Trustees welcomes Heidi to our team! Here, she talks about doing scientific research on wildlife, animal habitat, and snow dynamics on her journey to her new role as legal assistant with Trustees. Here’s her story of heading north.
I was conducting rare plant searches and mapping the spatial extent of their existence on Catalina Island, California when I realized I needed to leave that beautiful and sunny state. I wanted to work on a species that no longer exists in that part of the world: wolves.
So in 2008 I drove with my red Siberian husky to Bozeman, Montana, where I landed a job tracking wolves and elk in central Yellowstone the entire winter. I joined a research group from Montana State University in traversing the landscape from sunrise to sunset to find out what and how often wolves ate.
Come spring, snowshoeing through those dense lodgepole pine sapling stands that had germinated after the 1988 Yellowstone fire went from being a nuisance to a primal act. Grizzly bears were beginning to come out of hibernation looking for food, too, and they often beat us to the elk and bison carcasses we were trying to study.
There’s nothing more hair-raising than walking upon a bear feeding.
The animals dictated my journey
My experience in Yellowstone was unique. The wolf packs and radio-collared elk dictated where I went for the day, and I spent my winter near or off the road system, alone, or in small groups immersed in wildlife. However, the reality is Yellowstone is an island of wildness and remoteness within a civilization. Encroachment is never too far away.
I knew the north was going to be my home.
Making it to Alaska
I worked for four summers on Kodiak Island starting in 2009, collecting data for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on how brown bears use the land and water, and where and what mountain goats eat.
Later, I spent another four years in Fairbanks working for the Arctic, Kanuti, and Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuges. I watched spring turn to summer near the Beaufort Sea coast while collecting ecological data on nesting shorebirds, and I flew over the Blow and Babbage Rivers on the Yukon Territory coastal plain to monitor the Porcupine Caribou Herd’s winter mortality rates.
Now, my husband, dogs and I are very pleased to have relocated to Anchorage after a brief two-year stint in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where we lived among the Tetons, the place where the dream that led to the Wilderness Act began.
Working at Trustees gives me the chance to not just stay in Alaska and explore it, but also to help protect it.