Mike Castellini ~ Polar Visionary

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Making Science Relevant

"Coastal issues in Alaska affect a way of life."
Ocean environments in Alaska are not just sources of food or income but are the foundation of a way of life in a cultural context. That concept was built into COSEE Alaska in its development of regional ocean science fairs, in forming partnerships with entire villages, and in working with students. "We ask the same questions through Western science, and that's the value of COSEE Alaska, "says Dr. Michael Castellini. "It's not an academic exercise. Coastal communities are interested in ocean sciences because they live there and depend on it."

Additional Resources
Climate change impacts Native communities every day, as the sea ice changes and animal populations fluctuate. In studying climate change in Alaska, Western science looks to traditional knowledge for its long term record and deep understanding of the web of resources. Native people rely on Western science to help understand the scientific basis for change. "There is a complementarity between the two," says Ray Barnhardt, COSEE Alaska co-PI and Director, UAF Center for Cross-cultural Studies and Alaska Native Knowledge Network. "There is reciprocity, interaction, exchange, collaboration. It opens up avenues."

COSEE Alaska sponsors Ocean Science Fairs in coastal communities, getting middle school and high school students interested in science and Native knowledge. Each project is judged on scientific merit and cultural relevance. These fairs, which focus on a different region each year, are seen as a model for culturally relevant science education and engaging underserved audiences.

The University of Alaska Fairbanks recently established a PhD program in Indigenous Studies, including two students who are partially supported by COSEE Alaska fellowships as links to cultural communities.

Marilyn Sigman
Marilyn Sigman, Program Manager, COSEE Alaska
Working with native communities
Ray Barnhardt