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Kickoff to CoastWalk Success!

A beautiful, heart-shaped bivalve we spotted on the beach! Seeing evidence of marine life reminds us of why we work so hard to keep the beaches clean.

As the days have grown shorter, and the mornings crispy, the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies has set out to tackle the trash of the beach.   The month of September kicked off our 30th annual CoastWalk beach clean-up season around Kachemak Bay. Every September and October the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies gather volunteers, teachers, students, organizations, and businesses to clean Kachemak Bay beaches.  For the past 29 years these dedicated volunteers have picked up everything off the beach from a discarded toothbrush to half a fiberglass kayak.  Over the past 29 years, volunteers have collected thousands of pieces of debris, and in the process saved many of our seabirds, marine mammals, and fish from the devastating effects of marine debris.  

The importance of marine debris clean-up has been advocated in recent years by environmental activism, many educational groups, and non-profit organizations. When non-biodegradable items such as plastic, foam, metal and glass fall into the ocean environment, the habitats and food sources of marine organisms are disrupted. Animals can be entangled and/or injured by larger debris items, while many animals mistake smaller debris items for food. Microscopic pieces of debris are filling up the ocean, outnumbering plankton and affecting normal photosynthetic activity. By cleaning up the bay and promoting a widespread attitude of conservation and sustainability among the community, we can work together to protect our marine neighbors and allow the oceans to flourish.  

On Saturday, September 6th, a group of energetic volunteers joined us with Bay Excursions Water Taxi to clean up McDonald's spit. The blue waters and beautiful skies, welcomed us to the beach.   After talking to a few spit residents, we learned that some of them regularly pick up trash along the shore.  We were able to concentrate on picking up the small polyurethane foam pieces, micro plastic pieces, and bits of rope.  These smaller pieces of debris are particularly important to clean up because they resemble fish eggs, and are small enough for most seabirds, marine mammals, and fish to ingest.  We collected roughly fifty pounds of debris from the sandy shoreline, with the help of a friendly local dog who followed and entertained us around throughout the day. We are happy to say this beach is clean, thanks to our great volunteers!

After three weeks of rain and small craft advisories, the morning of September 13th dawned sunny with the promise of clear skies throughout the day.   Red Mountain Marine Water Taxi donated a ride for us to conduct a cleanup around Aurora Lagoon.   Our group of volunteers and staff were able to fill the boat will large polyurethane blocks and bags of miscellaneous debris including clay pigeons.    Small pieces of polyurethane foam were the most common trash item found. We have noticed a trend of pieces like this being the most common item on most beach walks.  Volunteers were rewarded with a visit from a harbor seal, a sea otter, and a flock of migrating seabirds.  

We want to give a special thanks to all of the amazing volunteers that have participated thus far in the CoastWalk beach clean-ups. We could not do it without you! If you would like to schedule a cleanup for your group of business, would like to adopt your own beach zone, or are interested in other volunteer cleanup dates please stop by the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies headquarters at 708 Smokey Way Bay. You may also contact Loretta Brown at 235-6741 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

Staff

This summer at the Peterson Bay Field Station we have a fantastic crew of naturalists ready to guide your explorations of the unique and fascinating coastal ecosystems of Kachemak Bay!

jess forbes

 

Jess Forbes

 

Jess recently graduated from the University of Puget Sound with a degree in Natural Science Biology. She is from Burlington, Vermont where sje grew up skiing and hiking in the beautiful Green Mountains. She love sto read, write, and dance! Her favorite color is yellow and she could eat blueberries all day long!

 

liz

 

 

Liz Schell

Liz is from Durango, Colorado, but recently graduated from Colby College in Waterville, Maine, where she majored in Environmental Studies and Marine Science. During her time at Colby, she was a member of the Woodsmen team, where she learned to compete in old-time lumberjack events. Liz also enjoys other outdoor activities, including skiing, backpacking and scuba diving.

 

 

 

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Hannah Nolan

Hannah grew up in La Honda, California and is a graduate of UC Santa Cruz with a B.S. in Marine Biology.  She is certified in scientific diving and has assisted with field research on California kelp forests, Pacific rockfish, Filipino sea grass beds, and intertidal fish diversity in South Africa. For the past year she has been a naturalist intern for San Mateo Outdoor Education, where she has helped provide immersive nature experiences for 5th and 6th graders. During her internship at SMOE she discovered her love for connecting people to the outside world.

 

caitlin

Caitlin Lenahan

Caitlin has been enjoying the amazing Kachemak Bay since March as part of her 2nd season with CACS.  When she isn't in Homer, she enjoys living in Pittsburgh, PA.  Prior to working here, she was the education director at Tree Pittsburgh, an urban forestry non profit, and created science programs for teen girls at the Carnegie Science Center.  Outside of work she bikes, knits, enjoys seeing live music and is often planning her next adventure.  She holds a BA in Environmental Studies from the University of Pittsburgh with a Field Ecology focus.

 

Rebecca Siegelrebecca

Rebecca hails from Massachusetts.  She began working for CACS during the 2013 school season and immediately discovered her love for convincing 5th graders to sniff the the armpits of leather stars. Her favorite intertidal animal is the clam worm.  She loves gardening and her favorite vegetable is currently chard.  She studied geology in college and loves smashing open rocks and teaching people about them. 

 

katieKatie Gavenus

Katie is from Homer, Alaska and is a graduate of Bowdoin College. Her infatuations with coastal ecology began with a fourth grade field trip to China Poot Bay.  After high school she worked as an intern at the Field Station and was immediately drawn in by the magic of the place.  Although she has dabbled as a deckhand on a salmon tender boat and a wilderness trip leader, environmental education is her true passion.  During seasons away from the Field Station, she has worked at an outdoor school in California (same one as Hannah!) and ecology school in Maine (where Caitlin once worked!) and created the Children of the Spills project to collect oral histories from children affected by oil spills and lead oil pollution prevention & preparedness education programs.  When she isn't chasing marine worms through the intertidal zone, she loves berry picking, fishing, and hiking. 

Summer WILL Come!

Summer will come
Summer will come

On a magnificent sweep of oceanfront land and maritime forest, Homer is a place filled with natural wonders. The unique and picturesque surroundings provide a spectacular setting for a rewarding experience you won't soon forget.

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Fantastic Friday with Alpenglow

Susan Houlihan, owner of Alpenglow, came up to the Wynn Nature Center to demonstrate how to make her signature Cottonwood Balm for a recent Fantastic Friday event.  Her business started as a personal project to develop natural skin care products she could feel good about using.  She made some of her creations into gifts for friends who immediately requested more.  Word spread and she was soon perfecting her formulas of natural botanicals and creating a line of products she could market.  Former Park Rangers, Susan and her husband moved to Homer, Alaska, and are now raising a family and running the Alpenglow business.  The kids even help in the harvesting of local wild plants to be used in Alpenglow products.

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Wynn Nature Center Programs

This is Lindsey Shelley, Naturalist Intern, reporting from the Wynn Nature Center!

Our summer programs for kids and families are fully up and running at the Wynn and we have already seen a bunch of great people up here!  This year we have several terrific Naturalist Educators leading a variety of weekly activities, rain or shine!  Check out the website for a complete listing of these programs, or come on up to the Wynn at mile 1.5 East Skyline Drive to find out first hand.  Activities range from kids outdoor education and wilderness survival to local plant identification and local edible potlucks!  Check out our website under Youth Programs and the Events Calendar for more information.  You can also friend us on Facebook to keep up with everything going on with the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies throughout Homer.

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Fungi Emerge at the Wynn

Chicken-of-the-woods/sulfur shelf fungus: an orange beacon concealed in the woods, an edible mushroom once thoroughly cooked

During the summer months there are always stunning wildflowers at the Wynn – lupine and chocolate lilies, yarrow and star gentians, pyrola and goldenrod, Indian paintbrush and fireweed, and many more that progress through their flowering cycles at different times as the summer continues. Flowers, of course, are the reproductive organs of a plant that will eventually produce seeds for dispersal. Amongst the wildflowers, all in their different summer stages, we’ve also started to notice an abundance of something relatively new to the forest: the reproductive organs of another type of organism. With all the recent rain, the fruiting bodies of fungi have emerged, aka mushrooms! The forest is full of their great variety of forms and colors, and as the summer moves into autumn, more and more will surface. Come out to the Wynn to see our great diversity of fungus: the puffball (lycoperdon), red-capped russula, deadly amanita, latex secreting lactarius, and endless shelf fungi, like our beautiful chicken-of-the-woods.

 

SulfurShelf

Spirit of Alaska Women at Fantastic Friday

Alaskan women have a lot of amazing stories to share.  As a descendant of Alaskan homesteaders myself, I can really appreciate the unique conditions and experiences that can be told by women who have spent a good amount of time in this great state, some even before it was a state.  A book about their stories became the topic of a recent Fantastic Friday event at the Wynn Nature Center on Skyline Dr.  Ladies from the Homer chapter of Alaska Community and Adult Education, a former Cooperative Extension program, brought their new book filled with Alaskan tales to share with the public at this free event.  The storytelling women arrived in Alaska at various times between the 1950's and the 1970's and many had spent time living in the bush.  They told their own histories as well as read excerpts from the book on topics ranging from preparing salmon to the 1964 earthquake.  The stories were lively and well-told and through them the women exhibited why their newly published book was titled "Spirit of Alaska Women."  A special appearance was also made by long-time local, and namesake of the cabin at the Wynn Nauture Center, Daisy Lee Bitter.

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At the Saturday Market

This is Lindsey Shelley from the Wynn Nature Center.  A couple weeks ago I got the chance to take some program materials to the Children's Garden at the Saturday Farmer's Market.  I had a great time making leaf necklaces with kids, sharing my enthusiasm for observing nature, and challenging visitors to reach inside my "Touch n Feel" boxes and guess what was inside.  I had some very observant kids who really knew how to use their senses to figure out the mystery objects.  Thank you to all those who came by to visit on that rainy day and participate in the activities!  Below are a few photos from my station.

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Wildflowers at the Wynn

The flowers are finally in bloom up on the hill above Homer.  The Wynn Nature Center abounds with a variety of habitats for wildflower viewing.  If you're looking to discover tiny woodland blossoms like Pink Pyrola or our unique Heartleafed Twayblade Orchid, now's the time!  You can also venture up to the Wynn to see the showy Nootka Lupine, Chocolate Lily, or Wild Geranium that are just entering their prime blooming period.  Cooler weather at our higher elevation means that plants are a bit slower to mature and so you can extend your flower viewing season by visiting the Wynn.

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The products of Spring at the Wynn

It has certainly felt like summer lately, but at the Wynn we are still seeing the products of spring emerge and grow. What products, you may ask? Babies! The baby moose are on the move, seen here at the Wynn in the past few days by some of our guests. Stretching their gangly legs, navigating over roots, they follow their mother through the forests and meadows free and easy. Only rarely do they truly need to test the developing muscles in those long legs. Two weeks ago, we had the privilege to witness two calves and their mother chased across our wildflower field by a black bear – quite the exhilarating moment, and a resolute reminder that survival in Alaska’s wilderness is no easy task for any animal.

Another baby that’s out and about at the Wynn is the baby porcupine, also called the porcupette. Porcupines usually give birth to only one offspring per year, so seeing a dark-colored, short-quilled porcupette is a real honor. Earlier this week, one was spotted behind the Wynn cabin. Absorbed by the fresh fireweed it was munching, the seemingly soft ball of fast-hardening quills didn’t pay us much mind. When we got closer, however, it started to lumber off, doing its best to clear the way and part the tall grasses before it with endearing adolescent limbs.

Mammals aren’t the only ones to bring new generations into the wooded world. On a tour last week, a Townsend’s Warbler fledgling, testing its wings, awkwardly flew right across the trail to land on a branch three feet away. As it looked at the world from this new point of view, twitching its fuzzy, chubby head back and forth, up and down, we watched in awe. One of the parents soon flew up to it with some grub and shoved the food down the thin tilted throat, as birds are so efficient at doing. Refueled, the youngster took off again to revel in the feeling of the wind beneath its wings.

If you’re a lover of wildlife interactions, with creatures both big and small, the Wynn Nature Center is the place to visit. The forest is full of new life and quiet occurrences this summer. Come and see for yourself!

Spirit of Alaska Women at Fantastic Friday

Alaskan women have a lot of amazing stories to share.  As a descendant of Alaskan homesteaders myself, I can really appreciate the unique conditions and experiences that can be told by women who have spent a good amount of time in this great state, some even before it was a state.  A book about their stories became the topic of a recent Fantastic Friday event at the Wynn Nature Center on Skyline Dr.  Ladies from the Homer chapter of the Association for Family and Community Education, a former Cooperative Extension program, brought their new book filled with Alaskan tales to share with the public at this free event.  The storytelling women arrived in Alaska at various times between the 1950's and the 1970's and many had spent time living in the bush.  They told their own histories as well as read excerpts from the book on topics ranging from preparing salmon to the 1964 earthquake.  The stories were lively and well-told and through them the women exhibited why their newly published book was titled "Spirit of Alaska Women."  A special appearance was also made by long-time local, and namesake of the cabin at the Wynn Nauture Center, Daisy Lee Bitter.

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30th Anniversary Block Party!

The Wynn Nature Center staff spent a lot of time kidding around at the 30th Anniversary Block Party last Saturday.  Naturalists Adriana, Ali, and Lindsey brought kid's activities to the shin-dig to celebrate thirty successful years of Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies outdoor education efforts.  Despite a very cool July temperature, blustery wind, and even some sprinkling rain we had a great time providing activities for kids and adults alike.  The party also included wine from Bear Creek Winery (with a  special Alaskan Coastal Studies label), delicious food from Two Sisters Bakery (and from party-goers), a judged pie contest, and some hoppin' music from Burnt Down House.  But, as one of the Naturalists running the kid's activity booth, I wager that the most creative fun was being had at the face-painting table!  Check out these pictures for proof!

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Marine Debris Update - Montague Island 5/25

Chris Pallister, President of Gulf of Alaska Keeper, took a trip to Montague Island on Wednesday May 23rd with reporters from CBS.

Pictures posted below show a full net setup and also the lower wrack line full of styrofoam. The net is probably from an overturned boat, but we absolutely can't say if it is or is not from the tsunami. The Styrofoam is very fresh and was washing up in the water while they were on the beach. Much of the Styrofoam is obviously insulation from structures because you can see the indents of the structure it was attached to. These pictures are from the outside of Montague Island, and do not necessarily represent tsunami debris. The island is currently socked in with weather, and it will likely limit some of the acces to outer beaches.

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