Taking the long view – why do we involve youth in our programs?

Community Corner

Lisa Matlock
Lisa Matlock

Outreach Coordinator

Since coming on board last year, I have been regularly asked by community members, board members, and even staff: What does youth engagement have to do with “environmentally safe operation of the Alyeska terminal and associated tankers”? This question arises because the council has invested in youth projects focusing on marine stewardship throughout our region. It’s a good question, one which is vital for the future of oil spill prevention and response in our region.

Like it or not, those who remember the Exxon Valdez oil spill firsthand are aging. For many of us 25 years may seem like yesterday, but for the children of the 21st century that sounds like ancient history. Those who responded to the spill, whose lives were forever changed by the spill, are passionate about the work we do for personal reasons. If those of us with that passion do not invest in passing the importance of oil spill prevention and better oil spill response onto the next generation, then we are likely fated to a future involving the sorts of complacencies that contributed to the Exxon Valdez oil spill in the first place.

We need vigilant future stewards for our region, and the council is helping develop them through our youth projects.

The Youth Involvement project, an initiative of the council’s Information and Education Committee, began three years ago. Through it, we work with partners who deliver marine stewardship education directly to students of all ages and teachers. Our partners take existing ocean-focused curriculum and hands-on activities and pull in oil spill science and oil spill history into those programs. Oil spill prevention and response activities provide a fresh perspective into existing marine education. These programs also help further our goals of increasing public awareness of the spill prevention and response system in Prince William Sound and the potential environmental impacts of the terminal and tanker operations. These activities also help give general marine stewardship education a lesson in reality.

Our newest youth project is a pilot internship program. Through this project, high school and college-level students devote time and effort to specific projects identified as council needs. These students gain valuable career experience along with a deeper understanding of the council mission and its vital work. One of the council’s first interns, Zachary Verfaillie recently completed his project, An Analysis of Fishing Vessel Types and Numbers vs. Response Tactics. Recruitment for 2015 interns will begin in August. If you would like more information about this, please contact me at lisa.matlock@pwsrcac.org.

Over the fall and winter, the council helped sponsor a variety of youth involvement events on Kodiak Island, and in Homer and Seward (see page 5 for more information on these events). The council’s ongoing work to help the next generation become champions for oil spill prevention in our region will continue in spring and summer, the big season for getting kids outside and in touch with their marine backyard.

Upcoming Youth Involvement Events

Spring – Tunicate monitoring and non-indigenous species education, led by Cordova-based intern, Sarah Hoepfner
May & June – Kachemak Bay Onboard Oceanography led by Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies
29 May-7 June – Prince William Sound Kayaking Expedition led by Chugach School District & Alaska Geographic
June – Valdez Marine Science Camps led by the SPACE program
2-30 June – Kodiak Salmon Camps led by Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges
10-15 June – Prince William Sound Teachers Expedition led by Alaska Geographic & Chugach National Forest
12-20 June – Kachemak Bay Teen EcoAdventure Camp led by Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies
16-23 June – Copper River Stewardship Expedition led by Prince William Sound Science Center & Copper River Watershed Project
21-30 June – Prince William Sound Kayaking Expedition led by Alaska Geographic
Summer – Green crab monitoring led by Cordova-based intern, Sarah Hoepfner

Why commemorate the Exxon Valdez oil spill 25 years later?

Outreach Coordinator

Lisa Matlock
Lisa Matlock

In 2013, Alaska and Alaskans lost Prince William Sound advocate, Stan Stephens, a constant voice for safe oil transportation in Alaska. Also this past year, “Homer”, the last surviving sea otter rescued from the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989, died at her aquarium home. Firsthand Exxon Valdez oil spill memories are fading. And who wants to dwell on such a terrible event?

The tragic and emotionally wrenching life-changing personal experiences of those who responded to the Exxon Valdez oil spill helped motivate a generation of council members and partners to prevent another major oil shipping disaster in the state. Oil spill prevention measures, such as double hulled tankers and dual escort tug systems for shipping, oil spill response drills and Geographic Response Strategies that take into account local knowledge when planning for the protection of sensitive areas, safe marine terminal operations, and long term environmental monitoring, all contribute to minimizing complacency, and the potential for another major oil spill.
But memories of an event, even such a disastrous one, only last so long.

The council remains committed to working with industry and regulatory agencies to safely transport oil through Alaskan waters. Oil spill prevention measures at work in Prince William Sound have extended to other parts of the country and world, helping to improve the safety of oil shipping globally. By remembering what happened during the Exxon Valdez oil spill 25 years later, we hope to motivate Alaskans to continue the unending hard work of oil spill prevention. Oil spill prevention measures are what future generations of people and the marine environment need to avoid the destructive and expensive experience of another major spill.

Lisa Matlock and Steve Rothchild took a ride aboard the escort tug Tan'erliq on October 25, which was escorting a tanker from the terminal. They experienced gusts up to 45 knots and 10 ft seas. Many thanks to Alyeska’s SERVS and the crew of the Tan'erliq for the opportunity!
Lisa Matlock and Steve Rothchild took a ride aboard the escort tug Tan’erliq on October 25, which was escorting a tanker from the terminal. They experienced gusts up to 45 knots and 10 ft seas. Many thanks to Alyeska’s SERVS and the crew of the Tan’erliq for the opportunity!

The following events are planned to commemorate the spill this year, to honor those who faced it, and to remind those who were not there why the council and others interested in the fate of our region strive to keep it from ever happening again.

  • Public Presentations: Throughout the month of March, the council is offering public presentations about the Exxon Valdez oil spill and the good that has come out of it and concerns for the future over 25 years to museums and libraries in the region. Dates so far include:
    • March 4 at the Valdez Museum
    • March 11 at the U.S. Forest Service in Cordova, in partnership with the Prince William Sound Science Center
    • March 24 at the Loussac Library in Anchorage

We are working with several other communities, including Seward, Kodiak, and Homer. More information will be posted on our website as it becomes available. If you are interested in hosting a presentation in your community, contact: lisa.matlock@pwsrcac.org. UPDATED SCHEDULE OF EVENTS

  • Project Jukebox: The council is working to preserve the voices of twenty people impacted by the oil spill online through the University of Alaska Fairbanks Oral History Program’s Project Jukebox: www.bit.ly/ProjectJukebox.
  • School Programs: The council recently revised its K-12 Oil Spill Curricula to both meet new standards and help students who may have never experienced a technological disaster to understand the importance of continued oil spill prevention. Teachers who would like to request a live classroom program using the new curricula or a link to its activities, please email: lisa.matlock@pwsrcac.org.    

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
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