Completing the Fisheries Technology Course

The Fisheries Technology students wrapped up their UAS college course during the final elective phase! This elective phase was shorter due to graduation and holidays, but there was enough time to get all required course material submitted and squeeze in a few cool activities too.

The students peaked into the world of scuba diving to supplement their commercial dive fisheries video lecture. Commercial divers in Alaska harvest invertebrates like sea cucumbers, geoducks, and sea urchins. HIA just so happens to have a dive program too- but for scientific diving, not commercial diving. HIA Environmental is currently monitoring sea star populations and watching out for sea star wasting disease in sea stars around Hoonah, since it has some pretty significant impacts on marine ecosystems. HIA Environmental’s Youth Engagement Coordinator Arianna Lapke has been helping coordinate the Fisheries Technology course in Hoonah City Schools (HCS) and is a scientific diver for the tribe, so she led a discussion on diving and suited up in all the gear for the class.

Diving allows you to have some pretty unique and amazing experiences underwater, but there’s a lot of work that goes into it! Carrying the 50-60lb gear is already cumbersome; combined with managing other tools, buoyancy, and air consumption, it may be the easiest part! The students were excited to try on the gear for themselves.

The class also went out to the Spasski watershed with Neal Schoenfelder, a Fisheries Biologist with the USFS here in Hoonah, to look at and talk about salmon habitat. The stream is a tributary off the main Spasski river, one that had a lot of work done on it by the USFS and HIA’s HNFP crew in 2017. Before they worked on it the stream was carved into the ground in a V shape, accelerating water flows and pushing small substrates like gravel out of the channel. Salmon need small substrates like gravel and areas of slow water flows that create pools to hide and spawn in. In 2017, the USFS and HNFP crew thinned the forest nearby, creating light gaps to promote undergrowth for deer and bears, and put those felled trees across the stream in several locations. This diversifies the stream channel and creates good salmon habitat by slowing the water flow to create pools and allowing smaller substrates to pile up for spawning and hiding. Additionally, the trees provide food for insects which feed salmon. It was great to see the work our community is doing to improve salmon habitat and ultimately salmon populations in the area.

The last day of class was short and relaxed. To celebrate the end of the course and the end of the school year, the class watched “My Octopus Teacher” on Netflix and enjoyed some snacks.

As this was the first time HIA, HCS, and University of Alaska Southeast (UAS) partnered up to offer Hoonah students a dual enrollment college course, unexpected challenges were anticipated but the course went great overall. Students were able to learn course material and gain college credit while engaging with 12 guest speakers, participating in 27 supplemental activities, and going on 10 field trips throughout the class. The goal was to offer students the opportunity to learn about significant cultural resources and locally relevant career fields while providing them college credit, interdisciplinary, hands-on activities and field trips, and opportunities for them to engage with local experts. To that standard, the Fisheries Technology class was a huge success! Thank you to everyone at UAS, HCS, and HIA that made this possible, and great job to the Fisheries Technology students for completing an online college course!! HIA hopes to assist in more dual enrollment opportunities in the future.

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