Vol. 32, No. 6
Last month 160 students gathered in the Unalaska Small Boat Harbor, where volunteer recreational divers donned dive gear, went into the water, and handed marine organisms to eager children. During the third annual Dockside Discovery program, the divers made several trips to the seafloor to collect a variety of creatures such as sea stars and crabs to show to students and transfer to seawater totes. Twenty-five divers, museum staff, teachers, and parent volunteers helped with dockside management, coordinated by Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory agent Reid Brewer.
Students carefully handled the marine animals on the dock, where divers talked to them about anatomy, ecology, and life history. The creatures were then returned to their environment unharmed. At the Museum of the Aleutians, students attended four workshops: scientific illustration, marine mammal skulls and teeth, intertidal ecology and tides, and how big is a whale?
Dockside Discovery was created in 2010 by the Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program, Museum of the Aleutians, Unalaska Divers Association, and the teachers at Eagle’s View Elementary School, to inspire the next generation of marine ecologists, fisheries scientists, and coastal enthusiasts.
Dockside Discovery is very popular in the community. One 2012 survey respondent described what they liked best about the program: “The variety of presentations, from hands-on discovery in natural habitats to scientific drawing and skulls. It appeals to every participant and chaperone. It is very applicable to our science units with a geographic tie.”
Two Alaska Sea Grant books won awards from the National Association of Government Communicators. Imam Cimiucia: Our Changing Sea, by Anne Salomon, Nick Tanape Sr., and Henry Huntington, took first place in the hard/soft cover book category, and Sea Life of the Aleutians: An Underwater Exploration, by Reid Brewer, Heloise Chenelot, Shawn Harper, and Stephen Jewett, won first place for graphic design. Sea Life of the Aleutians was designed by Monica Pessino, Santa Barbara, California. NAGC is a nonprofit professional network of federal, state, and local government employees who disseminate information within and outside government.
Terry Reeve, Bethel Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory agent (on right in photo), left his post after eight years of hard work and creative projects in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, including birding and archaeology ecotourism, increasing salmon quality on the rivers, and encouraging the Bethel farmers market to sell more fish. For over 30 years Reeve has demonstrated a commitment to development in this part of the state, and he will be missed.
During the 2012 Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program’s Fourth Alaska Young Fishermen’s Summit (AYFS), in Juneau, participants testified before the Alaska Legislature’s Special Fisheries Subcommittee on the aging of Alaska’s commercial fishermen and the importance of low interest loans for new entrants to the fishing industry.
The testimony was instrumental in the unanimous passage of House Concurrent Resolution 18, which urged the Legislature to address concerns with the age of commercial fishing entry permit owners in Alaska, and calls on the Legislature to be involved with the University of Alaska's fisheries, seafood, and maritime initiative.
AYFS testimony also contributed to the passage of Concurrent Senate/House Bill CSHB 261, which reduced interest rates and doubled the amount of money fishermen can borrow from the state to purchase permits to $200,000. The governor signed this measure.
MAP has been a leader in highlighting the “graying of the fleet” as a growing coastal economic challenge for Alaska, and in supporting and training new and young fishermen. Alaska’s fishermen are aging. In 1989, the average age of fishermen working Alaska’s waters was 43. In 2009, it was 49. The age increase illustrates the decline in the number of young fishermen seeking to earn a living harvesting seafood—and that could spell troubling times ahead for Alaska’s coastal communities already suffering from population decline and job losses.
Since 2007, AYFS conferences have provided a forum for fishermen to network and learn about business management, seafood markets, direct marketing, and fishery management practices. In 2012, AYFS hosted 50 young fishermen from 18 Alaska coastal communities. Seven participants testified on the importance of access to low interest loans for new fishermen. After the lively testimony session, Republican chairman Steve Thompson remarked, “I was highly impressed by the young fishermen and women that came to Juneau to testify.”
Partners in AYFS include the Alaska Marine Conservation Council, Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, Alaska Troller's Association, Alaska Whitefish Trawlers Association, Chinook Insurance Group LLC, Dan Hull F/V Gretchen S., International Pacific Halibut Commission, Kruzof Fisheries LLC, Marine Conservation Alliance, Pacific Seafood Processors Association, Princess Tours, United Fishermen of Alaska, University of Alaska Southeast, and Webber Marine & Manufacturing, Inc.
Alaska Sea Grant’s Alaska Seas and Rivers K–8 online curriculum fills a critical need for standards-based teaching resources aimed at increasing marine knowledge and engagement in marine stewardship. Since the curriculum’s debut in 2009, at least 355 teachers have used it to reach an estimated 20,000 students. In surveys, teachers identified engagement in stewardship as the primary impact on their students.
For three years after its introduction, professional development workshops and presentations at educational conferences reached 335 K–12 teachers, 150 of whom were Alaska rural teachers from 75 communities.
In post-workshop surveys, teachers have praised the curriculum’s accessibility, organization, ease of use, relevance to Alaska students, and the wealth of hands-on activities and linked resources. Teachers who participated in training workshops were surveyed in fall 2011. Thirty-four teachers responded; 25 said they taught a marine or aquatic unit every year and 17 said they were teaching an activity or unit every year. When asked about the impact of the curriculum, an aspect of stewardship education was described most often, followed by the engagement of students in science through fun activities that were relevant to their lives.
“I feel the lessons/units on the website really focus on getting kids into their outdoor environment and there are always components that get kids focusing on how to take care of their environment. I appreciate having the resources available to help me get my students into their reality to learn fun and high level thinking skills and they always enjoy the activities!!,” said one teacher.
Partners in the curriculum are Alaska Center for Ocean Science Education Excellence, Alaska Council of Teachers of Math, Alaska Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, Alaska school districts, Alaska Science Teachers Association, Alaska SeaLife Center, Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies, National Science Foundation, University of Alaska Fairbanks Center for Cross-Cultural Studies, UAF Cooperative Extension, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and U.S. Department of Education.
The first National Marine Educators Association conference to be held in Alaska, North to Alaska’s Seas: A Confluence of Science and Culture, is scheduled for June 24–28, 2012, at the University of Alaska Anchorage. The meeting will feature presentations on teaching marine science, technology, art, and culture, as well as teacher resource sharing and a keynote speech by Arctic Research Commission chair Fran Ulmer. Conference co-chairs are Marilyn Sigman, Alaska Sea Grant marine education specialist, and Robin Dublin, executive director of Alaska Center for Ocean Sciences Education Excellence.
For the new publication Alaska's Nome Area Wildlife Viewing Guide, published by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Bering Strait Marine Advisory agent Gay Sheffield contributed science information and ideas, fact-checked material, and edited the marine mammal section. The 156 page book, with beautiful color photos and excellent maps, guides the reader to wildlife viewing spots along the Nome area road system. Animal identification and habitats are described, as well as hints on how to plan a visit and view wildlife safely. Sue Steinacher and Anne Sutton wrote the text for the book. The publication is available free as a PDF or for $8.95 for a hard copy.