Robert L. DeVelice, a vegetation ecologist on the Chugach National Forest, monitors invasive plants. (Forest Service photo)
Vegetation ecologists play an essential role in the U.S. Forest Service. They research the abundance and location of flora in their region as well as the factors that influence how the plants flourish. All nine Forest Service regions and most forests have ecologists on staff, representing a variety of interests. Some ecologists are fascinated by fungi, while others focus on lichens, wildflowers and other elements of biodiversity. In addition, plant ecologists and botanists provide quite a bit of support to the other disciplines and program areas within the Forest Service.
Robert L. DeVelice, a vegetation ecologist on the Chugach National Forest, fits the role well. His wealth of education, experience and personal interests have benefited both the forest and the local community. He grew up in New Mexico, received a Bachelor of Science in forestry from the University of Montana, a Masters in agronomy with a focus on forest soils from New Mexico State University, and a Ph.D. in plant ecology. When he arrived in Alaska in 1992, he was quite interested in native plants, their distribution and ecological occurrences across the landscape. Read more »
Robert Stovall, the deputy district ranger on the Seward Ranger District on Alaska’s Chugach National Forest, takes a moment to relax at the Russian River Falls Overlook. As a sport fisherman he enjoys hooking the big, aggressive silvers, also known as coho salmon. (U.S. Forest Service photo)
To be a wildlife biologist and to be in Alaska … it’s not a question, it’s the good life for this Forest Service land manager.
Just ask Robert Stovall, the deputy district ranger for the Seward Ranger District since 2009 for Alaska’s Chugach National Forest. There are no roads into the forest’s interior. Beyond a two to three-mile road journey, you’ll find yourself in back country with no improved roads, a land full of beautiful scenery, lots of native wildlife, adventures and challenges. Read more »
Musher Heidi Sutter and dog sled team approach the Sourdough checkpoint for a mandatory rest period during the Copper Basin 300 dog sled race. Federal agency land management volunteers met in Glenallen, population less than 500, to lend support for event success. (Photo courtesy of Photography on the Kenai/Robert Parsons)
Think Alaska in the winter: a large land canvas of powdery, granular or icy snow and days of often very, very cold weather.
With those conditions, it’s off to the races for some of the heartiest Alaskan sled dogs and volunteers like U.S. Forest Service employee Carol Teitzel, who works in the U.S. Forest Service Alaska Region and who lent her support to the excitement and challenge of this year’s Copper Basin 300 Sled Dog Race.
The 310-mile competition counts as a qualifying race for the nearly 1,000-mile Iditarod, the most popular dog sled race, and the 1,000-mile Yukon Quest, sometimes called the world’s toughest dog sled race. Read more »
Sockeye salmon swim upstream in Yakutat, Alaska. (U.S. Forest Service/Nate Catterson)
Alaska’s Chugach and Tongass national forests are sometimes referred to as salmon forests, producing all five species of wild Pacific salmon: king, coho, sockeye, pink, and chum.
Salmon is vital to Alaska’s economy, and last year’s statewide commercial salmon harvest is being noted as a banner year. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced the salmon harvested in 2013 set a new record at 272 million fish.
About 45 percent, or 122 million, of these commercially harvested salmon relied on habitat managed by the U.S. Forest Service. Much of the harvest consisted of pink salmon, the most abundant of salmon found in Alaska. Don Martin, the aquatic and fish program leader for the Alaska Region, said that 95 percent of the habitat where pink salmon spawn in Southeast Alaska is on the Tongass National Forest. The work of Forest Service fish biologists contribute to the health and viability of these salmon. Read more »
The Chugach National Forest BioBlitz – an intense period of biological surveys – included surveys of all organisms in Portage Valley including fungi. Ecologist Kate Mohatt leads a walk for the public to identify all mushrooms fruiting in the valley in 2011. (U.S. Forest Service/ Mona Spargo)
While many people look forward to fall for football rivalries and tailgate parties, others enjoy a different pastime — foraging for fall’s crop of fungi.
In Alaska, the season’s fungi festivals will find enthusiasts lined up for hikes into the woods to search for lichens and forage for mushrooms.
In September, the Wrangell Ranger District on the Tongass National Forest hosted a two-day event near the Rainbow Falls Trail. Karen Dillman, the forest’s ecologist, and Kate Mohatt, an ecologist from the Chugach National Forest, shared a variety of tips and information on fungi with locals and visitors including information profiled in the video “The Mushroom Maven of the Chugach National Forest.” What are the differences between edible and poisonous mushrooms? The pair described how to look for telling colors of the mushrooms after they are cut open, as well as the distinctive features of the caps and ridges. Read more »
Ski athletes come from all over the world to train on the Chugach National Forest, spending 25 to 30 hours a week in the challenging, variable conditions found on Eagle Glacier. The Alaskan Pacific University operated seven camps, each with about 20 athletes this summer. (Courtesy U.S. Ski Team Women’s Coach/Coach Matt Whitcomb)
America’s elite, Olympic-bound Nordic skiers have a high-altitude secret they hope will give them an edge in Sochi, Russia, during the 2014 Winter Olympics in late February.
Team members take a 10-minute helicopter ride from sea level up to Eagle Glacier on Alaska’s Chugach National Forest, the most northern national forest in the U.S. The environment there mimics what they expect to find in Sochi.
The glacier, 5,500 feet above Girdwood, Alaska, is home to the Thomas Training Center operated under permit by the Alaska Pacific University Nordic Ski Center. The ski center was established in the late 1990s as a model for creating international success in American Nordic skiing. Read more »