This project contains oral history interviews with long-time residents of Skagway, Alaska talking about their observations of environmental change in and around Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, and with National Park Service employees and residents of Nome, Alaska discussing the changing environment in and around Bering Land Bridge National Preserve. Capturing the effects of change on cultural and natural resources at these two coastal park areas, and hearing about the effects on the human connection to those resources allows audiences to gain first-hand understanding of a changing environment and provides the opportunity to draw comparisons between two distinct regions of Alaska. The interviews pay particular attention to: vegetation succession; differences in plant and animal species; retreating glaciers; vertical advance of tree lines; changes to coastal lagoons and formation of sea ice; shoreline erosion; permafrost melt; and shifts in phenology. Additionally, the interviews highlight the impact of such changes on the flora, fauna and humans, and the adaptations all are making to these changes.
Support for this project was provided by the National Park Service, and Anne Mastov and Karl Gurcke of Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park and Katie Cullen of Bering Land Bridge National Preserve who assisted in project planning and implementation, and helped identify and select people to be interviewed. The Skagway interviews were conducted in 2018 by Karen Brewster of the Oral History Program at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and the Nome interviewes were conducted in 2019 by Leslie McCartney of the Oral History Program at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and Katie Cullen of the National Park Service. This Observing Change in Alaska's National Parks Project Jukebox website was completed by Karen Brewster in 2019.
Betsy Albecker was born in Seattle, Washington in 1945 and was raised in Skagway, Alaska. She is the daughter of well-known Skagway photographer and entrepreneur, Barbara Dedman Kalen, and her ties to the community go back to her grandparents who arrived during the 1898 Gold Rush and ran a number of local businesses. After attending school in Washington and living in other places in Alaska, and coming back every summer to garden at the family homestead property at Nahku Bay, Betsy has been... Read More
Andrew "Andy" Beierly was born in 1940 in Juneau, Alaska and grew up in Skagway, Alaska. He attended the Mission School in Skagway, and then graduated from Skagway High School. In 1957, while he was still in school, he started working for the White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad on a section crew, and then worked full-time for them from 1962 to 1982, as an engine mechanic, on the bridge crew, and in the car shop. After the White Pass Railroad shut down, Andy went to work for... Read More
Joanne Beierly was born in Seattle, Washington, and moved to Skagway when she was in high school when her father came to the area for a job as a heavy-duty mechanic on the Black Lake Road construction project. She graduated from Skagway High School, where she met Andrew Beierly. They were married in 1965 and together raised two children in Skagway. After her children were grown, Joanne worked as a teacher’s aide, at the Skagway library, and in the Skagway Museum. Joanne is a founding member... Read More
Originally from Idaho, Lynne Cameron first came to Alaska in 1980 to visit her parents and her sister who were living in Anchorage at the time. She fell in love with Alaska and made it her home. She move to Skagway in 1987, where she worked a variety of jobs, including janitor, hotel housekeeper, and tour guide until eventually returning to her previous nursing career and became the family nurse practitioner at the medical clinic in Skagway. In the 1980's, when Skagway was first facing... Read More
Originally from Chicago, Illinois, Susan Fredricks first arrived in Alaska in 1978. She first lived in Haines, and then moved to Skagway in 1986. She has held a variety of jobs, including jewelry store sales, running a daycare facility, and providing wildlife tours for summer visitors. In the 1980s, when Skagway was faced with possible lead contamination from ore trucks passing through town to the docks, Susan was an active participant in the community's response with the "Get Out The Lead"... Read More
Letty Hughes was born in Montana, but her family moved to interior Alaska when she was about six years old. She graduated from the University of Alaska Fairbanks in 2004 with an undergraduate degree in wildlife biology. She has worked for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Fairbanks, Bethel and Nome, Alaska, and since July 2018 has been the wildlife biologist for Bering Land Bridge National Preseve based in Nome. Her work has included being a field technician studying the stomach... Read More
Tahzay Jones grew up in Arizona, and earned an undergraduate degree in biological sciences from the University of Chicago, and a PhD from the University of Miami focused on invertebrate animals in the marine environment and how the influences from coastal runoff impacted the near-shore environment. He then left the sciences and pursued his interests in art, design, theater, photography, and videography. After a number of years, he regained an interest in science and came to Alaska as a... Read More
Jeanette Koelsch was born in Anchorage, Alaska to Joe and Grace Cross, and moved to Nome in 1982 when she was about ten years old. Her maternal grandparents were Jane and Jack Antoghame from St. Lawrence Island. After graduating from Nome-Beltz Senior High School, she attended Linfield College in McMinnville, Oregon, graduating with an undergraduate degree in general science. Her first professional job after college was in 1994 as a summer seasonal park ranger with the National Park Service... Read More
Bea Lingle was born in 1927 in Skagway, Alaska. Her grandfather came to Skagway as a gambler during the 1898 Gold Rush, and after a year brought up his wife and young daughter. This daughter was Bea's mother, who received training as a nurse's aide and English teacher at school in the Lower 48, and returned to Skagway where she met and married Albert Roy Hillery, who was working on the White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad. They eventually divorced and she moved to Seattle where she raised her... Read More
Jacob Martin was born in 1993 in Nome, Alaska to Mildred "Blue" and Arthur "Guy" Martin. His maternal grandparents were Lucy Koyuk and John Taxac from King Island, Alaska. Jacob grew up living a subsistence lifestyle of hunting and fishing, with many summers spent with his aunt and uncle in Koyuk. He graduated from Nome-Beltz Senior High School in 2012 and attended one year at the University of Alaska Fairbanks before returning to Nome where he worked for Sitnasuak Native Corporation in... Read More
Originally from the Seattle area, John McDermott came to Alaska in 1970 for a teaching job in Skagway. He met his wife, Lorna, and in 1977 they purchased the old Patterson Cabin in Dyea ( and made Dyea their permanent home. After teaching for a couple of years, John took a job as a conductor for the White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad and worked there until the railroad shut down in 1982. After living outside of Alaska for a few years, the McDermotts moved back to Skagway in 1993 and John... Read More
Carl Mulvihill was born in Skagway, Alaska in 1938 and began working for the Whitepass and Yukon Railroad when he was sixteen. Both his father and grandfather worked for the railroad. Carl held a variety of positions from section crew member to brakeman to dispatcher to chief clerk. His interest in the railway’s history developed when he was in college.
Stan Selmer was born in Iowa in July 1948 while his parents were traveling, and in September 1948 was brought back to Skagway, Alaska where the family was living. All of his siblings were born in Skagway, as was his father. Stan's grandfather, originally from Norway, was one of the first barbers in Skagway, and ran the movie theater, played in the town band, and was mayor. Stan's mother, originally from Minnesota, came to Alaska to be a nurse, and in 1945 she got a job at the White Pass... Read More
Originally from Wisconsin, Emily Willis came to Skagway, Alaska in 2002 to work seasonally. She ended up staying and worked at Jewell Gardens from 2002 to 2008. Feeling connected to plants, both wild and domestic, she began to learn about their traditional and medicinal uses through coursework at the Australasian College of Health Services, by attending workshops by Beverly Gray in the Yukon, and Robert Rogers, and by self-study. In 2010, she established her business, "... Read More