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Yakutat Tern Festival
Speakers, Presenters, and Support
General Information and 2024 Speakers and Presenters

The Yakutat Tern Festival has historically included speakers and presenters for educational entertainment for all ages. Presentations have been composed of author readings, book signings, writing and photography workshops, interactive bird banding events, and more!

We are still finalizing the 2024 schedule of presenters. In the meantime, check out the bios of previous presenters to get an idea of what to expect this coming year!

2024 Yakutat Tern Festival Presenters

The Wrangell St. Elias National Park Team

Chelsea Hernandez is a Supervisory Park Ranger at Wrangell St. Elias National Park and Preserve. She has been working at the park for about six months in the field of interpretation. She is originally from Minnesota, she studied at the University of Wisconsin - Madison where she got a degree in Biological Aspects of Conservation with a certificate in Environmental Studies. She has been working with the National Park Service for about 15 years, and also worked at Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, and Haleakala National Park in Maui Hawaii. She loves being outside and learning new places. Alaska is a huge state, but stopping to appreciate the little things helps us gain new perspectives and learn from our natural world! 

Diane Ellsworth is an Education Technician at Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve.  She has lived and worked in this part of Alaska for the past 30 years, raising four children and now have nine grandchildren in the area.  She grew up in Ohio and saw the consequences of urban sprawl, which is why she was attracted to the wilderness.  She is proud to have the largest national park in my backyard! She attended Penn State University and graduated in Education, she taught English secondary education in Pennsylvania and at four different schools in Alaska before settling here.  Her passion is kids and animals and all things wild! 

Here she is in Valdez, wishing she could sail like a tern!

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The WISE Team

Robin Mayo is the Executive Director of Wrangell Institute for Science and Environment (WISE.)  She is a lifelong Alaskan who has lived in the Copper River Basin for 28 years.  Robin has a certificate in Nonprofit Management from University of Alaska Anchorage, and was part of the 2022 Cohort for the Catalyst for Nonprofit Excellence Program. Robin has also worked as a sheep shearer, commercial gardener, and fiber artist, and loves to bring together science, art, and environmental stewardship with programs that connect people to the landscape.

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Biz Wallace, Artist:
Documentary Videography and Photography; Watercolors

Biz Wallace is a multimedia artist and current fellow with Alaska Sea Grant working on expanding the Alaska Clean Harbors program. She holds a Master’s degree in Marine
Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography and a BA in digital media from the University of Southern California. Prior to working for Sea Grant, she supported
oceanographic research projects as a mate on a research vessel. She runs a boutique production company with her partner, Clayton Stich, and their films and photos focus on
how environmental change affects communities.

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Ocean Conservancy

Kristina Tirman

Kristina Tirman works as the Arctic Marine Debris Manager for Ocean Conservancy. In this role, she
supports communities, organization, and Tribes across the state and the Arctic region in their marine
debris efforts. Prior to this, she spent 7 years working as the Education and Marine Debris Coordinator at
the Sitka Sound Science Center where she planned and led marine debris removal projects and education
programs in Sitka. Kristina is passionate about reusing marine debris and has a small business making
and selling jewelry made from ocean plastic and uses this as a platform to raise awareness of the issue.

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Bailey Williams:

Yoga Instructor

Bailey is a 500hr E-YT with a background in yoga therapeutics. She's taught public and private yoga classes, workshops and retreats for a decade. When she's not in the mountains with her very large dog, she's in her very small cabin baking scones, writing, or reading about plants. 

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U.S. Forest Service Support

Samantha Lobdell

Sam Lobdell grew up in Northern Michigan where her love of the outdoors began. She obtained a bachelor's degree in Biology and Outdoor Recreation from Central Michigan University. To finish her degree, Sam found herself in Yakutat, AK for an Student Conservation Association internship with the US Forest Service in 2019. After falling in love with the forest and community, she returned for several seasons to work for the Forest Service as a Recreation Technician.

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In the winter of 2021 she ventured down to Sitka to complete a Resource Assistantship with the Special Uses Permitting Program on the Tongass National Forest and returned to Yakutat to accept a permanent position as the Yakutat Ranger District permit administrator. Sam enjoys learning more about birds in Southeast Alaska and helping provide fun, engaging opportunities to the community through the Tern Festival.

U.S. Forest Service Support

Reyna Abreu-Vigil

Reyna grew up living near public lands and early on she discovered her passion for nature and protecting natural resources. She earned her B.S. degree from Marshall University in Environmental Science in 2019 where she specialized in aquatic ecology. During college and after graduating, she spent summer field seasons working in West Virginia, Ohio, Montana, California, and most recently Alaska for primarily state and federal agencies. Through her degree and experience working various seasonal jobs, Reyna unlocked a love for all aspects of biology including watershed resources, plant ecology, fisheries studies, wildlife studies, and much more. This is Reyna’s second season working for the U.S. Forest Service in Yakutat as a Natural Resource Technician.

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Reyna is very excited to learn more about birding in southeast Alaska and the importance of Alaska’s land for migrating tern populations. In Reyna’s free time, you can find her painting, reading, or exploring Yakutat’s beaches and trails, looking for wildlife and foraging in-season edibles.

U.S. Forest Service Support

Galen Davitt

Bio coming soon.

Yakutat Tlingit Tribe (YTT)
Partner Support and Volunteers

COMING SOON!

Bird Banders and Field Trip Leaders

Benjamyn Limle

Ben grew up hunting, fishing, and foraging in NW Missouri. While obtaining a B.S. in Wildlife Conservation and Management from Missouri Western State University, he developed an interest in birds and birding. He has worked as a technician and biologist for various state and federal agencies, working in Missouri, Kansas, Arizona, Oregon, Kentucky, Alaska, and Puerto Rico. He has worked with various big and small wildlife species including Puerto Rican Parrots, Copperhead snakes, Bumblebees, Big Horn Sheep, and songbirds. He has been the wildlife biologist for the Ketchikan Misty Fjords Ranger District of the Tongass National Forest since 2017. He spends much of his free time lugging around binoculars and cameras in search of birds, though photographing any plants or animals observed along the way.

Wendy Mahan

Aside from college and a short time away working in the Gulf of Mexico, Wendy is a lifelong Alaskan from Southcentral. She earned a B.S. in Geology from Texas A&I University. She has worked in the Environmental field for many years and currently works a rotational schedule on the North Slope. She is passionate about wildlife and conservation efforts. Hobbies include crafting, hiking birding and photography.  

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Past Tern Festival Presenters

Bird Treatment and Learning Center (TLC)

John Zarnetske

John retired to Alaska from upstate NY State where he had been an educator for 34 years. Schooled in Wildlife ecology at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, John ended up teaching high school science (Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Earth Science and Environmental Science) and Wildlife Ecology and Wildlife Management at Southern Vermont College.

John 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. In the Tern Fest, John 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.

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John 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.

John 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, the owl, was a seriously injured juvenile 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.  

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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 Woodword

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!  

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Amy Beich

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.

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Juneau Audubon Society

Gwen Baluss

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.

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