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Become a virtual detective at Alaska’s wildlife refuges

Two of Alaska's wildlife refuges use new Agents of Discovery App to get kids outside
Two of Alaska's wildlife refuges use new Agents of Discovery App to get kids outside(Kenai National Wildlife Refuge)
Published: Sep. 18, 2020 at 7:30 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Two wildlife refuges in Alaska have the same goal: get kids who may be out of school due to the pandemic to engage with the outdoors. But what rangers with both the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge and the Alaska Maritime Wildlife Refuge realized is that kids are connected with technology and they can use that connection to generate a love for the outdoors.

Wildlife refuges across the U.S. are using a new app called Agent Discovery. It’s a fun education app that uses augmented reality to encourage children to explore the outdoors. The app is GPS based so you have to be on-site to gain access to the missions. Each refuge has its own detective character who guides kids through education challenges which range from using your device to find the virtual wildlife or helping a biologist identify sea birds

The Alaska Maritime Wildlife refuge in Homer says their main goal is teaching kids about what it takes to be a biologist and promote the sciences as a career.

“So our mission is, you’re helping biologists find data and study seabirds and so a lot of it is taking photographs and looking for wildlife around you and taking notes and basically being a biologist,” said Ali Bastek, SCA education and outreach intern.

At the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge in Soldotna, their primary focus is ecology with a twist.

“I hope that agents of discovery and other virtual experiences and then actual site visits coming to the refuge here in Kenai for example and taking part in either self-guided or guided experiences out in the woods or out on the river will develop fluency so if they hear when they are growing up of concerns with environmental challenges or changes they are seeing or just, in general, knowing how to take scientific information and digest it on their own. that is just a great skill,” says Leah Eskelin, lead park ranger.

Parents can download the app on any app store. The Chugach National Forest also uses the app. The two wildlife refuges say they are working on seasonal content so each time families visit, there will be new challenges to complete.

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