This is the inaugural seasonal newsletter for Adventure Borealis!
Every few months we will send an update of upcoming trips, seasonal natural history tidbits, uplifting stories of inclusion in the outdoors, and highlights from partners around Interior Alaska. Do please let us know what you’d like to see in these updates!
We are so excited to announce the official launch of Adventure Borealis. As we begin this program, we will be collaborating with local and national stakeholders to create inclusive and accessible outdoor excursions in Alaska.
To kick things off, Adventure Borealis Director Ryan Marsh and Stan Justice will be leading a guided walk at Great Northwest Peat Ponds on June 22 at 7:00 PM. This free event will feature natural history information and updates about what to expect this summer from Adventure Borealis. Register Here.
What is Adventure Borealis?
The purpose of Adventure Borealis is to provide memorable natural history excursions in the Alaskan Interior for all people, regardless of identity, age, ability, or socio-economic status, in order to foster a more diverse and inclusive conservation community.
The Northern Center recently published a story about the inception of Adventure Borealis. Click below to read the interview with me and learn about the motivations for why I wanted to start this program and what we are hoping to do.
Natural History in the Interior:
May is for the birds!
Red-necked Stint at Tanana Lakes taken by Hazel Sutton
For this early summer edition of our newsletter, I would like to focus on BIRDS. Spring is in full swing as we are heading toward summer solstice in a few short weeks. For us here at Adventure Borealis that has meant a fervent month of non-stop birding as new species continue to arrive from across North and South America (and a few from across the Pacific as well!).
This year we taught school kids how to use binoculars for Spring Migration at Creamer’s Field, guided a still wintery trip for Arctic Audubon to Delta to greet large flocks of snow buntings and lapland longspurs and a lone mountain bluebird, and then headed down to Kachemak Bay to table, guide, and greet the millions of shorebirds migrating up the Pacific coast. We have spent May participating in Alaska Songbird Institute’s Fairbanks Birding Challenge, and we are very excited to be heading to Utqiagvik at the end of the month for a first annual shorebird festival there.
A highlight of the month was getting to see a rare red-necked stint at Tanana Lakes that was first found and photographed by 13-year old Hazel Sutton last week when participating in a 24 hour Fairbanks Big Day birding challenge. This is one of (if not the only) record of this bird, which typically lives in Asia and Oceania, in Fairbanks. A truly special visitor that stuck around for a few days and was poised enough to allow a slew of human visitors to get really good looks and photographs. Even though it was well out of its range, Hazel was able to identify it, saying “I knew it was a red necked stint, because it had a obvious red breast, so I looked in my book for a bit of help, and the red necked stint was the only one that looked like the bird I saw.” Congrats Hazel on a truly astounding discovery in our backyard. It’s so wonderful to see the next generation of nature lovers inspiring awe in the more seasoned birding community.
In the grand scheme of things, Interior Alaska is not often considered a birding hotspot. In contrast to places like Columbia with 2000 bird species (a fifth of the world’s diversity!), the 300 or so that nest in the Boreal Forest would appear paltry. But it is worth highlighting the importance of the boreal forest to birds.
There is more intact forest in the boreal region than the Congo or the Amazon. Literally BILLIONS of songbirds migrate North to the boreal each year in the Americas alone, to nest and raise their young. Fully 80% of waterfowl species, 63% of finch species, and 53% of warbler species that are thought of as backyard birds in the Lower 48 migrate up to the boreal to nest. And while these birds face numerous challenges along the way including climate change and habitat fragmentation, the largely intact boreal has ample nesting grounds, vast wetlands, plentiful insects, and 24 hours of daylight to feed those hungry and growing chicks.
Learning to love birds and protecting bird habitat doesn’t just benefit the birds. Landscape-level habitat protections will benefit numerous plant, fungi, and animal species, as well as Indigenous lifeways that have been tied to these lands and their species for millenia.
Inclusion in the Outdoors: It Matters
Adventure Borealis seeks to create and foster safe spaces for more inclusive outdoor recreation in Interior Alaska. As part of this work, we have been serving on an advisory committee for a research project that seeks to to learn about BIPOC experiences and thoughts connected to outdoor activities, recreation, and ways of being on the land. This University of Alaska Fairbanks and YWCA Alaska led project is convening focus groups for people with various identities to talk together about shared values and barriers when it comes to recreating outdoors in Alaska.
If you identify as Alaska Native, Asian, Black, Hispanic, or Pacific Islander, focus groups are still being convened in Fairbanks through June. Your participation will help inform organizations like Adventure Borealis, but also land managers on our public lands, on how we can improve access and inclusivity. Each focus group session will be 2-hours and will be held over a shared meal (provided) and among people who share an identity. All types of outdoor experience are welcomed. For more information, contact Rachel Garcia at email@example.com.
Thanking our Advisory Committee
Advisory Committee Member and Co-Founder Mike Kittredge
As part of our efforts to create inclusive and accessible programming, we have enlisted the support of a group of leaders with personal and professional insight into the gaps in typical outdoor spaces. I am so grateful for all the work these incredible individuals have put into helping Adventure Borealis grow and serve the communities we are striving to support in the best way possible.
Adventure Borealis advisory committee member and co-founder Mike Kittredge shares a little bit of how Adventure Borealis came to be and what it means to him:
Why am I excited about Adventure Borealis? It is simple and just three words. Education, Access, and Equity. We are dedicated to exposing participants to the wonders of Interior Alaska through natural history and experiential educational opportunities that include a bit of adventure along the way. Most importantly, we want to be sure that nearly anyone seeking to access our programs has the ability to do so. We are committed to providing inclusive learning environments and exploratory spaces to better connect those without or with little opportunities to experience interior AK. We are putting a special emphasis on supporting the Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities along with the LGBTQIA communities. Of course our programs will be planned in such a way to support people with disabilities while making sure no one is turned away for lack of funds. We also look forward to bringing programming to the communities we seek to serve in order to build trusting relationships that may prove fruitful in getting those community members out into the interior.
Adventure Borealis was born over a barroom table at Chena Hot Springs. At first, given Ryan’s extensive natural history and guiding background combined with my rock guiding experience, small business experience, and commitment to Diversity Equity and Inclusion, we thought we'd put together a small for-profit business with a focus on accessibility. Over the coming months it became quite clear that the for-profit track wasn’t the right fit. After learning about all of the options to form a 501c3 we found ourselves with an opportunity to partner with the Northern Center.
Since being picked up by the Northern Center, the magic has really started to show. We have a wonderful advisory committee; all passionate about the mission of AB. Ryan is a full time staff member which allows him time to intentionally build the programming, develop SOPs, and build quality relationships with various communities. The support of the Northern Center has been amazing. Without their support, the vision of AB would have been much different. It would have been driven by a bottom line rather than promoting access and education through quality programming.
Advisory Committee members Bird Nelson (L) and Siqiñiq Maupin (R)
Please visit our website to read the bios of our incredible advisory committee.
Brianna Reagan Creates has been an incredible partner in launching Adventure Borealis. From logo to stickers to business cards and pop-up banners not to mention fonts and over all branding aesthetic, Brianna Reagan Designs has built us a cohesive brand that is both fun and warm and inclusive, just like we strive to be. We couldn't be happier and look forward to continuing to work with you!
This is a corner for cool and relevant natural history and inclusivity in the outdoors news pieces. If you have an event or announcement you would like us to share, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
The NYTimes just ran a great story about research into how climate change is affecting arctic ground squirrel hibernation patterns. Females are emerging earlier and this could disrupt mating behavior as males need time to rebuild their testosterone after being squirrelcicles for the winter. Lead author, Dr. Helen Chmura, just happens to be a Northern Center board member as well!
This week is #BlackBirdersWeek2023 organized by The Black AF in STEM Collective. “This year, #BlackBirdersWeek is taking you on a tour, focusing on themes like, how Black birders share their joy of birds through a variety of means of expression, history and culture, and citizen science. For all members of BlackAFinSTEM, birding has been an incredible journey in many different ways and we know this to be true for other Black birders throughout America and the diaspora. We would like to engage and share the stories of as many Black birders as we can, uplifting their connections to birds. This year we are Flying Full Circle!”
Adventure Borealis is a program of the Northern Alaska Environmental Center. The Northern Center is a nonprofit and depends on the contributions of its members and supporters. Thank you for continuing to make our work possible!
Want a preview of upcoming trips? This is where we will showcase the trips we have scheduled for this season. You can always check our adventures page on our website for the latest info on Adventure Borealis excursions.
June 22: Adventure Borealis Kick-Off at Great Northwest Peat Ponds
Mark your calendars for Thursday, June 22, and head to Creamer's Field for the first Adventure Borealis natural history excursion led by Ryan Marsh. Free to attend, featuring a guided walk and giveaways. Register Here
June 29-30 1st Annual Utqiagvik Shorebird Festival
Free and for all ages! We will be guiding at this festival and hope its a success so we can keep coming back! Register at https://www.facebook.com/utqshorebirdfest/events
Adventure Borealis is a program of the Northern Center. The Northern Alaska Environmental Center promotes conservation of the environment and sustainable resource stewardship in Interior and Arctic Alaska through education and advocacy.
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