Community Engaged Internship spotlight: Avery Herrman-Sakamoto

Avery Herrman-Sakamoto smiling with autumn leave in background
Avery Herrman-Sakamoto in Bethel, Alaska. Photo by Dawn Montano/Alaska Sea Grant.

Over the past two summers, Avery Herrman-Sakamoto has been helping to educate adults and youth in Petersburg, Alaska, using local and traditional knowledge along with Western scientific information. Herrman-Sakamoto’s work was part of the Alaska Sea Grant Community Engaged Undergraduate Internship program, where she collaborated with Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program agent Sunny Rice. The first year, she developed a camp for adults new to harvesting plants and animals in Southeast Alaska.

This year, Herrman-Sakamoto worked on a summer science camp for middle school students, designing and leading a lesson on the subject of historic Łingít (Tlingit) fish traps in the Séet Ká Kwáan (Petersburg, Alaska) area. Students visited archaeological sites in the Sandy Beach area to learn about the various designs of historic fish traps. The lesson culminated with groups of students applying what they learned about the local landscape and salmon life cycles to build small-scale temporary fish traps in the intertidal area using only materials found on site.  

On a second project, Herrman-Sakamoto documented local observations of long-term environmental change from community elders, harvesters, and others that work in that environment. With help from Alaska Sea Grant anthropologist Davin Holen, Herrman-Sakamoto and Rice developed questions that guided subjects to reflect on their interactions with the land and sea and how those have changed over the years.

When conducting interviews, Herrman-Sakamoto drew on past experience doing interviews for the program “Voices of Séet Ká Kwáan,” for example, allowing moments of silence after responses to allow subjects space to voice additional thoughts or observations.

After collating the results of her interviews, Herrman-Sakamoto presented her findings to local decision-makers at a fall community meeting on adapting to long-term environmental change in Petersburg.

More information about the Community Engaged Undergraduate Internship program is available on the Alaska Sea Grant website, including how to get involved as an intern or host for 2024.