By Blaire Rikard
The Duke in Alaska program offered Blaire a practical reason to do the program – it fulfilled the Organismal Diversity Biology Area Requirement for her major in biology (pre-med). However, she was pleasantly surprised to find the program also expanded her interests in environmental sustainability, ecology, and conservation, all of which inspired her plans for the following summer.
On how her ideas and perceptions changed with the program…
As a result of this program, I gained a better understanding of environmental sustainability and living off of the land. In Alaska, my eyes were opened to the importance of conservation, native issues, and our responsibilities in protecting our environment.
Specifically in Alaska, we visited Utqiaġvik, the northernmost point in the U.S. There, along with the indigenous Inupiaq Eskimos, we took part in Nalukataq, a traditional festival to celebrate a successful whale-hunting season. This festival was extremely eye-opening as we witnessed its emphasis on their ‘no trace left behind’ culture. These Alaskans understand the importance of utilizing the entire whale. Their winter sustenance depends on their whaling abilities, something few of us have ever experienced.
On why she chose the program…
As a Biology major, the Duke in Alaska program was the perfect way to fulfill a major requirement while having a study away experience. This program meets the Organismal Diversity Biology Area Requirement.
On how her skills and knowledge changed with the program…
Prior to this program, I had little exposure to environmental biology. Yet, through Duke in Alaska, I enhanced my environmental biology exposure by learning how to use a field guide to identify local flora and fauna in different biomes.
On how the program will play into the rest of her undergraduate experience…
After taking this course, I have a newfound interest in ecology. As a biology pre-med student, I have always been drawn to anatomy/physiology courses and those centered around human biology. However, Duke in Alaska expanded my interests, and, therefore, this summer I am participating in DukeEngage Thailand, focusing on conservation and the environment.
On advice she has for people considering the program…
I would definitely encourage students to choose this program, no matter their major. It was one of the highlights of my Duke experience! My appreciation for the environment and our responsibility to it was greatly expanded. By studying the four major Alaskan biomes, I was left in awe of its natural landscapes, its wildlife, and its indigenous people.
Biology, Class of 2020
Duke in Alaska