It has been an amazing week. Actually, eight amazing days of Kodiak’s first Ocean Science Discovery and Marine Stewardship Camp. I admit it started rocky. There were troubles getting an insurance company to provide liability insurance for campers in a small island town in Alaska — one compan…

KODIAK — Some topics are easy to write about. It is easy to look up the life cycle of an animal and describe its animal superpowers. I love doing that because I am always amazed by how nature solves the multitude of challenges life offers in so many different ways. Other topics are more diff…

KODIAK — Kodiak is in summer mode; salmon fishing is at its height, tourists are swarming town, there is a constant background sound track of lawn mowers, outboards and children playing, and the roads are dusty. Some people love and enjoy every moment of it while others complain about too mu…

KODIAK — Everybody eats. I thought writing about nutrition would be easy, especially since I have lately spent quite some effort learning more about what foods energize and what foods actually zap us of energy. Hours later, I found myself still staring at a blank page after going down severa…

KODIAK — Sunshine, hot summer temperatures, blue skies, calm water-these are not usually terms to describe our Kodiak Archipel! Yet, the ten days I spent on tour with the Island C to clean up beaches on Shuyak Island, I was consistently surprised with these attributes, even though the weathe…

KODIAK — At this time of the year, Kodiak always seems to be buzzing. Everyone is busy rushing around and getting ready for something. It’s a different kind of busy than the business around Christmas time; this is more existential rather than social. Outdoor activities have sprung into full …

KODIAK — It was Easter Sunday in Kodiak and we had snow on the ground. Actually, that is not so unusual; I remember several Easter when my now-grown son was little, where I hid eggs in the snow. This does not change the fact that the winter was extremely warm for our latitude and the Bering …

I went down to the harbor the other day to enjoy a cup of coffee on one of those sunny April days before it started raining and sleeting, again. Thinking about the upcoming summer, with its increased number of cruise ships, I had wildlife viewing on my mind. 

KODIAK — I am stuck in Anchorage at the airport. My mind is a little fuzzy; I left my father’s house in Germany at 7 a.m. Tuesday — now, it is 7 a.m. Wednesday, but there is also a 10-hour time difference. So my travel time amounts to 34 hours, and I will not get home for another 9.5 hours. …

The last column was about nudibranchs, the amazing sea slugs with their colorful mantles and frilly gills. As I was out tide pooling during one of the very low tides this February, looking for sea stars for our education program, I saw several of the local nudibranchs; one dirty yellow sea l…

KODIAK — My most recent articles have been more about human interactions with the ocean and how human actions affect the ocean; I was told that I have been moving away from captivating people with the amazing beauty of the world underwater. As my birthday was earlier this month, and I live b…

KODIAK — A December day in Kodiak can feel a bit heavy and today is such a day. The typical gray of winter lies over the trees and shores and it is hard to decide if there is actually a horizon or if the ocean and the sky are just one continuous wet world. The gray heaviness reflects my mood…

KODIAK — Recently, I wrote a column about the growing problem of marine debris, specifically plastic that has somehow entered the ocean environment. In response to my article, I had two readers contact me and comment on how the article affected them. Thank you, for nothing is more rewarding …

KODIAK — On Tuesday evening, it felt like it had been a long week, even though the week was only a couple of days old. December 17 and 18 were the dates of the first Kodiak Island Environmental Monitoring workshop. The participants hailed from places around the island including Ouzinkie, Por…

Christmas time again, and the stores are loaded with goods and sweets and baking supplies and decorations, wrapping paper and bows. Outside, the temperatures have dropped below freezing and while working outside last week I got so cold, I now have the sniffles. 

KODIAK — I took a walk today along Kodiaks’ beautiful coastline and saw some harlequin ducks bobbing on the waves. As ice forms on the puddles, tufted puffins have left for the winter and also their clown-faced horned puffin relatives have disappeared from the near shore waters. Safe journey…

When you start reading this it will be a different kind of day then when I am writing it, I hope. As I am sitting here gazing out of the window, there is absolutely nothing to see, at least not in the distance. On one side of the house, I can’t see the ocean or even the more distant parts of…

I was recently given two rockfish one a quillback and the other a black rockfish. Both had been frozen whole, and I wanted to make sure to eat them before they sat in the freezer too long. When I was ready to fillet them, they were still too frozen, so I put them into my kitchen sink while I…

Two weeks ago, it was cold. Freezing temperatures and the strong winds cut my usual walks along the coast a little shorter. Checking the tide pools, there was not very much to find except for those hardy sessile animals that have no choice but to hang on to life in the very spot where they o…

Nobody can escape the passing of time. Every year, we remind ourselves of it by celebrating the anniversary of our entry to life and put another light on the birthday cake. Years ago, I made a birthday cake for a family member and lit 50 candles on it. The cake was not very large, because th…

I missed all the excitement last week. While Kodiak was going through the moves of a tsunami evacuation, I was away on family business in Germany. Conversations with family and friends always include fish and fishing in Alaska. Every German is an “expert” on Alaskan fisheries because the fre…

We have had some strong winds in Kodiak this month and last. If you look at the weather history on the Weather Underground website, you can set the graph to display wind speed on a given day, a week or the whole month. If you compare September and October to November and December, you may no…

It was my great pleasure this weekend to submit a research paper written by four student authors that make up the Kodiak High School Tsunami Bowl team. The team consists of Via Winter, Hanna Clary and Naomi Daniher, who are doing this for the third year, and freshman Kaleb Callahan, who stud…

Last week, I was preparing some solutions in the laboratory. Even though nothing I was working with was more dangerous than what any of you would use for doing laundry, I had dawned a lab coat and was concentrating on weighing out precise amounts to mix into super-filtered water. Even though…

It is that time of year: There were plastic spiders and ghosts in the classroom I visited last weekend. There’ll be little vampires, witches and maybe cats as their familiars knocking on our front doors to score some candy on Halloween night. Already, there are pumpkins decorating my neighbo…

On Kodiak wildlife tours, whales are not a guarantee. If you do see whales, consider yourself extremely lucky. There are almost always whales somewhere around Kodiak Island in the summer, just not necessarily within a two-hour boat ride from town. Nonetheless, I have been known to tell peopl…

Today’s topic is about dead fish. Dear readers, if you are sensitive or squeamish about the process of killing a fish and what happens then, you may know many situations and conversations in Alaska that you have had to avoid. This article is another discussion of freshly killed fish and what…

Over a year ago, I wrote about a couple from Germany who sailed the world on their bright red sailboat Freydis for over 40 years. The Freydis spent two winters here in Kodiak before. This summer, they sailed through the Northwest Passage in the Arctic back to the Atlantic. For those of you w…

The other day I walked out of my house to discover a mystery. The rock wall on the side of my driveway had adorned itself with three pretty, painted rocks. Walking around parks and trails in Kodiak, you have probably seen pretty and painted rocks left by some young or more advanced artists t…

In my last article, I wrote about the marine science summer camp in Old Harbor earlier this summer. While we were there and walking on the beach with our hosts, they told us that this spring that very beach had been covered in washed-up sea grass and herring spawn. 

The best way to understand a topic is to teach it. Last week, I had the privilege to be in the Native village of Old Harbor, teaching and learning through marine science, art and play. With me were three camp teachers – one from Alabama, one from Michigan and the third a young man who curren…

Barefoot, I am walking down a long white beach with the sun in my eyes. My toes squish through the sand, small waves lick my feet for a gentle ocean pedicure. I miss my dog. She is at home, half a world away. I am in a place called Boltenhagen. Before coming here, I had never even heard of i…

Parents often wonder how best to approach teaching their kids about how babies are made. Biologists, with all due respect, find this topic rather fascinating and study it a lot. The “Birds and Bees talk” is according to the online encyclopedia an English-language idiomatic expression for the…

I’m afraid of no ghost – or skeleton. That is, ghost shrimp or skeleton shrimp, which are two names for the same animal. They no more returned from the afterlife than the spider I found this morning in my bathtub, and they don’t even have bones unless you count an exoskeleton. 

In many families, grandparents play a significant role in raising the kids. This is also true in orca whales. Perhaps you have heard in the news that the oldest known female orca in the wild, Granny, died at the end of last year at the estimated age of 105. When you see a group of orcas, the…

This is a busy time of year in Kodiak. Everything this town stands for kicks into high gear: Boat owners scrub the winter’s grime off the decks and fishermen make repairs to gear and stock supplies. The harbor is humming with activity and so are the roads. Stores begin to stock garden soil a…

I recently came across an article in science news that described how a certain species of red coralline alga can be used to reconstruct ocean conditions, including the ocean pH, in past centuries. Red coralline algae are the stuff that carpets rocks in the tide pools in pink. Other species f…

I just sent off an abstract to the Kodiak Area Marine Science Symposium (KAMSS). The abstract is for the high school Tsunami Bowl ocean science team to give locals a second chance to hear their research about what they think we should do to insure that the terrible die off of sea lions that …

It is cold out! However, while it is cold the days are also clear and sunny and the night sky is full of stars. I have taken many a beautiful walk in winter wonderland enjoying the sparkle of light on the snow and ice crystals or marveling at formations of ice sculpted by the trickle of what…

I had to make an unexpected trip to Germany, where my family lives. As I am writing this article on a German keyboard, I am trying to adjust to the fact that the y and the z are in different places here, because their importance in the German language is reversed. Also, I am typing this at 4…

Wednesday, Dec. 21, at 1:44 a.m. was winter solstice. As I am writing this article, it is not Wednesday yet and technically I should be writing in the future perfect tense: Wednesday, at 1:44 am it will have been winter solstice. Sunrise on that day will have been at 9:53 am Kodiak time. I w…

That was quite some storm last week! According to the weather underground website gusts reached 60 miles per hour in town. As I was at home waiting out the tempest my house shook and the wind howled as rain and spruce cones were pelting the windows. I was afraid to sleep in my upstairs bedro…

Many years ago at the young age of 19 I applied for acceptance into a research diver program. I was already scuba certified, but this program was a lot more in-depth and would train me in special safety protocols and techniques to perform scientific work under water. There was an entry exam …

Last weekend we practiced marine science questions for the statewide ocean science quiz bowl competition called the Tsunami Bowl. The competition is not until February, but there is much to learn about and we prepare for the whole school year leading up to it. Last weekend we went on a retre…

Announcement cards, graduation gowns, caps, tassels, keyrings, yearbook, senior T-shirts, senior sweatpants, senior water bottles. A whole assortment of commercial memorabilia are vying for my attention — or rather my checkbook. It is my son’s senior year. Graduation is not only the celebrat…