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TOGIAK:Environmental Education on the Edge: The Cape Peirce Science Camp
Alaska Region, December 9, 2016
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The 2016 group shot, on the rocky bluffs above Nanvak Bay and the cabins.
The 2016 group shot, on the rocky bluffs above Nanvak Bay and the cabins. - Photo Credit: Photo credit: Togiak NWR staff

On July 11th 8 area middle school students and a host of Togiak Refuge staff and volunteers descended on the remote southwest corner of the refuge for the always popular Cape Peirce Marine Science and Yup’ik Culture Camp. On hand specifically for the camp were the eight students and 3 staff members. Also on site were two volunteers and two staff members who were addressing a number of maintenance issues to the cabins at Cape Peirce. These four individuals also took time from their schedules to share with the students with regards to specific activities.

 

The Cape Peirce area is marked by rocky coastline and beach areas that are used heavily by marine mammals and seabirds. It is located 130 air miles southwest of Dillingham. On site there are two cabins and an outhouse that are used by biological staff during various times of the year. As mentioned the cabins were receiving some needed TLC both before and after the camp. However, during the time the students were there they had access to the cabins. Students who attended this camp had just completed sixth, seventh or eighth grade the previous school year and this year’s camp was represented by students from Dillingham and Manokotak.

Because of its remote nature and what it costs to get there, not many people visit Cape Peirce. For eight very fortunate middle-schoolers Togiak Refuge was able to provide that opportunity. This location lends itself exceptionally well to a very diversified schedule of outdoor play, organized activities, environmental education, history and connections to USFWS careers.

The primary education goal of the Cape Peirce Camp is to expose students to the unique wildlife of the area, namely the marine mammals and seabirds that are often found in abundance. Cape Peirce is a highly scenic area of rocky cliffs and largely inaccessible beaches. As such, it can be an absolute mecca for Pacific walrus, spotted and harbor seals, and a variety of nesting seabirds including horned and tufted puffins, common murres, pelagic cormorants and black-legged kittiwakes. Unfortunately no walruses put in an appearance this year (it’s hit and miss until late fall; possible the warmer temperatures kept them at bay) but students were able to identify and study large numbers of nesting seabirds. Some of the other activities and topics included tide pool explorations, archery, wilderness survival priorities and techniques, bear safety, careers with the Service and land stewardship. Also, Togiak staff members Jon Dyasuk and Jack Savo, Jr. were able to share local stories and traditions tied to the resources found at Cape Peirce.

This camp provides critical outreach on many levels. For one thing, these students potentially represent our future village leaders; the exposure to refuge resources such as can be found at Cape Peirce is important in educating them about the importance of such places and in forming the connections that will hopefully make the conservation of such places a priority to them in the coming years. In the case of Cape Peirce specifically, two of the refuge management goals are in regards to marine mammals/seabirds and the use of refuge resources for subsistence activities. At Cape Peirce students have the chance to see and experience that resource firsthand. This camp provides students with a strong, positive connection with regards to the Service and the System as a whole, as well as educating them about the System beyond just Togiak Refuge. Students take these positive experiences back to their villages with them, creating future advocates in the villages that often work directly with Togiak Refuge. On a more personal level the many camp activities provide students with a very hands-on opportunity to be involved in and learn about nature in a very real way. Also, this camp provides students with ample time to just be kids and to explore and learn about the natural world on their terms.

Weather during this year’s camp was incredibly cooperative, with sunny skies the norm. In fact, the weather very much at times bordered on hot and frequent drink breaks were required during hikes. Such weather allowed for activities to pretty much come off without a hitch. The seabirds were a big hit and the tide pools, beachcombing and survival skills were also popular. Archery golf was also popular and one of the adult volunteers conducted a beading class one evening, which the students really enjoyed.

One final note: there is tangible evidence of the impact this camp is having on area students. A number of past participants have gone on to work for Togiak Refuge as seasonal employees in the following years, including Arctic Youth Ambassador Keemuel Kenrud, who attended camp in Summer 2009.


Contact Info: Terry Fuller, 907-842-1063 ext. 8419, terry_fuller@fws.gov
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