Collaborating to support marine science outreach and education in Unalaska

Alaska Sea Grant is collaborating with the Qawalangin Tribe of Unalaska to support marine science outreach and education in a unique new partnership. Jenny Renee, who works for the Qawalangin Tribe as a Fisheries and Outreach Coordinator, monitors and manages priority subsistence fisheries and spends a quarter of her time on marine science education and outreach, with support from Alaska Sea Grant.

Jenny Renee
Jenny Renee. Alaska Sea Grant. UAF photo by JR Ancheta.

Marine science outreach activities in Unalaska include helping coach a local high school team for the Alaska Tsunami Ocean Sciences Bowl, managing Unalaska’s Dockside Discovery program, and conducting an Earth Day beach cleanup. These activities provide opportunities for community members, especially youth, to engage and learn more about fisheries, research, and management of subsistence resources.

Jenny’s work for the Qawalangin Tribe focuses on developing community activities and educational materials related to local subsistence resources and Tribal wellness. She works with local and regional partners to identify and communicate local subsistence management and information needs, and to connect the community to research, monitoring projects and other resources provided by federal and state management agencies. 

A major project for Jenny this summer is planning, coordinating, and staffing for the McLees Lake salmon weir monitoring program, which is transitioning to co-management by the Qawalangin Tribe and Alaska Department of Fish and Game. This transition provides the Tribe with a more active role in the management of this critically important local subsistence salmon run. The work involves installing and staffing a field site and weir to count sockeye salmon returning to McLees Lake through Reese Bay.

Jenny graduated from the University of Washington in 2019 with a degree in environmental studies and minors in marine biology and oceanography. She has worked as a research assistant, scientific diver and fisheries observer, and has been a seasonal fisheries technician for the Aleut Community of St. Paul Island, on and off since 2017.

Jenny brings experience working with tribal organizations, universities, and subsistence fisheries in both Washington and Alaska to her new position. “I’m thankful to have experiences working as a bridge between underrepresented communities and scientific communities and I’m so honored to be able to work for this community, serving tribal members” Jenny said.

two people sitting the back of a truck with a dog and bags of trash
Jenny Renee with fellow Qawalangin Tribe employee, Jon Gustafson, after the 2022 Earth Day beach cleanup. Photo courtesy of Jenny Renee.

Jenny’s most recent accomplishment is an Earth Day beach cleanup. She and Qawalangin Tribe employee, Jon Gustafson, managed to collect 7 bags of mixed litter, 1 plastic pallet, 2 large pieces of plastic, and 1 rubber disc, totaling just under 200lbs of trash removed from the beach.

“Alaska Sea Grant has invested resources in staffing, community education and service, and research in the Unalaska region for most of the past 20 years,” said Alaska Sea Grant director Ginny Eckert.  “We are excited to continue that work with Jenny, where she can leverage the support of the university and Alaska Sea Grant to respond to the local needs and concerns of  the Qawalangin Tribe.”

Jenny added “I love Alaska and the Aleutian Islands. I value this lifestyle of taking care of nature and appreciate the knowledge system here. Unangax̂  people have been fishing sustainably for many generations and I want to support and advocate for these practices and traditions.”