Community Corner – Conferences help keep the council on the cutting edge

Outreach Coordinator

Lisa Matlock
Lisa Matlock

Each year the council exhibits its booth and presents its citizen-driven research and information on technological advances at conferences, both in Alaska and outside, making contact with thousands of individuals from all over the world. Have you ever wondered why the council asks its staff and volunteers to participate in these conferences?

The value of the council contributing at conferences lies in our need to constantly expand our knowledge about cutting edge oil spill prevention and response strategies from all over the world. It is also vital for the council to share its story of citizens’ oversight of Prince William Sound’s oil industry. Each of the regular conferences the council attends is unique in its audience and focus.

For instance, the Arctic and Marine Oilspill Program was initiated by Environment Canada in 1978 to “improve the knowledge base and technology for combatting Arctic and marine oil spills.” Its technical seminar has expanded and now includes a wider range of oil spill-related sessions. However, according to the council’s project manager for environmental monitoring, Joe Banta, “its technical content and cold waters focus” make it an important conference for the council to attend since it addresses the environment in which we do all of our work. My predecessor Linda Robinson attended this conference in Nova Scotia in June.

Then there is the International Oil Spill Conference, which has more of a focus on the international oil spill response community and its technology and techniques for response. Many participants are from the U.S. Coast Guard, private sector companies, and non-governmental organizations who “come together to tackle the greatest challenges facing us with sound science, practical innovation, social engineering and imagination,” according to the conference’s website. The council absorbs important lessons in logistical planning for oil spill response and technical advances at this conference. This conference will be held in Savannah, Georgia next spring, and council staff will be in attendance.

More locally, the Pacific Marine Expo in Seattle and Kodiak ComFish expositions help the council to gain insight into the needs of some of its most interested citizens, the maritime community in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest. At both of these conferences the council exhibits its booth and presents the fishing and boating public with an opportunity to voice their interest in safe oil shipping in the Exxon Valdez region.

If you find the council booth at any of these events, or at others, in the coming months and years, please stop by and give us your input. We can only choose the best paths forward in helping to prevent future oil spills in our region with your help and interest.

Upcoming outreach events

We share our oil spill research and educational resources with the public at a variety of conferences. In the next few months, we’ll be at the following conferences and events:

Where can you connect with K-12 teachers from all over the state to share the best new ideas in math and science education? The bi-annual Alaska Math and Science Conference is that place, and it will be held at East High School in Anchorage on October 18-20. For more information, visit: 2013 Alaska Math and Science Conference.

The City and Port of Valdez will host the 34th annual Alaska Association of Harbormasters and Port Administrators conference October 21-24. Harbormasters from all over the state will gather to discuss how to keep Alaska’s harbors safe and productive for our coastal communities. Find out more: Alaska Association of Harbormasters and Port Administrators.

The council will again be exhibiting at the Pacific Marine Expo in Seattle November 20-22. The Expo brings together maritime industries and communities from all over Alaska and the Pacific Northwest under one roof each year. More information: Pacific Marine Expo.

Every winter, the Alaska Marine Science Symposium proves that it is one of the best places to learn about cutting edge Alaska fisheries and ecosystem research and technological advances in the state. This year, the symposium will be held January 20-24 in Anchorage. Find out more: Alaska Marine Science Symposium.

Community Corner: Looking back at a productive 23 years at the council

Former Outreach Coordinator

In August of 1990, shortly after moving to Anchorage from Dillingham in the Bristol Bay region of Alaska, I was hired part time to assist the one employee that worked for then Executive Director, Sheila Gottehrer.

When Linda started working for the council, the first logo was an eye overseeing a tanker.
When Linda started working for the council, the first logo was an eye overseeing a tanker.

My duties were mainly administrative tasks, such as answering the phone, organizing meetings and taking notes. I also ordered furniture and portable computers (called “luggables” at that time), trained volunteers how to use the computers and handled the finances, among other duties.

We started out in the Key Bank building on 5th Avenue in Anchorage but later moved to 2nd Avenue, across from the start of the Coastal Trail. Now, of course, our office is located in beautiful downtown Spenard.

After working as the financial manager for a few years, I became the council’s outreach coordinator. This position allowed me to spread the word about citizen oversight not only in our region and at conferences all over the U.S., but also in the form of presentations in Murmansk, Russia; at the Arctic Marine Oilspill Program conference in Canada; and for Vigipol, a French citizen oversight organization created after the Amoco Cadiz oil spill, at an event commemorating the 25th anniversary of that spill. Our Vigipol friends have visited Alaska twice and we are still in communication with them.

In 2010, Linda Robinson, standing, helped facilitate meetings between citizens who had been affected by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and Alaskans who were impacted by the Exxon Valdez spill.
In 2010, Linda Robinson, standing, helped facilitate meetings between citizens who had been affected by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and Alaskans who were impacted by the Exxon Valdez spill.

After the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, three groups of citizens from the Gulf of Mexico region visited Alaska to acquire information on forming its own citizen oversight group. I had the pleasure of being their guide while they were in Alaska. In turn, I volunteered to spend time in the Gulf of Mexico talking about citizen oversight. We also hosted a group from Kazakstan, who had been provided with funding for a citizen oversight group.

We also produced a film called “Then and Now,” which highlights major improvements in oil spill response in Prince William Sound since the Exxon Valdez spill. The DVD has been widely distributed and was shown at the International Oil Spill Conference.

We had an education committee for a time in the early 1990’s, which dissolved in 1993. I helped reinstate the Information and Education committee after I became full time outreach coordinator. This committee is comprised of teachers, artists, scientists and a couple of techies – a wonderful assortment of enthusiastic and creative people. It has evolved into a very dynamic and productive group.

One goal of the council for many years was to involve youth in our mission. With the support of the Information and Education committee, we now have a strong program that provides funding for projects that support our mission and encourage stewardship of the Prince William Sound environment. The funding has enabled students from Exxon Valdez spill-affected communities to participate in expeditions, field trips, chum salmon incubation projects, and other educational activities. Numerous partnerships with other organizations have been formed through this project.

One successful youth involvement project has taken teachers on expeditions into Prince William Sound. Their experiences enabled them to bring back new information to their students. Our first teacher’s expedition was taught by our own board member Jane Eisemann from Kodiak.

I am very proud of the youth involvement program and am very appreciative to the committee for its support as it has developed.

In 2012, with the help of friends across the U.S., I was honored to nominate Patience Andersen Faulkner who represents Cordova District Fishermen United for the national Ecotrust Indigenous Leadership Award. She was one of five awardees. As a volunteer, I was able to attend this celebration with her.

At a 2012 conference, Linda shows a poster about the council’s science projects to Sue Saupe, Director of Science and Research at Cook Inlet Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council.
At a 2012 conference, Linda shows a poster about the council’s science projects to Sue Saupe, Director of Science and Research at Cook Inlet Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council.

In 2009, for the 20th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, we organized a video conference that connected five communities to share in panel discussions in Anchorage and presentations from the other four communities. This event also included an art show titled “Spill: Alaskan Artists Remember” in collaboration with Bunnell Street Gallery in Homer. The theme of the show was the effects of the Exxon Valdez oil spill. After the opening reception, citizens formed a candlelight vigil.

As I leave the council staff, I will take with me many valuable experiences and treasured memories. I have made many great friendships over the years with my coworkers and peers and have been most fortunate to be able to visit and get to know people in all of the communities that are a part of this organization. But what I will perhaps remember and miss most will be the relationships that I have built with volunteers and community members as I represented the council locally, regionally, nationally, and occasionally even internationally.

It has been a remarkable experience. I want to thank past and present volunteers, administrators, and staff for the opportunities you have given me for growth and service. I can only hope my efforts over the past twenty-three years have matched those opportunities.

Linda Robinson
Linda Robinson

Group plans update for oil spill educational curriculum

Council Outreach Coordinator

A group interested in creating new educational materials about oil spills met in the council’s Anchorage office this past March.

Three of the organizations represented, the Prince William Sound Science Center, the Alaska SeaLife Center, and the council were already working on their own projects to create materials on oil spills. The science center’s plan was to compile a database of oil spill educational material focusing on all of Alaska, including the Arctic. The Alaska SeaLife Center, using funding from a grant from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, was planning to create materials on spills that occurred in the United States to help train staff to interact with the public on difficult, controversial or complicated topics. The council was just beginning the process of updating our Alaska Oil Spill Curriculum, which focused on the Exxon Valdez oil spill region. A collaborative effort by the Prince William Sound Science Center, the Oil Spill Recovery Institute and the council created that curriculum and last updated it in 2007.

The three organizations decided to once again pool resources into one project and invited representatives from Kodiak College, the Sitka Sound Science Center, and NOAA’s Auke Bay Lab to join the discussion.

Also joining the meeting was Katie Gavenus, project director for Children of the Spills, one of the council’s youth involvement projects. Katie interviewed people in the Exxon Valdez oil spill region who experienced an oil spill as a youth. You can find some of the project’s videos and interviews at: Children of the Spills

The group talked about goals for the new collaborative curriculum. In order to appeal to a broad audience, large spills around the U.S. will be included. Lesson plans will cover a variety of subjects such as science, writing and history so teachers don’t have to find time in their schedules for a separate curriculum.

The curriculum is expected to focus on the beauty, intricacy and science of ecosystems, how everything is inter-related, and why we should care about and protect it. The group is also working to include some information from the perspective of the oil industry such as what oil is, how it is produced, products we use that are made from oil and current oil spill prevention and response capabilities.

The curriculum will also include energy conservation and renewable energy topics. Older students will study more technical information and learn about oil spills as technological disasters. They will learn how people respond differently to natural disasters than to technological (or man-made) disasters and how important it is to be aware of this and to teach proper response. Information for this part of the curriculum will be taken from the council’s Coping with Technological Disasters Guidebook. For more information on this guidebook, visit our Coping with Technological Disasters page.

The old curriculum is still available on our website, but will be updated within the next few months. If you have questions or comments, please email me. Have a wonderful summer!

Community Corner – Outreach activities help us connect with others in our region

Council Outreach Coordinator

On September 29, we participated in the Chugach Regional Education Forum. The goal of the event was to gather educators from the Chugach region to discuss projects and get a better understanding of what educational resources are available in the region.

Participants included teachers and organizations that provide educational services for students. Presentations covered topics such as diversity in the regions’ schools, how traditional knowledge is used in education, and education outreach. Participants learned about the Prince William Sound Science Center, Alaska Sealife Center, the Alaska Sea Otter and Steller Sea Lion Commission, Alaska Geographic, Kachemak Bay Research Reserve and the council. It was a very worthwhile forum and helped firm up connections and relationships among the region.

This year for the first time we had a booth at November’s Alaska Federation of Natives conference, held this year in Anchorage. At this statewide meeting of Native Alaskans and others we were able to reach out to many attendees from the council’s communities and beyond. Some visitors included former Alyeska-council liaison Gary Bader, former council board members Scott Sterling and Pete Kompkoff and many others. Board member Patience Andersen Faulkner and staffer Serena Lopez assisted with the council’s booth.

I attended the Alaska Committee for Noxious and Invasive Plants Management in Kodiak, October 30-November 1. This year marine invasive species were on the agenda. Topics included aquatic invasive species in Kodiak, early detection of zebra and quagga mussels in Alaska, promoting environmental stewardship in rural Alaska, potential impacts to Alaska’s fisheries from Didemnum Vexillum (a tunicate or sea squirt), and invasive species management programs in Alaska.

Staffer Anna Carey took the booth to the Society for Environmental Technology and Chemistry conference in Long Beach, California in November. Carey, board member John French, and the Scientific Advisory Committee’s Debu Misra were able to attend several scientific presentations related to oil spill technology.

In early November, Mark Swanson visited Valdez Elementary School and spoke with several fifth grade science classes. The presentation was part of the Information and Education Committee’s youth involvement project. Swanson talked to the students about the council and the concerns of various users of Prince William Sound. The students participated in facilitated group discussions about those concerns and looked at measures to balance everyone’s common interests.

Also in November, board members John Velsko and Blake Johnson assisted me at the booth at Pacific Marine Expo in Seattle. This conference attracts fishermen and others who live and/or work in the Alaska fishing industry. It is always very well attended.

All of us here wish you a very happy 2013, and a huge thank you to our wonderful volunteers for their hard work in protecting our waters.

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