Karen has been involved with AITRC since its inception. She has a thorough understanding of federal and state grant management and has been involved in protecting customary and traditional hunting and fishing rights for many years. In 2011 she was appointed by the Secretary of Interior to the Wrangell-St. Elias Subsistence Resource Commission and has served as Secretary to the Copper Basin Fish and Game Advisory Committee since 2008. Karen also served on the Alaska Board of Game from 2017-2019. She currently serves on the BIA Alaska Region Tribal Budget Committee and is one of the Alaska representatives to BIA Tribal Interior Budget Committee. She also represents Alaska on the Western Region Tribal Conservation Advisory Committee with the Natural Resource Conservation Service.
Research Coordinator/ Wildlife Biologist
Sterling Spilinek was born and raised in Douglas Wyoming. Sterling attended Whitman College in Walla Walla Washington where he played on the baseball team and received a degree in Biology. After college Sterling moved back to Wyoming and worked for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department; working throughout Wyoming on projects involving landowner/hunter relations, ungulate migration habitat improvement, ungulate herd tracking, and large carnivore noninvasive sampling. Deciding to continue his education, Sterling enrolled into the Wildlife Ecology program at Texas State University. Sterling wrote his graduate thesis on rumen morphology of white-tailed deer comparing energy of diets and presented his research for the coveted Cottam Award at the Texas Chapter of the Wildlife Society. Sterling’s most recent employer was Pheasants Forever, as a partner biologist with the Natural Resource Conservation Service in Billings Montana. In this role, Sterling largest accomplishment was submitting a grant for grassland bird conservation in southeast Montana totally over one million dollars.
Kelsey Stanbro grew up on the east coast and attended the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia where she played on the volleyball team and received a degree in Marine Conservation with minors in both Environmental Sustainability and Business Administration. At Mary Washington Kelsey studied the impact of climate change on eastern oyster populations, how increasing surface water temperatures from climate change impact copepods, and how the introduction of northern snakeheads in the Potomac River Basin is affecting largemouth bass populations. After university Kelsey spent two years working as an English teacher in Bangkok, Thailand. During this time, she volunteered at a university doing coral restoration and leading educational school trips to the area. Kelsey decided to further her education and attended the University of Bremen in Bremen, Germany where she received a master’s degree in marine biology. Kelsey wrote her student research project on the feeding behavior of mesopelagic fish using stable isotope analysis and her graduate thesis on the trophodynamics of mesopelagic fish in the Benguela Upwelling System using stomach content and fatty acid analysis. She has worked at the Leibniz Center for Tropical Marine Research modelling food-web dynamics in the Humboldt Upwelling System and at the Thünen Institute for Sea Fisheries where she worked with mesopelagic fish in the Benguela Upwelling System and Canary current and spent 3 months on a research ship collecting samples.
Dan began his fisheries career during college with the Coast Salish Lummi Tribe near his hometown in Bellingham, Washington. Upon completion of a Bachelor of Science, at Western Washington University he immediately went to work for various fisheries management programs around Washington State. Primarily located in the rainforest of the Olympic Peninsula, most recently Dan conducted hiking, rafting, and helicopter spawner surveys, as well as biological sampling and population analysis as a Fisheries Biologist for the Quileute Tribe. Dan’s role in AITRC will focus on the sustainability of Copper River salmon, and ways to further build AITRC’s fisheries program.
Subsistence Resource Specialist
Deanna was born and raised in the Copper Basin. She originally started working for AITRC as the Tribal Historic Preservation Office (THPO) Project Coordinator and has since moved into the role of Subsistence Resource Specialist. Deanna grew up in Gulkana Village; her grandma was fluent in Ahtna Kenaege’, cultural and traditional practices, and taught anyone willing to learn. Deanna did not know her grandma's influence would lead her to continue to learn and help preserve and protect cultural and traditional resources. Deanna is taking classes at the University of Alaska Fairbanks in Tribal Governance and is learning Ahtna Athabaskan through the Kenai Peninsula College.
Currently, Deanna is working to set up a THPO in the Native Village of Chitina and attending regulatory meetings to halp protect subsistence rights. The THPO project plans to survey sites in the Chitina area, develop and grow a geodatabase, develop regulations and training for the office's operations, and be a point of contact for the tribes as it asserts sovereignty over cultural sites. Chitina's THPO is a pilot project and AITRC hopes to create THPO's for all interested villages. Deanna’s driving force to carry out this project preserving and protecting cultural sites, and to continue her education is her three children.
David’s interests in ecology and anthropology began when he was growing up in rural Maine
and working at Bomazeen Scout Camp as a teenager. At the University of Montana, he earned
bachelor’s degrees in wildlife biology, and botany, and a doctorate in anthropology. His graduate
research was a study of the cultural and ecological factors influencing the practices used by
Members of the Nisqually tribe to harvest plants from Mount Rainier National Park. David has
been a manager of plant ecology labs at the University of Montana and New Mexico State
University. He was a member of Mount Rainier National Park’s restoration program for thirteen
seasons. For a couple of years, he helped conducted social science evaluations of STEM
programs at several Los Angles colleges. As an anthropologist with AIRC, David hopes his
experiences will bring an ethnobiological perspective that benefits its many projects.
GIS Specialist/ ISN Project Coordinator
Hailing from the Austin, Texas suburbs, Casey Cusick took a nontraditional path to get to where he is
today. In his early adult years, he worked in the service industry and graduated from Austin Community
College with an AAS degree in Commercial Music Management. He recorded multiple demos for local
bands and was a live music booking manager for many years. Deciding not to make either the service or
music industry a lifelong career, Casey went back to Austin Community College and eventually
transferred to Texas State University where he double majored in Wildlife Biology and Resource &
Environmental Studies. With these degrees, Casey began working as a Wildlife Specialist Manager in
Integrated Wildlife Management, where he not only had personal success, but also implemented
multiple management practices that spread throughout the company. In June 2022, Casey left the
company to once again further his education. He obtained a GIS Certificate from Bootcamp GIS and
immediately began pursuing a GIS profession in the environmental sector, eventually landing him as the
GIS Specialist / Indigenous Sentinels Network Project Coordinator with AITRC.