Alaska Sea Life Center – Seward, Alaska
Opened in 1998, in response to the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill, the Alaska Sea Life Center is a non-profit organization, which was constructed so that in case of another environmental disaster, there would be a team that was well prepared to respond. Although the center was initially funded for animals effected by the oil spill, it has expanded to house any animal that may have been injured or abandoned in the wild. The rehabilitation center examines, treats, and monitors any type of marine life that may come to the center. Larger mammals, such as: Steller sea lions, harbor seals, and sea otters, as well as some smaller fish and crustaceans are on display. Visitors can observe these animals in large tanks, with glass that extends through two floors.
Along with the rehabilitation aspect of the center, there are many marine specialists that will do research in the field. The questions posed by scientists can range anywhere from “do seals get cold?” to ways to improve the technology used to record data. The data collected in the field and the observations made at the sea life center can then be used to infer what is happening to animal populations out in the wild and could, potentially, assist scientists in finding solutions to ecological problems. The facility includes many wet and dry labs that allow for many different research teams to work at once. Also, there is a full lab that allows tests to be performed on site.
The Seal Life Center also serves as an educational opportunity for underprivileged students in the Anchorage area and in rural areas. With the assistance of funding, educational ambassadors can travel to rural places, where there may be students who have never seen the ocean before, and introduce them to marine life. This type of educational outreach benefits the students and the sea life center. Another interesting aspect of the Sea Life Center is that it is completely powered by renewable power. They use the water from their enclosures as a way to heat the entire facility and the side walks. Not only that, but they also are so efficient that they are working with the town of Seward to try and have the town also be powered by the renewable source.
We were allowed access to the behind the scenes functions of the center. The tour took us to food prep area and then to the rehabilitation tanks, which serve as an area to keep injured animals isolated from the other animals. From the rehabilitation tanks, we then traveled to the outdoor enclosures, which contained ice seals and otters. These animals were either recently brought to the center, or they were not ready to be introduced into the show tanks yet. As we moved through the hallways, there were visual presentations of the research teams’ projects. Our tour ended with a visit to the power source for the building, which turned out to be only a small blue box.
Dan Seavey Sr. brought his family to Alaska in the year of 1963. Dan Sr. had the hopes of mushing and bringing his family into the mushing lifestyle. In 1971 Dan Sr. and some colleagues joined forces and began to create what would become the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. Dan took the trail for the first time with 11 dogs and 36 other mushers. In 2012, Dan placed 50th at the age of 74. Dan’s son Mitch competed in his first Iditarod in 1982 and has competed in every Iditarod ever since 1995. In the past 21 years Mitch has won twice in 2004 and 2013 and has placed in second place since 2013. Mitch’s son Dallas has become the youngest Iditarod Champion at the age of 25 in 2012. He also was the youngest ever musher starting right at the age of 18. Dallas’ first win was in the year of 2011 and he has won the 2014 Iditarod as well as continued to defend his title ever since. Mitch owns 182 dogs, 16 of which were on his 2016-second place team.
On our trip to Seavey’s, we were able to pet and socialize with all the 182 dogs, were taken on a dog “sled” trail (sled in quotations because there is no snow on the ground), and played with some younger sled dogs. We also learned more about the Iditarod, such as what the mushers wear, and even what the dogs wear while running and resting.
Two of the “pups”. Robin the model for the dog gear
A quick fun fact about Seavey’s, they bred the dog that was the main character in the infamous dog sled movie Snow Dogs.
-The type of dog that they use for the movies instead of the typical sled dogs.
Rachael Planishek and Kristin Gilbert