Mosaic / April 11, 2012

Class preps for Alaskan trek

Students with interests ranging from ecology to public policy are coming together as they prepare for a month-long expedition to Alaska this summer.

According to Visiting Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Nic Mink the field component of the course will include an 11-day kayak trip, six days at a remote forest service camp, 17-18 days working habitat restoration or forest health projects and ten days in Sitka, Alaska exploring many aspects of the fishing industry.

Students were drawn to the course for a variety of reasons.

“I always wanted to go to Alaska,” freshman Reina Galvan said, adding that she wanted to “just be close to nature.”

Sophomore Marie Anderson was attracted to the academic material of the course.

“I was really interested in environmental policy because resources impact the economy and environment in general,” she said.

In the application process Mink said he was “looking for students with diverse interests … that was a chief goal.” Although camping experience were not requirements, most students had previous outdoor experience.

Galvan spent the summer after her junior year of high school working with the Colorado Conservation Corps, where she spent Monday through Thursday every week hiking out and camping while making trails.

Anderson and sophomore Phil Bennett also have experience camping and hiking. This trip, however, is “outside the realm of most people who consider themselves wilderness aficionados,” Mink said.

The equipment list, for example, is six pages long. Although a lot of equipment will be provided by the organizations they work with in Alaska, there are some things students will need to bring themselves.

“We need rain gear because we’ll be working in stream restructuring,” Anderson said.

The students will also need to physically prepare, especially for the kayak portion, where they will be traveling about 100 miles in ten days. Mink has an exercise program planned for students consisting of “simple cardio and targeted weight lifting,” but most students are preparing on their own as well.

Bennett heard from students who participated in Mink’s everglades trip over winter break that “there was a lack of physical experience … and they had a hard time dealing with it.” He has started running and lifting weights in preparation for the trip.

The students are also preparing academically as a class and on their own, by reading about and studying Alaska’s history, ecology and political atmosphere.

“We’re trying to gage the history so once we get the Alaska we understand why it is the way it is,” Bennett said.

Galvan is reading “Four Fish” outside of class to learn more about fisheries like the ones they will be working with in Alaska.

In addition to classroom work, Mink is busy preparing the logistics of the trip as well.

“I’ve been juggling a lot because on the one hand I’m working to introduce the students not only to the relevant literature about ecology, policy and politics in Alaska but I’m also working to set up the month-long field course,” he said.

Mink will be taking a two-week-long trip to Alaska to finalize preparations in the middle of this term.

Although the preparations associated with the Field component of the Alaska course are extensive, the students believe it will be worth it.

“I’m actually really excited for working with experts in fisheries and the forest [service],” Galvan said.

Anderson is excited to “see exactly where our food is coming from and how it is processed … to see that whole process and knowing that it is done in a sustainable way.”

Gretchen Walljasper

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