Field Notes
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Field Notes Entry   
ALASKA REFUGES: RITs go to AFN with"Healthy Water Makes Healthy Fish" Message
Alaska Region, January 20, 2010
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Refuge Information Technician (RIT) booth at Alaska Federation of Natives conference booth. Left to right Joanne Ahlfs-Arctic Refuge and John Mark-Togiak Refuge
Refuge Information Technician (RIT) booth at Alaska Federation of Natives conference booth. Left to right Joanne Ahlfs-Arctic Refuge and John Mark-Togiak Refuge - Photo Credit: n/a

Imigikman, qalugiksaaqaguuruq, Inupiaq for “Healthy Waters Make Healthy Fish”, along with 6 other language translations greeted visitors to the Refuge Information Technician (RIT) booth at the 2009 Alaska Federation of Natives (AFN).  The RIT booth was open during the Youth and Elder Conference at the Denina Convention Center in Anchorage on October 19 and 20.  The one of the most eye-catching aspects was the “Healthy Waters Make Healthy Fish” banners that were printed in 7 languages; English, Athabascan, Gwichen, Inupiaq, Aleutiq, Unangan, and Yupik and covered the booth backdrop.  As in previous years, the RIT booth focused on wildlife conservation issues on National Wildlife Refuges in Alaska.  The RITs decided that this year’s booth should focus on salmon and fisheries management, one of the largest and most controversial issues within Alaska in 2009.    


The RITs set forth to develop diverse and informative outreach opportunities for the booth.  Clara Demientieff, Innoko Refuge, and her grandson created an old-style handmade fish trap that had mystery items inside for the curious visitor.  Booth visitors would reach inside the “mystery” fish trap and try to describe what they were finding in the enclosed trap.   The items inside the trap included a pre-historic stone net sinker from the Aleutians, a prehistoric log splitting wedge made from a whale clavicle, and piece of modern-day fish net.  Another mystery object was a fish radio transmitter that is designed to be inserted into a fish to track/study its life cycle.  Nearby the mystery fish trap was the tracking receiver.  This made a natural transition for Jon Dyasuk, Togiak Refuge, who was demonstrating, via computer, recent walrus migration along the Bering Sea coast.  At an adjoining table, RITs engaged youth and elders in a creative fish print art project.  A variety of fish molds were painted and pressed onto scarves to make a one-of-kind and colorful take-home item that could be used at next summer’s fish camp. In addition, educational materials such as fisheries fact sheets, refuge brochures, and salmon coloring books were handed out. 


The Youth and Elder Conference at AFN has proved to be a worthwhile venture for the RIT program.  It is a venue where both old and new knowledge about wildlife and its conservation is shared.  One look at the convention participant’s faces told the story explained Joanne Ahlfs, Arctic Refuge, “You would see their faces light up while learning and doing hands-on activities at the booth, it was great to see”.  The RIT program is made up of dedicated National Wildlife Refuge System employees, mostly Alaska Natives, from around Alaska.   Known as the ambassadors of wildlife conservation, RITs convey a great sense of conservation and community at the AFN convention which is the largest annual gathering in Alaska.

Contact Info: Kevin Painter, (907)786-3389, kevin_painter@fws.gov
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