Alaska Pacific University graduates may see a familiar face on their TVs this winter. Michael Manzo, a 2014 sustainability studies graduate, is a cast member on the new National Geographic series Life Below Zero: Next Generation. Michael’s story on the show follows his roaming life in northern Alaska, traveling rivers on freighter canoes that stemmed from his senior project at APU.
As a student, Michael spent his senior year researching freighter canoes and adapting hydrodynamic fuel-efficient designs for Alaska’s waterways. Much larger than a recreational canoe, freighters are designed to transport tons of gear and supplies. “Freighter canoes were the premier work boat of the North country,” he said.
Michael’s winters also involve sustainable transportation honed by Native knowledge. He relies on dog teams to support his winter hunts, feeding his dogs salmon and meat and avoiding gasoline altogether.
“It’s in my blood to want to build and design dog sleds and canoe. As a Miꞌkmaw Indian, culturally APU understood that,” he said. “Even though it didn’t really fit some of their academic programs, they were willing to go above and beyond to not only teach me about the natural world of Alaska … but also combine my love and interest in designing sustainable fuel-efficient subsistence boats for Alaska.
“It was a culturally empowering thing,” he said of his time at Alaska Pacific University.
Viewers can see how sustainable transport plays into his life in Alaska on Life Below Zero: Next Generation. The first episode is free to watch at National Geographic’s website.