After the TRAYLS crew had a refreshing week-long break we got right back to business. Thankfully in our case, business = fun!
We started the second half of the season helping prepare for Culture Camp, learning how to take water samples, putting up traditional foods and so much more! While we were excited to be back in action, this first week back was bittersweet because it was Gabby’s last week with the TRAYLS crew. After securing a dental assistant job in Juneau she knew she had to do what was best for her career, and we’re so proud of her for it!! Her strong work ethic and willingness to learn are just a couple of the great qualities that we know she will bring to her new life in Juneau. Congratulations again Gabby!!
It’s always amazing to be a part of Culture Camp. Of course this year, Heather Powell (aka Lgeik’i) had to run things a little differently. By bringing in small groups of families, community members were still able to reconnect with each other, the land, themselves and their Tlingit roots. Dylan and I got to help prepare foods and set up Culture Camp this year. Hoonah is extremely fortunate to have such an amazing opportunity, especially during these trying times.
The crew also took their first water samples! HIA studies phytoplankton in the water to check PSP (paralytic shellfish poisoning) levels that accumulate in shellfish like clams, cockles, and blue mussels. PSP can be harmful and even lethal if consumed in large quantities, therefore checking to see if the dangerous, PSP-inducing phytoplankton are in the water is an important job. Taking a couple water samples per week has been incorporated in the TRAYLS schedule for the remainder of the season to help keep our community safe.
Traditional Food Harvesting and Processing
We were excited to pick up our work with Huna Heritage Foundation (HHF) and to continue preparing traditional foods for the community. We turned our spruce tips into 52 jars of syrup, and 1.5 gallons of fireweed into 29 jars of fireweed jam. Not only is HHF making traditional food “how-to” videos but everything we prepare will be distributed to the community at the end of the summer. How sweet!
Shellfish Biomass Surveys
HIA continued developing baseline data for shellfish by doing another set of shellfish biomass surveys. Shellfish like cockles and clams are important resources for many homes, therefore we monitor their population changes through these surveys. We dug holes along several transect lines, counted the number of cockles and clams found in each and measured their size. It was nice to get our hands dirty and practice our data collection skills while assessing some valuable natural resources!
The TRAYLS crew joined Sean Williams for some intertidal snorkeling surveys later on in the summer. After suiting up in dry suits, we set out to compare what biodiversity there is at Whitestone Harbor and False Bay. The steep rock wall at False Bay proved to be more suitable habitat for a variety of intertidal organisms since that’s where we saw most all of the cool sea critters! False Bay has more diversity in abiotic (non-living) factors including a rockwall with a broad range in depth, a freshwater source, and more protection from the ocean’s currents. Together, these and many more factors support a larger variety of wildlife underwater.
Moby the Mobile Greenhouse
Moby the mobile greenhouse came back to Hoonah for the second time ever this summer! The TRAYLS crew got to clean it up, pull the dead plants, and plant new ones. At low tides we gather rockweed for Moby to make a rockweed fertilizer which the plants will love! We regularly water Moby and make sure everything is taken care of.
Forest Service Work
The TRAYLS crew got to help the Forest Service (FS) with some more natural resource management practices. One project of theirs was to remove a nonfunctioning fish pass along upper Suntaheen. After they used explosives to remove the bulk of the concrete, we helped organize some unnecessary debris for removal. We also went to Freshwater Bay to remove invasive plant species with Marlene Duvall. Invasive species are bad for the environment because they aren’t native to the area, they take a lot of nutrients from the soil, and no other plants or animals in the ecosystem use them. It felt nice to do some environmental restoration during those sunny days.
We continued working with our partners at UAF and the College of Wooster to get more tree cores. After sending our cores to their lab we found out some really cool stuff! The oldest trees have usually been Hemlocks, and the thinner trees are usually older than the thicker ones. Surprising, right? Not only that, but we may have found a new record for oldest living tree on Chichagof: a Hemlock that’s 455 years old! We found that tree near the top of Ear Mountain; can you imagine how many other ancient trees are around?
Wood Products for Culture and Heritage
Another project we were excited to continue was our Wood Products for Culture and Heritage project, which strives to identify the value of wood products for cultural and heritage practices like carving and weaving. One sunny day after removing invasive oxeye daisies, Dylan led an interview with Marlene Duvall to get her perspective. This data can be used in the future to help incorporate cultural values in managing timber stands.
It feels great to help the community, the environment, and to give new experiences and skills to some of Hoonah’s youth. We’re excited we could do so the entire summer, and have had so much fun along the way.
Written by Arianna Lapke