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Expanded Teacher at Sea Program

NOAA Teacher at Sea logo

It is with great excitement that we announce our new partnership with NOAA’s Teacher at Sea program!

In 2018, educators participated in each of our three Gulf of Alaska research cruises. Michele Hoffman Trotter, Per Fosstveit, and Mark Van Arsdale filmed creatures, helped with sampling, and developed lesson plans to introduce students to our Alaskan ecosystem. But connecting with teachers and educators who wanted to participate in our cruises has been a little difficult.

Mark Van Arsdale
Alaska high school science teacher Mark Van Arsdale on the fall, 2018, NGA LTER cruise

Luckily for us, Mr. Van Arsdale joined us via NOAA’s Teacher at Sea program (TAS), which planted the seed of a new opportunity. Our marine education specialist, Marilyn Sigman, shepherded an agreement between NOAA and CFOS-UAF that will allow more teachers to take part in our research via NOAA’s TAS. In 2019, teachers who come on our cruises will get to post blogs on an established website and participate in a network of alumni. More information about NOAA’s program can be found at the TAS FAQ.

For the 2019 field season, educators will apply through NOAA’s TAS Online Application. We are spreading the word to teachers, informal educators, and administrators, particularly emphasizing educators in Southcentral Alaska.

Interested teachers should apply online before November 30, 2018, for the 2019 Teacher at Sea field season (sample application). Both K-12 teachers and informal educators (such as museum docents) are eligible to apply.

2018 All Scientists’ Meeting

Investigators with the Northern Gulf of Alaska LTER program will be traveling to Asilomar Conference Grounds in Pacific Grove, California for the 2018 All Scientists’ Meeting, October 1-4. More information will be posted here as the time of the meeting draws near.

Several posters will be presented that relate to NGA LTER research. They include:

Four Stories about the Spring 2018 Cruise

Lauren Frisch, Public Information Officer for the College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, UAF, authored a series of four stories about our May 2018 cruise. Although these stories focus on the on-board capabilities of R/V Sikuliaq, they also include engaging descriptions of our research. Find the links to these stories below:

Sikuliaq expands ways to study Gulf of Alaska ecosystems

Russ Hopcroft at the microscope Studies of zooplankton such as copepods have expanded because of LTER funding and the workspace available aboard R/V Sikuliaq. For instance, CFOS researcher Russ Hopcroft isolates, identifies, photographs, and assesses live animals soon after net tows.
Read full story >>

Submarine ‘airplane’ revolutionizes measurement of seawater content

retrieval of the Acrobat off Sikuliaq's stern CFOS’s Seth Danielson operates an Acrobat instrument, which he described as the underwater version of an airplane. The Acrobat measures temperature and salinity on fine spatial scales. As a result, LTER scientists can track freshwater from the land and investigate how it mixes with ocean water.
Read full story >>

Sikuliaq improves analysis of phytoplankton’s nutrient needs

incubation experiments on phytoplankton CFOS’s Ana Aguilar-Islas brings her own specialized clean sampling instruments onto Sikuliaq so she can quantify nutrients like iron that are essential to phytoplankton. Additionally, Aguilar-Islas and WWU’s Suzanne Strom performed incubation experiments to study how iron availability affects plankton growth.
Read full story >>

Sikuliaq researchers find odd, abundant animal-plant plankton

net tows aboard the Sikuliaq Nutritional flexibility in ciliates and dinoflagellates stabilizes food chains in the Gulf of Alaska. WWU’s Suzanne Strom isolates cells and preserves them soon after they are collected, so she can analyse them at sea and in her onshore lab.
Read full story >>

Video of Zooplankton Sampling

Alicia Rinaldi-Schuler, a fisheries graduate student at CFOS, volunteered for NGA LTER’s Spring 2018 cruise aboard R/V Sikuliaq. Ordinarily, Alicia studies humpback whales. However, we put her to work sampling zooplankton on the night shift. She filmed the equipment they used (bongo nets, multi-net, and methot net) and the creatures they caught (squid, jellyfish, euphasiids, and fish larvae). Her engaging video summarizes of some of the research that occurs during our cruises.

Recent Outreach and Media Items

Media Stories

For our recent report to NSF, we compiled this list of media stories about the NGA LTER:

Education

When Michele Hoffman Trotter, Columbia College, participated in our April-May cruise, educators and home school parents were invited to enroll in her educational series, Expedition Gulf of Alaska! The learning modules were geared for grades 5-12. They were titled:

  1. Changing Climate Changing World
  2. Biodiversity: Our Lives Depend on It, and
  3. Plankton to Whales: How Energy Flows in the Environment.

Enrollees received a PowerPoint presentation on the topic, teaching activities, a supplemental reading list, links to the daily video uploads, and access to a forum where students could post questions to the science team and receive answers.

Schools in Alaska (Chugiak and Seward), California (1 school), Chicago (4 schools), and Canada (1 school) participated in this pilot shipboard education program aboard the R/V Sikuliaq. Her audience also included 24 homeschooling families in California and 32 adult participants. In Michele’s outreach team, Carlee Belt served as a media and education specialist and Katherine Brennan served as the cinematographer. All together, the team provided 15 daily dispatches from the ship – videos of ship operations and sampling equipment and interviews of scientists and crew. Additionally, they collected footage for the on-going Microcosm film project that will feature the diversity and roles of microscopic life in the ocean.

Alaskan teachers were a special focus of this educational outreach. Therefore, we recruited a middle school teacher in Seward (the port the Sikuliaq departed from), a high school marine biology teacher in Chugiak, and a middle school teacher from a Fairbanks watershed-themed school. These teachers were asked to pilot at least one module and will provide feedback that will help develop virtual field trip products.

Expedition Gulf of Alaska

Michele Hoffman Trotter

Our upcoming Seward Line cruise aboard the R/V Sikuliaq will include some special guests: educator and film-maker Michele Hoffman Trotter, media and education specialist Carlee Belt, and cinematographer Katherine Brennan. They have traveled all the way to Alaska to create a series of educational modules called “Expedition Gulf of Alaska: an Online STEAM Experience”. Additionally, they will be filming for “Microcosm”, a documentary project that features the diversity and roles of microscopic life in the ocean.

Michele is a Chicago based educator with 20+ years of experience in higher education and public outreach to general audiences. She met Dr. Russ Hopcroft, lead PI of the NGA LTER, aboard the USCGC Healy in the Chukchi Sea. They bonded over microscopic creatures and their shared interest in how the ocean functions as a system. At the time, Michele made a video introduction of her work on the cruise.

Educational Modules

plankton sample
Photo credit: Michele Hoffman Trotter

During the April/May 2018 Seward Line cruise, planned educational modules focus on three topics:

  • Changing Climate, Changing World
  • Biodiversity: Our Lives Depend On It
  • Plankton to Whales: How Energy Flows in the Environment

All of these modules will incorporate YouTube videos and other online material, posted daily from the ship. For example, video clips of scientific tools in use performing fieldwork will be posted. Then in the comments, students will directly question scientists about their work during the cruise.

The content targets students from grade five through twelve. As an introduction, younger students will develop a base understanding of key concepts involving the scientific method of inquiry, taxonomy, and fundamentals of ecology, chemistry, atmospheric science, and biology. Supplementary activities will give older or more advanced students chances to engage in analytical thinking. Furthermore, they will also be encouraged to apply newly acquired knowledge to contemporary scientific questions.

We are excited about the intersection between Michele’s program and the goals of the LTER Schoolyard Series. In addition to participants in Alaskan classrooms, we have participating homeschooling families in California and Illinois, and two public schools in Chicago. Additionally, approximately a dozen adults are participating in an adult education version.

View the Microcosm Teaser.

Sikuliaq Cruise, May 2018

R/V Sikuliaq

In a few short days, 23 scientists and educators will embark on our first LTER cruise aboard the R/V Sikuliaq, April 18 – May 5, 2018. Cruises are integral to our research and we anticipate having three each year – in May, July, and September. This cruise continues decades of time-series of measurements of the spring phytoplankton bloom along the Seward Line. As such, its many objectives center on the physical and biological processes that generate and sustain the spring bloom.

Scientific Purpose

This cruise continues the sampling begun in fall 1997 under the NSF/NOAA NE Pacific GLOBEC program, and supported subsequently a consortium of the North Pacific Research Board (NPRB), the Alaska Ocean Observing System (AOOS), and the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council’s (EVOSTC) Gulf Watch. This is the first cruise as part of the NSF’s Northern Gulf of Alaska Long-term Ecological Program (NGA-LTER). The core scientific purpose of the Seward Line project is to develop an understanding of the response and resiliency of this marine ecosystem to climate variability. This cruise marks the 21st consecutive spring cruise for the Seward Line in the NGA, including Prince William Sound (PWS), and the 48th year of observations at GAK1.

Cruise Objectives

NGA map
Map of Northern Gulf of Alaska sampling stations, 2018.
  1. Determine thermohaline, velocity, light, and oxygen structure of the NGA shelf.
  2. Determine macro- and micro-nutrient structure of the NGA shelf.
  3. Determine particle structure and flux rates of the NGA shelf.
  4. Determine phyto- and microzooplankton composition, biomass distribution, and productivity.
  5. Determine the vertical and horizontal distribution and abundance of zooplankton species (including macro-jellies).
  6. Record multi-frequency acoustics for estimation of nekton
  7. Conduct surveys of seabirds and Marine Mammals
  8. Conduct shipboard experimental work on phyto- and zooplankton.
  9. Determine carbonate chemistry (i.e. Ocean Acidification) at selected stations
  10. Recover and redeploy the GAK1 mooring. Drag for lost mooring at GAK 4 and Gak8i.
  11. Provide at-sea experience for UAF students.
  12. Share the experience through outreach/media activities.

Sampling Plan

To achieve the objectives, the cruise will visit four cross-shelf transect lines plus stations within Prince William Sound. At each station, operations will be divided into day and night tasks. In the day, we will perform CTD measurements, bottle sampling, and perform intensive sampling and productivity experiments at selected locations. At night, net tows for zooplankton will catch the critters when they rise in the water column to feed. The shortness of high latitude nights in May will mean more daylight work than nighttime work.

NGA LTER Begins

LTER Logo

In March 2017, the College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences and the University of Alaska Fairbanks announced that our Northern Gulf of Alaska research program (the Seward Line) would be joining the National Science Foundation’s Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) program. This is important recognition of 20 years of multidisciplinary oceanographic observations along the Seward Line and within Prince William Sound.

The LTER program networks (now) 28 individual research sites. LTER’s unique ecological investigations measure changes over years and decades in various environments. Each LTER site involves dozens of researchers and depends on partnerships with hosting entities like universities, national forests, or non-profit organizations. There are other LTER sites in Alaska: Bonanza Creek and Toolik Lake, and another new marine site in the Beaufort Lagoons.

Seward Line

The Seward Line is a long-term observational program on the Gulf of Alaska shelf. It was originally undertaken by the Northeast Pacific GLOBEC program from 1998–2004. During the years 2005–2009, sampling along the Seward Line continued with funding from the North Pacific Research Board. Most recently, funding has come from a consortium of NPRB, AOOS, and EVOS (see our Site History.)

The purpose of our research has been to develop an understanding of the response of this marine ecosystem to climate variability. Hence, the Seward Line cruises determine the physical and chemical oceanographic structure, the primary production, and the distribution and abundance of zooplankton. We then examine the seasonal and inter-annual variations in these measurements.

LTER -A New Partner

Having a new partner in the funding consortium will enable expansion of our program’s elements. For instance, a third annual cruise will be performed between the two cruises in May and September. In addition, we’ll be able to perform more in-depth experiments on the processes that enable the high productivity in the Northern Gulf of Alaska area. And finally, the LTER Network’s emphasis on education, outreach, and data availability will also encourage growth in these areas.

Please see the news article for more details:
Long-term site status will boost Gulf of Alaska studies, March 1, 2017.