We are thrilled to welcome Reth Duir, Chugach Children’s Forest, SCA, and NOLS alum – and one of the Arctic Youth Ambassadors – to our education staff! Reth will be working part-time to help implement our National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) Urban Refuges grant with the US Fish & Wildlife Service; “Empowering Anchorage’s youth through outdoor leadership development to bring a diversity of perspectives and citizen engagement to conservation of Alaska’s migratory birds, wetlands, and National Wildlife Refuges”.  Funding for this grant was provided by US FWS and EPA.

We first met Reth Duir when he participated in one of our Chugach Children’s Forest Habitat Restoration Kayak Expeditions in 2013. His experience on this expedition was documented in a youth-produced video A Journey through Prince William Sound. He’s quoted in the video as saying, “camping in Prince William Sound was nothing but a fun experience for me. I’m not going to lie, I was nervous at first…being outdoors for the first time.” But he did it, and he discovered that it’s “almost mind-blowing, how much is out here in Prince William Sound…the seas, sea otters, seals, eagles, glacier calving, barnacles.” Needless to say, he’s been hooked on the outdoors ever since!

Later that summer, Reth participated in a  trail crew with the Student Conservation Association in the Chugach National Forest. The backcountry crew was based at the Spencer Glacier Whistle Stop, a part of the Chugach that is only accessible by train – no roads! The team of eight teens worked together to complete a large section of new trail and learned and practiced Leave No Trace principles.

(Reth about to embark on his NOLS expedition)

This past summer, Reth received a full scholarship to take a National Outdoor Leadership School Alaska Packrafting Course where he spent 30 days floating from a river off the Denali Highway down to Talkeetna. Reth became more confident about his backcountry skills and ability to plan and execute his own trips, he learned more about navigating in remote and often trail-less terrain, and he further developed his leadership skills. When asked, “Because of your experience on this trip, what do you want to do more of?” Reth responded, “I just want to get outdoors more, and help other youth get outdoors who don’t have the opportunity to get outdoors. I want to share this experience with them, especially underprivileged youth. I want them to experience this and I want to teach them the leadership skills that I’ve learned so they can use them in the backcountry—and in everyday life.” By working at Alaska Geographic, Reth (who is currently pursuing a degree in Education at the University of Alaska Anchorage) is going to be able to do just that.

(ASD students completing tests in Chester Creek. Photo Credit: Tony Flores)

Reth will be working with USFWS, an array of community partners, and the Anchorage School District to get 4th and 5th graders out and exploring their local ecosystems while also completing stewardship projects and fostering connections to the Fish & Wildlife Service and other public lands and conservation organizations. He will be coordinating school field trips that promote STEM education, deepen the students’ understanding of their watersheds, increase their knowledge about their local ecosystems, and develop their sense of place in Anchorage. The field trips will entail water quality tests in different reaches of Chester Creek near their schools, such as measuring water temperature, dissolved oxygen, and pH of the water and identifying macroinvertebrates that provide food for salmon and other fish. Reth will also be helping to plan and lead volunteer stewardship projects in Anchorage, trips to refuges with our Outdoor Club, and other efforts to better connect Alaska’s diverse youth with their National Wildlife Refuges and conservation initiatives.  In his new role, Reth will be able to combine his love of the outdoors with his passion for education; he will be an invaluable addition to our team as we continue to learn how to better inspire and empower Alaskan youth for long-term engagement with their public lands. Stay posted for more updates as Reth’s projects get underway!