LOCATION – Tucked into Warm Springs Bay on the eastern shore of Baranof Island, the small community of Baranof is strategically located at the center of Southeast Alaska’s "ABC" islands (Admiralty, Baranof and Chichagof). This remote and pristine setting is equidistant by water from Juneau, Sitka and Petersburg. Closer at hand are the Tlingit villages of Kake and Angoon and their traditional gathering, fishing and hunting grounds. Most of these islands are federally administered and partially protected by wilderness areas, a large national monument and the Tongass National Forest. The CCC's principal building has ample room for lab space and can house several visiting researchers and student volunteers. In addition, AWF plans to develop additional eco-friendly work and living spaces on the adjacent land to support additional personnel. Glaciers that sit high above the community provide potable water and natural hot springs keep the outdoor tubs ready for a soak after a long day.
ECOLOGY - Baranof is surrounded by the Tongass National Forest, the nation’s largest national forest, and is in close proximity to the vast Southern Baranof Wilderness and the Admiralty Island National Monument. The area is characterized by old-growth temperate rainforests, muskeg, alpine, marine and freshwater habitats that present numerous opportunities for research and monitoring. As well, the eastern shore of Baranof Island – referred to as ‘the waterfall coast’ - is widely considered one of the most magnificent coastal settings in North America. For visitors, the experience of observing humpback whales spouting along the forested shores of an island capped with jagged snow-covered mountain peaks is transformative. So is the experience of meandering through a luxurious coastal rainforest trail leading to natural hot-springs that sit alongside the cascading Baranof Creek. These natural highlights provide an inspirational backdrop for immersive educational experiences.
AREA OF NEED - The area surrounding Baranof is facing a growing number of environmental concerns and human-wildlife conflicts that call for solutions informed by research. Detrimental and growing marine mammal/fisheries interactions include marine mammal entanglements in fishing gear, humpback whale depredation of hatchery-reared salmon fry, and sperm whale depredation of commercial long-line gear. The City and Borough of Sitka is facing increasing pressure to develop hydroelectric power resources on the eastern shore of Baranof Island. As well, the impacts of climate change, evidenced by widespread yellow-cedar decline and glacial recession, are becoming increasingly apparent. These concerns underscore the need for both innovative research and the long-term collection of baseline data to monitor environmental change.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR OUTREACH AND VISITOR ENGAGEMENT - During the summer months, thousands of visitors come to Baranof to relax in the natural hot-springs and enjoy the many other recreation opportunities the area has to offer including hiking, kayaking, botanizing, bird-watching and berry-picking. Vessel traffic is generally split between three user groups: i) commercial fishing vessels; ii) commercial recreational vessels engaged in wildlife viewing and sport-fishing; and, iii) private cruising/sailing vessels. This presents opportunities for targeted outreach aimed at disseminating research findings relevant to each group and eliciting their support for regional conservation efforts.