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Educational Resources

On this page, you’ll find a collection of educational resources that will help students learn more about the Northern Gulf of Alaska ecosystem. The descriptions below include the appropriate grade level, and a description of the topic and approach – all with links to partner websites.

R/V Sikuliaq floatation

The types of resources include:

  • Books
  • Lesson Plans
  • Images
  • Videos
  • Virtual Field Trips

Click each bar to expand it and find out more:

Gulf Watch Alaska Long-Term Monitoring

Topic/Conceptual Understanding

Scientist can develop understanding about the long-term ecological effects of an oil spill by monitoring changes in different components of a marine ecosystem and the environmental processes that drive ecosystem change.

Description

Students learn about the long-term monitoring projects that have been studying the effects of the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Prince William Sound and the northern Gulf of Alaska. Students explore the various monitoring projects and how, collectively, they can inform us about the overall ecosystem. The Exxon Valdez oil tanker ran aground in Prince William Sound, Alaska, and spilled nearly 11 million gallons of oil. An estimated 250,000 seabirds, 2,800 sea otters, 300 harbor seals, 250 bald eagles, up to 22 orcas, and billions of salmon and herring eggs were lost to the spill. Since the spill, scientists have been conducting a long-term ecosystem monitoring study to gain a better understanding of both natural and human-caused impacts to the Gulf of Alaska ecosystem. The Virtual Field Trip includes four video interviews of scientists monitoring plankton, humpback whales, nearshore communities, and oil lingering in the ecosystem after the spill and three lesson plans. Gulf Watch Alaska and Alaska SeaLife Center.

Grade Level

Middle School

Type of resource

Virtual Field Trip

Videos

Lesson Plans

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Gulf Watch Alaska: The Mystery of the Blob

Topic/Conceptual Understanding

Physical and chemical processes in the atmosphere and the ocean drive ecological interactions in marine ecosystems.

Adaptation: Changes in seasonal patterns of winds and ocean water temperatures can affect whether or marine organisms can thrive and survive. Ecological Interactions: Patterns of energy transfer in food webs

Description

Students learn how Gulf Watch Alaska scientists took a systems approach to solving a mystery that arose in 2014 when people across the Pacific West coast began to notice large quantities of dead or dying birds washing up all along the shore from California to Alaska. As this event expanded, scientists began investigating the intricate network of natural processes in the Gulf to try and uncover the mystery of these dying birds. Students follow Alaska Native scientist Yosty Storms as she interviews a seabird biologist investigating the 2015-2016 “wreck,” or mass death of common murres in the northern Gulf of Alaska, a plankton ecologist, and an oceanographer. The Virtual Field Trip includes three videos and two animations – one of the “normal” annual seasonal dynamics of the ecosystem and one of the unusual conditions and likely impacts during the year of a large, persistent pool of warm ocean water nicknamed “the Blob.” Gulf Watch Alaska and Alaska SeaLife Center

Grade Level

Middle School

Type of resource

Virtual Field Trip

Videos

Lesson Plans

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Ocean in Motion

Topic/Conceptual Understanding

Physical changes in the aquatic environment occur on a daily, seasonal, and long-term basis.

Weather systems and ocean systems have major influences on one another and the dynamics of matter and energy. Science and technology can be used to detect and solve problems.

Description

The teaching unit is introduced with a true story of rubber bath toys that were lost overboard in the Pacific Ocean and found on beaches around the world. Students investigate physical patterns in the oceans as they progress through a series of investigations to learn about weather and ocean circulation patterns, waves and tides, temperature and salinity in relation to currents, and the effects of ocean floor topography on currents. They then choose a culminating activity to examine the effects of ocean movement in real-life or theoretical situations. Alaska Sea Grant Alaska Seas and Watersheds

Grade Level

Grade 7

Middle School

Type of resource

Unit Lesson Plans

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Impacts of Changes in Glacial Ice

Topic/Conceptual Understanding

Climate patterns cause physical changes in the environment.

Physical changes in the environment can change the conditions for life.

Description

In this 9-11 day investigation, students explore ways that changing climate can affect physical and biological conditions in rivers, the ocean, and other aquatic ecosystems. The Changing Landscape activity asks students to analyze “repeat photographs” (taken from the same vantage point at different times) of Alaska glaciers to observe the effects of retreating glaciers on the landscape. In the Melting Ice activity, students conduct a simulation to investigate the effect of melting glaciers on sea level. In a Stream Table activity, students simulate increasing stream flows that result from melting glaciers and observe the effects on the landscape and water quality. They also construct a mini Secchi disk to investigate transparency and the effects of increased turbidity from the increased flows as glaciers melt on aquatic and marine ecosystems. Finally, they play a board game to review the effects of retreating glaciers and increasing stream flows and erosion on river, coastal, and ocean ecosystems.

Grade Level

Grade 8

Middle School

Type of resource

Lesson Plan

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Videos

Topic/Conceptual Understanding

A variety of concepts

Description

Gulf Watch Alaska videos: a series of videos on the science of a long-term monitoring program. Includes several relevant to the NGA LTER project. Herring scattering: underwater in response to a humpback whale Kathy Kuletz: on the murre die-off during “the Blob” event Gulf Watch Alaska Youth Film Outreach: documents youth from the Alaskan Coastal communities of Nanwalek and Tatitlek as they interviewed elders and community members about the 1989 Exxon Valdez Oil Spill.

Grade Level

Various

Type of resource

Videos

Gulf Watch Alaska Environmental Drivers Component Photos

Topic/Conceptual Understanding

Scientists use a variety of tools to measure ocean conditions and collect plankton.

Description

These photos include images of

  • the sampling equipment and methods used on NGA LTER cruises
  • krill and copepods

Grade Level

Various

Type of resource

Images

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Zooplankton Species Image Library

Topic/Conceptual Understanding

Biodiversity and adaptations

Description

Images and background on the groups of organisms that call the water column their home along the Seward Line (the long-term transect line that is part of the NGA LTER) and for the subarctic Pacific Ocean in general. It is primarily visual, but also provides brief detail, natural history, and known distribution of species in different zooplankton species groups.

Grade Level

Middle School

High School

Type of resource

Images

Descriptions of Species

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Pete Puffin's Wild Ride

Topic/Conceptual Understanding

Ocean currents affect the movement and concentration of marine debris in gyres.

The Pacific and Atlantic Oceans are connected by currents that move along the shoreline of Alaska northward and from west to east in the Arctic Ocean.

Description

Pete Puffin’s Wild Ride: Cruising Alaska’s Currents. When Eddie's favorite wooden toy is lost overboard during a cruise in Alaska, Eddy learns about where the ocean currents could have taken his wooden puffin. By Libby Hatton Alaska Geographic

Grade Level

K-4

Type of resource

Children's Book

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Pete Puffin educational book
Cover image from the Pete Puffin book [credit: COSEE]