Tatiana Korthuis: Calista Land Department Intern
Calista Intern Gains Field Work and GIS Skills
Storyknife, September/October 2021 edition
Calista Shareholder Tatiana Korthuis had a unique opportunity to intern on our lands in the Calista Region during Summer 2021.
Tatiana spent roughly half of her summer internship assisting with day-to-day operations at a remote gold exploration camp. The other half of the time, she assisted with GIS (Geographic Information System) mapping projects.
“Everything I learned, I will use sometime down the road,” says Tatiana, a University of Alaska Anchorage junior majoring in natural sciences with a concentration in environmental science.
Tatiana’s internship experiences included learning GIS basics, researching Native allotments, gun and bear safety, remote camp operations, assisting geologists with drill core data collection, and building and tending a vegetable garden on the sub-alpine tundra.
Tatiana grew up in Bethel, spending summers with her mother’s (Vivian Korthuis) family in Emmonak. A fluent Yup’ik speaker, Tatiana thrives on subsistence activities like cutting fish, picking berries and hunting seal and moose.
She’s also traveled widely—attending boarding school at Mt. Edgecumbe and traveling with her mom, who leads the Association of Village Council Presidents, to places as far away as Greenland.
In this way, Tatiana demonstrates how young Shareholders can maintain strong ties to the Calista Region while traveling widely and seeking a broad education.
“All of my life, I’ve been interested in everything,” she admits.
Before interning for Calista, Tatiana interned for U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski. She also interned with the U.S. Geological Survey, helping scientists collect data on birds, fish and plankton in Prince William Sound.
Building a Tundra Garden
When Tatiana applied for the Calista internship, she was nervous but excited. She knew she would be helping Calista with fieldwork in the Nyac area, on land owned by Calista, and she would also be working on GIS technology.
Working at Nyac requires bear and gun safety training. Despite physical scars from historic placer mining that occurred before modern environmental rules and Calista land ownership, the Nyac area has vibrant fish and wildlife populations and prolific berry patches. This biologically rich watershed attracts a lot of black and brown bears.
Thus, Tatiana’s first project was to receive extensive bear and gun safety training. Next, she worked on building a bear-safe vegetable garden to provide fresh, ‘Nyac Grown’ produce to feed Calista’s camp employees.
Building the garden “sounds simple, but it was a lot of work. We had to research what the plants needed and where to put the garden so it wouldn’t attract bears to camp. We also put a bear fence up,” she says.
During her time spent back in Anchorage, at the Calista headquarters, Tatiana began a crash course in learning GIS. “I feel like it’s going to be very helpful in the future. You can map basically anything” including Native allotments, as she did during the internship.
Tatiana says her summer experience confirmed the value of a Calista internship and satisfied her goal of getting to know the company better. “I would definitely encourage other Shareholders to do an internship,” she says.
Working as a Lands Department intern is especially good for people who like rocks and enjoy being out in the country, she says.
At Nyac, one thing that stood out to Tatiana is that Calista hires local workers. “I really appreciate that, because it’s our people who know our land.”
Though she hasn’t made any firm career path decisions, Tatiana says the internship helped her narrow down the kinds of work that appeal to her.
“I feel like having these experiences and creating these connections at Calista are going to help. It was cool to see how everyone in the office and in the field has a part in the big picture, and in the end, it all comes together.”
The Shareholder Development team operates to develop an internal and external workforce through internships, training, apprenticeships, and mentorship programs. Calista’s 10-week paid Summer Internship Program for Calista Shareholders and Descendants provides an educational strategy for students to connect their academic preparation with hands-on work experiences.