This 6-week field studies program for up to 10 students will explore the Copper River Watershed from some of its headwaters to the sea. We will explore and conduct our studies and research in rural communities, protected areas, and along the Copper River corridor. Classes will emphasize natural history, subsistence living, and conservation issues. Two courses, Natural History and Environmental Studies of Alaska and Environmental Education and the Wilderness Experience will be taught. The program is designed for students interested in learning both academically and experientially. Throughout the course, we will be day-hiking and backpacking.
Wrangell-St. Elias Mountains
We will begin our studies in the Wrangell-St. Elias Mountains in the largest protected area on earth. Here among spectacular peaks, rivers, and glaciers we will explore the physical and biological patterns and processes that have shaped the landscape. We will explore the glaciers, rivers, and forests of the area by conducting hands-on field exercises. A focus on the use of the natural history field journal will help us hone our natural history observation skills. Students will learn practical skills in experimental design and field techniques. Studies will also focus on the unique natural and cultural history of the area. Discussions with resource managers will provide insight into Alaska’s conservation policies, land management, and current conservation issues. Our base camp will be primitive, allowing us to live simply and in a tight-knit community. In addition to daily hikes, we will also take two backpacking trips into the surrounding wilderness.
Copper River Raft Trip
The put-in for the raft trip will be from our base camp in the Wrangell Mountains, and as such, the river will provide our transportation and focus of study for 11 days. Traveling 180 miles by boat, we will continue to study natural history, conservation issues and subsistence living. Along the way, the focus of our studies will be on stream and watershed processes. We will collect data for the Copper River Watershed non-profit organization based out of Cordova and study the various geologic formations through which the river passes. We’ll meet with fisheries managers along the way to better understand the life history and conservation of the world-renowned Copper River salmon.
After floating by the Childs Glacier calving into the Copper River, we’ll keep our eyes open for the take-out. The take-out lies just beyond the glacier, in the upper reaches of the Copper River delta, one of the richest wetland systems on earth. After a night of showers in Cordova, we’ll spend the next week exploring the Coastal Temperate Rainforest rich with bear, bald eagles, and salmon. We’ll meet with fisheries biologists, fishermen, Eyak tribal members, and tour a fish processing facility to learn about the salmon fishery and the subsistence lifestyle surrounding the fisheries of Prince William Sound. We’ll explore the delta by canoe, conducting water quality sampling for the Copper River Watershed group and hope to help with a hands-on restoration project in the area. We will also do one 4-day backpacking trip in a spectacular part of the Chugach Range.
The program meets in Anchorage, Alaska. You are responsible for making your own travel arrangements. Airfare as of early July 2007 was around $750 roundtrip from San Francisco. Instructors will meet students at a designated location in Anchorage. The following morning we will depart for our first study area. Travel in Alaska will be by bus, raft, rented van, ferry and chartered van back to Anchorage.