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Outreach: Southeast Alaska Regional Science Fair

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The Auke Bay Laboratories (ABL) has taken a lead role in the organization and participation of the Southeast Alaska Regional Science Fair for the past 10 years. This regional high school fair normally has over 100 participants from up to five high schools is affiliated with the INTEL International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF). In addition to organizing all aspects of judging, prizes, oversight of application procedures and rules, ABL provides 30 percent of the judges and mentors for 10 – 20 students annually. At least one project a year mentored at ABL is chosen to represent the fair at the ISEF, often garnering prizes during the international competition.

ABL offers a unique opportunity for students to work with our scientists in the laboratory or field while learning about the scientific method when conducting their mentor guided science fair project. The main focus of the majority of science fair projects mentored at ABL concern marine science. Students learn basic data collection methods while exploring aspects of their mentor’s research and expertise. A wide range of student projects are mentored each year. Students have investigated basic concepts such looking for changes in sea stars when salinity is changed to investigating the effects of climate change on phytoplankton. Sometimes student projects are used to tease out methodology problems or enhance aspects of on-going research projects. Working with science fair allows students to get to know both ABL and NOAA Fisheries. Former science fair students have returned to work for us as interns and Hollings Scholars.

ABL mentored students and their projects have gone on to compete at national and international levels. In 2012, two students, Fiona Brown and Ian Andrews, won a silver medal at the International Sustainable World Energy, Engineering and Environment Project Olympiad in Houston, Texas. To become I-SWEEEP 2012 medalists, Fiona and Ian competed in a field of over 1,000 science projects drawn from high schools in the U.S. and 68 other countries. The winning study demonstrated the sensitivity of a growth index in fish undergoing starvation. The project taught the students to apply state-of-the-art methods in molecular biology and bioenergetics. The two high school students were mentored by a team of laboratory scientists that included Ashwin Sreenivasan, Lawrence Schaufler, Ron Heintz, Jeff Guyon and Bonita Nelson.

Also in 2012, Kevin Sigler competed at the U.S. Stockholm Junior Water Prize competition in Boston, MA. Kevin represented the state of Alaska in this prestigious event after his selection by the Southeast Alaska Regional Science Fair in March and then winning the state competition in April. Bonita Nelson, Research Biologist at Auke Bay Laboratories, mentored Kevin in his project titled "How Restoration Affects the Abundance of Juvenile Coho Salmon in Creeks in the Juneau Area".

I-SWEEP Silver Medalists
Sigler in Boston
Fiona and Ian display their silver medals.
Kevin competing in Boston.

Contact
Bonita Nelson
Auke Bay Laboratories
Alaska Fisheries Science Center

Ted Stevens Marine Research Institute
17109 Point Lena Loop Road
Juneau, AK 99801
(907) 789-6071
Bonita.Nelson@noaa.gov


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