Matson Donates $250,000 to Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center for Ocean Education
The Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center (AWCC) received a $250,000 grant from shipping firm Matson to fund an Ocean Education Center on the shore of Turnagain Arm.
See the Belugas
“This exciting partnership will enable AWCC to build a classroom with viewing deck at The Point for expanded education programs highlighting beluga whales, icebergs, bore tides, and the glaciers that carved the valley and fjord,” says AWCC Interim Executive Director Di Whitney.
The Point is where the AWCC property near Portage meets tidewater. Critically endangered Cook Inlet beluga whales can be seen there at high tides, especially in summer when they chase silver salmon right by the area.
AWCC is an official NOAA counting station for Cook Inlet belugas whales during the annual Belugas Count! event that happens every September. Belugas Count! raises citizens’ awareness about Cook Inlet beluga whales, especially regarding their declining population.
The Matson Ocean Education Center will showcase educational programs and feature interpretive signs for self-guided visitors, a life-size beluga whale skeleton, binoculars and big eyes for viewing across Turnagain Arm, Secchi disks for measuring water turbidity, and a hydrophone for hearing underwater sounds.
“We are excited about helping the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center’s vision for this new Ocean Education Center to become a reality,” says Bal Dreyfus, Matson’s senior vice president, Alaska. “It’s an opportunity to create a new community resource that will excite and educate generations of Alaskans and visitors about the ocean environment and conservation of our unique ecosystems and animal life in Alaska.”
The donation from Matson covers half of the estimated $500,000 cost of the project.
“We are so thankful to Matson for this generous gift,” says Lana Johnson, AWCC board chair. “Visitors, students, and research teams will be able to learn and study from one of the most scenic places in Alaska, with wood bison and elk on one side and views of the water, beluga whales, mountains, and glaciers all around.”
The new Matson Ocean Education Center will lie alongside the existing boardwalk and gazebo at The Point, with a square classroom and large outdoor deck offering views of Portage Valley to the southeast and Turnagain Arm to the west. The classroom will measure 32 feet square, large enough to accommodate thirty to fifty people, depending upon configuration. This sustainable off-grid building will feature compostable toilets, solar panels, a rain collection system, and storage in two reused Matson shipping containers. Design is in the works, and construction is scheduled to begin in the fall of 2023.
Conservation Through Education
An early schematic diagram of the Ocean Education Center near existing facilities at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. The concept of windows in the floor, looking down into a slough that the building would straddle, has since been rejected as too expensive.
Located at mile 79 of the Seward Highway, the AWCC is a 501(c)(3) non-profit sanctuary dedicated to preserving Alaska’s wildlife through conservation, education, research, and quality animal care. AWCC takes in orphaned and injured animals year-round and provides them a forever home. The sanctuary maintains more than 200 acres of spacious habitats for resident animals to feel at home displaying their natural “wild” behavior as education ambassadors for their species. AWCC offers STEM education programs in the areas of biology, ecology, and conservation.
Matson is a Honolulu-based transportation services company. A leader in Pacific shipping since 1882, subsidiary Matson Navigation Company provides a vital lifeline to the economies of Hawaii, Alaska, Guam, Micronesia, and the South Pacific, as well as premium expedited service from China to Southern California.