Here is the third installment in our series sharing exceptional work by Alaska state employees during the pandemic. The State of Alaska is one of our closest partners. Up now: the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, which manages fisheries and hunting and promotes sustainable fish and wildlife management.

Teams at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game built their own impermeable shields to safely work with the public during the time of coronavirus. (Photos courtesy of the Department of Fish and Game)

At the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, the COVID pandemic hit like a ton of bricks just like everywhere else. Governments all over were encouraging people to work from home, social distance, and stay safe. But it was spring in Alaska and Alaskans wanted to social distance while spring hunting or fishing and commercial fisheries were in dire need of preparation for the coming season.

The department says its unsung heroes have been the frontline staff in information centers and at front desks as well as its pathology and genetics conservation labs staff.

“Staff never skipped a beat,” said Commissioner Douglas Vincent-Lang. They just kept coming in day after day, adjusting to whatever mandate was issued. They adapted, some places even building their own personal protective equipment to keep themselves and customers as safe as can be. “Through it all, Alaskans always had a place to come, get licenses, permits and helpful information to carry on their own Alaska spring and summer traditions,” Vincent-Lang said. Now it’s fall, and the work — and the pandemic — go on.

It is common knowledge that Public Health Laboratories have been challenged since the outset to keep up with the mushrooming demands for COVID testing. In the face of testing resource limitations an “all-hands-on deck” call to help the State respond went out. Being a science-based agency, ADF&G has laboratories with the supplies, equipment and technical expertise to assist with this effort.

Microbiologist Brooke Ockerman in seen with her daughter, Izzy, in Fish and Game’s Pathology Lab on Bring Your Child to Work day. Her son, Layne, was also there. Ockerman recently transferred to the State Division of Public Health.

The ADF&G Pathology Lab and Gene Conservation Lab contributed emergency testing supplies and loaned state-of-the-art equipment including an extraction machine and liquid-handling robot. Additionally, ADF&G staff provided training on automated high through-put extraction, increasing the Public Health Lab efficiency from doing roughly 20 to 30 samples in several hours to performing extractions on 96 samples in about 20 minutes. As it became clear that the demand for testing was mounting, ADF&G laboratory staff stepped in to provide relief.

The department recognizes Brooke Ockerman ( ADF&G Pathology Lab microbiologist; recently transferred to the State Division of  Public Health) and Heather Hoyt (ADF&G Gene Conservation Lab manager) and every front desk and information center staffer for going above and beyond.

All of these workers are committed to public service to help Alaskans stay healthy and enjoy what they love. We thank these unsung heroes of Fish and Game!

Heather Hoyt, Gene Conservation Lab manager for Fish and Game, is seen enjoying Alaska.

About the Unsung Heroes series

The State of Alaska has long been one of our closest and most reliable partners, helping to develop workforce housing, build and renovate domestic violence shelters, improve libraries and start from scratch a philanthropy for all of Alaska, the Pick.Click.Give program. Rasmuson Foundation President and CEO Diane Kaplan recently asked State of Alaska commissioners to highlight some of those whose efforts to adapt and respond stand out for going above and beyond, often in ways not seen by the public. This ongoing series is the result. Previous posts have celebrated State workers in the departments of Transportation and Commerce.