Two days … That was my window of time between Greece and Alaska. I flew home, and quickly ran out to purchase as many natural history books and wildlife guides as possible. It was a frantic race against time to learn as much as I could in the short window that I had to prepare myself to be a naturalist for the season up in Alaska. It felt a lot like cramming an entire college semester’s worth of information in just a weekend. Needless to say, it was pretty stressful, and there wasn’t a lot of sleep to be had. When I was finally up to speed on my plants, mammals, birds, fish, geography, geology, oceanography, glaciology, and history of the region (yes… we have to know everything!!!) it was time to hit the road and make my way to Juneau.
Although I’ve worked on Alaskan ships before, it was always in a different capacity. I’ve spent time as a fisheries observer collecting data on commercial fishing boats out of Dutch Harbor – an incredible experience in itself. But never had I visited the inside passage before, one of the most spectacular and biologically diverse locations in all of Alaska. As any biologist would be, I was incredibly excited to be visiting the remarkable inside passage (the string of islands along Southeast Alaska), but I was also a bit anxious about the wealth of knowledge I would have to learn to be a sufficient naturalist on the boat.
I’m a firm believer in hands on learning though, and so this first week on the ship was an excellent crash course as I was able to go on extended walks with our experienced field staff, embark on zodiac cruises with the naturalists, and listen to the fantastic lectures in the lounge as I prepared myself to take over the naturalist role in the next few weeks here.
Today is our turnaround day – the guests from this previous week are on their way back home and our new group arrives today so I look forward to another amazing week on the National Geographic Sea Bird, and can’t wait to lead some of the forest ecology walks and zodiac cruises myself! Should be a great trip ahead of us!