By Kendall Johanson, Alaska Conservation Foundation Intern
I am a born and raised Alaskan from Anchorage, and credit my passion for the environment to growing up in the incredibly diverse landscape that is Alaska. Many of my favorite childhood memories include being outside, from running around the forest at the end of my street with my friends, parents, and dogs, to boat camping and fishing with my family in Prince William Sound, trips to friend’s cabins on the Kenai Peninsula for dip netting, and even my first job at 15 working at a remote fishing lodge in Skwentna.
My love and appreciation for nature and the resources it provides us with are what led me to pursue a degree in natural resource and environmental management (NREM) at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa. Although Alaska and Hawai’i are polar opposites, I have found many similarities between the incredible biodiversity of the landscapes, a communal appreciation and respect for the environment, and the rich cultural histories of the land, particularly management and subsistence practices.
Halfway through school, I changed my major from Marine Biology to NREM after becoming more interested in the application of science through management, advocacy, and policy. I also started to think about career goals and realized I wanted to eventually return to Alaska and work to give back to the state and lands that inspired my passions. Still wanting to study aquatic animals and ecosystems, I chose a specialization in watershed and coastal management. This degree pathway has given me the opportunity to branch out from the intensive science courses and learn more about environmental management and policy.
After my first semester in the NREM program, a lightbulb went off, and I figured out how I could combine my interests, degree, and desire to work in Alaska into a career goal. Just like most Alaskans, I love salmon and recognize their value to the people, economy, and ecosystems across the state. I also recognize the importance of sustainable practices and policies around salmon to ensure populations are healthy and abundant for generations to come. As we start to see more consequences of climate change, the necessity for science and proper management is crucial to navigating these widespread changes so that we can continue to enjoy Alaska and its unique wildlife. All that being said, I hope to eventually have a career in Alaska fisheries management and/or conservation to combine science and management to protect our precious salmon and wildlife.
When looking for a summer internship, I knew I wanted to spend the summer in Alaska doing something related to salmon. This led me to find the Alaska Conservation Foundation and their Ted Smith summer internship program, which had Cook Inletkeeper on the list of organizations to work with. I’d always seen the Inletkeeper sticker but didn’t know much about their work, so after some research on the work done by Cook Inletkeeper, their incorporation of advocacy, education, and science drew me in to apply for this internship. As the Wild Salmon and Climate intern, I am excited to participate in fieldwork and collect data for the stream temperature monitoring network, and further our understanding of warming patterns and impacts on critical salmon streams in the Cook Inlet watershed. I am also interested to learn more and help with programs including the Alaska Food Hub, promotion of clean energy sources, and various community events to educate the public on Inletkeeper’s work and understanding the effects of our changing climate and what can be done to help. I look forward to learning how to effectively incorporate scientific research into advocacy and educating the community on issues that directly impact them. I strongly believe that everyone should have a say in what happens to their home and a responsibility to protect the resources that they use and benefit from.
Cheers to a wonderful (hopefully a little warmer) summer ahead, getting to know and learn from the incredible team at Inletkeeper, as well as getting out in the community to learn and share the work being done here.