Tribal Interns Assist Bear Study in Alaska

Based at the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences (SAFS), the Alaska Salmon Program conducts research on ecology, biocomplexity, fisheries management and other studies relating to Alaska salmon and their environment. Part of this research, led by Professors Tom Quinn from SAFS and Aaron Wirsing from SEFS, involves investigating coastal brown bear (Ursus arctos) abundance and behavior along sockeye salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka) spawning streams in Bristol Bay, Alaska—including monitoring individual brown bear behavior through remote cameras and collecting hair samples for DNA analysis.

The program involves a number of partners, including the Bristol Bay Native Association (BBNA), a consortium of 31 tribes whose mission includes providing educational opportunities to the native people of the Bristol Bay region. Each summer, BBNA research interns contribute to the Alaska Salmon Program, and this year Nadezdha Wolcott (below left) and Malcolm Upton assisted with hair sample collection as part of the noninvasive genetic component of the research.

“The bears were really active this year, the fourth of our study,” says Professor Wirsing, who recently returned from a field trip to Alaska. “So we really appreciated the interns’ help in collecting all of the hairs snagged on our barbed wires!”

Photo © Aaron Wirsing.

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