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Education and Public Outreach Opportunities are Expanded by New Facilities at Auke Bay Laboratories

new TSMRI aquarium
Figure 1.  The new TSMRI aquarium allows for easy identification of local sea life during Sea Week.  Photo by Mandy Lindeberg.

Education of the public and associated outreach activities have long been a priority for the Auke Bay Laboratories (ABL). The recent move to the Ted Stevens Marine Research Institute (TSMRI) in Juneau (see Quarterly Report, July-August-September 2007 issue) has provided ABL's outreach program with an unprecedented suite of new opportunities to greatly expand and diversify contact with Alaska's public and science community. This spring ABL provided several new types of educational opportunities not only to local citizens, but to groups from other parts of Alaska and the contiguous United States. The principal outreach efforts centered on student visits to TSMRI. These included hosting college students for multiple-day laboratory practica, providing logistical support for a marine science camp, and hosting special 1-day events - World Ocean Day and a naturalist's training seminar for local tour operators. Both events proved to be major hits. The annual Sea Week month-long event that ABL has traditionally hosted for public school students since 1969 was more successful this year than anyone could have anticipated.

- University Students:

Auke Bay Laboratories hosted two university-level biology laboratory courses this spring. Dr. Todd Radenbaugh brought eight of his students from the University of Fairbanks Bristol Bay campus in Dillingham to TSMRI to complete their laboratory requirement for a distance learning course "Alaska Natural History" during 6 days in April. The students learned about aquatic biodiversity and coastal processes by collecting organisms from local beaches and waters. For several of the students, it was their first glimpse of rocky intertidal habitats and forests. Two students spoke Yupik as their primary language, so it was challenging explaining scientific concepts that had no Yupik equivalent, such as "transect sampling." In return, ABL staff learned about the students' daily lives. ABL staff provided biological and wet laboratory space, microscopes, and other laboratory equipment for student use. Bonita Nelson and Dr. Bruce Wing assisted these students.

Eighteen students from Louisiana State University based their laboratory work for their Marine Ecology of Alaska 3-week summer course at TSMRI in June working on individual projects using equipment in the biology laboratory. Their professor, Dr. William Stickle, continued his ongoing work with marine fauna's physiological capacity to adapt to environmental factors as it related to their distributions. Topics of special interest included bioenergetics of marine mammals of Alaska, salmon and the impact of the Exxon Valdez oil spill on the fauna and flora of Prince William Sound and ensuing long-term recovery. Dr. Bruce Wing and Mandy Lindeberg assisted the students in their studies.

- Naturalist Instruction:

TSMRI was the site of a 1-day workshop on 29 April for Juneau-area naturalists working for tour companies and whale watching outfits. Area biologists from several agencies gave presentations on local research efforts concerning near-shore habitats, salmon, and marine mammals. More than 60 participants from eight companies attended. ABL staff participating were John Moran, Mandy Lindeberg, Jacob LaCroix, Bonita Nelson and Suzie Teerslink (contractor), who also took the organizational lead for the event.

- Sea Week:

ABL's main outreach effort this quarter was opening our TSMRI facility to the annual Juneau School District's Sea Week field trips. Twelve hundred students and 300 teachers and chaperones enjoyed exploring our new aquarium (Fig. 1 above) and wet laboratory during the first 3 weeks in May. The large tanks of the aquaria were a big hit as students studied the diversity of fish and invertebrates with the aid of search and identify cards. The students especially enjoyed glimpses of the illusive octopus and the wolf eel emerging from his cave. Most were surprised at the variety of species, size of the urchins and anemones (twice the size of grapefruit), strangeness of the nudibranchs, and the vibrancy of the rockfish, greenling, and sculpins. The area around the aquaria also contained a variety of marine research themes and activities for the students to explore, including a reading corner and puppets. All the students enjoyed seeing how many of them could fit inside the life-size model of a great white shark's jaws.

After 20 minutes of exploring the aquarium area, the students went to the two extremely popular touch tanks in the wet lab. The tanks contained sea stars of every type, color, and size our divers could find; sea cucumbers; chitons; snails; bivalves; and hermit crabs. Buckets of warm water were nearby for the students' hands. Their touch tank experiences invariably ended with pleas for "just a little more time." The students ended their visit with a brief overview of humpback whales, which are often seen from the lab. Students were shown the partial skeleton of a 1-year-old whale and compared the size of their own ribs and vertebrae to the whale's. They were allowed to touch a piece of baleen and learned how we identify individual humpbacks by their flukes.

The Sea Week program was a great opportunity for the community to meet our staff. Seventy percent of us assisted in guiding over 48 classes including 7 preschool, 22 kindergarten, 10 elementary, and 9 sixth grade classes. Our new facility generated significant interest in our research programs and proved to be an excellent venue for our partnership with the Juneau School District.

  Napakiak students at TSMRI's touch tank
Figure 2.  Napakiak students check out the touch tank at TSMRI.  Photo by Doris Alcorn.

- Remote Area Students And Fourth Graders From Haines:

We also had students from other parts of Alaska visit us in May. One group, Alaska Native middle school students from three remote villages, toured TSMRI as part of the Rose Urban Rural Exchange Program (RURE), run by the nonprofit Alaska Humanities Forum. These students from the villages of Napakiak, Tuntutuliak, and Allakaket visited a local middle school for a week as part of a cross-cultural program to promote better understanding of others' cultures. As part of their explorations of the Juneau area these students toured our facility to learn about our research and enjoy Sea Week activities (Fig. 2). A second visiting group was a class of 30 fourth graders from Haines, Alaska, who traveled by ferry to Juneau for a 1-day visit to explore intertidal habitat and visit TSMRI. The students and their teachers and chaperones spent the day studying the diversity of the beaches and then came to the lab to learn more about what they had seen and collected. This is an annual event for fourth graders from Haines.

- TAKU Marine Science Camp:

ABL staff participated in the TAKU Marine Science Camp sponsored by the Juneau School District. The 10-day camp held during the first 2 weeks of June allowed 35 high school students to explore various aspects of the marine environment with hands-on field trips. ABL staff Bruce Wing, Dave Csepp, and J.J. Vollenweider accompanied students aboard the M/V Steller demonstrating the use of a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) as well as discussing plankton, invertebrates, and fish in the area. Jacob LaCroix gave a presentation about careers in biology; Bonita Nelson gave a hands-on workshop on ocean acidification to the students. The students also visited the TSMRI facility for a lecture and tour and viewed a seal necropsy in the lab.

- World Ocean Day:

TSMRI was the location of Juneau's World Ocean Day event held on 14 June and attended by more than 500 members of the community. Thirty-two organizations representing state and Federal governments, nonprofits, trade, and research and university organizations had representatives and informational materials available. Visitors also had the option of listening to 40-minute presentations from researchers involved in: whale net detanglement, seabird surveys, invasive marine species, and ocean observing systems. Activities also included 30-minute workshop discussions on world climate change, marine ocean debris, marine ecosystems and sustainability of ocean resources. The event also included a presentation of "Alive in the Eddy" an interpretational reading by Juneau's Perseverance Theatre group; tours of the TSMRI facility; and a marine salvage submarine display. The event was sponsored by KTOO-TV, KQED, Jean-Michel Cousteau Ocean Adventures Educational Outreach Campaign, Auke Bay Laboratories, and Discovery Southeast.

By Bonita Nelson


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