scott to start his work with the students in the area and I'm interested to see how well the program works.
The other thing going on around here, right now, is moose hunting season. It started on the first and people are getting what they need for the next year. I'm glad they are all getting lots! I was at Emily and Ronnies on the first and Ronnie looked out his window and across the river were two bulls. He, Richie and Richie's dad jumped in the boat and were able to get both of them. Fun fun times! Well, I think that's about everything crazy and new around here! Love you all <3

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Intern Wrap-Up

I can't believe we are to the first week of August and I have so much more to do! Things have been insanely busy around here and just going and going. It is never ending. Last week Mike and I went up to the weirs with Palma, our Partners coordinator with USFWS office of subsistance management. We were able to see how the weir camps were doing and observe our educator, Scott, with some of the high school interns. It was good to see how his lessons were going and hear how he does with them. I think he is doing a super job and I'm glad the kids seem to get along well with him. Unfortunately while we were up there the water level increased so much it made the weir inoperable. Now there is no fish count going on and the rain just keeps coming! The crews are still finding things to do around camp, so that is good.
While we were at the Tatlawiksuk weir I went out to count with Spenser and on my way out I was caught in the current. I was wearing my awesome waders, but they didn't save me from being dunked in the water. I washed up like a beached whale onto the weir... it was pretty funny. The not so funny part was dunking my camera. That kind of sucked and now I must get a new one. I guess that's what happens when I don't have a "LaDonn" proof camera (as my sister would say). Either way it wasn't so bad because the water felt pretty warm, but maybe I was in a little bit of shock.
This week I have been working with our college interns on getting ready for the Partner's Intern Day in Anchorage. Our interns will be presenting about the projects they worked on and what they learned this summer. I am really glad we have this program as it allows us to work with students who want to go into the science field (maybe not specifically fisheries) and gives them an opportunity to build up their job skills. It also gives them a chance to see how the projects help the communities in the area.
Well, I leave for Anchorage tomorrow and then we come back Friday! Friday is the Aniak fair and it should be lots of fun! Then Sunday I leave for the George River Weir, where I will be for a week! I guess there is no rest for the wicked ;) Love you all! Mwah!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

July Wrap-Up

I can't believe we have reached the end of July! The summer is quickly coming to an end, if the weather has been any indication, and fall will be upon us soon. I'm not sure I'm ready to think about Fall and the cold, but I'm sure I will wrap my head around it at some point. Everything around here has been extremely busy. All sorts of people in and out of the office, but it's fun.
The weekend of the 16th, I helped Mike and Dolphin cut up some Chum for salmon strips... some of you might be thinking Chum, who eats Chum... well they are actually pretty great here (never thought I would say that) and they make great smoked strips. Well we cut them up and hung them to smoke and took down the strips that were already done. It was a lot of fun and something I hadn't done before, which made it great to learn. Also, they were super yummy and I ate too many of them.
Last Thursday (July 21), I headed up to the George River weir and made it back on the next Tuesday (July 26). It was great to see the fish weir in full swing and under operations. I helped with counts and ASL (age, sex, length) sampling and other little camp chores around the site. Josh and James were the only two up there when I arrived and on Monday Chris came into camp. Chris is one of the ADF&G supervisors we work cooperatively with for some of our projects (the weirs and fish wheels). It was great to have some overlap time with Chris and then head out. The greatest adventure I had was in driving the in-season boat (our 30-ft aluminum skiff, with a canopy and Honda 90 HP outboard) from the George River down to Aniak. This doesn't seem like a big deal, except I did it all by myself with no one else around. It takes about 2 1/3 to 3 hours to go from the George to Aniak and there are all sorts of gravel bars and shallow spots along the way. Luckily, I happen to be an awesome boat driver and made it all the way with no problems. I was definitely a little bit scared at first, but it all worked out.
Now this next Monday (August 1) Mike and I are headed up to the George and Tatlawiksuk weirs with Palma. Palma is the coordinator of our Partner's Biologist position and Partner's educator position. She likes to come out and observe the projects and see how things are going. It will also be a great chance for Mike and I to observe Scott F. (our educator) with his lessons. We have heard great things from the weir crews and interns about Scott and I'm so glad he is doing well and doing a great job. Then we come back on Thursday, so it is a rather quick trip! I really think it will be a lot of fun!
Oh, while I was up at George, I went sheefish fishing with James! I have never fished for a Sheefish before and it was so much fun! I caught four of them (and yes, I do have my fishing license)! I should mention that I beat James, he only caught two. He was bragging at the beginning how he outfishes everyone and then I kicked his butt. It was great, no one ever said I was competitive or anything, right? I had a lot of fun and I enjoy fishing more than I thought I would.
That's all for now. I'm sure I will have lots to say when I get back from the rivers! Mwah! XOXO

Friday, July 15, 2011

Cold Cold July

Wow, these last few days have just been flying by. I guess I would say I'm pretty settled into my job now and life in Aniak and things are going smoothly. I'm still learning what is expected of me and some of the other quirks about the job. I have been learning a lot about living in Aniak. Like any small town there is a far share of gossip and drama. Some of it is amusing and others of it are pointless and dumb. Alright I'm done ranting about small towns. Other than that (and absolutely no road system, which does have its benefits) I do like living in a small town. It's nice to live out here and I'm excited to see how the seasons change.
Right now we are having a pretty cold summer for Aniak, and by cold I mean low 50s. For those of you sweltering in the lower '48 and think that temperature might be nice, I'm sorry, but this is cold for a summer in Aniak. Apparently it means fall will be a bit nicer and warmer. The rain has been on and off and mostly misty at times, which is nice because it reminds me of being in the Southeast. It's nice to think I'm having the same weather as the rest of the family.
Things are working out at my cutesy cabin and I like there, but I'm thinking if I find something with a bit of a longer lease or better place for the money I might move. Which reminds me, there has been a bear in my neighborhood and I'm hoping a local shoots it before long. I've had a few people over for dinner at my place now and I've been baking up a storm. I just finished making a great chocolate cake (Ty's favorite) with homemade frosting. It is so nice having my own kitchen! I've been looking at getting baking supplies form the internet. Who knew you could buy baking cocoa, sugar and spices, etc all from Amazon. I think it's becoming my new favorite website. It really does have everything a person would need. Not to mention they have my favorite snack cookie, Annie's s'more bunnies! They are the best. If you haven't tried them, then you should.
I was able to head to the Kalskag fish wheels last Friday and it was loads of fun! I went to cover for one of my employees and take his shift. I was able to actually do some sockeye fish tagging and counting of the other species. For the tagging of the sockeye we use a t-tag and two different colors. There is a yellow tag that goes on all of the fish and if the fish is recaptured without the yellow tag, but one of the others then we are able to calculate tag lossage. Fish wheel one has a pink tag and fish wheel two has a green tag (with of course the yellow tag). It was a lot of fun and I really got to learn a new technique. I'm learning so much!
The other exciting news for the day is Mike just received word we got funding for the Bering Cisco project. This will be the first one where KNA fish is the principal investigator. I'm hoping I will be put on as a co-investigator. I can't wait. We will get to start next year. I think it will be so super great.
Oh and things just keep getting better, I'm going to be updating the KNA fish department website (http://www.knafish.org) Right now I've just changed a few things, but I'm excited to be given the opportunity. Ahhhh so many great things! Love it!
Hmmmmmmm what else? Not much, just having all the fun! Miss you all and love you more! Mwah!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Happy Fourth Weekend!!!

I'm super excited to be spending the 4th of July in Aniak. The only thing I could see going wrong about this Monday is the weather being complete crap, but I think it will be great and even if the weather sucks, we will still have fun! Aniak is having a fair on the fourth, which will be fun. Lots of games, food, etc. I'm helping Connie sell sweatshirts and candy. Don't worry there will be lots of pictures!
Work has been the same old busyness. I'm still enjoying every minute and learning a lot. They closed the subsistence in the area for Chinook salmon for three days, people were not happy. At least it was only three days, I can't imagine if they close it longer. Lots of politics involved with fishing.
I went to Bingo night last night. It's one of the town's weekly events and there was a special one for the fourth of July. You don't win any crazy prizes, just money. I didn't win, but I was close a few times. It was funny to see many of the town people there, but nice to see them chatting and having fun. I can't imagine spending money every week to play Bingo, but it's something to do. After Bingo I hung out at Connie's. We had a bonfire and Grace and Danny came over. I'm just meeting all sorts of people here, and getting to know the town. I really like it. I'm glad I'm able to stay busy and I hope I can find things to do in the winter too.
Also! The cabin thing is going to work out. I can't wait to post pictures of it because it is incredibly cute and perfect for one person. I'll be renting it month to month until she sells it, but I don't think that will be anytime soon. I will hopefully be moving in around Tuesday (the 5th). It will be super great and I'm ready to have a little place to myself.
Well, not much more to say. I'm totally getting better at this blogging thing, but some days there is really nothing interesting going on! Love you all!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Wheels, Wheels, Wheels.

June 22-25

Well work has been a little crazy and quite busy. We had a working group meeting on Monday in which Fish and Game decided to close subsistence fishing in the lower part of the Kusko. The thought is to let some of the kings pass up the river for the villages up this way to catch some for subsistence. The people here live off their subsistence through the winter. I think it’s super great and I’m hoping to help some of the people here with cutting, drying and smoking some salmon strips before the end of the summer. There will also be lots of berry picking soon and that will be pretty great as well.

The weir camps have been sending in lists of requests for the resupply that went out on Friday. Sometimes those boys are more ridiculous then women and way more demanding. I think they got everything their little hearts desired though. Which, I’m sure makes me a super awesome boss.

Thursday I went with Zach down to Kalskag to see the fish wheels. I’ve never seen one before or how they operate, but it’s a pretty sweet deal. There are these baskets and they spin around and drop the fish into a holding pen. The fish are counted and tagged about every hour and there is a time period where they don’t count fish. When they aren’t tagging and counting the fish they leave the door to the holding pen open so the fish can leave. The only fish being tagged are at the wheels are the sockeye and then every other fish is counted. If the tagged fish go through the weirs they are counted as recapture. It is a really neat system. The crew also has a pretty sweet camp set up. It makes it really nice for them for the whole summer.

Well, most of the last few days have just been me running around like a crazy lady with work. I've had radio calls every morning at 7:30 and 5:00 in the evening, but managing to get out and have some fun! Also, I think I found a place to rent! A super cute little cabin and I really hope it works out because it would be nice to get out of the bunkhouse with the stinky boys! I'm also super glad I got to see the fish wheels, hopefully I will get to go down there this next week as well! Alright well keep on keeping on!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The last few weeks (June 1-21)

Today is the summer solstice! Happy Summer Solstice everyone! How exciting! I guess I haven't done very well with keeping this going (thanks Grampa H for the reminder). I was in the field for about a week and the week before that I was learning the ropes of my job before my boss, Mike took off to get hitched in Virginia.
During the first few days of June we had training with our new interns and ADFG. KNA is a cooperative unit with ADFG on a few projects out here, which I get to help oversee. Two of our projects are the George River Weir and the Tatlawiksuk River Weir. It really helps us to do some training together so we are all on the same page and it helps our techs and the ADFG techs get to know each other for the summer. For a few weeks the KNA bunkhouse was hoping with about 11 people (me being the only girl) and it was a lot of fun. I was also able to get to know the people I will be working with at ADFG, but I think there are a lot more for me to meet :).
During training I got to go on a run up to the George River Weir sight with James to drop of fuel for the coming season. We did this Saturday (the 11th). On the way up we saw a black bear and a moose and on the way down we saw a black bear swimming and two moose... so it was a pretty great day on the water. The George weir is about 3-4 hours up the Kuskokwim from Aniak and the Tatlawiksuk is about 3 more hours up from the George. After returning from the George on Saturday we finished training with First aid on Sunday and then Monday we did gun and bear safety. We talked about what to do if there is a bear attack and how to use a gun safely and then went to the firing range to practice. I don't remember the last time I shot a shotgun, but it was pretty sweet. I wasn't very good at first, but I was pretty great by the end... and that is what matters. Practice makes perfect, and who doesn't want to practice using a shotgun. The rest of the week I did a lot of intern scheduling with Mike and figuring out the things I need to do while Mike is away. Friday I got to leave for the field and help install the weirs at George and Tat! Yay :)
I really like that my main transportation around here uses the water system... it's pretty nice (even on a rainy day, it's nice to be outside). It's also great that I get to use the in-season boat with the 90 Honda... super sweet! (P.S. I love my job). We had two boats loaded with people and gear headed to George and it was great (we had previously sent 3 boats with people and gear on Wednesday, 6/8). Quite the procession up the river. The water is too low on the George River to take a boat with a prop up so we waited for the jet in Georgetown. Georgetown is a very small village with a few houses that are owned by the Vanderpools. Ann still lives there and she is 86 (I think, but I could be wrong... kinda spacey sometimes) and her daughter Connie has a house near her, which she uses during the summer. She is constantly having kids and grandkids spending time with her and the people at the George weir will call down to see if Ann needs help with anything. Ann loves having people around and likes it when we visit so anytime we come through we stop to see Ann and use her VHF to contact the people left at the weir to pick us up. Ann also calls us if she sees a bear because she doesn't really like them around. She is such a funny and sweet lady!
The George and Tatlawiksuk weirs are called floating weirs because the panels are made of PVC and cable and lots of other stuff... maybe I will post a report for ya'all to look at. Anyway so I was mostly on install at the George weir (if you want to see a progression of photos... be my facebook friend). So we had to put in rails, and apron (plastic mesh w/ rebar) and the panels... There is a lot to it and this year we had to replace the resistance board on about +90 of the panels... which was kind of a pain and took awhile, but we had so much help! We had the weirs fish tight by Wednesday (the 15th) and it was super super great! Hmmmm what else to say.. there just seems so much going on right now with everything, but I am loving every minute of it. I just like to be busy and going and enjoying every minute of it... and learning so much!
I must admit coming back to the office was hard because the weir sights are beautiful and the weather was gorgeous!
Oh! I almost forgot to mention James took me bear hunting with him and he got a black bear! We were sitting up in the stand for 3 hours before not one, but two bears came waltzing by to the bear-bait station. FYI James only had a bow with him and I didn't think to bring the shotgun, so he was not going to miss... but he was shaking pretty hard-core and I was hoping he wouldn't miss... well he got the first one, but only grazed the second... but it scared the second one enough to make it run away. So James skinned out the bear and is going to make a very nice rug with it... one less black bear. I still can't believe I got to be there, it is one of the coolest things I've ever done (and I didn't even shoot it!).
Well, Saturday and Sunday I went through a few emails, but tried to avoid the office and just hang out with fun new people and do some laundry... good times :) Now I've got some office time under my belt and feeling pretty good about it. Right now we are working on resupplies (for the weirs, etc), intern schedules and all sorts of fun budget things! Actually today Wendy (my college office intern) and I got together supplies for Kogrukluk, which meant we got to cut some lumber! We split some plywood in half and got it ready to go for a shipment out tomorrow. You should have seen us with our makeshift woodshop. I can't believe we found a skillsaw and there is no power at the KNA Farm (which is our storage area), so we used a generator I found in the warehouse. Then we found an extension cord, we definitely had a lot of fun, and got a lot done too. I think this has me mostly caught up! I know it might be boring to some, but I'm glad I can share with everyone. I love you all and miss you lots <3

Monday, May 30, 2011

Aniak River Weekend

Please Note, I am going to try extremely hard to keep up with this, but I might post a lot at one time :)

After being in the office for a day and half I got the amazing opportunity to go out with two guys from ADF&G up the Aniak River to the Salmon River. One of them needs some equipment to set up a new fish weir down near Bethel. We took two jet boats up to the Salmon River. The boat ride was amazing. The land here is extremely different. At one point during our trip we stopped in a tundra area. I haven’t seen tundra before and it was beautiful and smelled really great. I know I’m not going to get too much time in the field, but it was nice getting away for a little bit and seeing something new. It took us about four hours to get up the river to the Salmon River and it was great to get there and set up camp. Justin needed some of the tri-pods from the old weir site for his new one. The Salmon River weir has been unoperated for about two years now and I’m glad they are going to reuse the equipment instead of buying more. I even got to try my hand at the jet boat on the way back down to Aniak. I haven’t driven a jet boat in quite sometime and those things are great to handle. On Friday we took one of the regular prop skiffs out and it has a steering wheel. For some reason I am not so great at operating boats via steering wheel, I am much better at using the tiller. It may be weird, but I prefer it. Feels great being on the water again and being trusted to operate the boats! There really is nothing better. On the way back Sunday we stopped to do some fishing. We stopped to fish Pike at the grassy slough two, and it was my first time fishing for Pike. They are really fun and I am going to have to invest in a fishing pole for sure. I also caught a Pike and had it right up to the boat, but as Kevin went to pull it in, he lost it. I think I am really going to like this place. Right now I am seeing all it has to offer and I know later on I will see the not-so-great parts, but all of it comes together. We have to take the bad with the good. It’s the way life works and goes round!

First Arrival to ANIAK!!!

Journal/Blog

May 28, 2011:

I arrived in Aniak on Wednesday (the 26th). The plane ride from Anchorage to Aniak was beautiful. This part of Alaska is so much different than the southeast. Yes, there are trees, but they are different, more sparse vegetation. Still some spruce trees, but they are smaller, not the lush, green vegetation I am used to in the southeast AK region. Upon arrival I was greeted by my new boss, Mike. He seems to be extremely friendly and I am excited to work with him and learn all he has to teach me. He took me on the tour of town and it is small, but that is what I expected. There is an oval loop around the airstrip/airport and the housing; offices, schools, etc are all spaced around it. The river is easily accessible on one side of town, but it seems we are almost an island because the Aniak slough cuts around the area.
The town has two grocery stores, one operated by AC and one locally owned and much smaller. There are two schools, an elementary and a high school. Both of the schools look to be in good condition and I think the district office for the town and surrounding area is located here in town. As far as I can tell the people feel education is important and it’s refreshing to see. There are a few different “subdivisions” of housing in the area, one named housing and the other downtown. This is what the locals call it. There is housing along the main road. It seems the nicest of the housing belongs to the lodge owners. So far, the lodges look ok, but I haven’t really scoped them out. The dump here is a place to behold; it is a giant disaster with garbage everywhere. It looks like everyone just throws stuff in there and nothing happens with it. Mike told me they burn it once in awhile and it smells awful. I can’t believe someone hasn’t written a grant or something to have it organized and taken care of. Maybe I can be that person, but it will be a lot of work. I know there are grants to write allowing a town to have money to hire someone to clean up a dump, etc.
My office is located in one corner of town. There is the Kuskokwim Native Association (KNA) office building, bunkhouse, and computer lab of sorts. Located in the same area is a community center/building, and an elder/council building (I think that’s what it is called). I am currently residing in the bunkhouse until I am able to find a place to live. I don’t mind living in the bunkhouse, but I really would like to set up home in my own space, especially since I will be here for at least two years. I am already growing fond of this area and the people and even if things don’t go like I want or as I foresee them going, I think it will be ok.
I think the hardest part of my job will be distinguishing when to be personal with people and when it is time to get down to work. I have to maintain that I am their supervisor, but also someone they can be comfortable around. It is a very fine line and I don’t want them to think of me as bossy, but have respect for me. I know I can do a good job, but I also know I have a lot of expectations to live up to from these people, and myself.