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SELAWIK: Building New Partnerships—Literally!
Alaska Region, May 5, 2009
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When Dennis Dishon, instructor for the University of Alaska’s Construction, Trade and Technologies Program, began searching for a practicum for his students, he found an unexpected partner with the Selawik National Wildlife Refuge.  “I was looking for a project that would allow the students to get hands-on experience outside the classroom,” said Dishon.  An older house owned by the refuge in Kotzebue turned out to be a perfect fit.  “We had been looking at different ways to increase the storage and workspace in the kitchen without remodeling the entire house, and the class came up with some great ideas,” said refuge manager Lee Anne Ayres.

Working together, Dishon, Ayres, and other refuge staff identified projects that met the needs of both the students and the refuge. The refuge purchased the necessary materials.  Under the watchful eye of licensed electricians, plumbers and contractors, ten students worked for two weeks applying the electrical, plumbing and carpentry skills they learned in the classroom this semester. Refuge maintenance staff worked and learned alongside the students.  New videoconferencing technology enabled the Service’s Anchorage-based engineers to provide the necessary agency oversight.  Interactive meetings and sharing of design drawings between Kotzebue and Anchorage were accomplished without anybody having to buy an airline ticket! 

The refuge plans to continue this new partnership next year through the University’s Alaska Cooperative Ecosystems Studies Unit.  Plans are being made for an exciting community demonstration project that will allow students to improve their construction skills while learning to install solar power systems.  Stay tuned!

Contact Info: Susan Georgette, 907-442-3799 ext 16, susan_georgette@fws.gov



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