Life at the Brown Environmental Leadership Lab: Alaska
A large amount of our time will be spent outdoors in this program. Together, we will explore some spectacular landscapes. Our goal is to get to know these places both through formal study and also by spending time listening, observing, and reflecting.
Some of our learning will involve full days in the field including: diversity surveys in beach habitats, an archeological site visit, and forest activities. You can expect a moderate level of physical activity every day, and should be ready to get your hands dirty. We will be walking a lot, and occasionally in rainy and muddy conditions.
We will be sleeping in college dorms most nights. For the two evenings at the Peterson Bay Field Station, we will be sleeping in yurts without running water or electricity. However, there is a permanent lodge visible from the yurts with standard bathrooms, meeting spaces, and a fully-functioning kitchen.
Program staff live on-site and are available to students 24 hours a day to provide support and supervision.
A Typical Day
There is no typical day in BELL: Alaska. The diversity of places and events we have planned require flexibility in the schedule. However, you can be sure that our days will start early, and each one will be packed full of activities, including field observation, educational discussions and panels, and time for team-building, recreation and reflection. Here's an example of a potential day:
7:15 am: Breakfast
8:15 am: “The Value of Salmon” presentation with a local sport fishing organization
9:30 am: Ecology lecture and field activity with university faculty
12:00 pm: Depart for afternoon hike, bring boxed lunch
1:00 pm: Hike to native fishing site and waterfall, met by state regulators
4:00 pm: Return to university
6:00 pm: Dinner
7:00 pm: Leadership workshop
9:00 pm: Free time
10:00 pm: Well-deserved rest
BELL: Alaska is academically rigorous. Given the intensity of the program there is some, but minimal free time.
Our schedule is bound to change depending on weather and last minute availability of speakers. However, below is a tentative program overview for each day. Read more about weather, and staying safe and comfortable in the field. »
Day 1: Arrival
- Arrival, orientation, team building, program preparation
Day 2: Introduction to Alaska
- Learn some Alaskan history from Alaska Native perspectives
- Gain knowledge of the current socio-economic status of Alaska Natives
- Meet representatives from Alaska's natural resource industries
- Participate in an activity focused on your personal leadership style
- Representatives from the Cook Inlet Tribal Council
Day 3: Traditional ways of life, changing
- Hear first-hand accounts of climate change in Alaska
- Discuss current issues related to extraction of resources like gold, oil, and gas
- Study circumpolar cultures at the Arctic Studies Center
- Explore a Social Change Model of Leadership Development
- Representatives from the Cook Inlet Tribal Council
Day 4: Scenic Drive to Homer
- Drive down the scenic, Seward Highway
- Visit the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center and learn why some endangered animals are not welcome back in Alaska
- View the Portage Glacier and evidence of climate change
- Walk remote beaches across the bay from Homer, AK
Day 5: Coastal Ecology and Group Diversity
- Conduct diversity surveys in tidepools at the Peterson Bay Field Station
- Quantify climate-related change in a forest ecosystem
- Participate in a diversity and leadership workshop
Day 6: The ocean’s many users
- Learn about marine mammal research
- Meet with gas executives on the Kenai Peninsula
- Develop teamwork skills through group initiatives
- Carol Swartz, Director of Kenai Peninsula College, Kachemak Bay Campus
- Dr. Deborah Boege-Tobin, Associate Professor of Biological Sciences at Kenai Peninsula College, Kachemake Bay Campus
Day 7: Fishing, an Alaskan Way of Life
- Hike to important archeological sites, learning regional history and Alaska Native culture
- View fishermen using dipnets to catch salmon in the river
- Learn a traditional fishing technique from Dena’ina elders
- Dr. Alan Boraas, Professor of Anthropology
Southcentral Alaska is a temperate rainforest so we do expect it to rain. Students should come prepared with raingear and clothes that can be layered as weather conditions change.
Average daily highs and lows in late July are as follows:
Anchorage: Daily Max 65F/Min 52F
Valdez: Daily Max 60F/Min 48F
Staying safe and comfortable in the field
Students can expect three balanced meals each day with vegetarian options available at every meal. All dining facilities have experience handling food allergies but please fill out forms to inform staff of any allergies or dietary restrictions ahead of time so that accommodations can be made.
Clean drinking water will be available at all times so please bring a reusable water bottle to use throughout the program. Many minor medical problems in the field are related to dehydration, so it is very important that students stay hydrated.
We also require students to bring long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and a bug net for their head. Mosquitoes are abundant this time of year in Alaska and while we won’t need these every day, it will be necessary at some points. Please see the equipment list [link] for other packing guidelines.
We anticipate having a few opportunities to observe wildlife including eagles, otters, and bears. Program staff will always accompany students as we enter the field and we will have a mandatory wildlife safety session for students. Staff have years of experience spotting and avoiding potentially dangerous situations and your safety is of utmost importance. In the event of an incident requiring medical attention, instructors have reliable communication systems and remain within one hour (and usually less) of emergency medical facilities.