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Zach Brown, Executive Director

ZachZach and the Fairweathers grew up surrounded by the wilderness of Southeast Alaska.  With parents in the National Park Service, Zach had ample opportunity as a boy to explore the mountains and fjords of this region, experiences that gave him a lasting love of the natural world.

Attending college in Southern California, Zach studied chemistry and biology.  When the opportunity came to travel to the Arctic, his life changed forever. Zach spent a field season in the high Arctic archipelago of Svalbard, observing how seabirds are responding to a changing climate.  This unforgettable experience led Zach to pursue a PhD at Stanford University, where he continued to study how changing sea ice affects the marine biological communities of the polar regions, especially the phytoplankton that form the first link of the food chain.  During his time at Stanford, Zach was thrilled to undertake multiple research expeditions to the Arctic and Antarctic.

Completing his PhD studies in spring 2014, Zach set off on a 4-month, 2300-mile solo trek, hiking and paddling from Stanford to his Alaskan homeland, to spread the word about creating Inian Islands Institute, where he now serves as founding director.

Colter Barnes, Homesteading Resident

Hi there, my name is Colter Barnes and I am 34 years old. I was born in Montana, raised in Oregon, and have lived in Alaska going on 12 years now; in Kokhanok, Wrangell, Coffman Cove, and now at the Hobbit Hole! I have a bachelor’s degree in Mathematics from Montana State University and a master’s degree in Educational Leadership from the University of Alaska. I taught K-12 math and science for 5 years before switching over to the dark side and being a school principal the last 5 years of my career.

After leaving the “bush” of Southwest Alaska, I set sail for Southeast aboard my ketch-rigged Ingrid 38 “Lionheart”… and have been here ever since. While on Prince of Wales Island, I was fortunate to manage 4 aquaponic greenhouses for Southeast Island School District where I got to professionally combine my loves of working with children and growing/preserving/eating food on the daily.

This brings me to my true passion… practicing, learning about, and sharing everything “homesteading”. I have a 2-acre homestead in the village of Kokhanok where I ran a WWOOF farm for 6 years, hosting 29 WWOOFers from all over the world.  We kept bees, goats, pigs, rabbits, and chickens, grew outdoors and indoors, foraged, hunted, fished, and milled/built structures with local wood. I also have a (very) remote 17-acre homestead on the south fork of the Kuskokwim River I “won” in the state land lottery for $25.  I’ve slowly been developing that piece of land with the hope of turning it into a homesteading/experiential field school in the future.

My interests are basically everything DIY (do-it-yourself); growing/foraging/preserving food, brewing beer and wine, milling wood, renewable energy, subsistence hunting and fishing, COMPOSTING, tanning hides and skin-sewing, recycling, and basically anything that encourages me to use my resources (people, environment, skills, time, information, etc.) better.

“Do your best until you know better.  When you know better, do better.” -Maya Angelou

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”  -Annie Dillard

Erin Ohlson, Administrative Assistant

Erin’s raising a new generation of climate warriors in Gustavus, AK with her husband Travis who is a fifth generation descendant of a Gustavus homesteading family.  Erin pieces together many part-time jobs in Gustavus to make a living including her role as the Executive Director of the Gustavus Children’s Enhancement Program – a private nonprofit 501(c)(3) offering preschool and child care services.  Erin received her master’s degree in public administration from the University of Alaska Southeast, and she spends her free time playing board and card games, traveling the world, and spending time with her family.