Trip 11 - Alaska
Trip 11 is the first to take us outside of the contiguous U.S. It is completely within the state of Alaska. The trip will focus on the arctic tundra ecosystem, glaciers and global warming, the types of organisms that can live in constantly frozen environments, and on the effects of human activities on the environment.
The first site of the trip is Glacier Bay National Park. To really get into the bay, and to see the glaciers and wildlife along the shore, you may want to take a licensed cruise ship into the park. Various companies leave Seattle and the trips usually include other stops in addition to Glacier Bay. The focus here is on the effect of climate on the glaciers and on the microorganisms that live on the glaciers themselves.
Whether you drive, fly or cruise, the next stop is at the area around the town of Valdez. In 1989, in Prince William Sound, just southwest of Valdez, a tanker ship called the Exxon Valdez had a massive oil spill. The focus here will be on the immediate and long-term effects the spill had on wildlife in and around the sound.
The next stop is one that is only accessible by float plane or boat. The Kodiak National Wildlife Reserve is home to the largest subspecies of brown bears in the world, the Kodiak Bears. Larger than even the grizzly bears, they are just one of a wide variety of animals that inhabit the Kodiak Island archipelago.
The trip then takes us from the largest brown bear to the largest mountain in North America, at Denali National Park. As with most parts of Alaska, the wildlife is abundant in the park.
Then it's over to the Bering Land Bridge National Preserve. Here the topic will be on the migration of humans and other land animals across land that is no longer exposed between Asia and North America.
Finally, we head to the northernmost site of the entire Experiencing Life series: the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Here you'll experience the arctic tundra, caribou, muskoxes and maybe even a polar bear. The refuge, known by the acronym ANWR (pronounced ann-wahr), has been the subject of some controversy over the topic of oil. The balance between preserving healthy ecosystems and providing energy for modern civilization will be a topic of focus here. Since this is also probably the most primitive of all the sites in the Experiencing Life series, it may not be practical for everyone to visit ANWR. There are no roads, building or even trails in the refuge. We may try to find alternate sites in which to experience some of the things you would find in ANWR.