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YUKON FLATS:Students Monitor Backyard Lake-Venetie, Alaska
Alaska Region, August 12, 2011
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Students Adrian Williams and Damon Alexander inspect a fish trap; leeches, snails, and diving beetles are among the catch (Mark Bertram 2011)
Students Adrian Williams and Damon Alexander inspect a fish trap; leeches, snails, and diving beetles are among the catch (Mark Bertram 2011) - Photo Credit: Mark Bertram 2011
Venetie students constructed and deployed 6 nesting boxes for cavity nesters such as common goldeneye and bufflehead ducks, American kestral, and boreal owl (Mark Bertram 2011)
Venetie students constructed and deployed 6 nesting boxes for cavity nesters such as common goldeneye and bufflehead ducks, American kestral, and boreal owl (Mark Bertram 2011) - Photo Credit: Mark Bertram 2011
Bethany Roberts, Megan Roberts, Larry Williams, and Maggie Roberts observe waterfowl young on a trip around Big Lake (Mark Bertram 2011)
Bethany Roberts, Megan Roberts, Larry Williams, and Maggie Roberts observe waterfowl young on a trip around Big Lake (Mark Bertram 2011) - Photo Credit: Mark Bertram 2011

Ten students from the village of Venetie worked with the Yukon Flats Refuge staff this summer to complete a third year of wetlands monitoring and habitat restoration efforts at Venetie Lake, called “Big Lake” by the locals. Student participants this year included Megan Roberts, Timmy Roberts, Damon Alexander, Seth Verney, Noah Whitwell, Adrian Williams, Conrad Erick, Clifton Lord, Kayla Roberts and Bethany Roberts.

 Lakes near villages in the Yukon Flats are situated on private lands, and often provide significant habitat for waterfowl, offer a stopover point for thousands of migratory birds, and provide hunting opportunities for local residents. Such is the case at Big Lake.

Students inventoried the lake for presence of fish, collected invertebrates, counted ducks, netted and identified dragonflies, and learned how to use a Global Positioning System equipment and radio-telemetry equipment. Six nest boxes were also constructed and deployed around the lake to enhance nesting habitat for cavity nesters such as goldeneye and bufflehead ducks, American kestrel, and boreal owl. Students observed broods of mallard, wigeon, lesser scaup, and white-winged scoter on the lake. Other bird observations included swan, red-necked and horned grebe, osprey and red-tailed hawk. Four different dragonflies were identified, Variable Darner, Lake Darner, Cherry-faced Meadowhawk, and either Boreal Bluet or Northern Bluet. Dragonfly nymphs were also captured in aquatic invertebrate nets.

Village elder Maggie Roberts shared her knowledge of the area from long ago when she was a young child. In the early 1940’s water levels in the lake were heavily influenced by connectedness with local streams. At that time fish were abundant, and waters were teeming with invertebrates. Today, historical lake inlets and outlets have grown in, fish appear to be absent, and invertebrate levels seem to be lower this year. However, lake levels are still maintained at a high level due to enhanced drainage from recent fires in the uplands surrounding the lake and frequent rainfall this year.

Refuge biologists also investigated the historical inlet to determine if the connection between the lake and nearby creek could be restored. Our measurements showed that the water level elevations are lower at Big Lake compared to the creek but that there were several elevated areas (up to 11 feet) between the two points. At this point we do not know if it is feasible to make a connection between the creek and Big Lake.

The Refuge is grateful to the Venetie Village Council and John Fredson school for assisting in organizing this project. This program provides hands-on biological experience for local youth, an opportunity for the Refuge to more effectively monitor significant resources on private lands, and an opportunity to further our working relationship with village residents.

Funding for this project was provided by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Habitat Restoration Funds.


 


Contact Info: Mark Bertram, 9074560446, mark_bertram@fws.gov



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