2022 Tern Festival
Carrie Wittmer is the Public Affairs Officer and Team Lead for Interpretation and Education at Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve. Her career spans 20 years of dedication to the fields of interpretation and education, working both within and alongside National Park Service units across the country such as Crater Lake National Park, Grand Canyon National Park, and Chesapeake and Ohio National Historical Park. She holds a BS in Biology and an MS in Environmental Education. Prior to taking a permanent NPS job in 2017, she worked in academia, teaching Interpretation, Environmental Education, Environmental Science, and Sustainability to undergraduate and graduate students. At Wrangell-St. Elias, she leads a team of interpreters and educators focused on engaging local and visiting audiences in shared park stewardship.
Brady Skidmore is from western Washington, where from a young age he was introduced to hiking and spending time in nature. Initially he earned a BS in Network and Communications Management, followed by working in the IT field for 10 years. His passion for the outdoors however drew him back to school, where he obtained an AAS in Forestry. This will be the third summer Brady has spent in Yakutat, this year serving as the River Ranger for the Forest Service. He hopes to continue learning about this unique area and it's wildlife along with passing that information and message of conservation along to visitors.
Past Bird Banders & Fieldtrip Leaders
Denise has lead bird banding and field trips!
Denise grew up in rural areas in the western states and always had a great interest in wildlife and nature. She went to school at Brigham Young University and obtained a BS degree in Zoology in 1994. Denise became especially interested in birds when she met her first mother in law who was an avid birder and introduced her to the pastime. She spent the next 16 years raising and homeschooling her two daughters in rural Alaska 6 months of the year and traveling for the remaining 6 months of each year. Seven of those winters were aboard their personal sailboat exploring the Bahamas and Central America. Throughout that time she "birded" for her personal pleasure and loved getting to see new species from new locations, but also grew very fond of the species she found every summer in Alaska. In 2010 she began volunteering for Fish and Game and Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) near the Canadian border doing Rusty Blackbird, Waterfowl and Passerine Surveys. She was trained to mist net birds by Hank Timm and Bud Johnson who had been running the Tetlin NWR banding station for about 20 years (the second longest running mist netting station in Alaska). This was the year she began memorizing bird calls so that she'd be able to perform point counts in addition to other surveys. Denise spent the next five summers working for Tetlin NWR as a biotech doing bird surveys (waterfowl, passerine and peregrine falcon) and eventually becoming a lead bander at the banding station. During the winters I continued to travel, but also looked for bird work/volunteer opportunities during that time. She was fortunate enough to mist net birds on Maui and Kuaui and perform mammal surveys in Mojave National Preserve during some of this time. In late 2014 she moved to Sitka so that she could be near her youngest daughter who wanted to attend Mt. Edgecumbe High School (boarding school). Since she has moved to Sitka, she still travels to Tetlin NWR for a few weeks every summer to conduct bird surveys and occasionally does contract biology work when it is available. Denise travels at every opportunity, and has branched out to expand her skills to include emergency medicine, working as a naturalist and "guide" in various capacities, and volunteering with the Sitka Fire Department Dive Team. She recently married and has been having a wonderful time exploring the wild areas around Sitka with her husband Don Kluting.
Based in Juneau, Gwen Baluss has been bird-watching for work and fun in Southeast Alaska since 1998. Before that she worked throughout the Western United states and Hawaii focusing on bird work ranging from forest habitat studies, to wildlife rehabilitation and endangered species recovery. She is most interested in songbirds, especially those that migrate south, and likes to travel where when she can observe them on their winter range. She is a certified bird bander and enjoys recruiting new birders by showing the public birds up close.
Gwen has lead bird banding
and field trips!
John Zarnetske retired to Alaska from upstate NY State where I had been an educator for 34 years. Schooled in Wildlife ecology at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, he ended up teaching high school science (Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Earth Science and Environmental Science) and Wildlife Ecology and Wildlife Management at Southern Vermont College. He has been actively involved with Bird Treatment and Learning Center for the last six years. He volunteers Thursdays at the clinic doing rehabilitation on sick, injured and orphaned birds. He presents two of our education birds, Hoot, a Great-horned owl, and Flame, a Short-eared owl. He is also the caretaker of Flame at his home. He is a member of the Education Committee seeking new ways to implement the part of Bird TLC's mission to impart the importance of birds in our lives to public audiences. He also serves on the board of FAR - Friends of Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge, an organization that helps protect the refuge on Anchorage's doorstep from being misused by recreationists and developers. He is an avid fisherman, hiker and wildlife photographer. In 2016, he enjoyed a three week trip to southern Africa, mostly comprised of safaris in pursuit of viewing Africa's unique wildlife. In 2017 he visited Southeast Alaska for two weeks primarily to study the native cultures of the region.
Flame (short-eared owl, will be at the festival this year):
A seriously injured juvenile Short-eared owl was found on the side of a road in Valdez in 2006, likely the victim of a strike by an automobile. She was immediately sent to Bird TLC for treatment. X-rays revealed fractures of her upper wing and lower right wing. Bird TLC veterinarians pinned the humerus, positioned the wrist and stabilized the wing. After a period of healing, the fractures mended, but she was dragging her wing. A decision was made that she was not going to be releasable and that she would become part of Bird TLC's fleet of education birds. She is named Flame after the specific part of her scientific name, Asio flammeus. She has been entertaining Bird TLC audiences of all ages for nearly 11 years throughout Alaska.
MARY BETHE WRIGHT
Although not an Alaskan by birth (I arrived in Alaska in 1970 from Seattle), I consider this state my first love. After teaching in Fairbanks and the bush village of St. Mary's, marrying my bush pilot husband and raising two boys here, I can't imagine living anywhere else.
I've been a volunteer with Bird TLC for 25 years. During most of those years I have worked with non-releasable education birds of several species doing presentations, have spent 12 years on a clinic crew and served several years on the education committee and the board of directors. Being a teacher by profession, my main emphasis is to bring the natural history and conservation of wild birds to classrooms of students and busloads of tourists. The best way to do that is with a wild bird on the fist to capture people's full attention.
Denali and I have traveled all over the state in the seventeen years that I have been his caretaker and sole presenter and I consider it a privilege to share him with so many people.
ALASKA SEALIFE CENTER
Laura has presented fun kid's programs about terns and other migratory birds!
Laura grew up in Conway, Arkansas with her outdoorsy family. After earning a Bachelor's degree from Hendrix College in Environmental Studies, she moved around the country working at eight different locations in five states in less than ten years. She fell in love with birding while working for an Audubon Center in Billings, Montana. She's excited to be back in Alaska and ready for spring bird migration!
Amy Beich is an aviculturist at the Alaska SeaLife Center where she works with puffins, eiders and other seabirds. Before coming to Alaska, she spent summers monitoring tern colonies in the Gulf of Maine, banding song birds in Oregon, and surveying Piping Plovers in North Dakota. She loves seabirds of all sorts and is excited to share her knowledge and experience with others.