K-12 Student Outreach and School Visits

Polar Science Weekend at the Pacific Science Center, Seattle WA

Troy Buckley from AFSC shows students how to sort a fish catch and how we get our samples.

Caroline Robinson from the University of Washington is showing why it is so cool to be a fisheries biologist that looks at the stomach contents of fish.

Troy Buckley explains what a food web is and what kinds of marine critters are found in one!

Results from the Arctic Eis project was incorporated into Educational Outreach Activities conducted by the Resource Ecology and Ecosystem Modeling (REEM) program at the Alaska Fisheries Science Center. REEM has a long-standing, popular educational display on Alaskan Marine Food Webs that generally describes how we study what fish eat and why this research is important.

A variety of feeding strategies and a variety of prey that are identified from fish stomachs are shown to and discussed with the audience, visitors, or students. The tray of partially digested prey is a big draw, and the most notable quote so far has been, “That looks gross! Can I touch it?” The conceptual building blocks of the display have been updated with information from posters about the Demersal and Pelagic Fish Food Habits results, showing the geographic extent of stomach sample collection in the Bering and Chukchi Seas, and the variation in the Arctic cod diet observed among regions and sizes. A figure showing trophic linkages to all the prey groups of Arctic cod and all the predators of Arctic cod illustrates the complexities of the connections for one species, and a diagram of the full ecosystem model of the eastern Chukchi Sea provides further scale of the complexity of the Alaskan Arctic marine foodweb.

A hands-on activity developed in conjunction with the Bering Sea Project and the Pacific Science Center’s Science Communication Fellowship Program is conducted in association with this display. Participants in the exercise get to perform stomach content analysis on two sizes of

Arctic Fake and two sizes of Counterfeit Flounder and record the data from the stomachs on provided data sheets. This exercise has been popular with young children just learning to write their numbers through high school marine science classes where students calculate the numeric and weight diet compositions and the diet overlap among the groups of cloth fish. Depending on the knowledge of the students, biological concepts of trophic level, competition and niche partitioning can be discussed.

The display and activity have been presented (with the updated information from the Arctic EIS project) at the Pacific Science Center’s 10th Annual Polar Science Weekend (Feb 27 – Mar 1, 2015), Sand Point Elementary School’s 5th grade class and parents (May 21, 2015), Fisherman’s Fall Festival in Seattle (Oct 3, 2015), Pacific Science Center’s Life Science Research Weekend (Nov 6-8, 2015), Steilacom High School’s Marine Science classes (Jan 8, 2016), and Pacific Science Center’s 11th Annual Polar Science Weekend (Mar 4-6, 2016).

Anvil City Science Academy, Nome

In cooperation with Anvil City Science Academy Principle and teacher Todd Hindman, Program Manager Jared Weems and UAF-SFOS Fisheries graduate student Melissa Prechtl visited the 5th – 8th grade classroom on September 11, 2013. This was planned around the science crew change between the 2nd and 3rd legs of our 2013 survey.

Jared and Melissa took this opportunity to speak to the young student scientists about the Arctic Eis project, Arctic region marine biology and ecology, and climate change. Jared introduced the Project with several pictures and a video to show the students just what Arctic Eis is doing and why it is important. Melissa then spoke about Bering and Chukchi Sea ecology and how climate change is affecting the community structure. She also concluded by promoting Nome’s own sustainability practices and what each of us can do to limit our impacts.

On that ecological and climate note, the class played a game, called Water to Walrus: Understanding the Arctic Marine Ecosystem, meant to reiterate the spatial complexity of the Arctic marine environment just outside their backdoor. Using an impromptu-map as an outline of the Alaskan Coastline in the parking lot, students began to weave in and out of the Bering and Chukchi Seas as animals or environmental factors influencing the community structure in the region. As the students moved about map, we talked about why and how the animals, sea ice, and ocean currents may change over time due to rising Arctic temperatures.

Finally, everyone returned to the classroom where Jared finished with a presentation on Polar biology and adaption. He explored why it is so difficult for fish and animals to live under such cold conditions found in the Arctic and presented a few special adaptions Polar organisms use to stay warm. Of these, he highlighted the so-called anti-freeze proteins found in Arctic cod; which serves to inhibit ice crystals from forming in the blood and tissues of Polar fishes. He showed them several frozen, whole Arctic cod samples taken in the Chukchi Sea which exhibited the expulsion of the anti-freeze proteins from the body after the freezing process, which makes the fish appear badly freezer burnt (crystalline) after only a a few days. This protein is the cause and they soon realized they were looking directly at an example of Arctic and extreme-cold adaptation.

Unalaska City School District, Unalaska / Dutch Harbor

In cooperation with Unalaska City School District and 6th grade teachers Josh Good and Amber Wood, Program Manager Jared Weems visited their 6th grade classroom on October 1, 2013. This was planned for after the conclusion of the 2013 survey.

Jared took this opportunity to speak to the young students about the Arctic Eis project, Arctic region marine biology and ecology, and climate change. He introduced the Project with several pictures and a videos to show the students just what Arctic Eis is doing and why it is important. He included several videos that can now be found within our website photo gallery under 2013 Arctic Eis Videos. These included the project introduction video prepared by Melissa Prechtl, several crab megalopae videos, and a short saffron cod video. The students were very excited to the see the videos and found them very entertaining!

Then we talked about the Bering and Chukchi Sea marine ecosystems and how climate change will effecting the existing community structure. Under time constraints, the Water to Walrus activity was amended to instruction using the Smartboard instead.

Afterword, the students and teachers traveled down to a high school science laboratory where the live fish specimens were waiting to be discussed and viewed by all. The children got to see the Northern rock sole (pictured here), Alaska plaice, Starry Flounder, whitespotted greenling, sturgeon poacher, great sculpin, and the Bering wolffish. We shortly discussed the habitat and morphology of each fish as the students cycled around the room to look at all the fish specimens.

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