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Education activities review: August 29 – September 9

September 9, 2011

Community monitoring program

Our community monitoring program is winding down for the summer – by the end of September most data sheets and equipment will have been turned in.

Catie and Jess recently made a trip to Nikiski to explore options for a new tunicate settlement plate site. This proved very informative, and plans are underway to talk with tunicate experts from the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center about adding Nikiski as a location to look for invasive tunicates.

Nikiski dock - Potential site for SERC plate deployment


Catie is working with staff in Homer’s ADF&G office to develop a plan for alleviating salmon smolt die-off in the Nick Dudiak Fishing Lagoon. Dredging the lagoon is being looked at as a possible solution to diminish the concentrations of Chaetoceros phytoplankton, which seem to be contributing to the die-offs.

Chain diatom – Chaetoceros sp.

Chain diatom – Chaetoceros sp.

Science collaborative project

The community monitoring events in Beluga Slough and China Poot Bay allowed us to gain valuable insights into the species composition of our local salt marshes. A preliminary review of the data collected reveals a diverse species list of both vegetation and animals. These field days contributed to data that will be used to gauge changes occurring in these salt marsh systems for years to come.

Significantly more plant species were recorded in Beluga Slough, mainly attributed to diverse vegetation surveyed on the berm my team #1 (observing 15 species of plants!). In China Poot Bay, although having a collectively shorter list of species, individual square meter plots typically showed greater vegetation diversity.

Diverse Beluga Slough berm plot surveyed on August 13, 2011

Diverse Beluga Slough berm plot surveyed on August 13, 2011

Many more animals were observed in Beluga Slough, although the weather may have been a factor. In Beluga Slough 19 species of birds were observed, while only 9 were recorded in the China Poot salt marsh.

NERRS market analysis & needs assessment

The Research Reserve received grant funding in 2010 from the National Estuarine Research Reserve System to conduct a Market Analysis (MA) and Needs Assessment (NA) of coastal marine education in the greater Homer area (a 30-mile radius around Homer). Both the MA and NA were conducted this spring and concluded at the end of June.

In brief, the results of the MA and NA indicate that local coastal marine educators are successfully meeting the needs of K-6 students and provide a variety of grade-specific and standards-based educational opportunities. In particular, the following topics are well covered:

  • biodiversity and adaptations
  • life cycles of marine and/or aquatic organisms
  • marine and/or aquatic habitats
  • rivers and watersheds
  • lab or field work techniques
  • conservation
  • actions that citizens and students can take

Conversely, topics that are not being taught, and for which there is an identified need by area teachers include:

  • water chemistry
  • heat transfer
  • physical properties of water

The results also indicate a significant drop in the numbers of environmental educators teaching subjects at the middle and high school level.

Teachers responding to the NA indicated a need for more professional development opportunities related to estuaries, watersheds and oceans. And teachers and environmental educators alike indicated a desire for educational training specific to the science of climate change. To address these needs, funding should be secured to offer a one to three-day workshop on the impacts of climate change as it pertains to Alaska’s coastal environments, including sea level rise, ocean acidification, and stewardship actions.

For complete MA and NA results please contact Jess at jessica.ryan@alaska.gov or call 226-4657.

Science education programming at KBRR

Driven by feedback we received from local teachers during our recently completed needs assessment, our education team is reaching out to middle and high school teachers this month to gauge their interest in having our staff and/or research colleagues deliver science programs in their classrooms during the school year.

Upcoming outdoor events for families

We encourage you to join Homer families tomorrow – Saturday, September 10th – from 11:30am – 3:00 pm for the Homer Playground Project (HoPP) Kick-off Party at Karen Hornaday Park. There will be free local food served, games for kids, and a chance to offer input into the new playground’s design and see what is being planned so far. Carmen worked this week with the HoPP group and their hired designer [John Dean from the playground design firm Play by Design], offering suggestions for natural play components to include in the new park. A giant climbing/running/sliding hill, mud wallow, boulders, water play area, and loose parts are being considered. To learn more about HoPP, visit the project website.

We’ve tentatively set a date – Saturday, February 11, 2012 – for a KBRR Beyond BOW Family Ice Fishing Expedition to Encelewski Lake. If you know folks who’d like to learn how and where to ice fish on the lower Kenai Peninsula, please let them know about this great opportunity and ask them to contact us so we can be sure to send them event details as they become available. We will also offer an Ice Fishing Discovery Lab during the 3rd or 4th week of December as part of the visitor center’s holiday programming – the date and time have yet to be determined for this event.

We will be partnering with local Kachemak Bay Environmental Education Alliance (KBEEA) members this winter to host the 4th annual Winter Family Fun Day on Saturday, January 28, 2012 at the Wynn Nature Center.

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