BEACON goes back to Alaska!

This post is written by MSU postdoc Wendy Smythe.

IMG_7302We have just returned from another amazing trip to Alaska where we visited Ketchikan, and the Haida communities of Hydaburg and Kasaan Alaska located on Prince of Wales Island. The trip is an effort funded through BEACONs Native American/Alaska Native Institute (NAANI) to increase diversity in STEM and to raise cultural awareness for non-native future PIs. During the visit participants taught in the Hydaburg School K-12 classes; teaching evolution of butterfly vision, shipworms, and oceanography, participants took part in harvesting local dietary resources such as spruce tips, tea, seaweed, and sea cucumbers, we were lucky to get to take a cedar weaving class from community member Becky Frank. Visiting scientists learned about the Haida culture and language from community members and conducted interviews on Haida culture, Traditional Ecological Knowledge and how the Haida way of life uses STEM to build canoes and totem poles from large cedar trees, when and how to gather resources, and how to they monitor and protect the land and sea that they are very much a part of. Traditional Knowledge is passed on through oral traditions of story telling grounded in centuries of stewardship to the region. While in Hydaburg our group participated in the 4th Annual Science/Career Fair by presenting hands on demonstrations of our own science for the students and community. Interviews with community members and local scientists were conducted for a series of documentaries featuring Traditional Knowledge coupled with STEM for the creation of culturally relevant curriculum. During our trip we encountered and ran from an angry mother bear, and participated in a spiritual dip into the ocean (which was very cold!). Postdoc Wendy Smythe, is from Hydaburg and hosted the group of BEACON graduate students Klara Scharnagl, Carina Basket, and Aide Macias Munoz, we were accompanied by Christie Poitra from MSUs Native American Institute. On July 28 the documentaries produced during this trip will be shown at the Friday seminar.

Canoe that is being carved in Kasaan Alaska

Spruce tips used to make spruce tip jelly,

sea cucumbers

Harley Bell-Holter discussing the totem pole in Kasaan Alaska

Klara Scharnagl wrapping up an interview at sunset in Hydaburg, Alaska.






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