Kaktovik Science Camp


Kaktovik is a small town on Barter Island on the North Slope of Alaska, surrounded by the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The vast majority local population is Inupiat, the first peoples group that has inhabited the North Slope for thousands of years. Here is a great map of Alaskan first peoples groups and languages.

Location of Kaktovik. Image via SF Chronicle
Location of Kaktovik. Image via SF Chronicle

Since 2008, UTMSI and US Fish and Wildlife Service have been running a week-long oceanography summer camp for the local youth (nicknamed “Science Camp”).  Each year,  Science Camp includes a suite of different activities that attempt to couple student’s local knowledge about the ocean with oceanography and marine biology concepts.

This year, I helped Carrie Harris (fellow Dunton grad student who also ran Science Camp last year), Cliff Strain (science teacher in Flour Bluff, TX), Greta Burkart (USFWS), Tracy Burns (teacher’s aide in Kaktovik) run experiential learning activities for a group of students whose ages ranged from 6 to 13.

Activities included seining, surveying erosion, looking at plankton under a microscope, and testing water quality. Dissection-master Cliff led the group through dissections of squid, fish, crayfish, and even sharks!

Seining in Kaktovik Lagoon. Note the snow still present along the snow fence in the background.
Cliff shows the mouth parts of a crayfish
Crayfish parts
Inspecting shark jaws

Some of the scientists working in ANWR this summer also paid visits: Randy Brown (USFWS) led the group through a fish dissection; Claire Montgomerie (USFWS) talked about eiders, showing the group cool eider videos and the stages of egg development; Mike Courtney (UAF) talked about tagging Dolly Varden and demonstrated how satellite tags worked.

Claire teaching the different parts of an egg
Claire teaching the different parts of an egg

We ended the week with an open house where the students showed their siblings and parents some of the things they did during Science Camp. There was great enthusiasm for showing off how they could find plankton under a microscope and the different parts of a dissected shark.

CMH open house

More info about Science Camp can be found here.


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