Help with Research Projects

Paddling for Research

Here are some examples of projects for which we welcome volunteers...

Help Us Collect Bees!

Wildlife Biologist Dominique Watts began collecting bees in 2011.  No inventory has ever been done of pollinators on the Alaska Peninsula and he needs help collecting more samples from a wider range of locations.

Dom tried a variety of collection methods, recruiting assistance from other staff members and volunteers.  He preserved the specimens in 100% ethanol and sent them to his partners in the US Department of Agriculture’s Bee Biology and Systematics Laboratory.  James Strange is conducting DNA research on bumblebees for the USDA.  Using DNA analysis and microscopic identification methods, he has verified 9 species of bumblebees so far in Dom’s specimens. 

Samples of bee species were taken opportunistically in 2011, piggybacking on other projects.  This will continue. 

Dom encourages anyone throughout the Alaska Peninsula to send or bring him samples of bees or wasps.  He recommends putting them into a freezer for a few hours to kill them.  The bee can then be brought to the refuge office or sent to Dom. He can also supply people with collection kits. Call our office to learn more: 907-246-3339.

Send Whiskers!

Wildlife Biologist Dom Watts is conducting a study of wolves and other carnivores on the Alaska Peninsula by collecting their whiskers.

Hair and whiskers are built with molecules taken from the food an animal eats. Carbon, nitrogen, and other atoms are part of the structure. Each atom contains electrons, protons, and neutrons; but atoms are not all alike. Atoms of the same type might have different numbers of neutrons, which give them different weights. Carbon atoms, for instance, might have 13 neutrons or they might have 12. Different weights of atoms are called “isotopes.”

Animals like caribou and moose, which eat different kinds of plants, differ a little in their isotopic signatures. Wolves eat different kinds of foods throughout the year. They may eat salmon, which have a very different isotopic signature from land animals. A wolf that eats salmon will have a different ratio of stable isotopes found in its body compared with the one that eats mostly caribou or moose.

An animal’s bones, skin, blood – every part of its body – contains this isotopic record. Hair and whiskers can be easily collected and stored for analysis. Another advantage of hair is that its isotopes are laid down in a time line, with the oldest part of the hair at the tip. Even hair and whiskers from tanned hides can be used for isotopic analysis. Dom encourages hunters to send in samples of hair and whiskers from all carnivores, cut as close to the skin as possible, whether newly harvested or from much older hides. 

Count Birds!

If you enjoy watching birds, join citizen science efforts to gather information about them. Every year, the Christmas Bird Count in December and the International Migratory Bird Day in May are times when people gather together to count species and numbers of birds. This data helps reveal trends and changes in bird populations throughout North America. Wildlife Biologist Melissa Cady organizes efforts in King Salmon and Naknek. Contact her for details: 907-246-3339.