Blood stars (top left) and leather stars (top right) were less impacted by the disease and are more likely to be seen today. Sunflower sea stars (bottom left), mottled sea stars (lower center, this one showing symptoms of disease) and ochre sea stars (lower right) used to be common, but were most affected by the disease and have become more rare. (Photos courtesy of Mandy Lindeberg, NOAA, and Brenda Konar, University of Alaska Fairbanks)

Refuge Notebook: The fall of sea stars

Sea stars are a keystone species. As a top predator, they can restructure intertidal communities. For example, by feeding on mussels, they open up limited… Continue reading

Blood stars (top left) and leather stars (top right) were less impacted by the disease and are more likely to be seen today. Sunflower sea stars (bottom left), mottled sea stars (lower center, this one showing symptoms of disease) and ochre sea stars (lower right) used to be common, but were most affected by the disease and have become more rare. (Photos courtesy of Mandy Lindeberg, NOAA, and Brenda Konar, University of Alaska Fairbanks)
A young beaver enjoys a willow branch snack on a pond in the Skilak Wildlife Recreation Area. (Photo by Colin Canterbury, Kenai National Wildlife Refuge)

Refuge Notebook: Leave it to beavers

I was skiing along a lake in the canoe system on a clear, cold winter day, enjoying the crisp fresh air and the shushing sound… Continue reading

A young beaver enjoys a willow branch snack on a pond in the Skilak Wildlife Recreation Area. (Photo by Colin Canterbury, Kenai National Wildlife Refuge)
Howard Mamou shovels snow at the Glennwood in Hutto, Texas, Tuesday, Feb 16, 2021. The worst U.S. power outages were in Texas, affecting more than 2 million homes and businesses. (Ricardo B. Brazziell/Austin American-Statesman via AP)
Howard Mamou shovels snow at the Glennwood in Hutto, Texas, Tuesday, Feb 16, 2021. The worst U.S. power outages were in Texas, affecting more than 2 million homes and businesses. (Ricardo B. Brazziell/Austin American-Statesman via AP)

Tangled Up in Blue: A lot of snow

There’s a lot of snow out there. After asking somebody about their weekend, he proceeded to tell me about chain-sawing blocks of snow on his… Continue reading

Howard Mamou shovels snow at the Glennwood in Hutto, Texas, Tuesday, Feb 16, 2021. The worst U.S. power outages were in Texas, affecting more than 2 million homes and businesses. (Ricardo B. Brazziell/Austin American-Statesman via AP)
Howard Mamou shovels snow at the Glennwood in Hutto, Texas, Tuesday, Feb 16, 2021. The worst U.S. power outages were in Texas, affecting more than 2 million homes and businesses. (Ricardo B. Brazziell/Austin American-Statesman via AP)
A day on Kachemak Bay (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Out of the Office: Water taxi talking

Reporters spend a lot of time talking to people: people they don’t know, people they do know, people who really don’t want to talk to… Continue reading

A day on Kachemak Bay (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Salt marshes are important food sources for brown bears. As we see an earlier start to the growing season or increased plant growth, bears will likely benefit from them even more. (Photo by Michael Hannam/NPS)

Refuge Notebook: Could bears benefit from changing coastal marshes?

Flying over the Cook Inlet coast, you can look down and see expansive salt marshes where mountain rivers meet the sea in lush green meadows.… Continue reading

Salt marshes are important food sources for brown bears. As we see an earlier start to the growing season or increased plant growth, bears will likely benefit from them even more. (Photo by Michael Hannam/NPS)
There are plenty of ways to travel in the winter. The author is seen here Nordic skating on Trail Lake in Moose Pass, Alaska. (Photo courtesy of Kat Sorensen)

Tangled Up in Blue: 29 years

For my 17th birthday I received a pair of figure skates that are probably collecting dust somewhere. My new boyfriend (of nearly two weeks) gifted… Continue reading

There are plenty of ways to travel in the winter. The author is seen here Nordic skating on Trail Lake in Moose Pass, Alaska. (Photo courtesy of Kat Sorensen)
Predaceous flatworms hide under leaves by day in a spring near Soldotna Airport on Dec. 21, 2017. At night they hunt for other invertebrates. (Photo by Matt Bowser/USFWS)

Refuge Notebook: Life in Kenai Peninsula freshwater springs

I like winter. I really do. The cold and the dark don’t wear on me too much as long as I can get out and… Continue reading

Predaceous flatworms hide under leaves by day in a spring near Soldotna Airport on Dec. 21, 2017. At night they hunt for other invertebrates. (Photo by Matt Bowser/USFWS)
American poet Amanda Gorman reads a poem during the 59th Presidential Inauguration at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, Pool)

Tangled Up in Blue: Speckled purple

I woke up in the morning to NPR on Wednesday morning highlighting the importance of the color purple. I rolled over, turned on the light… Continue reading

American poet Amanda Gorman reads a poem during the 59th Presidential Inauguration at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, Pool)
Fletcher runs through the snow on Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021, on Diamond Ridge near Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)

Out of the Office: How all the dogs in my life have kept me sane and happy

From Ginny to Fletcher and all the dogs in between, furry companions provide friendship, healing.

Fletcher runs through the snow on Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021, on Diamond Ridge near Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
A fish friendly culvert in Alaska. (Photo by Katrina Liebich/USFWS)

Refuge Notebook: What’s your number? Mine is 5

Have you ever considered how many salmon streams you cross on your daily drive to work, school or another location you frequent? My number is… Continue reading

A fish friendly culvert in Alaska. (Photo by Katrina Liebich/USFWS)
Biological intern Annaleese Rasanen surveys severely burned alpine shrub tundra within the Swan Lake Fire burn July 27, 2020. (Photo by Matt Bowser/USFWS)

Refuge Notebook: A refuge manager’s perspective on 2020

A friend and colleague recently sent me a list of “things to consider” as 2020 drew to a close (all credit to the unidentified source… Continue reading

Biological intern Annaleese Rasanen surveys severely burned alpine shrub tundra within the Swan Lake Fire burn July 27, 2020. (Photo by Matt Bowser/USFWS)
Lost Lake Trail, winter route. May 16, 2018. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Tangled Up in Blue: Clearing my head

I set out for a run in the afternoon to clear my head. It was this past Wednesday, Jan. 6, and I left the trailhead… Continue reading

Lost Lake Trail, winter route. May 16, 2018. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
The author looks across Eklutna Lake on Monday, Dec. 28, 2020 near Eagle River, Alaska. (Photo by Tim Rockey)

Out of the Office: Good riddance

When I first saw my turn in the rotating schedule for writing this column would fall on New Year’s Eve, my mind jumped to a… Continue reading

The author looks across Eklutna Lake on Monday, Dec. 28, 2020 near Eagle River, Alaska. (Photo by Tim Rockey)
A tractor with the Anchor Point Tractor Launch pulls a fishing boat out of the water on Saturday, June 20, 2020, at the beach in Anchor Point, Alaska. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)

State seeks proposals for local campground management

State Parks extends deadline for bids to provide boat launch service at Deep Creek, Anchor River

A tractor with the Anchor Point Tractor Launch pulls a fishing boat out of the water on Saturday, June 20, 2020, at the beach in Anchor Point, Alaska. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
A Northern Hawk Owl clutching a red-backed vole near Watson Lake on Nov. 30, 2020. (Photo by Colin Canterbury/USFWS)

Northern Hawk Owls frequent Swan Lake Fire burn

In a gliding dive it swooped down from atop an aspen and disappeared, plunging into the fresh snow behind a stand of willows. I hunkered… Continue reading

A Northern Hawk Owl clutching a red-backed vole near Watson Lake on Nov. 30, 2020. (Photo by Colin Canterbury/USFWS)
Bottenintnin Lake, Nov. 24, 2020. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Out of the Office: More questions than answers

The only place life makes sense anymore is the outdoors. How do we balance the needs of students and parents with the safety of school… Continue reading

Bottenintnin Lake, Nov. 24, 2020. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Wyatt, at age 4, helping dad harvest crawfish at White River NWR in Arkansas. (Photo by Matt Conner/USFWS)

Refuge Notebook: Crawfish to Christmas trees

My rubber knee boots provided little traction as I slowly slid down the mucky side of the bank toward the muddied water. The soft mud… Continue reading

Wyatt, at age 4, helping dad harvest crawfish at White River NWR in Arkansas. (Photo by Matt Conner/USFWS)
Silver salmon swim in Sucker Creek on Sept. 18, 2020. Surface streams on the Kenai Peninsula and fish in them have far less arsenic in them than in some well water in the area. (Photo by Matt Bowser/Kenai National Wildlife Refuge)

Refuge Notebook: Arsenic in murder and nature

Arsenic, though often difficult to detect, is hard to ignore. As the 20th most common element in the Earth’s crust, arsenic occurs naturally in volcanic… Continue reading

Silver salmon swim in Sucker Creek on Sept. 18, 2020. Surface streams on the Kenai Peninsula and fish in them have far less arsenic in them than in some well water in the area. (Photo by Matt Bowser/Kenai National Wildlife Refuge)
Visitors enjoy bear viewing in the saltmarsh at Chinitna Bay, Lake Clark National Park. (Photo by J. Pfeiffenberger/NPS)

Refuge Notebook: Visitors to Katmai and Lake Clark National Parks rely on Kenai Peninsula services

Two national park and preserve areas, Lake Clark and Katmai, located just across Cook Inlet from the Kenai Peninsula, offer some of Alaska’s most spectacular… Continue reading

Visitors enjoy bear viewing in the saltmarsh at Chinitna Bay, Lake Clark National Park. (Photo by J. Pfeiffenberger/NPS)
The author is seen here trying to get in touch with her dad, who is isolating and celebrating Thanksgiving in Florida this year, and repeatedly ignoring her calls. (Photo by Kat Sorensen)

Tangled Up in Blue: Tangled up in turkey

More prevalent than pumpkin pie this holiday season is the refrain, “Are you upset you can’t travel to see your family this year?” And I… Continue reading

The author is seen here trying to get in touch with her dad, who is isolating and celebrating Thanksgiving in Florida this year, and repeatedly ignoring her calls. (Photo by Kat Sorensen)