By Kara Johnson
March 8 was a blustery day, but it didn’t stop hundreds of children and adults from attending the Ocean Science Festival in Valdez. This event was held as part of the Valdez Annual Community Science Festival, organized by the Prince William Sound Science Center (PWSSC) and the Maxine & Jesse Whitney Museum. Participants were invited to explore the waters in and around Prince William Sound through a variety of activities, demonstrations and displays.
Hands-on activities included lessons on the impacts of ocean debris and pollution prevention, invasive species monitoring, ship tracking using the Automated Information System, remotely operated vehicles (ROVs), plankton morphology and ecology, acoustic monitoring of fish populations, and fisheries management. Local student science fair experiments were on exhibit as were a number of informational displays from organizations around Alaska that are vested in marine sciences.
A highlight for many of the festival participants were all the different equipment demonstrations. The Oil Spill Recovery Institute’s (OSRI) large research ROV was on display and young explorers got a chance to operate a mini-ROV in a tank of water. Also on display were the ROVs that the high school marine biology class constructed as part of the PWSSC Outreach Discovery program.
Katrina Hoffman (President and CEO of PWSSC, and Gulf Watch Alaska education and outreach committee representative) shared the exciting research conducted by scientists associated with the Gulf Watch Alaska program. Gulf Watch Alaska is the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council’s long-term monitoring program in spill-impacted areas. (provide link to GWA page)
Participants also enjoyed watching a slideshow of plankton and the Pacific salmon lifecycle, footage of sperm whales eating black cod off a long-line, and viewing the film Ocean Frontiers. This film highlights unlikely allies joined by mutual goals to sustain our ocean health and economies. Look for the Cordova showing of this movie in the fall!
Participating organizations included PWS Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council (PWSRCAC), Alaska SeaLife Center, National Park Service, Maxine & Jesse Whitney Museum, University of Alaska Southeast, Alaska Ocean Observing System (AOOS), Alaska Summer Research Academy, Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies, Center for Ocean Science Education Excellence – Alaska, Cordova Clean Harbors Project, Gulf Watch Alaska and the Herring Research and Monitoring program.
Plans are underway for next year’s Community Science Festival with a focus on “weather.” Funding for the Ocean Science Festival is provided in part by the PWSRCAC, AOOS, PWSSC and OSRI.