Mike Castellini ~ Polar Visionary

COSEE Alaska logo

Catalyst Connector

COSEE Alaska began operations in 2008, with a focus on climate change and coastal communities. Dr. Michael Castellini is now the Principal Investigator (PI). As Dean of the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences (SFOS), Mike is able to make connections between COSEE Alaska, scientists and students.

"Connections are a big deal here."
"We began with looking at what typical scientists working in Alaska might need for broader impacts and how COSEE Alaska could help," says Mike. "We also ask scientists what can we do – it's meant to be a two-way street." COSEE Alaska projects provide places for interactions to happen.

Starting with the network of participants COSEE Alaska has built through its activities SEANET has grown to an informal online network of over 350 people, representing scientists, educators, managers, the public. SEANET provides resources to scientists to help them develop broader impacts, provides a way for educators to share information, and provides connections between these communities.
Alaskan citizens are all concerned with the same topics – climate change, resource management, sustainability – fueling the powerful urge to interact. The Alaska Marine Science Symposium, of which COSEE Alaska is a co-sponsor, has become a main focal point for that interaction. Born in the aftermath of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, the Symposium attracted 1100 participants last year. COSEE Alaska uses the Symposium to highlight best practices for outreach. In 2007, as a way of showcasing programs of outreach for scientists, COSEE Alaska held the first Communicating Ocean Science (COS) workshop, which included case studies and training in social media. COS has been held every year since then, on the first day of the Symposium, with an average of 100 people participating. Mike Castellini has been part of the development of the COS workshop and is often a presenter.

Native knowledge informs everything COSEE Alaska does. Western science doesn't "tell" coastal communities what's going on around them – they already live it. COSEE Alaska focuses on different ways of knowing climate change and bringing these together with mutual respect and dialogue. This concept was built into the development of COSEE Alaska and is seen in the science fairs, the work with schools, and the forging of links between climate change and its effect on Native life and livelihoods.

Challenges to Mike's projects with COSEE Alaska include working with a small but dispersed and very diverse population, along a coastline that's longer than all of the rest of the US coastline put together. There is only one university system and one small private college in Alaska, plus lots of agency scientists and scientists from outside the state who come to do their research. While working with indigenous cultures is key, Mike also wants to make COSEE Alaska's efforts relevant to people outside Alaska. "Alaskans are living day to day with a changing climate" says Mike. Relevancy may not turn out to be a challenge after all.

Marilyn Sigman
Marilyn Sigman, Program Manager, COSEE Alaska
Activities at the Alaska Marine Science Symposium
Laura Connor