Tag Archives: brian mccaffrey

Taking Chances

The last few days have been full of new experiences and adventure, and each day I continue to gain insight into this incredible place. I am seeing all types of landscape around Bethel, including the tundra. Last week a group of girls went out for a walk across the spongy ground to enjoy the fresh air and open skies.

Tundra walk outside of Bethel
Tundra walk outside of Bethel

I am also making an effort to step outside my comfort zone as we dive deeper into this project. I put my journalism skills to the test when I conducted my first in-person, filmed interview. Brian McCaffery, a biologist and director of the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge, took the time to speak with us about the subsistence culture, conservation and signs of climate change in the region. The Backpack Journalism team read a reflection article written by Brian before we left for Alaska, so we had an idea of what he would have to say but never expected his interview to be so profound.

I, of course, was very nervous to interview Brian because I had never been in this type of sitation before and felt the pressure of expectation. In addition, I really cared about what he had to say and wanted to do the interview justice.

I felt this interview was also a culmination of my journalism education and concern for the environment. In ninth grade, I gave a persuasion speech in my speech class about climate change. I had just watched the documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” and was blown away by this problem. Now I just chuckle to myself wondering what my classmates thought of this speech and if I actually persuaded anyone.

It’s been seven years since I gave that speech, and my concern for the environment has only increased as little has been done to solve the problem of climate change. The effects are starting to become more noticeable around the world, and now that I am in Alaska, I am in a place where most people believe climate change is happening and are greatly impacted by it.

When interviewing Brian, I asked him about many issues facing the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, including the king salmon fishing restrictions, the conflict between subsistence and environmental protection, and his analysis of climate change. Brian deals with these conflicts on a day-to-day basis as a job but also has a person who has lived in this region for a long period of time. He has a difficult task to try to maintain the natural resources of this region but also support the culture and lifestyle of its people.

I was completely amazed by Brian’s answers to my questions. In the corner of my eye I saw John give a huge thumbs-up to the people in the room, which I take to mean that the interview went well. I am looking forward to going back to listen to it again and seeing how it will fit into our documentary.

I am so grateful to have had this remarkable interviewing experience. If I hadn’t taken a chance and put myself out there, I would not have had the opportunity to talk to someone so knowledgeable and passionate about an issue I care so much about.

So much to say!

Yesterday was a very eventful day for me. We interviewed two outstanding people, filmed some B-roll, and went exploring Bethel (or at least me and a few other classmates did). The first interview was Cecilia. She reminded my of a stereotypical grandmother. She brought us homemade food and loved to tell stories about her life. The salmon dip (more fish! yay!) she brought us was just delightful. Put it on a cracker and you have got one tasty snack. I could eat a whole bowl of it in one sitting. (Probably not the healthiest idea in the world, but it was just so yummy!) Anyway, enough ranting about food (I can’t help it. I’m Italian.) All of us were captivated by Cecilia’s stories. Before the interview even started she was telling us detailed stories about her culture and life. I love hearing elders tell their life story. You can just learn so much from them about the time when they grew up. Yes, you can learn things like this in a history class, but theres nothing like a personal story. I learned this the other day when Rose told us her life story. I had taken a Native American History class in the past and recognized some of the things she talked about, but her story was just so moving I felt like I hadn’t fully understood the meaning of the history facts until that day.

The second person we interviewed yesterday was Brian McCaffery. He talked about the environmental changes and the affect they have on the area and spirituality of the Yup’ik people. During this interview I was in charge of holding the boom microphone and listening to the audio for any irregularities. When this trip first started, I had no interest in being the interviewer or being in charge of audio. But like I mentioned in my first blog, it is my goal this trip to push the limits on my comfort zone. So yesterday I controlled the audio (which wasn’t as bad as I imagined, although my arms and shoulders are a little sore today.) and today I will be the person interviewing and asking the questions.

Late last night, a few other classmates and I went out and explored the tundra surrounding the town. We walked down a trail and instead of heading back down the trail we walked through the tundra. I do not even know how to explain it other than, it was like walking on a giant sponge that covered miles and miles. It was extremely tiring but a great workout. I was thinking about the history there as I was walking. Who walked on the land I was walking on hundreds of years ago? Whoever it as must’ve been in great shape. It was still an amazing experience. I just want to go sit out there and reflect. No one around and complete silence. Just sit there staring out at miles and miles of spongey tundra and thinking. It seems like a great place for reflection.

There is so much more I can say about yesterday, but for now we will leave it at that. Every blog I write I start with one idea in mind and end up with something completely different. There’s is just so much to tell you!