Site Designs and Habitat Mapping for Increasing Organizational Capacity of an Alaskan Outdoor Education Organization (2015)

Client Organization: 
Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies
Project Location : 
Homer, Alaska
Summary of Project Idea: 

The Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies is a 501-c-3 nonprofit organization based in Homer, Alaska, with three educational facilities that encompass temperate coastal forest, marine coastal and freshwater habitats. The Center aims to foster land stewardship, community, and scientific knowledge of marine ecosystems. Their programming is founded upon the provision of residential outdoor learning spaces, professional development opportunities, and teaching resources based on experiential-based education. They serve the local community as well as a large number of statewide visitors. Their main facility, the Peterson Bay Field Station, is the only residential outdoor education site in Alaska which services a diversity of visitors, from high school groups to families. 

The Center has a need for expanded educational spaces and resources to facilitate a burgeoning number of visitors, grown from 1,000 visitors at the start of the program up to 12,000 annually. In collaboration with a secondary client, Corvus Design, our team created site designs and a habitat map for the Center's three properties: the Peterson Field Bay Station, a 140-acre boreal forest wildlife preserve known as the Wynn Nature Center, and their offices within Homer. The purpose of our deliverables is to help guide the organization's growth over the next 20 years, and as a fundraising tool for their expansion.

The main goals for our site designs were to create a unifying aesthetic that elucidates the values of the Center especially as they relate to Alaskan marine culture, and to create designs that are practical and cognizant of the wide age ranges that employ the spaces. Our inspiration and information arose from developing a site analysis and from exploring the properties, conducting informal interviews with the staff, volunteers, and users, and participating in the guided tours and lessons. 

We also collected vegetation data to identify the natural communities on the three properties with which to create a habitat map. Our methodology followed the protocols set by the U.S. National Vegetation Classification and by an Alaskan graduate student conducting similar activities on one of the sites. The habitat map will be used as a resource for the organization's curriculum as well as provide information for visitors.

SEAS Program Areas: 
Conservation Ecology (Aquatic Sciences, Terrestrial Ecosystems, and Conservation Biology)
Landscape Architecture
SEAS Faculty Advisor: 
Bob Grese and Karen Marzonie
Master Students Involved in Project: 
  • Chang Yan, MLA Landscape Architecture 
  • Jenny Hebert, MLA Landscape Architecture 
  • Lumin Wang, MBA/MLA Lanscape Architecture 
  • Daniella Barraza, MS Conservation Ecology
Project Status: 
Past Project