Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Seward Stompin' Grounds

One of the benefits of living in Alaska for the summer is all of the ground you get to stomp while here. There are tons of things to do all over Alaska, and fortunate enough for me, most of them lie in Seward. 

My friends and I have taken advantage of all of the wonderful things Seward has to offer, and all of the Alaska SeaLife Center discounts we receive for being employees! Bonus!

We have gone on cruises around Resurrection Bay & beyond...

We have gone ziplining into the abyss & repelled down trees... 

In June, I had a wonderful visit from my mom in North Carolina. We got to go on an Ididarod dogsled ride, and snuggle with their puppies, too!

The following day, we visited Exit Glacier. As we approached it, there were signs that had a date of when Exit Glacier reached that far. It was incredibly disheartening to see how much it had retreated, but I'm glad we got to visit it before it melts any more. 

Of course, nothing compared to the amazing hikes in the area!

But honestly, how can you compete with the natural beauty that was just 2 blocks from my apartment in Seward?

Some friends and I camped out by Resurrection Bay one night, and this is the darkest it got all night! 

Truly amazing time spent in Seward. There are so many more opportunities available there that I didn't even have enough time for! I look forward to going back and exploring more of Alaska!


Monday, September 7, 2015

Hike to the Harding Ice Field

2,800 feet above sea level, lies one of the most incredible works of God I have ever experienced: the Harding Ice Field. Stretching out to the size of Rhode Island, the Harding Ice Field is a sheet of ice that feeds all of the glacier in Kenai Fjords National Park. 

Photo credit: National Park Service

This hike is no joke. I knew I was in for a challenging day when I neared the trailhead to the ice field, and several park rangers wished us good luck. We took our time climbing, and I'm glad we did- the views were fantastic the entire time!

It took us so long to get to the top, but WOW, was it worth it!

All smiles for making it to the top!

It was amazing to take in the sheer size of this amazing work of God!

"He makes me as surefooted as a deer, enabling me to stand on mountain heights"
Psalm 18:33


Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Back to Rehab

That's right, everyone! I'm officially done cross training, (which has been such a wonderful experience) and I am permanently back in the ASLC Stranding Department for the remainder of the summer. I could not be happier with the rehab department. Everyone is wonderful, and it is such a perfect fit for me.

The unique part of working in a rehabilitation department, is that you never know what your day will consist of. The health of the animals in your care is much less certain than the animals under permanent care of a facility. You also could get a new animal in your care... which is what happened to me a few weeks ago.

When I was working in the aquatics department, I got a call from my supervisor asking me to go to Anchorage (about 3 hours away) with her to pick up a stranded harbor seal pup. This particular pup was stranded in Cordova, and some kind fishermen put it on a flight to Anchorage. That's right, this seal pup rode in an Alaskan Airlines flight, and we picked him up at the back of the airport. It was probably one of the weirdest things I have ever done. 

We pulled over on the side of the road several times to check his temperature, and get him started on tube feeding fluids. We met the veterinarian at the Alaska SeaLife Center, where we did a full physical assessment. She explained that she was looking for eye rings, which were an indicator of good hydration. 

Wobbe, the seal that we retrieved from the airport in Anchorage

I have already learned so much about the rehabilitation of seals, and have since gotten so much more hands on experience. For example, during a tube feed, we have one person on the animal "restraining", which basically just keeps them still while we feed, to prevent any injury to the animal. I have been restraining for our feeds throughout the day, and yesterday, I got to restrain a seal (who hasn't pooped in over 48 hours) for an enema! I have never had such hands-on experience. 

Multiple times a day, we swim some of the seals. This involves filling a tote several inches with either full salt-water (which comes in straight from Resurrection Bay), or brackish. We include several live salmon for them to chase, and potentially kill, and eventually, eat.

Watching the seals make tremendous progress has been so incredible. I am so excited for the future, and to see how the rest of the summer plays out.


Friday, May 29, 2015

Keep friends close, anemonies closer.

Because we only have 2 pups in the stranding department, I am getting cross trained for the time being, which means I just spent a week working in aquarium! I sincerely didn't know a thing about aquariums, and I'm not squidin'! Some would rather not help out in aquariums, but that's just shellfish! These aquarium jokes are kraken me up. (That's it, I'm sorry).

I started out each day by washing the windows to all of the aquarium exhibits. Many people don't realize how much cleaning goes in to working in an animal facility. A majority of your day is spent cleaning. I spent most of the week doing whatever aquarium needed me to, which is exactly what I why I was there. I got covered in salt water which left terrible stains (that washed out) and one day I had pieces of krill on all items of clothing I was wearing. It's a messy job.

I did get the opportunity to have an octopus encounter while I was in aquarium! I had just come from food prep, so my hands smelled like squid. Octopus taste with their suckers, which helps them hunt and distinguish a rock from a crab shell. Because my hands were so delicious, Egg the octopus, really liked me... a lot. Just one of their larger suckers can hold up to 15 pounds!

I also got introduced to my new favorite thing: PLANKTON TOWS! A plankton tow is when we go out onto the dock by the SeaLife Center and put out a 10 foot net with a long rope attached, in order to catch plankton. These were my favorite things to do because I learned a lot about copepods and got to be outside to see wildlife and enjoy the beautiful Alaskan weather and scenery.
Brynn emptying out our bounty from our plankton tow

Sea otter relaxing by the dock

I learned so much during my week in aquarium, and I really enjoyed it! I am very fortunate to be able to get cross-trained during my time at the Alaska SeaLife Center. Any experience is good experience!


Resurrection Bay Cruise

Last Sunday, I had the opportunity to go on a 4-hour cruise around Resurrection Bay for free. The Alaska SeaLife Center has established partnerships with local businesses in Seward, AK, which enables the employees to benefit from discounts and promotions. Some of my friends and I took advantage of this opportunity and got to go on the Kenai Fjords Boat Tour.

The Resurrection Bay Tour map, photo credit: Kenai Fjords Tours

Boarding pass for Kenai Fjords Tour

The day started out like most of my days in Seward: spotting sea otters in the water. We whale watched for a majority of the trip, and it was about 39 degrees and raining, so only the brave stayed on the bow of the boat! (I did)

Whale patrol on the bow of the boat

We stopped at Fox Island for lunch, where we had an all-you-can-eat buffet of salmon and prime rib. I scarfed down my food so I could go out and explore! We played on the beach until it was time to go back on the boat. 

Once we got back on the boat, we cruised around until we saw a group of harbor seals hauled out on the coast of another island. It was amazing to see harbor seals in the wild! Shortly after, we saw a pod of orcas! It was incredible! A video can be found on my Instagram: julieahodgin

Even though we had to brave the elements, we had an incredible time on Resurrection Bay. I will soon be going on an 8.5 hour cruise to visit some glaciers, and I will be sure to blog about it afterward!


Instagram: julieahodgin

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Covered in Fish and Glitter

I have just finished my first week of work at the Alaska SeaLife Center! I started out on Wednesday in the stranding department, where I will be spending most of the summer. We already have a harbor seal pup in our care, her name is Silky. 
Photo credit: Alaska SeaLife Center

During our workday, we received another harbor seal pup! She came in weighing 7.7 pounds and was about the size of a month old baby. Dr. Kathy Woodie came to do a physical assessment. Usually in stranding, you keep your conversations to a minimum so the pups don't get used to human voices, which helps them keep a distance from humans once they get released back in the wild. Since this pup has been in human care all day already, she wanted to make this a learning opportunity for us, so she told us exactly what she's looking for and checking as she is doing it. She let us feel for a follicle near the umbilical cord. 

Since we only have two pups in the stranding department, I am getting cross trained in several departments for a few weeks. I spent the last two days in marine mammal husbandry, which is what I have the most experience in. I began the day by stuffing medicine, vitamins, and glitter pills in fish for the animals. We collect fecal samples and send them to our lab to assess hormone levels. The steller sea lions get glitter pills in their food in order to know whose poop is whose. Each sea lion has a different color glitter to keep track of this.

I also got the opportunity of a lifetime yesterday. I got to feel the pregnant harbor seal. Atty is expecting her third harbor seal pup and could be giving birth as early as next week. Her harbor seal pup is very active inside her, and I was able to feel her belly as the pup moved around. I was smiling so much, it was one of the coolest things I've ever done. 
Atty, the pregnant harbor seal. Photo credit: Alaska SeaLife Center

Atty is also known for her beautiful paintings, which I was able to watch in action.

Later in the day, I observed another harbor seal training session with the "bachelor pad", which is all of the male harbor seals on exhibit.

I have had the most incredible first week in Alaska, and I don't think I've stopped smiling since I got here. I may be covered in fish guts and glitter, but I am the happiest girl in the world.


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Welcome to Alaska!

Even though I only had one hour of sleep prior to my departure, the Alaskan scenery woke me up like no other. In the last two hours of my flight to Anchorage, the snow-capped mountains filled my little airplane window. I was almost in tears, I had anticipated arriving in Alaska for so long, just to see it in person was incredible.

After about an hour at the hotel, I got picked up by a local. Ken had worked at the North Carolina Zoo before transferring to the Alaska Zoo in Anchorage. He drove me to Palmer, Alaska, where we visited a reindeer farm. We had such a fun time! 

The view in Palmer, Alaska

The following morning, I woke up at 4:30AM in order to catch the train to Seward, Alaska. Seward is where I will be spending the summer, working at the Alaska SeaLife Center. The train ride to Seward was like a majestic dream. I ended up taking over 200 photos! 
Every turn was a new postcard. 

And now I have officially arrived in Seward, and start work at the Alaska SeaLife Center tomorrow!

Until next time...