Davin Holen and Tina Buxbaum

Recorded February 14, 2018 Archived March 12, 2018 40:26 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: cte000036


Davin Holen (45) speaks with his colleague, Tina Buxbaum (38), about his life journey, his work as a resilience and adaptation faculty member and his observations on building community and preserving natural resources.


  • Davin Holen (b. 1972)
  • Tina Buxbaum (b. 1980)

Recording Location

Alaska Forum on the Environment

Partnership Type

Fee for Service


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00:01 My name is David Hollen. I'm 45 years old today is February 14th 2018. And we're at the dena'ina center in Anchorage, Alaska and I'm here talking with my colleague.

00:19 My name is Tina buxbaum. I am 38 years old today is February 14th. 2018 Valentine's Day and we are at the dentist Center in Anchorage, Alaska and I am talking to David hole in my car like

00:35 So thank you David Ferrer for agreeing to to do this and talk to me. I guess I wanted to start with at just talk a little bit about how you got into science. I know you're kind of on a second career at this point, but I wanted to talk about first time you got into fishing game. And when what what drove you to go that direction agreeing to do this? I appreciate it. So yeah, I'm David from originally from Wasilla Alaska. My family's been here for in Alaska for several generations. And I grew up in the income of a rural area and I lived on a lake in Wasilla, Cottonwood Lake and is part of the lake chain and

01:28 And I and I went to Wasilla high school and it was a very homogeneous type of environment to grow up in the moves. Very white there were two or three people in school that were of different ethnicities, but for the most part it was that is a very much in this world type of Lifestyle.

01:48 I think I'm really interested in culture throughout the world. And so I spend some time after I graduated from there in different countries. I've looked in South America for a year and then I looked in France for a year. And and then I'm in the in the late 90s. I got married and spent two-and-a-half years looking in Africa in Mali West Africa and in a very small village on the edge of the Sahara Desert and I became really interested with how people engage with the environment and subsistence economies was a very poor Community entirely subsistence paste. Most people made less than a dollar a day if that and so I lived in a mud hut in the middle of nowhere with my wife.

02:38 And you know, we would spend time trying to do something simple farming and and things like that just like everybody else did and that was a challenge. So when I came back to Alaska, I got to the University of alaska-anchorage and they got a degree in Russian history there and I came back in and then a brand new at the policy program master's program and I decided to apply they already filled all the slots, but I applied in July and they let me and that's the 13th person. I don't know if that was a lock your notes.

03:18 And so we so I was able to get into that program and I was the first garage with that program. It was an applied cultural anthropology program. I realized that where is a grown-up. I knew nothing of the culture of that area and I'm sorry it was it was really beneficial for me to learn about that. You know, I'd spend all my time learning about cultures all over the world and I didn't know anything about the cultures of my on State and I'm or the area that I left and it turns out that where I grew up there was actually a site on underneath. My mother's Garden catch mattress inside probably about a thousand years old of I dug up some stone tools. I was out planting some trees for my dad and I and then just left the detritus around and it rained at night and he came out the morning. He said you do realize he dug up some stone tools last night. And so I worked at the, you know, I worked at

04:18 How to brew at the time of their cultural resources department while I was going to graduate school and

04:24 And I became really interested in anthropology in the local area. And I realize that I also lived my parents house where I grew up on Cottonwood Lake was less than a quarter of a mile from Ben tawwab trust the site of Chief Wasilla has his old home sites and Village, which he was very influential in that area. So I got to know a little bit about the culture of my own area during that time and I was still interested in subsistence economies and how people make a living and I was placed in a as an unpaid graduate students at the Department of Fish and Game and the vision is subsistence.

05:06 And I really never left there for about 17 years. So I stayed there I moved up from unpaid graduate student to pay graduate student to actual researcher to high-low researcher and higher level and then eventually I became the program manager for southern laska. So my job was to conduct research run the research program for everything between the south of the Alaska range to Southeast Alaska large area was about a dozen research stuff.

05:42 And you know over that time I got to know a lot of the different cultures throughout Alaska. I'd never been off the road system in Alaska. I never flown anywhere that where you you couldn't drive to so I got to see a lot of the states and the diverse cultures and

06:00 So that's how I came to science and that that was my first career and Pioneer in Africa and things like that. But I know quite the fishing game. What was what was your favorite part about being subsistence? I think it was it was really the experiences. I had in the in the communities and you know, I can buy one story, you know, I grew up and we ate a lot of meats and that when I met my wife she was a vegetarian which I thought was really odd for somebody who came from, Alaska.

06:45 But she looked in Colorado and Boulder for a while. I guess that's where she picked that up. So.

06:52 You know, I I I started that lifestyle as well. And then we looked in Africa wasn't a big deal because everybody just eight greens and protein and cows were something they were your bank account. That was not something you actually ate. I can still people didn't put their money in the bank. They just kept cattle and that's how they they made it through hard times. It would sell the cattle off for green.

07:14 It's always it was easy and then we raise chickens at her. And so I stopped eating chicken as well. Once you've raised chickens. It's kind of hard to hide. I would just give them to the boys and the boys would eat them because they didn't have a lot of protein. I'm so we stopped eating that and so I basically when we came back to the last guy was a fish eating vegetarian and dumb

07:38 One of the things that are my favorite experiences was I spent a couple of of Seasons up on the upper cuts equipment can be into can be of Nikolai doing research and and they said they always told us if you want to

07:54 If you want to really know about subsistence, come back a Russian Christmas. That's when we pull out all the good food. And so I wrote a small grants to Lasky Mary's for him and we got some funny to go back and I would catalog everything people ate and

08:09 Over the course of three nights. We start a little late because it's 50 below zero until we couldn't exactly have the starring you you go from house to house carrying the icons and you sing songs in each house. And so we had to wait a couple nights for tomorrow to 40 below.

08:26 And once we did it was 10 to 11 houses at night and we need a full meal.

08:33 And at all of those houses, it was things like moose no soup or dried white fish, which is really oily or Black Bear porcupine.

08:47 All sorts of meat and I've never been so sick in my life, but I loved it and I enjoyed it and you know what you want on for 3 nights and you know an hour in each house each night stand full meal and it was one of the greatest, you know experiences that I had never been in a couple years later. I was in place called port alsworth and I was at the house with somebody there in

09:19 And he said, you know what you did offer me some some Caribou sausage that he made and I said, I don't need meetings like it's not me. It's just recycled liking so so after that those experiences, I I I took that on and I I said as an anthropologist I need to experience this. Sorry, I no longer if I fish eating vegetarian. Yes, I wish my son appreciates cuz he likes to eat meat. So I we we we should a few Birds once in awhile and but we still need a lot of salmon such awesome. And did your I know your your PhD in anthropology is related to harvest in salmon and and in very how it fits into the lifestyle did did your fishing game experiences influence your PhD and how that was all formed? That's a great question. Yes, I

10:19 You know my job at the Department's to provide information to Alaska Boards of fisheries and game which worked no for them to make informed decisions in terms of regulatory policy. And that was really prescriptive to me in terms of what I was supposed to do. So, I would go to these meetings and I would kind of think about three years down the road at the next board cycle, you know, what are the issues are going to happen? So I would think about those and I did find funding for it tonight by for research funding and then get my research stuff to do the projects or I do them with Thurman and then we come back for years later and try to address those issues and but I still found overtime but there was a lot of missing they seem to focus on statistics and all of those things that we could gather the from a western format what I wanted to know really it was actually quite simple. Why do people continue to live in rural communities, Alaska and what makes

11:19 Not possible. So I had a theory that both commercial and subsistence Fisheries, especially salmon Fisheries really drove a lot of that in a lot of communities in southern Alaska. The ability for harvesting salmon for commercial allowed for a monitoring income and subsistence allowance for people have food security. But the bigger part of that was what does it really mean in terms of culture and handing those both of that, you know, the commercial lifestyle commercial fishing lifestyle and subsistence lifestyle down to your children. And does that really play a role and why people make decisions so that was my PhD working with outside the scope of of what I was supposed to do.

12:08 Yeah, and I stayed at the Department of Fish and Game till 2015 until I'd gone through a board cycle of 7 board meetings in a year and including research in my wife time. Finally told me you need to find a new job because you're never here when I first met you when you applied to work at the coast resume specialist. It's directly funded by a captaincy. Granton hasn't asked why you decided to jump ship from States into academic. My son broke his foot and I realized I was never home and and after you know several months of that and it didn't look like it was ever going to let up. So, I love my job. I really liked working. The people I worked with social scientists are pretty nice people eat 10:10 to be they like other people.

13:06 And I I like I thought the work I did was actually quite important it made a difference in people's lives. And that was really all I ever wanted to do was was to do to Pork that made a difference to people but I thought that there might be a better way to do that. So yes, I took some time off and I'll finish my dissertation finish remodeling my house and then found a position open with University is the coastal chimeras Elaine specialist. And once I read that I thought there can't be any better job in Alaska than this. So yeah. I was very pleased to be off for that job.

13:51 It had a loaded question. Maybe you know, I didn't know it first if I was the right person for that. So I remember, you know, the interview sitting at my counter with trying to hear the questions on my phone and you don't respond to them and questions about have you ever taken a physical physical science class or you know, what kind of science classes you've had and and my responses are all well. I think I took one in high school, social scientists. And so I didn't know if I was going to even be considered for the for that and and it actually was a question. You've said what did your wheelhouse do you have and I talked about how I know people, you know if I worked all over the states and that really is the thing that led meat actually be

14:51 Someone I guess successful in this is that I was able to call all those people that I worked with over the years and so, you know, okay, I don't do this kind of work anymore. But I do this and I said, oh we're doing that too. So I'm what's y'all let's put something together. So yeah, that's I think it's been two years now and it's been one of the greatest experiences I've ever had you noticed work with communities and thinking about how they can move from

15:21 What you know they have adapted for thousands of years, but I mean in modern infrastructure, it's very difficult for Community to adopt and so what can we do from the University perspective in terms of research and the science that we provide? How can we bring that to communities? And then also, how can we listen to what they have to tell us and we can learn from each other and a two-way dialogue so

15:49 I have to say your contacts for a we are very very excited when I when we learned about all you're at your contacts in your experience. So you shouldn't you shouldn't have been afraid about the job in your your current position is so Coast resident specialist. What do you feel is the biggest challenge that you faced in that position?

16:14 I think the biggest challenge really is just a trying to decide what you would dress. You know, I was very surprised at you know, why I came into the job on a Tuesday and by Friday, I was in meetings planning resilience workshops all over Alaska and you know what? I have some Great Khali's I'll have to say that the people that I work with at the album landscape conservation cooperatives are incredible and you know, it has been great to to HealthPartners. Also within the Alaska Center for Clymer assessor in policy where you work your great you work with the great people that are you and I

16:57 And so, you know what working on some of those projects out of station plans and gnome with researchers there and then, you know, we're continuing to work on projects. It's really I think my greatest challenge is choosing what we do there's such a need and you know where I was at a workshop last week and it was called the social Colts forum. It was all that Noah related to social scientists. And of course, you know, our programs are both funded by Noah and and a lot of my other researches and I think that you know, seeing the number of social scientists or the lack of them within the Enterprise of of thinking about climate and weather is a great Challenge and I hoped to help and be that you know that conduit for that. But yeah, the greatest challenge really is just deciding what you're going to do and what's going to be most effective.

17:55 444 communities in Alaska and how they're going to adopt.

18:03 Ask you a question that I actually asked fairly often and I know Kristen Tim who you probably might get to that's really often wear whenever we're interacting with grad students are undergrads. They always look at the the different job is in the in the different things were doing and I like how do I become you? And I think it's them for people that are working at such the interface between between science and the communities and end and right at that like where the rubber meets the road. Everyone is come at that position from so many different angles and Soto is it supposed to hear how people somehow you got there but if for giving advice to the Future Generations, how do you get there? How do you get your job?

18:53 You know, I think the for me, you know, it was really just starting off as a grad student in and kind of being hungry for for Learning and for knowledge and also being that person who's like I wanted to have that job in the future and I'm just starting at the bottom of the internships. I did were were key really in in my ability to to get the work that I did but

19:23 I would say that the biggest thing is building relationships and those relationships are the ones that really help you do the work this, you know, Alaska's is a very unique place because it's such a small state and me geographically. It's huge what population-wise it's so small and we all know.

19:50 You know what you get to you get to know everybody really quickly and you make those those relationships and and that's really what I think makes you successful and allows allows for New Opportunities. I've always had a philosophy in life that you should take every opportunity that Anna to

20:15 And you know, I you know, I have very few regrets in my life. And I think it's because of that I you know, I try to teach that to my son and so, you know those opportunities Sometimes they come along and you shouldn't you shouldn't pass them up my challenge now is to not take some of those opportunities. That's really my challenge. It's like how do you choose, you know because I want to be effective and all the projects that I do, but if you take on too many then you're not going to be as effective as you could be. So I think that's really what it comes down to is is you take those opportunities, especially when you're first starting out and make sure that you are

21:03 You just really engage with them and see where they take you out because you never know where they're going to take care of. I I was a business major in college and I never took a single business class and it was until one day. I thought you know, I walked in and I said, well you're going to have to like pick something different.

21:25 Cuz you just didn't take any of those classes. So I just I went down the road of what was most interesting for me. And I think it's been it's been a great a great opportunity. I completely agree at one of the things that whenever I have to talk to undergrad to stuff like that when the key.

21:46 Key Concepts, I try to get through this just to say yes, like when something presents itself don't be afraid of trying it even though it seems scary and you're going to have to really stretch your I'll just say yes and see where you might not see where it's going to lead, but it could be really awesome.

22:04 I have a 3 switch gears a little bit. How about what are you? I know you're an avid skier. So what when you're not helping communities adapt to climate change and and saving the world what what do you do in your free time?

22:19 Well, you know, I also ski as much as I can because I've seen the projections for the change in climate over the next year's and and how a couple years ago. We had very little snow and the Nordic ski Association in Anchorage put in a snow-making loop, which is 5 km skiable man made snow and I'm hoping that that's not going to be the future for Anchorage. But I think of from the projections that happen have been done for South Central Alaska, you know, 30 years from now. I hope that my son will be able to to still be able to ski her. He may have to go up into the mountains to do it though, and I will have to move some of those and I actually talk to people at the city about you two long-term planning for Anchorage because I want to ensure that we have good ski areas into the future. So yes.

23:19 I'm actually

23:22 My son's keys for the Alaska Pacific University Nordic ski program and it's been an incredible experience for him having great coaches and skiing every day. And so while he's out I'm out skiing and then died this year. I started their master's program because at 45 years old, it's becoming much harder for me to get up hills and I wanted to start making it easier. So I got some great coaches and they've made it a lot a lot easier for me. It's easier on my body and I've become a lot faster, but that's the beauty. I think I'm living here in Anchorage and

23:58 You know, I hope he stays with that program for a long time, but we probably have nine or ten or skiers in the Olympics right now and represent in the US and the great program in.

24:12 So I think you know for me it's it's also been a great family type of activity in the summer when my son's out I go into work late because he's out skiing. He's out are running or not running or mountain biking or roller skiing or all summer and then my wife and I go get an hour and a half to go do the same thing. So we get to explore the trails on our single track mountain bikes or run in the mountains around Anchorage and that we've you know, really I have to say I grew up here and I've stared at some of those mountains my entire life and I've never actually get up there. So and now I have it's been a great experience sexual explore the landscape around me. The other thing for me is

25:01 Is I have a I built the cabin in this is in the valley was it was important for me to have a place for my son to to explore in the woods like I grew up I grew up in my life about Road. Sometimes we have to take snow machines and to get to the house the wind would blow all the snow onto our road or we'd have to drive across the fields. The old grain fields that are out there and come it. So I wanted him to have that kind of experience, you know of having to shovel snow and move snow and build a cabin and haul firewood. And and I just thought I learned to just like go out and just enjoy being in the woods and so my buddy and I each bit on 5 acres of land and we both got our parcels and silver right next to each other and so we have 10 acres together to to explore and Target are kids out there and

25:58 You know, we stand around the fire and we

26:02 Free split wood and we build cabins and I built a log cabin with just my hands and no equipments. I wanted to see if I could do it and I did and it was hard.

26:16 Deepika you're all summer and my wife hated me for it cuz I was gone three or four days a week. But yeah.

26:25 Play my dad came up and help throughout the last couple of logs and and and my wife held my my legs while I screwed the arrow Roofing on so I didn't fall off the cabin. So that's been a great experience for us. And we can. The one thing I Love About That is supposed to specially in the winter is I don't actually any projects to do so I can go up there and just ski and enjoyed being up there and just sit around on the couch and Anna and just enjoy being there and still probably move a lot of snow.

27:00 Does your family still live in muscle in your dad still didn't know my parents migrated both my family and my parents were raised here. My grandparents on my mom's side came up because of the military in the 1950s and stayed and then my grandfather came because his brother ran a sheep camp in the Wrangell Mountains and the guy that pulled their Hunters off the Arctic Coast during the winter time.

27:32 I I jokingly say that my family is probably partially responsible for the Marine Mammal protection act because they're they're Hunters test his Hunters took so many polar bears. So that was my great-uncle and and my grandfather came to help him and his Enterprise and so they they moved they had lots of planes and they took hunters from Anchorage and flown out to the out to the Ring of mountains and

27:59 And then my dad worked up there a couple of Summers helping guide and and learn how to fly a little bit. My grandfather's learn how to fly even though you never had a pilot's license to him. He was a professional bartender in human fly back to the Ring of mountains Atlanta on the Muldoon Road right in front of his bar and going in 10 bar and then get back in the plane and go down the street and take off.

28:28 What does a fly across town in Anchorage has he no not well-connected like it is today. Yeah, so that that's what brought my family here.

28:38 And both my parents grew up here and my mother finally got tired of it and she wanted to jokingly live down in America. So they migrated to America. My family was on the Oregon coast and my brother owns a restaurant there called baked Alaska and has been there for almost 20 years, I guess and Selma my

29:05 Mom wanted to be around family. He has a daughter she had two boys and she always want a girl's and so now she gets to to hang out with her granddaughter and enjoy life. They get to get out of Road and drive places and you know go Explorer sport that American but my my father still comes back three times a year. He really misses it here. So we actually bought a new house that has a space for him or used to live in 800 square feet now and we live in something much larger. He has in his entire floor to himself now, so he comes for sometimes stays for a month and it's to spend time with his grandson and just enjoy being back in, Alaska.

29:46 I see you've you've been around in the The Valley in here for a very long time. What's the biggest change that you've seen between the valley and Anchorage?

29:59 The number of people

30:02 You know, it's it used to be a kid going to any store anywhere in town and I would see people I know all the time, you know, I know it was a very small town and I think now it's just it's so large that you still I still do that. I still see people I know but I think it's really the number of people that are here now and it is become quite built up and yeah, we have all the national chains here now, so it used to be a lot more mom and pop shops. And when I when I was growing up in Wasilla weed sometimes go down to a place called teal and switch was just a little store that's out on the corner in Wasilla. And are you still only be one stop light hanging from the middle of the road? It had four sides on it and that was the only stop light on a two-lane road that ran through Wasilla.

30:56 And teal and sat right there and it was a you know, we had a larger grocery store wasn't very big but feelings was the place where you could go buy candy and so has kids would sometimes go into town and read we'd be able to like going to teal and there was an old store used to be called her knees and later on in life. You know what I started doing work for the Mat-Su Borough their cultural resources department. I realize that that was the

31:22 That was the building that was hauled down from Knik by course by horses and used to be called her names and and so they placed it there on the corner and later moved it to the gas station then but it's still there in Wasilla. And yeah, that was that's the change. I mean you you had a a town that was you know, really a four-way stop and you know, what a nice country store right on the corner and now it's you know, you can get just about anything you need there and which is convenient but I still drive through there quickly when I when I go to the dump to Takin Over my cabin is

32:07 But even you know in that area in the northern part of the substantive Alex's is not as a

32:13 It is not as you don't have that distance anymore. I feel like everything seems to be very close Take Me 2 hours to get from my house to my cabin or just isn't just about right for me. And and it's you know, it's Rhonda the second largest production Brewery in the state is about 3 miles from my cabin. And I know that that's it. That's nice. My my sinus to take the 4-wheeler and he gets to drive on the road and I sit on the back and we go down to fill up Growlers once in a while. And so we both get something out of it. I get a growler she gets to drive the four-wheeler have to wear helmets. He has to go slow but gives him that freedom to be able to experience those kind of things growing up and and I get to regulate him. I grew up on a driving snow machines everywhere on my own and and it was Marie safe. I'm still horrified that I would love to do that.

33:14 So, you know, it's a we get to monitor him a little bit more patient survived like riding the backs of tracks and all that stuff in that you've never kind of lots of different real Community Field. The pace of change is the same there as it is in the road system are different types of change crapser. What's amazing to me is that real communities are really connected and

33:56 You know, I remember one time I was in a community and the chief was making a speech during the cell evict the Russian.

34:08 The Russian Christmas and use making the speech about kids and he was talking about how all they do is just you know, use their thumbs now and you know, they sit in front of the television and suction and I watched that entire generation grew up now and they become the most active hunters and Fishers + communities and real Community leaders. And so I think every every generation is seen as that way, but what's what's been amazing for me is to watch how you know that kind of idea in in today, you know what, you know, the address of satellite TV and some of those communities and such and

34:50 People now are so connected because of the fact that they can have cell phones that can.

34:58 You know tell them they can connect to the world through them. And I think that that's actually technology that's going to help me communities safer and and bring about some real change free sample. I'm working with the National Weather Service now on a project to think about how to better deliver the weather to communities and bring them what they need. You know, what is it in the weather forecast this most useful for people and how can they use that in combination with their local knowledge to to make better informed decisions about traveling on the landscape or do you go hunting today? Or do you not to take a boat to retake a snow machine. You know those kind of things. I think that's going to make things safer. And I think we think about that more now. I'm a used to be it was those Villages were far off and we we didn't think about them as much as we do today. And now I think in terms of our

35:56 Discourse here in Alaska. We think a lot more about the impacts to rural communities. Not just what's going on in the cities. And so I think that's going to really I think it is we move forward there will be more focus on trying to make a better life for all alaskans even real real places that are so far off. I think that's just give us a five-minute warning. But what makes you most hopeful for the future going forward like what is your your bright spot shining star that keeps you going?

36:33 I think right now I'm so busy with I just keep thinking about what's next. You know, how can we continue to build our programs and

36:44 I think sharing Alaskan sharing with each other their stories of success to me is going to be one of the things that really brings, you know, hope to communities. I've seen projects and communities that have really changed people's lives and

37:01 And those kind of projects that make it better for communities. What are there? It's a community garden or using biomass to to heat your homes or or produce electricity different types of projects to make value out of projects from the local landscape, you know the resources available in a local landscape that people can do I have seen a great Artistry come out of Alaska. It is change that we've become a you know, the way in which we've articulated as a as a people in Alaska the importance of our resources to us and how we've done that through arts and other type of of

37:43 Expression that makes me really hopeful that people will continue to do that. And you know, I honestly think that's you know, there were telling me stories about Staten sharing with one another as alaskans. I think that's going to be our great strength that's going to to to be the best and so I have to make a shameful plug for our website adapt alaska.org where we're going to help we have built-in. We're going to tell those stories of success and that's what we want to focus on. We don't want to focus on the negative impacts. They're having communities send and think about it in a negative way. We want to think about it in terms of what can we do to change something significant in a community that enables people to stay there for Generations. You know, that's really what makes me most helpful his how can we make a place, you know, make a change to a community or

38:43 How to make the change but the community make a chance just provide them what they need to do it on their own terms so that it enables them to be able to stay in place and for their children and grandchildren to be able to grow up and you know what I think of the same thing with my son if I'm blessed that he chooses to stay in Alaska and maybe someday blesses me with grandchildren that they too can you know have that lifestyle that I had it is going to be a different lifestyle but I think you know that expression that we have of as well as a last considered being very independent and working on the landscape and I want him to be able to have that as well.

39:25 Well, I'm looking for a bad at a time. So thank you very very much for talking to the opossum.

39:38 Porcupine tastes like chicken

39:43 Actually, how did you make it through all the subsequent meet up after the first day of excessive overeating of things you want used to?

39:54 I don't know. I I I I think my immune system and my stomach had gotten used to a lot in Africa. I was very sick there several times. Dysentery were several times and malaria several times. I think I added a hardened Constitution from that until after I got over that it was no problem.

40:19 In comparison