Demonstrating the global importance of the Bering Strait
Melanie Smith grew up in a family that has farmed the same land in Michigan for 160 years, and as a child was forever out in the woods birding, fishing, camping, and canoeing. As a young adult, she moved to Southeast Alaska, where she almost immediately knew she wanted to spend her life studying the environment and protecting wild places in this state. After studying ecology, natural history, and environmental policy at Prescott College in Arizona, and geography and wildlife biology in grad school at the University of Montana, she returned to The Last Frontier state and joined the science team at Audubon Alaska.
Among Melanie’s credits at Audubon is lead authorship of a Habitat Conservation Strategy for the National Petroleum Reserve, which provides for balanced resource management while maintaining an important area for birds, caribou, and polar bears in the north of the state. She also authored an Arctic Marine Synthesis: a report and atlas of maps detailing wildlife use in the U.S., Canadian, and Russian Arctic Ocean used widely by scientists and policymakers.
Melanie used her TogetherGreen fellowship to identify core habitats in the Bering Strait region to protect wildlife populations from disturbance and to ensure that subsistence fishing and hunting is not disrupted by increased shipping activity. By using maps and an accompanying report, she was able to provide important information to demonstrate the global importance of the Bering Strait, provide scientific documentation and spatial interpretation of specific values so that measures can be articulated for habitat protection. She also coordinated with NGOs to plan conservation workshops and worked with scientists that collect data for marine mammals and birds to locate and access the best available mapping data.
Melanie spent three weeks aboard a US icebreaker which traveled through Bering Strait and the Arctic Ocean. Through her blogging and social media streams, she brought the Arctic Ocean to people far and wide, and raised awareness of important conservation issues. This was followed by a publication in Alaska Magazine’s March 2013 issue featuring an article she wrote on the icebreaker journey through the Bering Strait. Her social media posts made an impression on thousands of enthusiastic followers, and the magazine article reached a circulation estimated around 260,000.