Monday, May 26, 2014

The Stow It-Don't Throw It Project Comes to Alaska!

The Pribilof Islands are a remote group of volcanic islands in the Bering Sea, about 200 miles north of the Aleutian Chain, and about 500 miles southeast from the Russian coast. Check out where we are on the map:
Two of these islands are home to Aleut populations. Read more about the history of the Pribilof Islands and the importance of the fur-seal on our website: St. Paul has a population of about 480, and St. George has a population of about 100, and there is a school on both islands.  The school on St. George Island only has 11 students!
The Pribilof Islands have exceptional wildlife.  A good proportion of the world’s population of Northern Fur Seals breed here during the summer months, and an estimated 2.8 million seabirds nest on the islands.  Imagine the sound, action, and smell with that many fur seals and seabirds! Seabird species include Common Murres, Thick-billed Murres, Red-legged Kittiwakes, Black-legged Kittiwakes, Horned Puffins, Tufted Puffins, Least Auklets, Parakeet Auklets, and Crested Auklets.  
Common Murres in the Pribilof Islands   © Ram Papish 

The Pribilof Island Seabird Youth Network (SYN) is a partnership between the Pribilof School District, Tribal entities, the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge, and the wider scientific community. The overall goal of SYN is to learn about seabirds and contribute to long-term seabird monitoring while providing new experiences and encouraging the scientific interests and self-confidence of local school kids.  

Lessons about seabirds are incorporated into the school curriculum, and summer Seabird Camps are held on the islands. We have a project website and students have made two documentaries that will show you more about the communities and the Seabird Network:

This summer we’re holding a Seabird Camp on St. Paul Island.  One of the main focuses for the camp will be Marine Debris.  We’ll learn about the risks of marine debris to seabirds and what marine debris washes up on the Pribilof Islands. We’re hoping to do some beach cleanup, create some unique marine debris art, conduct an experiment on degradation of plastic pellets in the harbor, and work with the “Stow-it, don’t throw it” group to make some containers for the safe disposal of fishing line. 

There are no tennis courts on the Pribilof Islands, and tennis balls are rare.  There is no shortage of coffee though, and we’ll be using plastic Folger coffee cans for our fishing-line containers. Commercial and most subsistence fishing from the islands target halibut, with heavier rope used instead of fishing line.  Fishing poles and line are used off the harbor in town to catch flounders, small cod, greenling and rockfish, and so we will be placing our coffee can containers here.

Students on St. Paul Island collecting empty coffee containers to convert into fishing line recycling bins

We’ll be posting daily blog posts during camp (July) so you can follow our progress with the coffee can project.  And, we’re really excited to work with the Stow It-Don't Throw It Project to learn more about marine debris issues and prevention programs around the States. 

- Submitted by Ann Harding, Lead Principal Investigator for the Seabird Youth Network.  

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