the Breakwater

A newsletter from the Prince William Sound Science Center

February 7, 2023

Kelp artwork created by Mrs. Reggiani's 2nd grade class. You can view it all month long at the Prince William Sound Science Center.

Keep on kelp’n on; it's mariculture month!

Mariculture is the cultivation of marine organisms for food and other products in the open ocean. In Prince William Sound there are two types of mariculture occurring: kelp farming and oyster farming.

Kelp farming in Prince William Sound is a relatively new venture and requires a six step process to grow. First, kelp farmers scuba dive within 30 miles of their farm to harvest wild kelp samples, which are used to seed their farm. Once the samples are collected, they are sent to a lab to be germinated. (Fun fact: Dr. Alysha Cypher, PWSSC, is currently germinating kelp seeds in our lab for future mariculture projects.)

The germination process takes about 6-8 weeks, at which point they are ready to “plant." This is done by putting a grow line (or a thicker line) through a seed spool, a PVC pipe wrapped in thin nylon string covered with tiny kelp seedlings. The seed spool spins like a spool of thread on a sewing machine, wrapping the nylon string around the grow line as it is pulled through the center of the pipe. Once deployed in the water, the farmers wait for the kelp to grow. It does not require fertilizer or any extra care to grow. The growing period starts in the fall and goes through the end of April, which is the month where key growth happens. To harvest the kelp, farmers bring the line up on their boat and whack the kelp off the line.

All this and more was discussed at our last Tuesday Night Talk with Caitlin McKinstry. Check out her talk in the YouTube video above. Caitlin will also be presenting tonight, February 7, on the Native Village of Eyak’s mariculture program.

Tuesday Night Talks occur at the Science Center at 7pm. If you cannot make it in person, they are available to be live-streamed here and can later be viewed on our YouTube channel. Talks are intended for adults; all are welcome to attend. If you would like receive email notifications for upcoming talks, subscribe here.

Stitch Your Science

As the months progress this time of year, we expect the weather to get colder. We hunker down with our tea and our yarn or thread, preparing for a long winter of crafting. However, many are wondering what exactly this winter will bring us.

Changing weather patterns are on a lot of people’s minds lately. These changes can bring about confusion, fear, and even grief. Regardless of our beliefs on the causes of climate change, we share concerns over how it will impact our lives and livelihoods. One way to deal with the intangibility of emotions is to create something solid with your hands. 

The Science Center is proudly hosting a Stitch Your Science exhibit this winter. We welcome fiber artists of all mediums to submit a piece which chronicles their experience with climate change. 

What might this look like? Anything you want it to look like! This is meant to be a creative exercise. See more details and ideas here. The image above is a part of the Adirondack Watershed Institute's Wool and Water exhibit and is titled Ice Fishing Blues by Michael Glennon. It represents the threat to ice fishing from climate change.

Pieces are due by March 15 and will be on display through June.

Mariculture ReCon

The Prince William Sound Science Center is a proud member of the Mariculture Research and Restoration Consortium (Mariculture ReCon), a new research program funded by the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council. The goal of Mariculture ReCon is to support restoration, habitat enhancement, and economic development through research and partnerships between scientists and seaweed and shellfish farmers. This consortium's activities will enable capacity building and growth of the mariculture industry in the spill affected area, including Prince William Sound, Kodiak Island, and Kachemak Bay. Mariculture ReCon brings together partners from the Prince William Sound Science Center, Alaska Sea Grant, the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation, NOAA, ADFG, the Native Village of Eyak, seaweed and shellfish farmers, University of Alaska researchers, and graduate students and postdoctoral scholars. The program includes restoration components to assess the ecological effects of the mariculture industry in the spill area, as well as farm and business components to enhance the success of the mariculture industry in Alaska. Mariculture ReCon will collaborate with the CORaL Network on education and engagement activities involving the mariculture industry, scientists, and interested communities.

Community events calendar

We hope you can join us this month for some science fun! All events take place at the Prince William Sound Science Center unless otherwise noted. Different programs are intended for certain ages, noted below. All are welcome to attend. A calendar of events can be found on our website. If you would like to receive email notifications for upcoming community education programs, subscribe here.

February 7: Tuesday Night Talk: Caitlin McKinstry; Native Village of Eyak’s Mariculture Program. 7-8pm. Geared toward adults, but open to all. 

February 9-16: Date Night: Animal Love Quiz Crawl.

February 10: Family Hike: Heney Ridge. 3:30-4:30. Meet at trailhead. 

February 12: Animal Courtship Yoga. 7-8pm. Geared towards adults.

February 13: Sea Squirts: Wind. 10-11am. Caretakers and preschoolers 3-5 years old.

February 13: Stitch Your Science at the Copper River Brewery. 6:30-8pm, open to all.

February 16: Date Night Closes.

February 17: Astronomy Night: Constellations. 6:30-8. Open to families.

February 23: Science Charcuterie Night: Latin “Roots.” 6pm. Geared towards adults.

February 24: Fun Friday: Mariculture. 2:30-3:30. Families with kids in grades K-4.

February 24: Tuesday Night Talk (on a Friday): Dr. Julia Parish of UW and Executive Director or COASST will be presenting Seabirds, Citizen Science, and Saving the World. 6-7pm. Geared toward adults, but open to all.

February 27: Fish Trivia at the Reluctant Fisherman with Dr. Alysha Cypher. 7-8pm. Geared towards adults.

February 28: Tuesday Night Talk: Alysha Cypher of PWSSC discussing oil effects on herring. 7-8pm. Geared toward adults, but open to all.

March 6: Sea Squirts. 10-11am. Caretakers and preschoolers 3-5 years old.

Education month in review: January 2023

A first grade student exploring sound waves with the Native Village of Eyak through drums during January Discovery Room.

January was full of outdoor adventures, Discovery Room, and bringing back old traditions. Highlights are below; click here to read more details.


  • Sea Squirts (ages 3-5) explored light and shadows through shadow puppets, reflections, and more.
  • Little Dippers, our nature-based exploration group, spent their weekly gatherings outside exploring, learning, and creating.
  • The education team visited each grade at Mt. Eccles Elementary School for Discovery Room. Themes included snow and ice (K), sound waves (1st, see image above), hydroponics (2nd), bird feeding strategies (3rd), food webs and the energy pyramid (4th), invasive species (5th), and oil spill response (6th).
  • In our second themed month, cetaceans was a common thread throughout our various programs. On our social media channels we shared interesting facts about the types of whales and porpoises in our region.
  • We hosted two themed yoga nights: whales and ice worms.
  • The education staff also hosted a variety of events for families including our second of three family astronomy sessions, where we learned all about the aurora borealis; a Fun Friday program about ice worms; and to get the month started we led a family walk around Odiak Pond.

PWSSC welcomes Jessie Bronson

Jessie has joined the PWSSC as a Little Dippers group leader. She is a credentialed multiple subject elementary and secondary science teacher specializing in biology and geosciences. Before beginning a career in teaching, Jessie studied marine and environmental science at the United States Coast Guard Academy and served as an officer in the Coast Guard responding to oil spills and planning search and rescue operations. During her free time, Jessie can be found exploring and adventuring outdoors with her husband and two young children.

Alaska residents: It's time to Pick.Click.Give.

When you file for your Permanent Fund Dividend this year, consider making a donation to the Prince William Sound Science Center!

Applications must be filed by March 31, 2023. Pick.Click.Give. pledges can be added and changed through August 31, 2023.

The Prince William Sound Science Center is committed to resilient communities and healthy ecosystems. We need your help now more than ever. If you believe in our mission and care about what we do, please consider making a donation today. Every dollar helps us stay stable during these uncertain times.

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