The Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center (AWCC), Alaska’s premier wildlife sanctuary, has received a $250,000.00 grant from Matson to help fund an Ocean Education Center, to be located at The Point, where AWCC meets the waters of Turnagain Arm. Critically endangered Cook Inlet beluga whales can be seen from this location at high tides, especially in summer when they chase silver salmon right by the area.
“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,” explained Interim Executive Director Di Whitney.
The new Matson Ocean Education Center will lie alongside the current boardwalk and gazebo at The Point with a square classroom and large outdoor deck with the back corner pointing down Portage Valley (southeast) and the front corner pointing down Turnagain Arm (west). The classroom will measure 32’x32’, large enough to accommodate 30-50 people, depending upon configuration. This sustainable off-grid building will feature compostable rest room facilities, storage in two retrofitted Matson shipping containers, solar panels, and a rain collection system. Design is in the works, and construction is scheduled to begin in the fall of 2023.
The Matson Ocean Education Center will showcase educational programs highlighting Cook Inlet beluga whales, icebergs, and tides. Other features will include interpretive signs for self-guided visitors, 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. 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,” said Bal Dreyfus, Matson’s senior vice president, Alaska.
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 belugas whale especially regarding their declining population. In addition, AWCC works extensively with the AK Beluga Monitoring Partnership (AkBMP).
“We are so thankful to Matson for this generous gift,” said Lana Johnson, Chair, AWCC Board of Directors. “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.”
Matson, Inc. is a U.S. owned and operated transportation services company headquartered in Honolulu, Hawaii. A leader in Pacific shipping since 1882, subsidiary Matson Navigation Company, Inc. (Matson) provides a vital lifeline to the economies of Hawaii, Alaska, Guam, Micronesia and the South Pacific and premium, expedited service from China to Southern California. Matson’s long history as a leader in Pacific shipping underpins a half-century of dedicated service to Alaska by Alaskans.
Located at mile 79 of the Seward Highway, the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center (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 over 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.