Last Stands is a citizen ground-truthing project.
These are the places and the people who are walking them.
PRINCE OF WALES
The Last Stands project was born in 2017 when Southeast Alaskan, Elsa Sebastian, realized that the ecological integrity of her home island, Prince of Wales, was threatened by an enormous giveaway of public lands. In an act of relationship and protest, Sebastian and a team of adventurous conservationists walked across many of the 'selections' on Prince of Wales.
PRINCE OF WALES EXPEDITION TEAM
Elsa grew up in the fishing village of Point Baker on the north end of Prince of Wales Island and presently lives in Sitka. She spends her summers running her commercial salmon troller, and enjoys the adventure of fishing along the wild coastline of Southeast Alaska, from the rugged shores of Prince of Wales to the glacier blue waters of Icy Strait. Elsa received a degree in Environmental Studies from Wellesley College, and when she's not fishing she works and volunteers for organizations working to better understand and care for Alaska's communities and ecosystems. She presently serves on the board of Alaska Whale Foundation and has also served on the board of Alaska Marine Conservation Council.
DR. NATALIE DAWSON
Natalie Dawson has spent over a decade working as a research biologist in southeast Alaska, where she eventually received her PhD studying the charismatic mesofauna on Tongass Islands, focusing on endemic mammals. Natalie is a research associate with the University of New Mexico, where she continues to assist with the ISLES project (Island Surveys to Locate Endemic Species) based in southeast Alaska. She continues to learn from the Tongass through teaching field courses to college students among the forested islands. Natalie is also the Associate Director of the Wilderness Institute at the University of Montana, and teaches the Wilderness and Civilization program, an interdisciplinary field and campus-based program that awards college students with a minor in Wilderness Studies upon completion. She is most at home when bushwacking through Vaccinium and Oplopanax in orange, Helly Hansen raingear.
Mara joins the team as an artist working in the tradition of natural history illustration. Growing up in Helena, Montana, Mara learned to draw by copying the illustrations from the worn pages of her dad’s bird guides. Most recently, she worked as the botanical illustrator for the U.S. Botanic Garden in Washington D.C., dissecting flowers and tracking plant life-cycles to create visuals for signs and publications. Inspired by 19th-century explorer-naturalists, she’s stuffed art supplies into backpacks, bike panniers and dry bags, painting everything from the mangroves of the Mekong delta to the basement rocks of the Grand Canyon. Carrying her field journal and watercolor paints, she will document the threatened flora and fauna of the Tongass National Forest. Read about Mara's Tongass illustrations here.
M/V TARKA: JIM & LANI BRENNAN
Jim grew up in Southeast Alaska and is a retired lawyer who has been active in marine conservation issues. He and Lani have for many years explored the waters of Prince William Sound and, more recently, Southeast Alaska by kayak and on their 32-foot boat "Tarka". In the summers the Tarka crew can often be found in Warm Springs Bay on Baranof Island where they have a family cabin. Jim & Lani are always up for adventure, and the Tarka will act as a support vessel for a portion of the Last Stands POW expedition.
Farragut Bay / Port Houghton Expedition Team
MARJA SMETS & BO VARSANO
Bo and Marja have a homestead in Farragut Bay where they make a living running a small mixed vegetable farm. They have spent decades exploring the Farragut River valley and the mountains, lakes and forests that surround it. Most of their waking moments are spent trying to figure out how to grow bigger turnips but they also work to promote local commercial agriculture throughout Southeast Alaska.
Read about Bo and Marja's 2017 transect here.
Rowan Bay Expedition Team
DR. ANDY SZABO
Andy directs Alaska Whale Foundation, an independent research organization that studies marine mammals and their coastal habitats. Much of Andy’s time is spent coordinating research projects and advising graduate students from AWF’s remote field station on eastern Baranof Island. He also spends a considerable amount of time traveling in the polar regions -- Antarctica and the Canadian Arctic -- to provide natural history lectures aboard National Geographic’s small fleet of expedition ships. Although a Canadian from the Great Lakes region, Andy now considers Alaska his home – so much so that he is building a cabin near AWF’s field station. It's his love for the lush and ecologically intriguing old-growth rainforests of Southeast Alaska that has inspired hime to join the Last Stands team.