Beluga monitor Teresa Becher watches as beluga whales swim up the Kenai River on Saturday, April 24, 2021, in Kenai, Alaska. Beluga monitoring will be the first topic of a series of Fireside Chats hosted by Kenai Watershed Forum at Kenai River Brewing, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion file)

Beluga monitor Teresa Becher watches as beluga whales swim up the Kenai River on Saturday, April 24, 2021, in Kenai, Alaska. Beluga monitoring will be the first topic of a series of Fireside Chats hosted by Kenai Watershed Forum at Kenai River Brewing, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion file)

Fireside chats to feature speakers on the local environment

The Kenai Watershed Forum will host the chats through Nov. 23

The Kenai Watershed Forum will be kicking off a season of Fireside Chats on Wednesday with a presentation by University of Alaska Fairbanks graduate student Sonia Kumar on Cook Inlet beluga monitoring. Each Fireside Chat will run from 6-7 p.m. at Kenai River Brewing Company, featuring an hour of conversation on a topic relevant to the Kenai Peninsula.

During this Wednesday’s chat, Kumar will share preliminary findings from her last field season, based on the acoustics and sound of the local endangered species.

KWF Membership Coordinator Sara Aamodt said the topic should hit home for locals.

“This is in our own backyard,” she said. “It’s happening under our noses. It’s going to be an interesting and educational community event.”

Beluga Monitoring is the first Fireside Chat of the season, but they will continue weekly through Nov. 23. Next week will be a presentation on the spruce bark beetle by Mitch Michaud, followed by megafauna fossils found here on the peninsula, dog sledding, environmentally conscious development, and a final session yet undetailed.

Speaking more broadly about the Fireside Chat series, Aamodt said, “It’s a place where we can gather and learn about the environment.”

The series will be family friendly, and Aamodt is hoping to see everyone from elementary students to community seniors gathering, mingling and learning about their local environment.

“We wanted to gather a variety of topics from a variety of speakers,” Aamodt said. “Hopefully, it’s both interesting to people and relatable to people.”

She said the chat on spruce bark beetles, like beluga monitoring, should grab attention because it’s something happening in our community.

“People will want to come and learn about things that affect their everyday lives.”

Aamodt said she was also excited about the megafauna fossil chat, where Dick Reger will be bringing in actual fossils for attendees to examine.

Fireside Chats are free to attend, with food and drink from the Kenai River Brewing Company available for purchase. KWF members will get one drink provided by the organization.

More information about the fireside chats and about the Kenai Watershed Forum can be found at Kenai Watershed Forum on Facebook.

Reach reporter Jake Dye at jacob.dye@peninsulaclarion.com.

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