There is an increasing effort in Alaska to engage youth in hands-on scientific activities. One group of teens is collecting data way up in Barrow. Alford Bankston, Kori Itta-Tomas, Kara Smith, and Esther Taalak are interns with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service where they explore relationships among lemmings and endangered species such as spectacled eiders.
Biologists have been studying threatened eiders on the North Slope for decades without directly involving the community of Barrow. The internship project, which started about 15 years ago, connects local students with field biologists. This allows a unique exchange of knowledge where students get an introduction to field research and biologists gain local environmental and traditional knowledge from the students.
In the field, Alford, Kori, Kara, and Esther hike the tundra to set up live traps and assist with daily trap checks. They are directly involved in data collection when a lemming is found in a trap. After the season is over the interns engage in community outreach presentations about their summer experiences, giving them an opportunity to tell their peers, parents and other community members of research projects occurring around their hometown.
Read more about this year’s amazing Spirit of Youth nominees at www.spiritofyouth.org.