ACA President John Binkley will serve on an advisory board to assist a consortium of state marine research organizations to use a $2.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to foster awareness of ocean issues amid a changing Alaska climate.

The award establishes Alaska as a Center for Ocean Science Education Excellence (COSEE), one of 12 such centers nationwide, created by NSF in recent years, with a theme of People, Oceans and Climate Change.

COSEE Alaska is a partnership among the Alaska Ocean Observing System, the Alaska SeaLife Center, the North Pacific Research Board, the University of Alaska Fairbanks School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, the UAF Center for Cross-Cultural Studies, the Anchorage School District and the Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program.

COSEE organizers said the purpose of the NSF grant is to increase ocean literacy both within and outside Alaska and to weave together western science and traditional knowledge about ocean climate change to share with the nation.

“This program provides a great opportunity to share with the world the dramatic changes we’re experiencing in our region due to climate change and to help the Arctic research community connect directly with Alaskans, from fishermen, boaters, teachers and students to other marine stakeholders and the public,” said Molly McCammon. McCammon is the director of the Alaska Ocean Observing System, and led the COSEE planning efforts.

The NSF funding covers five years of COSEE Alaska outreach activities that will include workshops among scientists, teachers, and students, real and virtual field trips, the creation of statewide Ocean Science Fairs, and expansion of the annual Communicating Ocean Science workshop at the Alaska Marine Science Symposium. The grant also will enable the Marine Advisory Program to hire an education specialist based in Anchorage.

In addition, the funding will be used to develop a program called SEANET, a formal network of ocean scientists, marine educators, students, and community members involved in communicating about research in Alaska’s seas. The goal of SEANET is to establish long-lasting collaborations among these interest groups and strengthen communication among scientists and informal and formal educators and the public. The grant culminates in a national ocean education and communication conference to be held in Alaska in 2012.

COSEE Alaska will be based in Anchorage. An advisory board made up of representatives of the academic community, industry, rural communities, and state and federal agencies will provide input as the program develops.

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