Copper River Stewardship Program- Oh what a grand ol’ time!

From my previous trips to Dusky Camp (Dusky Canada Goose base camp) it was filled with contained laughter. You only heard it at breakfast, dinner, and a little bit in the weather ports before going to bed. In addition, it seemed contained because the population of camp was usually from 4 to 6 people. Yet, this was not the case at the end of July. You could hear the laughter and excited voices carrying all over Dusky Camp. These were the voices of teens who participated in the Copper River Stewardship Program (we call them stewards). This hands-on program takes a group of 10 teens from communities in the Prince William Sound on an adventure to meet representatives from a wide range of disciplines. Every year the Copper River Watershed Project hosts this ten day program and for the first time this year the students sailed from Valdez to Cordova. Upon their arrival to Cordova the Forest Service Cordova Ranger District had a set of activities and talks planned for them. After going on a forest ecology hike and trail maintenance the stewards were able to canoe down to Dusky Camp and experience what it’s like to be in a science base camp.

Dusky decoy making a cameo appearance. Joking aside we placed a “gander” far from the nest to mimic gander’s guarding behavior of leading a potential predator away from the nest.

Given that the stewards were spending three days and two nights

Here is a steward that found one of our decoy nests!

at camp we had a day chock full of activities on the second day (or their only entire day at camp). In the morning we had a Dusky nest searching activity planned for them. We had the stewards split up into groups of 3 and search for naturally occuring Dusky nests. You may be wondering, isn’t July a little late for Duskys to be nesting and brooding their eggs? Yes it is, so what Nick and I did was place mock nests and decoy Duskys in a meadow behind camp. For one thing it was accessible for them but it was also a good method to mimic the field work the Wildlife team did in May and part of July. Once a group found a nest they had to determine it’s status. If you remember from a previous post we determine the success of the nest based on whether or not we found intact membranes or eggshells broken in a certain manner. Essentially they had to be Dusky detectives and record their observations on data sheets. After all the nests were found we gathered together and determined the status of the nest. It was interesting to me to see the stewards’ techniques to finding the nests and their ideas on the status of the nests.

 

An action shot of me teaching the kids to remove excess peat under sweetgale to make the sweetgale soil mass lighter to transfer to the island.

Lauren is teaching her summer education outreach intern and a steward how to transplant sweetgale unto the island.

After a lunch break, the second activity of the day consisted of nest island maintenance. Fortunately, there were a handful of nest islands nearby that we could all canoe to in a short period of time. We split up into two groups and we had them maintain two nest islands. The nest island we ended up at only had landscape issues so we transplanted sweetgale. Based on my observations the teens enjoyed this activity. They enjoyed the fact that they waded into the pond and carried the sweetgale transplant to the island. It felt fulfilling. After a hard days work and dinner they had the chance to go on a delta slip-and-slide. This consisted of sliding down the slippery slough. It looked like all the stewards and leaders were having a lot of fun! I didn’t slide myself because it was a overcast day and the water was simply too cold for me to tolerate. Overall, I think the kids had a lot of fun. Despite that the majority had their rain gear soaked from the canoe ride they were in good spirits. And those voices and laughter  that echoed through camp surely showed that they had a good time.

All image credit goes to Lauren the Prince William Sound Science Center Education and Outreach Coordinator.

Hillary Chavez
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