Center For Ocean Sciences Education Excellence COSEE Alaska
Follow this link to skip to the main content

Community Outreach and Education

Making community presentations
One of the best, and most courteous, ways to communicate about your research is to make an effort to meet with the people who are most directly affected by your research in terms of where your study sites are located and the relevance of your research to local concerns and interests. They can often contribute observations that will help you place your research in a broader context, both spatially and temporally.

In larger Alaskan communities, you can often locate an organization or government agency that will sponsor and organize a community presentation for you in terms of finding the appropriate venue and time when people are likely to attend, advertising locally, and arranging for your audio-visual needs. In several communities, community presentations are provided on a regular monthly schedule (e.g., Cordova through the Prince William Sound Science Center), and in others, they can be arranged on an opportunistic basis when a scientist is traveling to or through the community (e.g., Unalaska through the Marine Advisory Agent, Homer brown bag presentations through the Alaska Islands and Ocean Visitor Center). Use the soon-to-be-published COSEE Alaska Resource Directory to find potential partners.

Science education and outreach organizations or agencies in regional centers can often provide suggestions for contacts in smaller, more remote communities within their region. If you have no personal contacts in a community and it does not have a local organization, contact the local government.

In accordance with protocols that have been developed for the ethical conduct of research in the Arctic and relevant to other areas with indigenous cultures, communication with community authorities is needed in all stages of research planning and implementation in projects that will directly affect people. Research involving them should not proceed without their clear and informed consent and the communities should continue to be informed by receiving explanations in terms understandable to the local community after consent has been obtained.

Contact the local tribal government which is usually a village council, during the project proposal stage. If the community has a tribal organization, ask if they have a Tribal Environmental Specialist. The person in this position would be familiar with local environmental concerns and other relevant research and could help you arrange for presentations to the village council or community. Informal gatherings like community potlucks may be the best way to interact with community members and school visits are often appreciated. He or she should also be able to advise you on the need for translation and available translators.

Participating in a science and culture celebration
Several Alaskan communities hold special “sea days” or other ocean or coastal events. The sponsoring organizations often recruit scientists to provide presentations, lead field events, or lead educational activities related to their research (which they provide).

To participate, contact the a sponsoring organization to let them know about your research and your availability to participate. This is a good way to interact informally with community members about your research and usually a lot of fun.

Participating in a wildlife festival
Several Alaskan communities sponsor wildlife festivals with a focus on a particular group of species like whales, shorebirds, or other species. The sponsoring organization often recruits scientists to make presentations, lead field trips, or lead educational activities related to their research. This is a good way to interact informally with community members about your research and usually a lot of fun.
Participating in a community-based science conference
Regional science conferences are held in several Alaskan communities (e.g., Homer, Cordova, Kodiak, Western Alaskan communities) every several years. These conferences involve local planning committees with a diversity of community partners and often include local observing projects.

The best way to find out about them and their call for papers would be to subscribe to listservs like SEANET and ARCUS ArcticInfo lists; or friend Alaska Sea Grant on Facebook.

Participating in the development of a museum or aquarium exhibit
Museums and aquaria are potential partners in grant proposals to provide exhibit design services or they may need you to partner in grants as a scientific expert to review exhibit content. An exhibit in a large Alaskan community or a major tourist destination can reach thousands of people. Smaller museums which focus on the local area where your research is conducted may reach smaller numbers of people but provide effective education and outreach to these communities.

There may be opportunities for temporary exhibits such as posters for the general public audience or videos and computer applications played at kiosks.

Involve a museum or aquarium partner early in the development of a grant proposal. Be sure that the grant budget provides adequately for the costs of professional exhibit or poster design and implementation.

Work with your partner to develop an evaluation plan that provides feed-back on the impact of the exhibit in terms of what viewers learned.