Building the Blue/Green Workforce

Building the Blue/Green Workforce

Digging into field work at Oregon’s South Slough Reserve.

An unprecedented number of young people want to work in the environmental sciences, and to do that, they need on the ground experience. Reserves around the country are helping our next generation of scientists get their boots wet—and muddy—through NOAA’s Hollings Scholarship Program.

This program supports summer internships for undergraduates at a NOAA facility. Many students end up at Reserves, where they can get practical experience in coastal, oceanic, and atmospheric science, technology, policy, and management, all while addressing some of the most critical issues facing our coasts today.

“I am very passionate about climate resilience,” says Everett Craddock, Hollings Scholar at Alaska’s Kachemak Bay Reserve. “This project could have a direct impact on the area’s ability to develop adaptation strategies that prevent local fisheries from being negatively impacted by climate change.”

“I aim to answer questions about the effects of industrial contamination and climate change on Indian Country,” says Jessica Lambert, another Hollings Scholar at Kachemak Bay and enrolled citizen of the Choctaw Nation. “I have seen the destructive impact on my own Tribe firsthand. I am excited about the possibilities for remediation and to bring to light such a crucial issue that is too often overlooked.”

Working side-by-side with their Reserve mentors and their partners gives the scholars an opportunity to network and develop the skills they need to work in science in the future.

“My time at Padilla Bay allowed me to work with and learn from incredible researchers,” says Anna Poston, Hollings Scholar at the Padilla Bay Reserve in Washington. “Working with the researchers at the Reserve solidified my desire to attend graduate school and helped me develop the critical thinking and coding skills necessary to succeed in research.”

A moment of zen amid the field work at the Padilla Bay Reserve.

Dozens of scholars have trained at Reserves over the past ten years and many of them do. Some even go onto graduate work.

“I am working on improving our understanding of the biogeochemistry of Great Bay,” says Anna Lowien, a Margaret A. Davidson (MAD) Fellow at the New Hampshire’s Great Bay Reserve and former Hollings Scholar. “I did my internship at Kachemak Bay and loved it! I knew then I wanted to be part of the Reserve System.”

The Hollings Scholarship Program sponsored Anna Lowein’s internship at Alaska’s Kachemak Bay Reserve, where she used her knowledge of hydrology to develop computer models, now used by Reserve partners to predict peak salmon months more effectively and plan management decisions accordingly.

Reserve participation in the Hollings Scholar Program is coordinated by Nina Garfield, Dani Boudreau, and Chris Kinkade at NOAA’s Office for Coastal Management and made possible by generous support from Reserve mentors every year.

Anna Posten’s work explored seagrass habitat resilience and restoration in the face of environmental change at Washington’s Padilla Bay Reserve. (Mentor: Sylvia Yang)

Everett Craddock’s work focused on groundwater recharge-discharge in the Anchor River watershed at the Kachemak Bay Reserve in Alaska. (Mentor: Mark Rains)

Jessica Lambert’s work analyzed different ways of knowing groundwater in Alaska’s Kachemak Bay region. (Mentors: Coowe Walker and Syverine Bentz)

Petra Zuniga researched the links between vegetation, hydrology, and soils in undisturbed and restored wetlands at the South Slough Reserve in Oregon. (Mentor: Jenni Schmitt)

Want more Reserve stories delivered to your inbox? Subscribe to our newsletter.

Resilient Fisheries, Resilient Alaska

Resilient Fisheries, Resilient Alaska

At the Kachemak Bay Reserve, Alaskan fishermen and their families discover how landscape impacts on salmon affect their livelihood.

Seafood directly engages more workers than any other industry in Alaska, employing on average 56,800 people each year. As in many natural resource dependent industries, fisheries jobs are threatened by the impacts of climate change. When the COVID-19 crisis hit in 2020, it underscored the need for Alaska’s Kachemak Bay Reserve to help these businesses build their current and future resilience, not only in the face of climate change, but other disasters.

“The COVID-19 crisis hit hard and taught us many things about the importance of emergency preparedness and resilience,” says Coowe Walker, manager of the Reserve. “We know that even as we recover from the pandemic, there will be other challenges, many driven by climate change. By helping fisheries-dependent businesses build resilience now, we all can better weather these challenges and keep Alaskan communities healthy and thriving.”

Salmon spend their juvenile phase in small upland streams, including those conserved and protected by the Reserve.

Fish Need Land Too!

Alaska’s salmon—a $744 million harvest in 2020—are caught at sea, but they begin their lives in small upland streams, some only a foot wide. Juvenile salmon can spend three years in these habitats, where they are vulnerable to the impacts of development and other human activities. For many fishermen who rely on a healthy fishery for their livelihood, this was a threat they didn’t see coming.

“We realized many fishermen had never seen a baby salmon before,” says Walker. “Most had no idea their industry depends on what we do as individuals on the landscape.”

In response, the Reserve partnered with the Kachemak Heritage Land Trust to launch Fish Need Land Too—a field-based program that helps fishermen and other community members understand the impact of land use on salmon, the most valuable catch in Alaskan waters. 

Through this program, the team has provided how many fishermen—including members of the Alaska Fishermen’s Network, United Fishermen, and the North Pacific Fisheries Association—with an up close look at juvenile salmon in their natural habitat. Guided by the same Reserve naturalists who monitor and study these streams, these trips are an opportunity to hear about the latest science on the health of the fishery and how conservation can protect salmon at a critical point in their life cycle.

Members of the North Pacific Fisheries Association were so inspired by their experience  that they purchased conservation land to protect salmon spawning streams.

“Because Alaska has little regulation, much of the resilience work is driven by grassroots action,” says Walker. “That’s what our programs inspire. We see fishermen say to their kids, ‘this is your future, you’re going to catch this in a few years.’ As a Reserve we want to be here to support these families, and the salmon, long into the future.”

The Reserve coordinates a network of volunteers who monitor shellfish for toxins.

Keeping Tabs on HABs

Harmful Algal Blooms (HABS) are an increasing concern in Alaska, and the state saw its first paralytic shellfish poisoning fatality in more than a decade last year. The impacts of HABs on shellfish threaten public health and Alaska’s economy, which includes an estimated $12.8 million in output related to the annual commercial and wild shellfish harvest. 

The Kachemak Bay Reserve initiated an ongoing HABs community monitoring  program that is helping citizens, businesses, and the state respond to the challenge. When the flow of imported food to Alaska became restricted due to the pandemic, the Reserve joined with the Alaska Sea Grant Program and the Alaska Ocean Observing System to form the statewide Alaska Harmful Algal Bloom Network. This collaboration is helping to understand and track HABs and their impacts on a harvest that yields 36 million pounds of wild food annually.  

The Reserve also works with local shellfish growers, tribes, and resource managers to support phytoplankton monitoring, shellfish sampling, workshops, risk communication training, public service announcements, and weekly monitoring reports

Understanding Risk, Preparing for the Future

Harmful algal blooms, ocean acidification, increasing water temperatures—the impacts of climate change are reshaping Alaska’s coasts at a speed that makes it hard for the state’s many fisheries-dependent businesses to adapt. Yet in a recent CNBC survey, only eight percent of local business owners considered the environment critical to their bottomline.Thanks to the Kachemak Bay Reserve’s Fisheries Resilience Index project, awareness of these risks, and what to do to prepare for them, is growing.

“At least 40 percent of small businesses never open their doors again following a natural disaster, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency,” observes Walker. “Fishermen, processing plants, restaurants, aquaculture farms—when these businesses suffer so do the surrounding communities. This project is about strengthening local fishery-related businesses so they can continue to buoy communities in the face of natural disasters.”

This need rose to the top in a series of climate resilience workshops hosted by the Reserve’s Coastal Training Program in 2016 and 2017.  These conversations underscored how important it is for fisheries-dependent businesses to have the tools to understand and plan for the impacts of climate change and natural disasters.

Through the Fisheries Resilience Index, businesses conduct a self-assessment focused on locally-specific issues and relevant science. This process helps them predict whether they are prepared to maintain operations during and after disasters.  

Originally developed by the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium, this process was adapted for Alaska communities through a grant from the NERRS Science Collaborative. It was adapted for Alaska based through a series of focus groups with industry leaders, resource managers, business owners, non-profits, and resilience experts, and shared through workshops and trainings. 

Ultimate Classroom at Kachemak Bay

Ultimate Classroom at Kachemak Bay

Former Kachemak Bay Reserve interns Grace Allan and Chris Guo identify streams that provide habitat for juvenile salmon. Chris is now the Reserve’s lead technician for nearshore studies.

With sweeping fjords instead of desks and babbling streams instead of whiteboards, Alaska’s Kachemak Bay Reserve is not your typical classroom. Likewise, its high-quality education programs and partnerships offer opportunities that Alaska’s students can find nowhere else.

“Students join us in the field to participate in real science and data analysis,” says Coowe Walker, manager at the Reserve. “They get to be part of scientific work that is used by the community. They’re not just learning about sciencethey’re doing it. It’s a win-win: powerful for them and useful for us.”

The Reserve supports a diverse range of students with field-based opportunities that “provide a foundation for them to become community leaders and scientists who are prepared to meet the challenges of Alaska’s changing coasts,” according to Walker.

Helping Alaskan Native Students Go to College

The Kachemak Bay Reserve partners with the Alaska Native Science and Education Program (ANSEP) to support indigenous students starting in middle school. 

“For many of these students, college is not something they think of as possible,” says Walker. “It takes a huge amount of emotional, financial, and educational support to help them get there. You really have to make that commitment to them in middle school.” 

Students take accelerated courses through ANSEP and participate in internships. In 2020, the Reserve took on two virtual ANSEP interns to conduct watershed research—the most highly rated experience of the intern cohort.

Bringing Middle Schoolers Into the Field 

Each year, the Reserve takes seventh and eighth grade classes from Homer into the field to collect water samples. As many as 200 students get to run their own experiments using those samples and then present the results to the Kachemak Community Council. 

With the Council’s encouragement, the Reserve is expanding their middle school field program to include nearshore fish studies and to develop a network of “stewardship schools” to get students involved with the entire watershed—from the headwaters to the sea. 

“In an area where there’s not a lot of field-based programs for middle school students, we’re able to fill that gap,” says Walker.

High school students from the Tebughna School in the remote Alaska Native village of Tyonek (Qaggeyshlat) joined the Reserve to learn about techniques for studying juvenile salmon through Project GRAD.

Building Graduation Rates in Remote Communities

The Reserve also partners with Project Project Graduation Really Achieves Dreams (GRAD) to reach students in remote communitiesthose which are fly- or boat-in only. These include many Alaska Native and Old Believer Russian communities, both of which tend to have low graduation rates. 

GRAD allows educators to work with students from these communities who want to finish high school and go onto college. Through GRAD, Students from the remote Alaska Native village of Tyonek (Qaggeyshlat ) work with Reserve scientists and educators, a relationship that has continued to expand during the pandemic through virtual platform.

Connecting University Students with Research Opportunities 

In the past few years, the Reserve has supported more than 50 university students as fellows and interns. Some are sponsored through national programs like the Hollings Scholarship program or the newly established, Margaret A. Davidson Graduate Research Fellowship

“Leveraging these national programs helps us provide unique opportunities to students, and advance collaborative science here at the Reserve,” says Walker. Research completed by fellows is now used to guide management decisions by partners like Alaska Fish & Game.

“Because we emphasize stakeholder engagement, student science gets used,” says Walker. “We emphasize this engagement in our own work and with the students. I hear this from colleagues around the country: really intentional and adaptive stakeholder engagement is what makes Reserves so special.”

Superstars Among Us

Superstars Among Us

We know they’re awesome, but it’s wonderful to see Reserve staff from around the System receiving formal accolades for their creativity and hard work in support of estuaries and coastal communities. A big congratulations to these NERRS superstars—and thank you for all you do!

Sarah McGuire Nuss, Education Coordinator, Virginia’s Chesapeake Bay Reserve

Sarah McGuire Nuss received the 2020 Conservation Educator Award from the Garden Club of Virginia. This prestigious statewide award honors Sarah for her education and outreach programs that bring marine science to K-12 students. These include family-friendly Discovery Labs, summer camps, teacher training workshops, and partnerships with local schools

She has also served as president of the Mid-Atlantic Marine Education Association and helps lead the Virginia Scientists & Educators Alliance. Through these and many other activities, she has impacted thousands of children in tidewater Virginia and beyond. During the current COVID-19 pandemic, Sarah and the education team have continued to provide alternative online opportunities for learning about the environment. 

Julie Stone, President of the Garden Club of Gloucester, says “Sarah’s students not only learn about marine science but also about how to bring a spirit of scientific inquiry to exploring nature. Whether her students are in elementary school, middle school, or high school, or are teachers themselves, they are truly inspired by her energy and passion for science.”

Kristin Evans, Education Coordinator, Texas’s Mission-Aransas Reserve

Kristin Evans received the Higher Education Award from the Coastal Bend Bays Foundation’s Environmental Conservation & Stewardship Award program. Kristin’s award recognizes her work with educators, students, families, and professionals across the Texas Coastal Bend.

The foundation credits her as being “among the most innovative educators in the Coastal Bend, holding over 25 years of experience which include education, professional services, and hands on pedagogical expertise.” They also acknowledge how her ability to deliver effective education programs during unpredictable, challenging times “has shaped the community of not only teachers and students, but families, and other educators in the informal realm.”

Rose Masui, Harmful Species Program Coordinator, Alaska’s Kachemak Bay Reserve

Rose earned the Alaska Invasive Species Partnership’s Outreach Award for her outstanding efforts and commitment to the early detection of marine invasive species. She continues to build partnerships across communities and agencies to provide education and outreach, share protocols, guides and datasheets to support local efforts for the early detection of marine invasive species.

Rose is also the coordinator for the Kachemak Bay Community Monitor European Green Crab Early Detection Program and the Kachemak Bay Reserve’s Invasive Tunicate Monitoring Program. Her nomination recognizes that she pursues all her work “with a professionalism, openness and reliability that enables partnerships and programs to thrive.” Rose also coordinates the statewide Harmful Algal Bloom Monitoring Network, a lifesaving outreach program.

Chris Bowser, Education Coordinator, New York’s Hudson River Reserve

Chris Bowser received the 2020 Leadership Award from the New York State Outdoor Education Association in honor of his 25 years of service as an environmental educator in the Hudson Valley. 

This touching and inspiring video (that Chris was asked to prepare by the awards committee) recognizes how the programming he has run behind for many years has made a difference in  one of the New York communities he supports. Thanks in part to Chris’s work, there is a new generation of environmental stewards emerging in the Hudson River Valley. Now that’s something to be thankful for!

Lake Superior Reserve, Wisconsin

The Lake Superior Reserve won an award from the National Weather Service (NWS) in September for enhancing community understanding of lakeshore flooding. The Ambassador of Excellence awards recognize local community members who have made significant contributions to helping build a weather-ready nation. The Lake Superior Reserve was recognized as a critical partner on multiple fronts, most recently in organizing a local conference on the subject of high and low water levels in Lake Superior, at which the National Weather Service presented. The conference connected National Weather Services resources with dozens of stakeholders across the Lake Superior shoreline. Afterwards, the Reserve partnered with NWS to establish the working group CHAOS (Coastal Hazards of Lake Superior), whose activities are continuing to connect communities with science, data, and best practices around lakeshore flooding and other coastal hazards.

Shellfish Monitoring Goes Statewide

Shellfish Monitoring Goes Statewide

Rose Masui, harmful algal bloom monitoring program coordinator at Alaska’s Kachemak Bay Reserve, trains Naomi McMullen of Port Graham, Alaska on phytoplankton sample collection protocols.

The impact of the Kachemak Bay Reserve’s harmful algal bloom (HAB) monitoring program has spread far beyond the shores of the bay. In addition to ongoing community monitoring, the Reserve has been facilitating the statewide Alaska Harmful Algal Bloom Network over the past year, which provides educational resources and public service announcements and facilitates connections between public health officials, social service workers, and communities from the Arctic to Southeast Alaska.

“In 2016, I was having to call as far away as North Carolina for the support we needed,” says Rose Masui, who directs the Reserve’s program. “Now, we can easily connect people with someone locally who can answer their questions if they feel sick or notice something strange.”

Consumers of HAB-affected shellfish can experience paralytic shellfish poisoning with symptoms that include tingling, lightheadedness, numbness, and even death. The impacts on shellfish threaten public health as well as the state’s economy. Alaskan shellfish generate an estimated $12.8 billion in economic output and 36 million pounds in recreational and subsistence harvest each year.

This year saw Alaska’s first paralytic shellfish poisoning fatality in over a decade. In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic has placed incredible strain on public health officials, making the Reserve’s work more vital than ever. Alaska is the only Pacific coastal state without a state government-administered monitoring program.

“With the lack of a statewide monitoring program, there would be no information going to communities about the safety of wild shellfish in Alaska if our program, and others like it, were not operating,” says Masui. “We want to work with and support state efforts, and we want to do whatever we can to keep people safe.”

“We try to help by providing resources to warn people as harmful algal blooms spread to new communities, many of which are very isolated. If something happens, you want to make sure the word gets out, but also that communities have something they can do about it.”

Kachemak Bay Reserve staff partner with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to collect razor clams for toxin analysis in Lower Cook Inlet.

Supported by 25 community monitors, the Reserve publishes weekly monitoring reports for communities, the state’s shellfish-poisoning communication team, and recreational and subsistence shellfish consumers. During a harmful algal bloom event in 2017—which saw the most toxic shellfish ever recorded in Kachemak Bay—the Reserve was able to issue an early warning for Homer Harbor. While there were six reported illnesses potentially connected to poisoned shellfish, experts suggest it may have been much worse without the warnings.

“We’re grateful to be community monitors—it’s become an important resource for us to learn more about the health of our environment and subsistence resources,” says Stephen Payton, a community monitor with the Seldovia Village Tribe.

As with so many Reserves, Kachemak Bay’s work would not be possible without partnership. In addition to the community monitors and partners within the Alaska Harmful Algal Bloom Network, the Reserve partners with the Department of Health and the Department of Environmental Conservation on their HAB programs. 

The program is also supported by researchers from other states: “Impacts of HABs include fish die-off and seizures in marine mammals,” says Masui. “We’ve seen that in California and now we’re seeing it in Alaska, too. We have researchers from other places who tell us what we should look for and provide information about the impacts beyond shellfish.”

“The Reserve is a really great unique resource, but we don’t do this alone,” says Masui. “We’re a Research Reserve—I’m not a nurse! We’re able to do this work partly because we are a monitoring resource, but largely because we partner so heavily. Everyone benefits.”

Talk NERRdy to Me: Coowe Walker

Talk NERRdy to Me: Coowe Walker

Talk NERRdy to Me is a monthly column about leaders and luminaries from across our 29 Reserves. This month, NERRA’s correspondent-at-large Nik Charov Zoomed to Alaska to talk with Coowe Walker, manager at the Kachemak Bay Reserve. They talked about how a D.C. native ended up freezing in a tent in Ketchikan, making a difference for salmon and streams, and the different ways of knowing the NERRS only fjordic estuary.

Nik: Coowe, as an ecologist, what are the differences between Alaska and the Lower 48?

Coowe: When I first moved here, it struck me how you really feel the wholeness of the ecosystem because we have top predators. Orca in the ocean, brown bears on the land… you feel humble, because humans are not the top, and we haven’t modified the landscape to serve us. 

Nik: But in Alaska, everything’s enormous! Maine has ten-foot tides, what do you have?

Coowe: 22 feet. Things can be harsh here. I have a colleague from Florida who works up here. He and his students worry about moose and bears and all that, but then he shares his stories of alligators. Dealing with alligators in Florida seems way scarier than anything here!

Nik: At least I can relate to mammals. How’d you get to Alaska?

Coowe: I grew up outside of DC. The way I got to Alaska was really through my husband, Russ. We met in Penn State, but he’s one of those adventure people who’s not into school. So he hitchhiked to Alaska and came back and said, ‘We’ve got to go to Alaska!’ 

So we ended up in Alaska, and we were broke, and we basically tried living off the land. But we were suburban kids who ended up in Ketchikan, eating berries and fish. We had no idea what we were doing! We were hungry and cold and all the other things you are when you try to strike out on your own. We lived in Southeast Alaska in a tent.

Long story short, it started getting really ugly in the winter, and I said ‘I’m out of here.’ We broke up, I went back to school, and we were apart for 13 years. Then I was coming back to Alaska for a Society of Wetland Scientists meeting in Anchorage in 1998, and we’d been exchanging letters.

Nik: The old Alaskan flame was still burning?

Coowe: Yes! He had stayed in Alaska after we split up, and figured out how to do all those things we were trying to do—hunt and fish and build and live off the land. And I said, ‘you know, I’m coming to Alaska for this meeting, do you want to meet up?’ And he met me at the airport, and we went to the Brooks Range. I never went to the conference. Russ and I just totally reconnected, and Alaska’s where I’ve been ever since.

Nik: Have you always been into the outdoors? 

Coowe: Yep. My parents were campers. We lived near a creek, which was the center of my universe as a kid. I was in a wildlife technologist program at Penn State. Because I was in the tech track of things, I got in the field right away. I wanted to be outside! I think something the Reserves do well is connect students with nature and make what people are studying relevant. This is why we study ecology—to go outside and do things!

Nik: Wasn’t Alaska daunting, though, compared to the East Coast?

Coowe: I get excited about opportunity, and Alaska has opportunity like no other place, because we haven’t trashed it yet. We have all this science, all this attention, and all these people who are connected and care because they depend on the resources still. Our family harvests our protein from the land. Most families do that around here, or else it’s their livelihood—commercial fishing and tourism are the largest industries in Homer. People have a very direct connection with the natural world here, so they value it.

This is why the Reserve is so exciting to me. We do the science, and we understand how the landscapes are working to support salmon in particular. We take commercial fishermen out in the field and show them these tiny baby salmon, which they’ve never seen before! 

Nik: What does that do to their understanding?

Coowe: We’ve been doing this for a couple years now, and last year we brought out the North Pacific Fisheries Association and showed them the baby salmon and talked about our science and how the landscape is supporting that salmon stream via alders and peatlands and groundwater. After that they went back and had a meeting and said ‘You know what? We want to buy land to protect those baby salmon.’ 

And they are working with the land trust to do that now, though we didn’t ask them to. They recognized its value to their livelihood. We all live on the landscape next to these tiny streams where these baby salmon live, but until the Reserve came, nobody really knew there were salmon in those streams, or that the watersheds where we live were important to supporting them. That’s the other thing about Alaska—it’s so big a place and there’s so little research. There are huge gaps in knowledge, and the Reserve has been able to fill a big hole. We make a difference. 

Nik: Alaska has been inhabited for a long time, right? There are Native communities there with whom you must work closely?

Coowe: I’m embarrassed it took us this long. The Reserve has partnered with Native communities all along, but it took us a while to actually acknowledge how those communities and their ancestors have been stewarding this landscape for 10,000 years. The indigenous community has a wealth of knowledge. 

We’ve really just started in the last two years to engage them in a way that has us listen and acknowledge more, has us saying ‘thank you for stewarding this land. Because of you and your ancestors, we have these opportunities.’

Nik: I was just reading an article about how the early peoples in California managed fires with controlled burns and would not let the fuel build up the way we have for the last 100 years. 

Coowe: Right.Those trips with the fishermen I mentioned—we partner with our local land trust on those, and we call them ‘Fish Need Land Too.’ Several indigenous people were involved with that program. [Watch a video.]

An artist named Argent Kvasnikof from the Ninilchik tribe was really excited to learn about the science of how landscapes support streams and how that relates to his exploration into the oral stories from his culture. There’s a strong tradition of land stewardship, like you were saying about the California fire management. 

One thing he’s focused on is indigenous wayfinding. For instance, the wayfinding from the headwaters to the ocean. This mirrors the perspective of a baby salmon that has to find its way from the headwaters to the ocean, and how the landscape supports the stream that baby salmon is in. We study that through science, but there are indigenous ways of knowing, too. 

Argent is a visual artist and after attending the virtual field trip, we asked people to take a blank card and write something on it you’re going to do to be a “salmon ambassador.” He wrote in his language, Dena’ina, the word for ‘alder,’ which is an important landscape plant that provides nutrients for salmon streams. Then he took the word for ‘dignity and respect for living things’ and he combined them to make a word, ‘respect for alder.’ He took what we’d been talking about in a science-y way and embodied it in his own oral traditions.

In Western culture, we don’t talk often about the dignity of trees, respect for trees-—it’s not part of our regular way of thinking. But indigenous Alaskan people do. It’s a way of thinking that’s so interesting and powerful and important to combine with ecology. So we’re starting to try and bring the pieces together, and build something better.

Nik: I always tell my kids to respect their alders. Speed round: salmon or halibut?

Coowe: For eating? I like them both. 

Nik: Then I’m not asking you the fresh and salty question. Coowe, we first met at an annual meeting at the National Conservation Training Center. A group was around the fire, playing guitar and singing, and you sat down and suddenly pulled out a flute, Ron Burgundy-style, from your sleeve!

Coowe: For me, whenever I’ve traveled, it’s just a way to make friends pretty quickly. We can play music together, we don’t have to know each other, or even speak the same language. I do love the flute. 

Want more Reserve stories delivered to your inbox? Subscribe to our newsletter.

ReservesKachemak Bay, Alaska