Community News

Posted: Monday, August 13, 2001

Nikiski family to host exchange student

Mr. and Mrs. J. W. Johns of Nikiski will be the host family for Alejandra Rivera, a Youth for Understanding (YFU) International Exchange Student from Mexico. Alejandra will participate in all family activities. While sharing the culture of Mexico with her host family and schoolmates, she will learn about United States culture.

For more information about hosting YFU international students, contact Wayne and Patricia Floyd at 776-8143 or the YFU district office at (800) USA-0200.

Exchange students need host families

The Academic Year in America (AYA) program is looking for families to host high school students on the Kenai Peninsula. Families host students in their homes for five or 10 months. Students arrive with full medical insurance, their own spending money, solid academic records and English skills.

In addition to learning about a new culture, host families can earn up to $1,000 toward a number of travel-abroad programs. AYA sponsors students from more than 30 countries including France, South Africa and Brazil. AYA can be visited on-line at

For more information, contact Danielle Carpino at (800) 322-HOST or e-mail

Alaska SeaLife Center news

Eider chicks newest addition to avian nursery

The two spectacled Eider eggs brought to the Alaska SeaLife Center by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service from Prudhoe Bay hatched on July 22. The two chicks have high foreheads, typical of eiders, spatulate bills and what appear to be big, round spectacles. Much like their goslings counterpart 'Connie,' the Aleutian Canada goose, the two spectacled riders are getting daily exercise through timed swims and by running around in their brooder.

Although the chicks' daily routine is similar, the eiders are on a slightly different diet. The sea duck starter diet includes a fish meal in addition to a variety of vegetables. Spectacled eiders are medium-sized diving sea ducks. Sea ducks are dimorphic when mature, which means their appearance distinguishes the males from the females. Although currently listed as "threatened" under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, spectacles eiders are one of three eider species rapidly paddling their way downstream to the "endangered" classification.

As for the ducklings, they will be featured on a live video feed that guests can view from one of the center's public galleries. Connie completed her stay at the center on Aug. 2. She was sent to Anchorage to become a part of an Aleutian Canada goose captive breeding population that will eventually be housed at a Russian captive breeding facility.

Center to reward several lucky fishers

Vigilant local sport and commercial fishers could be $500 richer this fall, courtesy of the Exxon Valdez oil spill-funded pink salmon genome project. As part of this project, pink salmon raised at the center during 1999 will make a return run from Resurrection Bay to the center fish pass.

Fishers who catch and turn in pink salmon with a clipped adipose fin will have their names entered into a lottery with a chance of winning one of two $500 drawings.

Another EVOS-funded project conducted at the center is extending a $500 reward to anyone who recovers and returns satellite pop-up tags. The telemetry tags are currently attached to several halibut that were released into the bay by Dr. Jennifer Neilson of the United States Geological Survey. The halibut were released from the center following tag attachment and behavioral and physiological observation period at the center. The tags are collecting valuable information about migratory behaviors of Pacific halibut.

Male seal woos females, entertains guests

Recently at the center, the mammal husbandry staff moved Snapper, a 17-year-old male harbor seal, back into the seal habitat. Snapper is exhibiting a variety of behaviors consistent with breeding and courtship. Visitors watching the seals may see Snapper, a particularly large seal, blowing bubbles, lying on the bottom of the exhibit, vocalizing, slapping his flippers on himself or the surface of the water, grooming or harassing the other seals. Although Snapper's behavior may seem odd and even abnormal to onlookers, mammal staff assure that he is simply trying to attract the attention of the female seals.

If mammal staff observe Snapper inflicting injuries on other seals in his quest for a mate, they will likely separate him out of the exhibit and give the girls a break.

Collecting trip provides center with new specimens

In late July, the Alaska SeaLife Center staff returned from a collecting trip with fish specimens for aquarium exhibits. The crew spent a three-day trip near Day Harbor, where they divided the poles and fished off the National Park Service vessel SERAC.

Center divers collected a number of juvenile rockfish underwater with hand nets. A couple of the sites were fantastic havens for black rockfish. Members of the collecting team, who routinely dive in the center's three large habitats, found themselves immersed in balmy water that approached 55 degrees Fahrenheit. In fact, the staff was apprehensive that some fish collected from the Day Harbor area may experience thermal habitats. The warmer water of Day Harbor also holds less oxygen than the colder water of Resurrection Bay. Despite the initial concern, the fish are adjusting well to their new environment.

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