2023 VetsWork Field Note: Exploring Alaska’s Secrets from Mines to Glaciers with Austin Kief

by | Field Notes, VetsWork, VW 2023

The year started off slowly but that gave me plenty of time to get familiar with Juneau and Forest Service systems. I had great opportunities to gain some GIS familiarity, learn about the mines that we work with, learn about the culture and history of southeast Alaska, and so much more. 

Before my own field season began I was able to go on mine inspections and even help out as an interpretive ranger at the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center. I learned so much being at the visitor center about the flora and fauna of the area and am incredibly grateful that I was able to get that experience. I still go out there whenever I have the chance!

In May I went out to Prince of Wales (POW) island to work as a cave guide for El Capitan cave. My first day on the island I landed in Klawock and within an hour I was hiking through new growth forest and going into caves. POW is a very unique place and provided me with fundamental hands-on experience with geology. The interp training I received at the glacier helped me with giving tours at El Capitan Cave and I really enjoyed interacting with the visitors there. 

I’ve been able to get a lot of training in various fields including GIS, site interpretation, ATV, ropes, first aid, survival, trailering, saws and a red card.

I’m back in Juneau now for the time being and spend my days inspecting mines (active and abandoned), doing field work with other departments, and helping out at the glacier. Im currently working on a brochure for El Cap Cave, planning two helicopter missions, mapping drill sites, and preparing to go back to POW for more cave mapping.