Logo

Blog

2016 Spring Environmental Educators

We are so excited to have a wonderful crew of environmental educators set for the spring season!

 
Margeaux Maerz

Maerz shorebird picture

 Margeaux Maerz grew up in a small town in upstate New York followed by 8 years in Georgia where she earned her Bachelors of Science in Ecology from the University of Georgia. She is very passionate about the environment and loves sharing her knowledge and enthusiasm with others. Margeaux has worked as an Environmental Educator and Naturalist for various organizations along the east coast of the US and abroad in Costa Rica,Naturalist for New Jersey Audubon and will be returning there to work this summer. For now though,  Margeaux is thrilled to be a part of the CACS team and is looking forward to teaching about and exploring all that Homer as to offer! When not elbow-deep in a tide pool or halfway up the side of a mountain, you'll be able to find her with her eyes to sky, looking for anything with wings! New Zealand, and Australia. For the past two years, she worked in Cape May, New Jersey as a a Naturalist for New Jersey Audubon and will be returning there to work this summer. For now though, Margeaux is thrilled to be a part of the CACS team and is looking forward to teaching about and exploring all that Homer as to offer! When not elbow-deep in a tide pool or halfway up the side of a mountain, you'll be able to find her with her eyes to sky, looking for anything with wings! 

 

 
Leah Thon

Leah is originally from near Syracuse, NY and got her degree in Conservation Biology from SUNY Environmental Science and Forestry. She is currently doing AmeriCorps with the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies focusing on STEM education and outreach. She is doing a lot of work this winter and spring with ROVs (remote operated vehicles) and is using them to monitor invasive species in the Homer Harbor. She loves to hike, read, crochet, and explore new places. She is loving Alaska and all the adventures it has to offer!

 

Seth Spencer

11264852 10102098769900206 3466268033531709566 nSeth is originally from Minnesota, but now lives in Homer. He spent last spring as an environmental educator for Coastal Studies, and now works as the Education Program Coordinator and Wynn Nature Center Coordinator.  He has a Masters of Education, and his background is connecting youth with the natural world around them. He is an avid birder, and loves poking around tide pools seeing what he can find! He can’t wait to help you see the wonders of the natural world in and around Kachemak Bay.

 

 

 

 

 

Spring Extravaganza

    The whirlwind that is the spring season at Peterson Bay, China Poot, and Kasistna Bay has come to a standstill.  The calm after the fun storm is a time to reflect and share the moments we will never forget.  Through sleet, snow, rain, rocks, plants, and low tides we explored the unique environments of Kachemak Bay.  Each site possesed a certain charm that made for great outdoor experiences.

Kasitsna Bay Sunset

Sunset at Kasitsna Bay

 China Poot Scenic Photo

China Poot Bay

  Some participants came to the ACE program after researching a particular intertidal organism and were determined to find them during the two days of tidepooling.  We had one group where every student found the invertebrate that they had researched, they helped eachother find that organism, and felt comfortable sharing their knowledge with everyone around them.  This passion spread like a wildfire through us all.  The enthusiasm and sense of wonder brought by students renews that wonder within yourself. 

Otter Rock 2015

 When it comes to tidepooling, you never know what you might find...

DSCF9179

 Daisy Brittle Star

Sunflower star holding 2015

   Sunflower Sea Star

Crab Camo

Decorator Crab

 Opalescent Nudibranch 

Opalescent Nudibranch

These are just a few marine invertebrates that we found this spring, each organism is as interesting as the next.  However, the tidepools weren't the only places we took school groups.  The ACE program includes forest ecology hikes, because the land and sea are inextricably connected.

Lost and Found Lake 

Lake views...

Goats Beard

Having fun with nature!

 Sundews

 Carnivorous plants in the bog

Overall, I'd say our spring season was a great success!  Thank you to everyone who came out and participated in the ACE program.  Without you all, I would not have had the opportunity to experience this truly beautiful place and see all the life it holds.  I encourage everyone to explore the world around you, because no matter where you are in this world, the environment has many secret wonders waiting to be discovered.

 

 

 

Kickoff to CoastWalk Success!

A beautiful, heart-shaped bivalve we spotted on the beach! Seeing evidence of marine life reminds us of why we work so hard to keep the beaches clean.

As the days have grown shorter, and the mornings crispy, the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies has set out to tackle the trash of the beach. The month of September kicked off our 30th annual CoastWalk beach clean-up season around Kachemak Bay. Every September and October the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies gather volunteers, teachers, students, organizations, and businesses to clean Kachemak Bay beaches.  For the past 29 years these dedicated volunteers have picked up everything off the beach from a discarded toothbrush to half a fiberglass kayak.  Over the past 29 years, volunteers have collected thousands of pieces of debris, and in the process saved many of our seabirds, marine mammals, and fish from the devastating effects of marine debris.

Continue Reading

Summer WILL Come!

Summer will come

On a magnificent sweep of oceanfront land and maritime forest, Homer is a place filled with natural wonders. The unique and picturesque surroundings provide a spectacular setting for a rewarding experience you won't soon forget.

Continue Reading

Fantastic Friday with Alpenglow

Susan Houlihan, owner of Alpenglow, came up to the Wynn Nature Center to demonstrate how to make her signature Cottonwood Balm for a recent Fantastic Friday event.  Her business started as a personal project to develop natural skin care products she could feel good about using.  She made some of her creations into gifts for friends who immediately requested more.  Word spread and she was soon perfecting her formulas of natural botanicals and creating a line of products she could market.  Former Park Rangers, Susan and her husband moved to Homer, Alaska, and are now raising a family and running the Alpenglow business.  The kids even help in the harvesting of local wild plants to be used in Alpenglow products.

Continue Reading

Fungi Emerge at the Wynn

During the summer months there are always stunning wildflowers at the Wynn – lupine and chocolate lilies, yarrow and star gentians, pyrola and goldenrod, Indian paintbrush and fireweed, and many more that progress through their flowering cycles at different times as the summer continues. Flowers, of course, are the reproductive organs of a plant that will eventually produce seeds for dispersal. Amongst the wildflowers, all in their different summer stages, we’ve also started to notice an abundance of something relatively new to the forest: the reproductive organs of another type of organism. With all the recent rain, the fruiting bodies of fungi have emerged, aka mushrooms! The forest is full of their great variety of forms and colors, and as the summer moves into autumn, more and more will surface. Come out to the Wynn to see our great diversity of fungus: the puffball (lycoperdon), red-capped russula, deadly amanita, latex secreting lactarius, and endless shelf fungi, like our beautiful chicken-of-the-woods.

 

SulfurShelf

Spirit of Alaska Women at Fantastic Friday

Alaskan women have a lot of amazing stories to share.  As a descendant of Alaskan homesteaders myself, I can really appreciate the unique conditions and experiences that can be told by women who have spent a good amount of time in this great state, some even before it was a state.  A book about their stories became the topic of a recent Fantastic Friday event at the Wynn Nature Center on Skyline Dr.  Ladies from the Homer chapter of Alaska Community and Adult Education, a former Cooperative Extension program, brought their new book filled with Alaskan tales to share with the public at this free event.  The storytelling women arrived in Alaska at various times between the 1950's and the 1970's and many had spent time living in the bush.  They told their own histories as well as read excerpts from the book on topics ranging from preparing salmon to the 1964 earthquake.  The stories were lively and well-told and through them the women exhibited why their newly published book was titled "Spirit of Alaska Women."  A special appearance was also made by long-time local, and namesake of the cabin at the Wynn Nauture Center, Daisy Lee Bitter.

Continue Reading

At the Saturday Market

This is Lindsey Shelley from the Wynn Nature Center.  A couple weeks ago I got the chance to take some program materials to the Children's Garden at the Saturday Farmer's Market.  I had a great time making leaf necklaces with kids, sharing my enthusiasm for observing nature, and challenging visitors to reach inside my "Touch n Feel" boxes and guess what was inside.  I had some very observant kids who really knew how to use their senses to figure out the mystery objects.  Thank you to all those who came by to visit on that rainy day and participate in the activities!  Below are a few photos from my station.

Continue Reading

Visiting the Stars

Last week, I was lucky enough to head over to the Peterson Bay Field Station with Americorp coastal ecology educator Leah Thon for a mid-winter overnight trip.  Our primary purpose was to check out the much-beloved sea stars that inhabit the rocky intertidal at Otter Rock, China Poot Bay, and even the tidal lagoon right in front of the Field Station.

Two summers ago, a phenomenon caan example of a true star showing wasting symptomslled Sea Star Wasting Syndrome (or Disease) emerged on the west coast.  Similar unusual mortality events among sea stars had happened before, but this one is bigger and more widespread.  Alarmed by the severity of the outbreak in the Pacific Northwest, accounts of some suspicious lesions on sea stars at the Anchorage Museum, and a few distressed sea stars observed by naturalists on the Kachemak Bay beaches earlier in the summer, the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies contacted the MARINe program (Multi-Agency Rocky Intertidal Network) through the University of California, Santa Cruz to learn more about their sea star monitoring efforts.  Working closely with them, we determined that the threat of sea star wasting syndrome could exist in Kachemak Bay and that it would be valuable to establish a set of permanent plots for monitoring, and did so in the summer of 2014.

Unfortunately, we saw some symptoms of sea star wasting syndrome in these populations during our monitoring in the summer and fall.  It seemed to be at a low level, but we became increasingly concerned about the fate of Kachemak Bay sea stars after hearing that true star (Evasterias troschelii) and sunflower star (Pycnopodia helianthoides) populations around Sitka, Alaska had plummeted in November and December after sustaining low levels of sea star wasting through the summer and early fall. At this point, researchers have identified a densovirus that may be linked to sea star wasting, but no one is sure yet if that is the cause or whether there are additional agents or environmental factors at play.  And more frustrating, there seems to be no way to stem the spread of the disease, aside from vigilance to not carry it from location to location on our boots, hands, or equipment.  We are just waiting and watching to see what happens here in Kachemak Bay.  So as we hopped off the water taxi, last week, nightmarish images of Sitka's disintegrating sea stars flitted in the back of my brain.  The tide was high, though, and I would have to wait until after dark to see what was actually going on with the stars.

We conducted all of our surveys by headlamp as the low tides took place in the late evening and early morning,Leah surveying sea stars by headlamp devoid of any winter daylight.  We found lots of apparently healthy true stars, sunflower stars, and leather stars (Dermasterias imbricata) at both China Poot and Otter Rock with just a few individuals showing symptoms of wasting. This is similar to what we found during July and October surveys. We also spotted a number of juveniles, something that has been observed in other areas hit harder by sea star wasting and suggests a mechanism for the recovery of sea star populations.  And we saw a few less common species, all healthy, including a sun star (Solaster stimpsoni) and blood star (Henricia spp). The ghastly images vanished, at least for the time being, as we delighted in these stars and other tidpool finds, including Leah's first octopus!

At our third plot, on the beach between the PBFS stairs and dock location, we only found one juvenile true star and a little 6-rayed star (Leptasterias spp), both under a rock.  I’m not sure if this low density is due to sea star wasting, or – I think more likely – some sort of seasonal or weather-related shift in sea star distribution.  We’ll survey again this spring, paying special attention to whether or not we see a return of sea stars to the PBFS plot.  And we'll keep sanitizing our boots and marveling in the amazing diversity and tenacity of Kachemak Bay's intertidal invertebrates!  We hope to see you out in the tidepools sometime soon!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The products of Spring at the Wynn

It has certainly felt like summer lately, but at the Wynn we are still seeing the products of spring emerge and grow. What products, you may ask? Babies! The baby moose are on the move, seen here at the Wynn in the past few days by some of our guests. Stretching their gangly legs, navigating over roots, they follow their mother through the forests and meadows free and easy. Only rarely do they truly need to test the developing muscles in those long legs. Two weeks ago, we had the privilege to witness two calves and their mother chased across our wildflower field by a black bear – quite the exhilarating moment, and a resolute reminder that survival in Alaska’s wilderness is no easy task for any animal.

Another baby that’s out and about at the Wynn is the baby porcupine, also called the porcupette. Porcupines usually give birth to only one offspring per year, so seeing a dark-colored, short-quilled porcupette is a real honor. Earlier this week, one was spotted behind the Wynn cabin. Absorbed by the fresh fireweed it was munching, the seemingly soft ball of fast-hardening quills didn’t pay us much mind. When we got closer, however, it started to lumber off, doing its best to clear the way and part the tall grasses before it with endearing adolescent limbs.

Mammals aren’t the only ones to bring new generations into the wooded world. On a tour last week, a Townsend’s Warbler fledgling, testing its wings, awkwardly flew right across the trail to land on a branch three feet away. As it looked at the world from this new point of view, twitching its fuzzy, chubby head back and forth, up and down, we watched in awe. One of the parents soon flew up to it with some grub and shoved the food down the thin tilted throat, as birds are so efficient at doing. Refueled, the youngster took off again to revel in the feeling of the wind beneath its wings.

If you’re a lover of wildlife interactions, with creatures both big and small, the Wynn Nature Center is the place to visit. The forest is full of new life and quiet occurrences this summer. Come and see for yourself!

Spirit of Alaska Women at Fantastic Friday

Alaskan women have a lot of amazing stories to share.  As a descendant of Alaskan homesteaders myself, I can really appreciate the unique conditions and experiences that can be told by women who have spent a good amount of time in this great state, some even before it was a state.  A book about their stories became the topic of a recent Fantastic Friday event at the Wynn Nature Center on Skyline Dr.  Ladies from the Homer chapter of the Association for Family and Community Education, a former Cooperative Extension program, brought their new book filled with Alaskan tales to share with the public at this free event.  The storytelling women arrived in Alaska at various times between the 1950's and the 1970's and many had spent time living in the bush.  They told their own histories as well as read excerpts from the book on topics ranging from preparing salmon to the 1964 earthquake.  The stories were lively and well-told and through them the women exhibited why their newly published book was titled "Spirit of Alaska Women."  A special appearance was also made by long-time local, and namesake of the cabin at the Wynn Nauture Center, Daisy Lee Bitter.

Continue Reading

30th Anniversary Block Party!

The Wynn Nature Center staff spent a lot of time kidding around at the 30th Anniversary Block Party last Saturday.  Naturalists Adriana, Ali, and Lindsey brought kid's activities to the shin-dig to celebrate thirty successful years of Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies outdoor education efforts.  Despite a very cool July temperature, blustery wind, and even some sprinkling rain we had a great time providing activities for kids and adults alike.  The party also included wine from Bear Creek Winery (with a  special Alaskan Coastal Studies label), delicious food from Two Sisters Bakery (and from party-goers), a judged pie contest, and some hoppin' music from Burnt Down House.  But, as one of the Naturalists running the kid's activity booth, I wager that the most creative fun was being had at the face-painting table!  Check out these pictures for proof!

Continue Reading

  • 1
  • 2

Contact Us

Email 
Message 
Please enter the following hqlgswwo
    

Daisy and Billie New sign

© 2006 - 2016 Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies, 708 Smokey Bay Way, PO BOX 2225, Homer, AK 99603, (907) 235-6667