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Managing Aleutian Volcanoes From Homer

bogoslof_change.jpg
Courtesy Bill Burton and Dave Schneider, AVO/USGS
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A volcano in the eastern Aleutians has been erupting for the past week. Bogoslof volcano is an uninhabited island 60 miles northwest of Unalaska. It’s part of the Alaska Maritime Wildlife Refuge, which is based hundreds of miles away in Homer. Steve Delehanty, the refuge’s manager, also lives in Homer. His reaction to hearing about the eruption was pure excitement.

“On Bogoslof, changes have occurred within human lifetimes of people who are alive today,” Delehanty said. “And even within the career of people who have worked on the refuge.”

 

You can see change on a human timetable.

“Those of us who have been out there in the last 10 years got used to thinking of the new normal,” Delehanty said. “Well, it’s going to look different again next year.”

The Alaska Volcano Observatory said recent eruptions have also produced new land, meaning Bogoslof is changing shape.

What does that mean for the seabirds and marine mammals that call Bogoslof home?

“They need these forces to occur for them to live, but at the same time those very forces can change their home,” Delehanty said. “It creates habitat and it takes habitat away.

Being more than 700 miles away from Bogoslof means Delehanty has to be patient.

“One of the odd things about being a refuge manager for a national wildlife refuge that is so remote and hard to get to, is you can’t just go out there this afternoon and see what’s going on,” Delehanty said.

Delehanty said the soonest he’ll see Bogoslof in person is this summer when the research vessel Tiglax is back in the Aleutians.

Until then, Delehanty will have to satisfy his curiosity with satellite imagery of the island.

Zoë Sobel reported for KUCB from 2016 until 2019. She returned to KUCB after a year living in Nepal and Malaysia as a Luce Scholar. She then returned to KUCB as a ProPublica reporter August of 2020 through August of 2021.
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