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Natashia Dallin

10th Grade, McGrath School,
McGrath Alaska


Natahia Dallin

Natashia Dallin
Reflections on the Harriman Expedition Retraced
Natashia Dallin would fit in comfortably with the 19th century naturalists that traveled with Harriman aboard the Elder. An inveterate observer, note taker and graph maker, she has had, since age three, a keen interest in the natural world. "When I was little," she writes, "I would lie in bed at night and pore over books. I would write down facts, then go back and circle those things that seemed most important. On any page, there would only be a few facts I hadn't circled."

But Natashia is very much a 21st century student. For a recent science fair project, she used a digital camera to create a pictorial graph that documented the effect of gravity on plant growth. Each day for two weeks she took as many as twenty pictures of the experimental plants, then used the digital images to create a final project display. When applying for a position on the Harriman Young Explorer Team, she created a Powerpoint presentation entitled "Marine Mammals of the Alaska Coast," a compendium of animal photographs, maps and data. "I saw this report as an opportunity to compile a lot of the work I've done on marine mammals over the years."

Natashia, a sophomore, is an accomplished athlete. As a freshman, she played varsity basketball and volleyball, and ran for the cross country team. She volunteers at a community radio station, and has, for nine years, worked with a local bear-tracking project. Her favorite spot in Alaska is the steep river bluff that towers above the Kuskokwim River. "It's an hour from our house," she explains. "I travel there with my family in the summer and fall to relax, have picnics, and run our dogs." And, no doubt, to observe and make notes on the natural surroundings that have inspired her from early on.

Reflections on the Harriman Expedition Retraced

Being a part of the Harriman Expedition Retraced gave me the opportunity to meet a wide variety of people and learn about their careers. I carried film equipment for Larry Hott, the director of the PBS documentary film, learned about David Policansky's work at the National Research Council in Washington, D.C. Kristine Crossen could tell you about any volcano, land form, or glacier seen on the trip.

David Koester, an anthropologist teaching at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, was helping a French archaeologist with a driftwood study while on the expedition. Thanks to David I was able to help with this study. At various stops we took samples of driftwood, chipping pieces away with an axe or sawing off sections that were put in a Ziploc bag labeled with the date and location. We recorded information about each piece, such as the length and width, the type of decay, and the amount of knots on the piece of wood from which it was taken. I had never before thought of studying driftwood and now can't wait to hear the results of this unique project.

I would like to spend more time in the Russian villages of Lorino and Yanrakino. I think it would be awesome to live in one of these villages and get to know the people, their way of life, their language. When we visited these places for just a few hours, I got to know a few people despite the language barrier, using lots of hand motions and getting help from David Koester, who speaks Russian. The people I met were extremely friendly and I wanted to learn so much about their everyday life.

In Lorino there was a fox farm that was still in operation. It seemed like most people's mode of transportation were dog teams that they fed whale meat. This also seemed to be the case in Yanrakino where there was a fresh whale carcass on the beach. I found the reindeer herds in Yanrakino fascinating and would have liked to learn more about them. I would like to be able to compare the way of life in these Siberian villages to the culture of the Athabaskan and Yupik Eskimo people I'm familiar with, having grown up in rural Alaska.



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For information on the Harriman Retraced Expedition e-mail: harriman2001@science.smith.edu

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