Story by Alistair Gardiner, reprinted with permission from the Kodiak Daily Mirror.
KODIAK — Tonight, Homer-based author and naturalist Marylin Sigman will be presenting her first book, “Entangled, People and Ecological Change in Kachemak Bay” at Kodiak Public Library, from 6:30-7:30 p.m.
Sigman’s book is an exploration of the interactions between people and their environment in, not just Kachemak Bay, but the whole Gulf of Alaska over the past 9,000 years.
According to Sigman, the book came about after she got thinking about how people in the area have been “responding to climate change – and how it was changing a place that I loved a lot.”
Described on its back cover as “a rhapsodic introduction to Kachemak Bay and a siren call to protect the land’s natural resources in the face of a warming, changing world,” Sigman said that the book is simultaneously a personal response to the noticeable impacts of climate change and an examination of: “what’s our human capacity to deal with change and what kind of attitudes will help us survive?”
In ”Entangled,” Sigman looks at the patterns of settlement and displacement of Alaska Natives and uses the framing of her own journey to Kachemak Bay within diasporas of her Jewish ancestors. The book also includes plenty of scientific detail on the region’s changing environment, as well as stories recounted by Alaska Natives and research on indigenous culture.
According to Sigman, all the subjects explored in the book are very relevant to Kodiak Island, an area that is repeatedly touched upon in “Entangled.” While the book is rooted in the environment and culture Kachemak Bay, what started as a local look at ecological change ultimately became a more regional look at the issues.
“This whole region has a similar dependance on certain species … in terms of the resources,” she said. “What was happening in Kachemak Bay was happening across the whole gulf.”
“Kodiak really was the cultural center of this area for hundreds and hundreds of years,” she added. “I think the look at the indigenous people is very specific to this area.”
Sigman has more than 35 years of experience working as a wildlife and habitat biologist and an educator with an environmental specialism. A long-time Alaskan, she spent more than a decade as a naturalist and director of the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies in Homer and, while working with Alaska Sea Grant, she’s visited Kodiak many times. During the research for “Entangled,” Sigman used a number of local sources of information, including Kodiak’s Alutiiq Museum.
“Besides reading everything they’ve studied, I’ve been able to spend a lot of time in the Alutiiq Museum which is just really excellent,” she said.
Sigman has a Master’s degree in wildlife management from UAF and is a recent graduate of the UAA Creative Writing and Literary Arts MFA program. While her essays have been published in the Alaska Quarterly Review and We Alaskans, this is her first book.
Sigman said those who attend her presentation at the library tonight can expect a discursive forum.
“I will give a presentation with some readings dispersed, but I want to leave some time for discussion,” she said. “But I also want to reflect a bit on our constitution, both our state constitution and federal constitution … just in terms of how we dealing with ecological change as a society.”