Topographical map of the Matanuska-Susitna Basin in Alaska.
Mat-Su Basin Topographical map of the Matanuska-Susitna Basin in Alaska. © Jim DePasquale

Our Alaska 2017 Impact Report

Scientific Solutions

Director's Letter January 1, 2018:

On a kayak trip last summer my daughter and I witnessed a living spectacle: In a tidal lagoon beneath Alaska's midnight sun, a family of river otters hunted, while scores of gulls roiled the water, feasting. At the head of the lagoon we discovered why. Hundreds of worms—the color of wine and as long as my foot—skimmed the surface.

Later that night my daughter and I pulled out the guide to Alaska marine life. Our best guess: Paranemertes peregrine, the purple ribbon worm.

Nature had inspired awe and curiosity in her young mind. That curiosity is where science begins.

Science mattered 65 years ago when a group of scientists estab­lished The Nature Conservancy. Today, our world is more complex and our reliance on science could not be more critical. The Nature Conservancy recently tackled its most ambitious analysis: Identifying our world's greatest challenges—to nature and to people—and understanding how the two are linked.

That is why, on a chilly morning this past spring my family and I met Alaska Chapter staff to #StandForScience. We gathered with signs and banners, joining thousands of citizens across the country.

Our message was simple: SCIENCE MATTERS.

Science matters if we are going to take on the biggest challenges of our time—how to feed and shelter Earth's growing population while maintaining the productivity, beauty and wonder of the natural world we all cherish.

Let's never forget our deep commit­ment to science as the basis for mak­ing better decisions for nature and for people. Equally important, let's never forget the wonder of encountering nature with fresh eyes—even the sight of spawning ribbon worms on a late evening paddle—and the deep curiosity it unleashes in all of us.

Rand Hagenstein, Alaska State Director

LiDAR image of Prince of Wales Island in Alaska
LiDAR Mapping LiDAR image of Prince of Wales Island in Alaska

Lasers As a Conservation Tool

Using cutting edge, airborne laser scanning technology we're mapping 3,000 square miles in and around Prince of Wales Island—the fourth largest island in the United States and one of the hardest places to map. LiDAR uses data collected by sensors attached to aircraft to create 3D models of the landscape. These models allow us to visualize, analyze and measure not only individual trees, but the individual branches on each tree. These maps will help us - and others - to better under­stand and manage the forests and salmon streams on Prince of Wales for years to come.

A local crew uses equipment to  restore a forest in Hoohah, Alaska.
Hoonah Restoration A local crew uses equipment to restore a forest in Hoohah, Alaska. © Bethany Goodrich

The Science of Restoring Nature

In Hoonah, we worked with the community and private landown­ers to identify areas where logging had altered deer and bear habitat. Using LiDAR and field research, we developed restoration tech­niques that mimicked the natural processes of Southeast Alaska's old-growth forests. A local crew used these methods in young­ growth forests, where dense trees blocked the sunlight necessary for life to flourish on the forest floor. These efforts recreated the con­ditions necessary for blueberries and other plants—food for Sitka black-tailed deer—to thrive.

Topographical map of the Matanuska-Susitna Basin in Alaska.
Mat-Su Basin Topographical map of the Matanuska-Susitna Basin in Alaska. © Jim DePasquale

The Art of Science

Our map of the vast Matanuska­ Susitna Basin reveals that, when you strip away everything but the land itself, you're left with a topographic mash-up of extreme proportions: Glaciers. Prehistoric dunes. Craggy peaks. Thousands of miles of free-flowing rivers. The map guides conservation, first and foremost, but it's also winning accolades for its striking beauty. Not only did it earn a place in the 2017 "best-of" Esri Map Book—it graces the cover, too.

Researchers are studying the cause of salmon declines in Klawock Lake on Prince of Wales Island , Alaska.
Klawock Salmon Study Researchers are studying the cause of salmon declines in Klawock Lake on Prince of Wales Island , Alaska. © Quinn Aboudara

Searching for Science

In Alaska's remote communities, people rely on nature's bounty. Klawock Lake on Prince of Wales Island has long served as a valua­ble source of sockeye salmon for nearby villages. But its salmon stocks have declined dramati­cally over the last century. Our Klawock Lake Sockeye Salmon Retrospective Analysis—the result of a 3-year research study—examines the possible causes for these declines, and explores how we can work with the community of Klawock to reverse the trend.

It is a tremendous honor for me to serve as Board Chair for the Alaska Chapter of The Nature Conservancy. The chapter has an impressive legacy of conservation achievements in Alaska, and I'm proud to be a part of that.

Chairman of the Board of Trustees for The Nature Conservancy in Alaska

Shared Conservation Agenda

The world is facing major biodiversity loss, catastrophic climate change and a growing number of environmental challenges. The actions we take over the next 10 years will define the legacy that we leave behind for future generations.

We can solve the problems our world faces, and make our vision a reality: a planet where people recognize the role nature plays in improving their lives and make changes to create a world where people and nature thrive.

The Nature Conservancy has developed a plan—informed by science—that will help put our world on a brighter, more sustainable path. The Conservancy's Shared Conservation Agenda is a blueprint for addressing the greatest challenges facing people and nature today.

Here in Alaska, we've identified three priorities where we believe we can make a measurable and meaningful impact:

• Provide Food and Water Sustainably
• Protect Land and Water
• Tackle Climate Change

in Alaska.
Setting up Camp in Alaska. © Bob Waldrop