We’d like to introduce you to Ryan Morrill and Ben Histand, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game staffers living with the walruses on Round Island, Alaska. They’ll be our guides for the “Summer of Blubber” on the all-new Walrus Cam!
Round Island is packed with summering walruses, all males, who will spend the season laying around the beaches and diving for clams. Ryan and Ben will guide us over the island’s treacherous terrain, while sharing their knowledge and photos of the beaching behemoths. Throughout the season, the two will hop on the comment board under the Walrus Cam player and answer many questions you may have. They tell us a bit about themselves and their passion for their work.
“Hello, my name is Ryan Patrick Morrill and I am the Walrus Island State Game Sanctuary manager out here on Round Island. Previously, I have worked as a fisheries biologist and fisheries technician for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game on the Yukon River. Before that I fished commercially for salmon in Prince William Sound on a purse seining vessel and for lobster in my home state of Maine on my great uncle’s lobster boat. I have an incredible affection for the ocean and marine ecosystems. It was just as thrilling as a child to watch whales and puffins on the Atlantic as it is watching them as an adult on the Pacific. The past three summers working on Round Island have completely exceeded my expectations, and like they say on the MTV, you think you know, but you have no idea. Hopefully we can do our best to answer all questions that are sent our way!”
“My name is Ben Histand, and I work for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game on Round Island. This is my third summer at Round Island. Because there are only two of us working on the island, we fill a few different roles. One is to walk the accessible parts of the island every day with a camera, binoculars, and a notebook, and count and observe the walruses, sea lions, and birds we see. Another is to welcome the visitors who come to the island, and help them get the most out of their time here. We also keep an eye on boat traffic in the area, and make sure vessels are respecting the boundaries of the sanctuary. And we spend a fair amount of time just keeping the camp running and fixing things when they break – right now our boat could use a few patches.
When I first heard of this job, I definitely felt drawn to it. Round Island is a pretty remote and wild place, and for me there’s a great sense of adventure and challenge in living and working here. I also like how simple life can be here, how easy it is to lose track of what day of the week it is. But the biggest appeal is just getting to watch so many animals go about their daily lives.”
Ryan and Ben, as well as other staff of ADF&G, will control the cameras intermittently, and will be available when they can to answer your questions.