Bald Eagles in Alaska

group of bald eagles

bald_eagle1What is it about bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) that catches the eye of people? Is it simply their size or striking appearance? Is it the power they display or the majesty they symbolize? Ever since man first entered the kingdom of the bald eagle more than 10,000 years ago, eagles have attracted the attention of humans. Bald eagles continue to command our respect, challenge our understanding of the natural world, and allow our hearts to soar as if lifted by their strong wings. The Bald Eagle Research Institute is sponsoring the publication of this bald eagle reader, expected to be published in 2003.
Bald Eagle Research Institute
The purpose of the Bald Eagle Research Institute is the development of research and educational programs designed to enhance our knowledge of the terrestrial and marine ecosystems as typified by the bald eagle.

The Bald Eagle Research Institute History

A predecessor of the Jay Hammond American Bald Eagle Research Institute

A Bald Eagle Research Institute was the dream of Dave Olerud, Founding Father of the American Bald Eagle Foundation. Working with the Foundation Board and Chancellor Marshall Lind of UAS an organization was launched in August 1989. Actually work on projects begun in 1989 continued and evolved into the reborn Jay Hammond American Bald Eagle Research Institute in 1997.

Chancellor Lind had his dream too. At this time he had the UAS Office of Continuing Education, under Lee Paavola, developing a 3 credit correspondence study course entitled, Bald Eagles of Alaska’s Coastal Rain Forest. Dick Luther was overall manager with Bruce Wright primary author and Marge Hermans editor. Helping was an advisory committee of Juneau eagle authorities that included the UAS members of the ABERI Board.

It was soon evident that current information on Alaska’s eagles was lacking. This suggested the idea of hosting a symposium on Bald Eagles in Alaska with a proceedings designed to be published as a reader for the course. Phil Schempf, raptor specialist with US Fish & Wildlife Service and member of Luther’s advisory committee, agreed to be program chair and proceedings editor. The symposium went off beautifully, Nov. 8-10, 1990, except the field trip. The charter vessel ride up Lynn Canal to Haines had to be canceled due to a storm thus turning an expected cash profit into a loss for UAS. Bruce Wright was selected to teach the Bald Eagle correspondence course which to 1998 has been taken by nearly a thousand students from all across America and some foreign countries.


Bald eagles congregate on the Homer Spit, Alaska each winter to feed on fish scraps.

Photo by Allen Ritter, a student of the University of Alaska Wildlife Series course, Bald Eagles in Alaska’s Coastal Rain Forest.

The figure below depicts the shoreline of Admiralty Island, Southeast Alaska, and is marked by the bald eagle nests (dark boxes).  Mike Jacobson, of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, describes this as the “center of the universe” for bald eagles.  
(figure courtesy USFWS)


One objective of the ABERI had been to build a Bald Eagle bibliography and literature collection at the UAS Egan Library. The Foundation did find 3,000 dollars to help this effort. Professor O’Clair was able to hire her student, John Maniscalco. Contact was made with the National Wildlife Federation who advised they had no intention of upgrading their 1979 bibliography and in fact were glad to find a place to donate their Bald Eagle files. John was able to add a thousand titles to the two thousand the Federation had published 15 years previous. With help from Phil Schempf, copies of more than 600 of the titles were added to the library collection. The first customer for the new Egan Library materials was Cary Anderson, Bald Eagle scholar from Anchorage who spent several days there. Anderson has since published two paper back Bald Eagle Books and there are more on the way. The bibliography has been kept up to date by biology students at UAS. It is now available on disk or computer printout and receiving regular use.

Incorporation: On July 30, 1997 the American Bald Eagle Jay Hammond Research Institute was incorporated as a Domestic Nonprofit Corporation in Alaska. The incorporators were Dennis Russell, Bruce Wright, and Scott Foster. Nine persons constituted the initial board of directors. They follow: Dennis Russell, chairman; Bruce Wright, vice chairman; Jamie Parsons, treasurer; Scott Foster, secretary; Richard Kaloostian, Jim King, John Eiler, Phil Schempf, and Mike Jacobson. The Institute board members have spent most of their time since incorporation on two major projects: Exploring the possibility of constructing an Institute facility in Juneau and publication of a book on eagles.

In 2000 the American Bald Eagle Jay Hammond Research Institute established a University of Alaska Foundation account with a donation of over $100,000. Annual projects are expected from the interest earned by the Foundation account. In 2001 the American Bald Eagle Jay Hammond Research Institute broke ties with the American Bald Eagle Foundation. The Institute rewrote its bylaws and is moved to incorporate as a nonprofit organization.


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