The Rural Alaska Students in One-Health Research (RASOR) program started its second year in 2021 ready to tackle new challenges. Ten Southeast Alaska students from Metlakatla, Petersburg, Sitka, and Craig and three Mt. Edgecumbe students from Unalakleet, Huslia, and Tyonek joined this year. While the program has always been centered on community-based research, with a distance-learning component, COVID precautions prevented students from meeting in person as normal, even with the mentors in their own communities. Kari Lanphier, the RASOR mentor coordinator explains, “Both mentors and students have found creative solutions to make the mentor-mentee experience fun and exciting, even if it happens virtually or 6 feet apart.” To support this mentorship, Lanphier sent along RASOR Research Boxes, with fun science activities that can be completed in person, with social distancing, or even virtually. “While we look forward to the day mentees and mentors can collect and analyze samples side by side, the challenges of 2020 haven't stopped these students from becoming budding community scientists!” she added. Students are mentored by Will Peterson in Sitka, Brandon Thynes in Petersburg, Taylor Stumpf in Metlakatla, and Maranda Hamme and Shannon Isaacs in Craig. RASOR students also completed their first college course, taught by UAS professor and program director Dr. Ellen Chenoweth and UAF research advising and mentoring professional (RAMP) Natalia Podlutskaya, in conjunction with Sitka WhaleFest an annual community ocean science festival.
While in its second year, the program directors continue to track the accomplishments of the students in the first cohort, who participated in the program from 2019-2020. From this group, several have either started college, have become involved in college or community research, are currently applying for college and scholarships, have again participated in WhaleFest, and/or have participated as volunteer referees for the Ocean Bowl. Jade Balansag was recognized during the Rural Alaska Honors Institute by a vote of her peers for the Kyan Olanna & John Jajaruk Students' Choice Award. Ewa Booth is taking college courses online in Metlakatla and continues to work for the Fish and Wildlife Department including with the new RASOR students. Program director Ellen Chenoweth noted, “We will always be indebted to our first cohort of RASOR students who helped us develop and improve the program. We are rooting hard for them and are so proud of all that they have accomplished already.”
The UAS RASOR program is in the process of recruiting four individuals from rural communities in Southeast Alaska to serve as a team of rural advisors. Members of this team contribute local knowledge on how to make the program work best for their community. They assist in recruitment, retention and outreach, and encourage their local RASOR students. The advisory council members meet with program staff three times per year, currently by phone or Zoom during the COVID restrictions, to guide RASOR by providing local direction in program implementation including ideas for recruitment. Currently RASOR is looking for individuals living in or with close connections to Hoonah, Kake, Klawock, Hydaburg, Metlakatla, or Craig. Advisors are compensated with a stipend of $2,000 per year. The application is available online at Compensation is $2,000 per year. The application and full posting are accessible online at rasor.alaska.edu. The RASOR program is a partnership between the UAS Sitka Campus, the Sitka Tribe of Alaska, the Southeast Alaska Tribal Ocean Research Network and the UAF Biomedical Learning and Student Training Program, Evalulogic and is funded by the National Institutes of Health.