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ARCTIC: Exploring our Oceans at The 2017 Kaktovik Oceanography Program
Alaska Region, January 19, 2017
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Students examine plankton samples using microscopes.
Students examine plankton samples using microscopes. - Photo Credit: USFWS
Students in chest waders learn to use a seine net.
Students in chest waders learn to use a seine net. - Photo Credit: USFWS
A camp participant learns how to pilot the Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) used for ocean exploration.
A camp participant learns how to pilot the Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) used for ocean exploration. - Photo Credit: USFWS
The crew of USCGC Alex Haley share the proper use of safety and survival gear.
The crew of USCGC Alex Haley share the proper use of safety and survival gear. - Photo Credit: USFWS
Lead Instructor Cliff Strain, UTMSI Program Coordinator Christina Bonsell, and Education Specialist Allyssa Morris lead the annual GPS-based beach erosion survey which examines the accelerated rates of erosion in the area.
Lead Instructor Cliff Strain, UTMSI Program Coordinator Christina Bonsell, and Education Specialist Allyssa Morris lead the annual GPS-based beach erosion survey which examines the accelerated rates of erosion in the area. - Photo Credit: USFWS

The annual Kaktovik Oceanography Program was taught in Kaktovik, Alaska from August 8-13, 2016. This camp is jointly designed and implemented by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and The University of Texas Marine Science Institute (UTMSI). This year the program was focused on middle and high school level students and reached 19 local youth. This year's theme was “Exploring our Oceans!” and the goal was to expose students to diverse techniques and technologies, including a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV), that scientists use for ocean exploration and help them better understand the coastal zone of the Beaufort Sea. Instructors took advantage of the unique location on an Arctic barrier island and used Kaktovik Lagoon as a natural classroom.

 

On the first day of the program, students learned to pull a seine net to
capture fish and invertebrates along the shoreline of the lagoon. Students later identified these organisms and added them to an aquarium tank in the classroom used for observation. The biota collected included various fish, amphipods, and seaweeds. Students also learned how to pilot an ROV from the research vessel with UTMSI Instructor Ken Dunton. Later in the afternoon students learned about seaweeds and created seaweed herbarium pressings and marine art.

The following day students learned about trophic levels and played a food web game that included drawing their favorite Arctic plant or animal and discussing how organisms are connected in a food web. The concept of energy
transfer from the sun through primary producers, primary consumers, secondary consumers and apex predators were discussed. Camp participants took advantage of a visit by the crew of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Alex Haley, where crew members described their responsibilities and gave tours of some of the small vessels they use while on patrol.

Other activities and lessons learned included the science of taxonomy, using dichotomous keys to identify organisms, and how to classify various types of marine life, surveying beach erosion, collecting ground water to better understand water quality, collecting sediment cores from Kaktovik Lagoon and discussing how scientists can reconstruct past environmental conditions through examination of sediment deposited over time. Long-time Instructor Cliff Strain led an activity on shark dissection and discussed how sharks use their lateral line sensory-organ system to detect and capture prey. USFWS Environmental Education Specialist Allyssa Morris led a discussion about the role of the USFWS within the Arctic Refuge and various career opportunities that are available.

The camp ended with students working with the Arctic Refuge Eider Crew who led an activity on tracking eiders using radio transmitters, allowing students to use equipment to locate transmitters around town followed by an open house that included displays of student’s posters and artwork from the week. Students demonstrated to their parents and local teachers how they used microscopes to examine plankton and water quality kits.

This successful program includes hands-on science activities that are focused on marine environmental science principals that are interconnected throughout the week and aim to engage youth to become future conservation stewards.


Contact Info: Allyssa Morris, 907-456-0213, Allyssa_Morris@fws.gov
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