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AlaskaX: Salmon, People, and Place

This course explores the relationships between salmon and people with an emphasis on the special ties of salmon to Indigenous peoples and to Alaska Natives in particular.

6 weeks
3–4 hours per week
Progress at your own speed
Optional upgrade available

There is one session available:

After a course session ends, it will be archivedOpens in a new tab.
Starts Jun 4

About this course

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No wild animal has more profoundly influenced the cultures and well-being of societies in North America than salmon. Salmon and people have been entwined in a relationship for millennia. This six-week course is an exploration and celebration of this relationship, as well as an examination of the current major issues, including habitat alterations, climate change, and management actions currently straining the relationship between salmon and salmon-dependent people. We will put significant emphasis on learning about salmon and people in Alaska, a place containing the last stronghold of pristine salmon ecosystems anywhere.

Students should expect to read, discuss online, and host and facilitate dialogues in their own communities, using their newfound knowledge beyond our virtual classroom. Together we will examine how the biology of salmon roots them in place and in turn serves to shape human societies and ecosystems.

We will learn from Indigenous elders and youth and understand the system of local management that has sustained salmon for generations. Students will compare and contrast traditional Indigenous management with current practices that are focused on maximizing yield, and will learn concepts such as spawner-recruit analysis and escapement goals.

This course is ideal for those interested in careers in natural resource management and will be of interest to anyone with a love for the natural wild world. By the completion of the course students will be informed and empowered to confront the challenges facing the relationships between salmon and salmon-dependent societies in the 21st century.


edX Prize 2022

At a glance

  • Language: English
  • Video Transcripts: English, 日本語, Русский
  • Associated skills:Biology, Natural Resource Management, Ecosystem Science

What you'll learn

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  • The connection of salmon biology to place
  • How salmon influence traditional Indigenous and contemporary Western management systems
  • Common threats to salmon populations
  • The complex and interconnected nature of salmon systems in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest
  • The deep connections between Indigenous people and salmon
  • An understanding of traditional sustainable management
  • Diverse opinions across cultures and stakeholders on salmon-related issues
  • An informed view of complex salmon-related issues

Week 1: Our Salmon Connections

An exploration of what salmon mean to you and an opportunity to learn about the relationship of salmon to others in the course and beyond.

Week 2: Indigenous Deep Time Ties

Introduction to traditional Native ties to salmon, including the foundations of sustainable management grounded in the concepts of permission and consent. We will be guided by our Elders in this journey.

Week 3: Western Fishery Management

A survey of the key concepts underpinning current management of salmon, including spawner-recruit analysis, fixed-escapement policies, and the problem of forecasting.

Week 4: Sport and Commercial Fisheries

Learn about those that live to fish and fish to live and the routine tensions that can arise among different user groups.

Week 5: The Four H’s and Climate Change

Did you know that the demise of salmon throughout much of the world are linked to the same four causes? We will learn about these causes and discuss the mounting challenge of climate change and global warming facing salmon populations.

Week 6: The Future of Salmon and People

Prediction is difficult, especially about the future. In the final week we look forward to what might be in store for salmon and salmon-dependent societies. Will the choices we make be full of humility or hubris?

Learner testimonials

Skip Learner testimonials

The future of salmon is incredibly important for all people and the environment of Alaska, and this course highlights the need to be able to work together for the future of this species; for the benefits of all people and places that rely on their abundance.

-Katie Harms, Executive Director, Douglas Island Pink and Chum (DIPAC) Hatchery, Juneau, Alaska

I loved the combination of professor dialogue, video, readings, quizzes, and discussions. I felt that the course was incredibly engaging and interesting. Further, I feel that I've gained perspectives I would not have otherwise had the chance to learn which will directly help me in my work in Bethel, Alaska.

-Kara Black

If you feel passionate about the places you're connected to, and you want to contribute to a global movement to make the world a better place, then this course is for you. Through authentic Alaskan tales of about life supporting and life affirming connections among people, salmon and place, Peter Westley and crew illuminate the way to connect and reconnect people with each other and with nature.

-Deb Wellwood

This course provided wonderful opportunities to learn about the importance of salmon to indigenous cultures. It also pushes us to think critically about the issues affecting salmon.

-Kim Ramos

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