An immersive BBNA internship in natural sciences provides hands-on experience

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Since 2000, the Bristol Bay Native Association has offered annual internship opportunities to Indigenous students with an emphasis on the Biological and Social Sciences. The immersive experience offers a unique opportunity for hands-on learning as well as a window into the day of scientific research.

Ashe Christensen, 17, recently completed a unique six-week summer internship with the Bristol Bay Native Association which allowed her to count walruses, seabirds and salmon in remote areas of Alaska.

Christensen, from Anchorage, was one of two summer interns at BBNA. The internship program started in 2000 and so far has included around 100 students interested in the biological and social sciences.

Christensen wants to study natural sciences at university.

And his summer internship began at the Walrus Island State Game Sanctuary on Round Island, helping biologists with their research.

“I was there to watch the researchers who stay there all summer. They monitor the number of walruses that show up on each beach each day and the number of sea lions that show up on each beach each day. In addition, they keep records of any sightings they notice on birds or other animals, ”Christensen said.

Round Island is the only island in the sanctuary with structures and equipment. And, the sleeping arrangements on the island made for an adventurous experience, says Christensen.

“I slept in the tent every night which was quite an adventure. The first week was great weather and you could hear the walruses swimming in the bay and making some noise, ”she said.

The trip was originally scheduled for ten days, but the stormy summer weather kept the group in place for nearly two weeks.

In addition to helping count walruses, sea lions and birds, Christensen took the opportunity to explore.

On the fifth day I was there we walked to the top and looked around and one of the coolest things I remember is looking across the island and to see a rock spire with an eagle’s nest, and it had an eagle chick in it, it was amazing, I’ve never seen anything like it, ”Christensen said.

Christensen returned to Anchorage last week to prepare for the fall semester at the University of Alaska Anchorage.

She is also a student in the Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program College Success Program. She also participated in ANSEP in high school, leading to the summer internship.

Bristol Bay Native Association internships are also supported by the Office of Subsistence Management and the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Contact the author at [email protected] or 907-842-2200.

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