Vol. 32, No. 10
Ray RaLonde, Alaska Sea Grant aquaculture specialist, was awarded the 2012 Superior Outreach Program Award by the nationwide Sea Grant Extension Assembly. RaLonde was recognized for creating a program in which Alaska Native tribes, shellfish farmers, coastal communities, state agencies, and legislators successfully work together to enhance safe harvest of shellfish and diversify the economies of isolated coastal communities.
RaLonde's work with shellfish farming, an economic endeavor important in diversifying rural coastal communities, has led to the growth and development of the industry in Alaska. And his efforts have improved safety for Alaskans harvesting shellfish through an increased awareness and understanding of the dangers of paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP). Based on his dedication, clear vision, strong communication skills, and integrity of purpose, he created trust and networks that have been critical in meeting his goals.
The award was presented at Sea Grant Week, a biennial conference of Sea Grant programs, in Girdwood, Alaska in September (see below). Every two years the Sea Grant Extension Assembly presents the honor to recognize superior leadership, teamwork, and accomplishment by Sea Grant extension personnel.
Alaska Sea Grant hosted the biennial Sea Grant Week conference in Girdwood, Alaska, last month. Although most of the 200 participants from 33 Sea Grant programs had to travel thousands of miles to the meeting, this was the largest turnout ever for a Sea Grant Week. Katherine Bunting-Howarth, New York Sea Grant associate director, seemed to appreciate the gathering. “I had a wonderful time in Alaska! The event was very well organized and the facilities, food, entertainment, etc. were fantastic!” she said.
The steering committee was headed by Sea Grant Association president Jon Pennock, director of New Hampshire Sea Grant, and David Christie, Alaska Sea Grant director. Katie Lea of Louisiana Sea Grant and Kurt Byers of Alaska Sea Grant co-chaired the logistics committee, assisted by most members of the Alaska Sea Grant staff.
The seven-day conference began with the nationwide Sea Grant Advisory Committee meeting, and continued with professional skill conclaves of communicators, extension, financial officers, and others. The opening plenary session featured an introduction to Alaska by Lt. Governor Mead Treadwell, as well as video highlights from Senators Lisa Murkowski and Mark Begich and an Alaska video produced by Marine Advisory media specialist Deborah Mercy. UAF Chancellor Rogers also welcomed the group. Attendees kept up the pace for several days working on emerging ocean issues, social sciences, return on investment, and reporting, interspersed with hikes, a fishing trip, a fjord cruise, and other outings. Princess Cruises donated use of a motor coach to transport attendees on a field trip to Seward.
Many of the week’s presentations are available online. Talks were given by Kurt Byers, Alaska Sea Grant Education Services manager; Kathy Kurtenbach, marketing coordinator; and Terry Johnson, Marine Advisory tourism and recreation specialist. Unalaska Marine Advisory agent Reid Brewer gave a well-received multimedia talk about Adventures in the Aleutians. Johnson also led two hikes and a float fishing trip on the Kenai River. MIT Sea Grant videographer Lillie Paquette hosted a blog and Twitter, which saw a lot of activity in Girdwood and from Sea Granters who attended from their home states.
“Thanks to Alaska Sea Grant for a superb time. Sea Grant Week was the best yet,” tweeted Jim Hurley, Wisconsin Sea Grant director.
Eighteen teachers from rural Alaska attended a Salmon in the Classroom in-service in early October, in Fairbanks. The four-day training featured a salmon incubation project that brings scientific inquiry, fisheries and watershed studies, subsistence, ocean science, and climate change into the classroom.
Teachers learned about the salmon life cycle and ecology concepts in a classroom setting, and the group ventured out to the Chena River where they monitored water quality and fish species.
Matt Wooller, UAF associate professor of stable isotope biogeochemistry, and Sean Brennan, a graduate student on Wooller’s Alaska Sea Grant–funded research, gave talks and hosted the teachers at their UAF lab. Brennan will partner with three teachers to collect water samples for “fingerprinting” salmon to their natal stream, using strontium isotopes. The teachers were introduced to biological isotope marker methods by identifying how much seafood they eat through examination of fingernail clippings.
Andrea Bersamin, a nutrition assistant professor in the UAF Center for Alaska Native Health Research, spoke about her Fish to Schools research project, and Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologist Mike McDougal, from Eagle, discussed Yukon River fisheries issues. Beth Trowbridge, Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies, led a half day of training on use of the Alaska Seas and Rivers online curriculum.
Salmon in the Classroom was developed in the early 1990s, for young people in villages most affected by declining salmon runs. Since then it has grown from eight to 80 communities around the state. Most of the teachers at the 2012 training are from Yukon River watershed villages.
In-service organizers were Marilyn Sigman, Alaska Sea Grant marine education specialist, and Peter Stortz, 4-H natural resource and youth development specialist. The training was supported by a grant from the Yukon River Panel Restoration and Enhancement Fund, Alaska Sea Grant, and the Pacific Salmon Commission. Partners include Cooperative Extension Service, UAF Center for Cross-Cultural Studies, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Alaska COSEE (Center for Ocean Sciences Education Excellence).
During appropriately rainy weather, over 300 people came out for at least one of the 19 events at the 2012 Tongass Rainforest Festival, held in Petersburg in September. Marine Advisory agent Sunny Rice chaired the steering committee for the four-day festival, assisted by Chris Weiss and Jessica Ieremia of the Petersburg Public Library, Mary Clemens and Eric Castro of the U.S. Forest Service, and local artist Susan Christiansen. Rice co-founded the festival five years ago, with Karen Dillman of the U.S. Forest Service.
Aware of a strong interest in edible seaweeds in Petersburg, Rice invited NOAA’s Mandy Lindeberg to talk about seaweeds of southeast Alaska. Lindeberg also led an intrepid group of adults and children through a seaweed collecting and pressing activity to make bookmarks. The Marine Advisory Program paid for her travel to the festival from Juneau. Lindeberg is co-author of the book Field Guide to Seaweeds of Alaska, published by Alaska Sea Grant.
Rice co-taught a nature writing workshop with Petersburg Writer Laureate Lee Ribich, to five people. Each composed at least one poem inspired by outdoor observations. Other highlights of the festival were a halibut hook carving workshop led by Sitka carver Tommy Joseph, an introduction to making wine with local berries, and a lecture on the causes of the decline in yellow cedars in southeast Alaska. Children enjoyed making troll houses and fairy gardens from forest floor plants and twigs.
Marine Advisory agent Reid Brewer helped release a seal in Unalaska that had been rehabilitated at the Alaska SeaLife Center. The injured harbor seal was found near a processing plant last June when she was about a week old. While at the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward she recovered fast and spent time with other seals. After a few months she was declared healthy and was flown back to Unalaska. Witnessed by an adoring crowd of 40 children, she was released from shore into the sea. See photo, radio story, and TV footage: