COSEE-Alaska celebrated its first-year anniversary in August as the newest member in the far-flung COSEE Network. We are both a regional (Arctic) and thematic (People, Oceans and Climate Change) Center, bringing together western science and traditional knowledge about ocean climate change. COSEE-Alaska partners include the Alaska Ocean Observing System
, University of Alaska Fairbanks’ School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences
and Center for Cross-Cultural and Rural Development
, the Alaska SeaLife Center
, Alaska Sea Grant
, and the Anchorage School District
Since our inception, we’ve broadened our partnerships to include the North Pacific Research Board, the U.S. Arctic Research Commission, the Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy, NOAA’s Alaska Fishery Science Center, the Prince William Sound Science Center, and the Imaginarium, a children’s science museum in Anchorage. In the spring, Marilyn Sigman joined us as a full-time faculty-level marine education specialist in the University of Alaska Fairbanks School of Fisheries and Ocean Science and as COSEE-Alaska Program Manager, and many of you met her at the COSEE Network meetings in Hilton Head.
On the national level, COSEE-Alaska PIs have participated in the Diversity Working Group, the Web Working Group and Excellence in Networking Tools Sub-group, the Strategic Planning effort, the Evaluation Working Group, and the Best Practices in Professional Development meetings. Region-wide, we met in the spring and again in the fall with our Advisory Council, which is made up of leaders from academia; federal and state agencies; non-governmental organizations; the tourism, fisheries and oil and gas industries; and Alaska Native organizations. We launched a number of exciting activities, developed our website and created detailed work plans for years Two and Three.
COSEE-Alaska Program Highlights Sound Predictions 2009: Prince William Sound Field Experiment
How do you predict weather, wind, and waves in one of the most complex marine environments in Alaska? Scientists from several institutions, including the University of Alaska Fairbanks, NOAA, and the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, put their models to the test in Prince William Sound from July 19 - August 3, 2009. Mountainous surroundings, notoriously stormy seas, and a complex system of freshwater flows from the land, interacting with flows between the Sound and the Gulf of Alaska through a narrow entrance, have made modeling the Sound an enormous challenge. The field experiment was part of the development of the Alaska Ocean Observing System (AOOS), which delivers both real-time information and long-term trends about Alaska’s ocean conditions and marine life. COSEE-Alaska, which is AOOS’ premier outreach program, worked with COSEE-NOW to share outreach and education about this exciting scientific project. For preliminary results, see the AOOS newsletter and the report on Sound Predictions 2009 on the COSEE-Alaska website.
Alaska Ocean Science Fair Projects
The winners of the first COSEE-Alaska “ocean science fair” awards at the 2009 statewide science and engineering fair were high schoolers Taylor Everett and Grant Magdanz of Kotzebue, for their project on sheefish feeding habits; middle schooler Kenesia Price from Unalaska for a project on water filtration and Hannah Joe from Mountain Village for a project on DNA of local berries; and elementary school student Sebastion Szweda-Mittlestadt of Girdwood for his project on the rates and effects of tides and the potential for tidal power. The projects were judged on both their scientific content and their community and cultural relevance. The presence of these and 16 other ocean science projects at the statewide competition was the result of the efforts of the COSEE-Alaska program led by COSEE P.I. Ray Barnhart, Director of the UAF Center for Cross-cultural and Rural Development (CCRD).
Alaska’s rural and Native youth learn survival techniques from stories, from observation of the practices of the elders and long-time residents of a particular place. Science fair projects tied in with Alaska’s traditional Native cultures or a sense of place bring a special awareness to the practice of the scientific method – the awareness that an ingenious trial-and-error “technology of the local” has been the means to survival (or not)– over vast expanses of Alaska, throughout the centuries it has been occupied by humans. Today these cultures and local technologies of survival are being put to a severe test in the face of rapid climate change. The ocean science fairs engage youth in understanding the changes that are occurring and how to use both western science and traditional knowledge to fashion a future.
During the 2009/2010 school year, retired Bush teacher Alan Dick and Wilma Osborn of the UAF Indigenous Studies program will travel to villages and provide advice and support to teachers who want to organize fairs in their community. Guidelines, new materials on planning science fairs and science/culture camps, and hundreds of ocean science fair project ideas are available on the Alaska Native Knowledge Network website
COSEE and COSEE-Alaska
Broadening Participation in the Ocean Sciences
A major focus of COSEE-Alaska is broadening participation of under-represented groups. Besides leading the Ocean Science Fairs activities, Dr. Ray Barnhardt has also been very involved in the development of a new Ph.D. program in Indigenous Studies at the University of Alaska, with Wilma Osborne joining us as a graduate assistant under that program. He has also helped develop an MOU in partnership with the World Indigenous Nations Higher Education Consortium to form an International Indigenous Graduate Education Alliance. COSEE-Alaska also received supplemental funding from NSF for the publication of two books on Alaska Native Education. And Ray is lead editor on a book section on Indigenous Knowledge, Climate Change and Sustainability to be published in North by 2020: Perspectives on a Changing Arctic.
In spring 2009 COSEE-Alaska lent financial support to an outstanding scientist outreach effort. Throughout the year, marine mammal scientist Dr. Andrew Trites met with 4th and 5th grade classes in St. Paul, Alaska, a small remote village in the Pribilof Islands, via videoconference on a monthly basis, after capturing six fur seal pups and transporting them to the Vancouver Aquarium for captive rearing experiments. Teacher Tonia Kushin integrated knowledge from Aleut culture about the fur seals into science units throughout the year, and Dr. Trites visited the school on several occasions. The class raised more than $19,000, which COSEE-Alaska supplemented, to support a field trip to the Aquarium to visit the pups and learn firsthand about Dr. Trites’ Bering Sea research on patch dynamics and marine mammal biology.
Dr. Barnhart has also been working on an NSF-sponsored project with PBS station WGBH Boston, which produced a special multimedia collection of videos and associated lesson plans, Alaska Native Perspectives on Earth and Climate. This special collection is a primary resource for educators. COSEE- Alaska is exploring the potential of a customized special collection that could involve re-mixing videos with specific climate change science or Native perspective content with additional content relevant to Alaska or North Pacific Ocean dynamics.
In January 2009, COSEE-Alaska expanded educational features for the Alaska Marine Science Symposium, an annual gathering of more than 600 ocean scientists doing research in Alaska’s marine ecosystems. We enhanced the one-day Communicating Ocean Science (COS) workshop so that educators, scientists, students, and community members could share experiences and highlight best practices of national, regional and local ocean education programs. The 2009 COS agenda featured scientists sharing experiences with teachers at sea; data visualization ideas for scientists and educators; tips for taking videos in the field; an introduction to COSEE-Alaska; and an update on the new Alaska Seas and Rivers curriculum, which features the latest Alaska ocean research in the case studies, thanks to scientists participating in teacher curriculum writing workshops. We also co-sponsored luncheon presentations, including a National Ocean Science Bowl competition between local high school students and teams of academic and NOAA scientists. In the final round, the winning high school team soundly trounced the winning academic team, much to the delight of the audience. The popularity of the event was overwhelming, and it will be repeated at future symposia. We also featured Geoffrey Haines-Stiles, co-creator of the NSF-NASA funded International Polar Year communication program, Polar Palooza. A number of the scientists and Alaska Natives in the audience were “stars” of this cutting-edge multimedia event that traveled to informal education venues all over the U.S.
In addition, Dr. Michael Castellini and Ruth Post of the UAF School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences created a survey to assess a baseline of scientists involvement in outreach as well as a needs survey.
COSEE-Alaska recently launched SEANET, a network of ocean scientists, educators, and communicators involved in communicating about research in Alaska's seas. Our goal is to promote ocean and climate change literacy, sharing best practices, and integrating ocean science with local and traditional knowledge. Anyone can become a member by joining the interactive Ocean SEANET networking site. Also visit the SEANET blog. COSEE-Alaska posts a calendar of upcoming events (conferences, science outreach events, training opportunities) and Caught in the News Net round-ups of science news about recently published research on Alaska ocean climate change, and highlights resources and news from the COSEE-Alaska website. The networking site provides opportunities to interact via forums and sub-groups.
Voices of Climate Change Videos
COSEE-Alaska, together with the Alaska Marine Conservation Council, which represents small fishing communities, and the Alaska Sea Grant Program, filmed a series of videotaped interviews of ocean scientists, Alaska Natives and coastal community members sharing western science and traditional knowledge about ocean climate change in Alaska seas. The videos were taped at the January 2009 Alaska Marine Science Symposiumand at the 2009 Alaska Forum on the Environment, Alaska’s largest environmental conference, which had a full day of presentations about the evidence of climate change, research, adaptation, and mitigation strategies. We are currently editing the interviews to create short 5- to 10-minute stand-alone videos that we’ll also weave together to create a 45- to 60-minute DVD. The videos will be available on COSEE-Alaska and partner websites, featured on YouTube, and will be shared throughout the COSEE Network as well as shown at film festivals and venues in Alaska and the Lower 48.
Teacher Professional Development and the Involvement of Scientists
COSEE-Alaska and Alaska Sea Grant partnered with the Cooperative Extension Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to plan and provide a three-day professional development workshop for 19 rural Alaska teachers as part of the Salmonides-in-the-Classroom
program, which has been on-going in Alaska schools for 25 years. COSEE-Alaska contributed scientific and educational resources and lesson plans from the recently developed Alaska Seas and Rivers online curriculum
to tie the salmon life cycle into learning about ocean and coastal habitats, climate change, and Alaska Native knowledge. The teachers were also provided support to begin organizing ocean science fairs. The majority of the participating teachers work in villages that have predominantly Alaska Native populations.
COSEE-Alaska facilitated the participation of salmon ecologist Mark Wipfli, physical oceanographer Seth Danielson, and Martha Robus Kopplin, a science outreach specialist from the GLOBE Seasons and Biomes program. The three made presentations and planned collaborative work with individual teachers for the next school year. Danielson continued a collaboration with Milt Hooton, a high school teacher in the village of Quinhagak. Danielson, a graduate student in the School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, ships oceanographic drifters to Quinhagak and Hooton and his high school students deploy them in Bering Strait from a skiff off the mouth of the Kuskokwim River. The students view the real-time movements of the drifters on Danielson's website. Hooton and Danielson are planning a number of lessons that will relate the currents at the mouth of the river to conditions for young salmon smolts during their outmigration.
Integrating Ocean and Climate Literacy into the Alaska Science Curriculum
COSEE-Alaska is developing a curriculum framework for promoting ocean and climate change literacy in alignment with Alaska state science secondary school standards. Once completed, the draft framework will be circulated for review by scientists and by education groups, including one being formed to promote STEM education in Alaska and one developing an Environmental Literacy Plan for Alaska, formed in anticipation of potential funding if the No Child Left Inside legislation is passed by Congress.
Baseline Surveys of Scientists and Educators
Evaluator Andrea Anderson, Marilyn Sigman and Sidney Stephens, UAF International Arctic Research Center, developed a baseline needs survey of K-12 teachers for Alaska ocean and climate change content, training, and resources. The survey was piloted with 40 participants following Marilyn’s presentation at the Alaska Math/Science Teachers Conference in Juneau. The link to the online survey will be sent out in final form to the more than 300 participants in the conference and publicized by other means. Marilyn also developed pre-workshop surveys for both teachers and scientists participating in the Salmon-in-the-Classroom workshop. We used the results to frame the discussions about partnerships between scientists and teachers in order to collaborate and communicate during the school year.
Contributed by COSEE-Alaska Staff