the Breakwater

A newsletter from the Prince William Sound Science Center

January 5, 2023

The grinning bear stands guard at our new facility over the holidays. Photo by PWSSC Development Manager, Signe Baumann.

Happy New Year!

Wherever you in the new year, we hope you find peace, warmth, and solace in the beauty of your natural surroundings. We are so grateful for your support throughout the past year. Because of you, we remain hopeful for a bright and resilient future as we move into 2023.

OSRI supports new spill response technology

To develop a new response technology that can be rapidly deployed to remote locations, OSRI has partnered with oil and gas companies, oil spill removal organizations, and a government agency to develop a remotely operated surface vessel for oil spill response. The vessel, pictured here, is a heavily modified jet ski. The jet ski platform was chosen because it has been proven to be fast, durable, and relatively small making it a good platform to deploy by ship or helicopter, or even driven from land to a remote spill. The platform was modified to allow remote operation by radio or satellite. It includes several cameras, radar, and other gear to allow the operator to safely control the vehicle. A tethered drone provides an aerial view of the vehicle operations. The first version is designed to deploy a chemical herder that causes a slick to contract and an ignition system capable of starting in-situ burns. Another version has additional remote sensing capabilities such as a volatile organic carbon detector that can determine if the spill is safe enough to send human responders to. The vehicles are nearing completion and we expect to do our first major testing at a tank near Fairbanks, Alaska in June with sea trials by August of 2023.

PWSSC part of the CORaL Network

PWSSC is a proud partner of the Community Organized Restoration and Learning Network (CORaL) Network. The CORaL Network is aimed to create and maintain a framework that builds the capacity of existing resources within the Exxon Valdez oil spill impacted region (see image). Through the CORaL Network, we are partnered with the Alaska SeaLife Center, Alaska Sea Grant, Alutiiq Museum and Archaeological Repository, Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies, and Chugach Regional Resources Commission.

The CORaL Network will make certain science outreach is relevant, co-created, and culturally responsive to our regional communities. Goals with the CORaL Network are to increase public knowledge related to the Exxon Valdez oil spill; increase participation of youth in community-based science; integrate the EVOSTC-funded long-term research and monitoring, mariculture, and restoration projects with community identified needs; and increase understanding of Alaska Native knowledge relations, cultural competency, and collaborative community.

January is whale month!

Whale fluke. John Moran NOAA NMFS Permit Permit No 18529

Prince William Sound is home to many creatures great and small. We are happy to share with you a majestic order of mammals: Cetacea, which includes whales, dolphins, and porpoises. There are certain characteristics that all cetaceans share including a streamlined body, blubber, flippers for forelimbs, and a muscular caudal peduncle which connects the body to the tail fluke.

There are many different species of cetaceans found in Prince William Sound including humpback whales, killer whales, and Dall’s porpoises. Do you know the two main differences between the two suborders, Mysticetes (baleen whales) and Odontocetes (toothed cetaceans)? Click here to find out and read more interesting facts about whales in Prince William Sound.

Tuesday Night Talks series returns

We are pleased to announce that our Tuesday Night Talk series is returning after a three-year hiatus due to COVID. Talks will be hosted at the Prince William Sound Science Center from 7-8 pm and will be live streamed on our YouTube channel. The talks are intended for adults; all are welcome to attend. If you would like receive email notifications for upcoming talks, subscribe here.

January 17: Whales and Porpoises in Prince William Sound

January 24: Presented by PWS Audubon: Topic TBD

January 31: Alaska Mariculture

February 7: Native Village of Eyak Mariculture

Community events calendar

We hope you can join us in January for some science fun! All events take place at the PWS 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.

January 5: Family hike: 1-2pm, Odiak Pond, intended for families with kids ages 4-10

January 6: Fun Friday: Whales. 2:30-3:30pm, for families with kids in grades K-4

January 8: Yoga: Whale. 7-8pm, intended for adults

January 9: Sea Squirts: Snow. 10-11am, intended for kids ages 3-5

January 13: Family astronomy: Awesome aurora. 6:30-8pm, for the whole family

January 20: Fun Friday: Tracks. 2:30-3:30pm, for families with kids in grades K-4

January 22: Yoga: Ice Worm. 7-8pm, intended for adults 

January 24: After hours: Cetaceans. 5:30-7, intended for adults

January 30: Science Trivia: Ice worms. 7-8pm, Reluctant Fisherman, intended for adults

February 3: Fun Friday: Glaciers and ice worms. 2:30-3:30pm, for families with kids in grades K-4

February 6: Sea Squirts: Ice worms. 10-11 am, for kids ages 3-5

Education month in review: December 2023

A first grade student crawls through a model of an ear drum during Discovery Room.

The education team had a jam-packed December full of learning, fun, and festive cheer. 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, went to Mt. Eyak ski hill to make ice ornaments and ice art, and ventured to the beach to explore sea life and collect seaweed for pressing.
  • The education team visited nearly every classroom at Mt. Eccles Elementary School for Discovery Room. Themes for each grade included wind (K), ears (1st, see image above), snow (2nd), eggs (3rd), food webs and plankton (4th), and marine debris (6th).
  • In our first themed month, plankton was a common thread throughout our various programs. We also shared on our social media channels about various types of plankton, why they are important, and how we study them and hosted an open house where attendees observed plankton under the microscope, operated scientific instruments, discussed plankton research with Dr. Rob Campbell and Jessica Pretty, and more.
  • We had two yoga nights in the month of December.
  • The education staff also hosted a variety of events for families including our first of three family astronomy sessions, where we learned all about the moon; a Fun Friday program focused on snow; and to wrap up the month, we held two events for families over winter break: making ornaments from common household trash and a family movie night.

PWSSC welcomes Cristina Reo

Cristina arrived in Cordova in July of 2021. She earned her bachelor’s degree in wildlife biology from the University of Michigan. Cristina has had a life-long love for the ocean and wildlife. When the opportunity to come to Alaska arose, she jumped on board. Prior to joining our team, she worked at the US Forest Service. Cristina has a background in science, education, and leadership. She is very excited to combine these skills in her position as an education specialist. When Cristina is not at work, you can find her hiking, fishing, and taking in Alaska’s wildlife, with her camera and binoculars at her side.

The Prince William SoundScience 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.


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.

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