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Nicole Shares Her Story of Alaska: The Last Frontier

Updated: Jan 20, 2019

June 26, 2018

Last summer I had the amazing opportunity to live in Sitka, Alaska. While living in Sitka, I worked for a nonprofit science center called Sitka Sound Science Center. The science center had many different operations which provided opportunities for people no matter their interests or skills. There was a fully functioning hatchery where eggs were collected from previously spawned salmon that returned to the science center to lay their eggs. Oh yes, while I was there I learned A LOT about salmon. Salmon is seriously a way of life in Alaska. Another aspect of the science center that I found to be really interesting, besides the awesome aquarium, was the research. There were a handful of scientists who were doing research on a variety of different topics involving marine biology. There were two fully functioning labs and a field station that people all over the world came to use to conduct research. While there, I met a couple native to the island and their fluffy dog, Herckett.

Since they worked full time and lived on a sailboat, they let me take her to work during the week. Whenever I talked to her, she never seemed to understand what I was saying and rarely minded me. Towards the end of the summer Henry, her owner, informed me that she only knows commands given to her in the native tongue. All I could do was laugh because I had spent so many times, in public, trying to get her to respond to me with no luck. Meeting Henry and Lynn made my summer that much more enjoyable. Lynn worked as a researcher for the Smithsonian. Lynn invited Tristan, my soon to be brother-in-law, to join her on the research she was working on at the time. Tristan and I set traps in the harbor with sediment plates inside them to document the growth and collect data about predation in the harbor. Being naturally curious, I had so much fun with this because I got to explore the different life forms that lived in the depths of the ocean. Something, growing up in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, I had never experienced before. Although, my time there wasn’t all work, we played a lot as well.

Some of my favorite adventures were all outdoors, obviously. We loved taking morning walks through Totem Park where we walked along the ocean searching for sea stars and other “mysterious” creatures. Paddle boarding is my favorite summer hobby, so I was ecstatic when I got the opportunity to borrow a coworkers board. While out on the ocean, I had moment of solitude when I looked down to see that I was right on top of a school of salmon. I am so thankful that I didn’t fall in while gazing at the hundreds of idle fish just inches away from me.

Would it even be a trip to Alaska if you didn’t go fishing? Of course we went fishing, and I, like I have my entire life, out-fished all three of the men I went with. I was most proud of my halibut catch that took me what felt like forever to reel into the boat. We are still feasting on fresh salmon to this day. My favorite adventure while there was one on an island just down the channel called Krusof. Ian and Tristan both were nature guides on the island. Ian had taken me there to give me a day tour.

We took ATV’s around the island and ended up at this beautiful beach with dark black sand, a result of the retired volcano that made up the island. It was absolutely breathtaking. I also got to see a huge cluster of neon green sea anemones which I spent nearly thirty minutes brushing my fingers through as they clung onto my hands. The best part of this story is that after a picnic on the beach listening to the sounds of the ocean, Ian, my boyfriend of nearly five years, got on one knee and asked me to be his wife.

I couldn’t think of a better way to wrap up a summer spent in one of the most beautiful places. I am constantly thinking about my time spent in The Last Frontier and I am eager to make my way back. The experiences that I accumulated there continue to influence me today and I let those lessons, like many others I have gained throughout life, guide me even today. The joy that comes from working at a non-profit is incredible. It may not be financially rewarding, but the gift you give to the community is a unique reward in itself. This experience is what drove me to work here at Feeding Laramie Valley.

As soon as I heard about the position, I did all I could to get my application in. When I found out I had been given the position, I knew that this would be another unforgettable summer. There is nothing I would rather be doing than giving back to the community that I hope to raise my children in one day.

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