Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association (CIAA) strives to keep the public in the loop about salmon aquaculture through its education and outreach programs. Almost every day, I work with other CIAA staff to help people understand how the association provides salmon fisheries, collects data, and protects the environment. From a temporary weir worker fielding questions to a seasoned biologist giving a presentation at a local school, CIAA’s mission includes spreading awareness throughout the Cook Inlet area.
Find out more about the special events we participate in, and how we help you learn about our operations through tours and public appearances.
Annual Education and Outreach
As a biologist with CIAA I have the pleasure of working with the public in many ways and many locations. Annually we participate in:
- Salmon dissection events such as the Kenai River Festival
- Kenai National Wildlife Refuge’s Get Out and Get Dirty summer camp
- Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s Salmon in the Classroom including the Salmon Celebration
- Industry Appreciation Day hosted by the Kenai Chamber of Commerce.
We also help Outward Bound teach about outdoor education and bring students to complete a service project at the Bear Creek weir each summer.
Special Outreach Events: Adopt-A-Stream
Recently, we teamed up with the Kenai Watershed Forum’s environmental educator through their Adopt-a-Stream (AAS) program. This program is made possible through the Kenai Peninsula Fish Habitat Partnership. AAS aims to help youth learn about the environment we interact with and depend on.
I wanted to participate because I think it’s important for youth to learn to be good stewards of the land. Exposure and awareness to water quality and fisheries issues foster engagement by youth and may lead to environmental careers.
Northern Pike Curriculum
In addition to assisting the lead environmental educator, I created a curriculum about invasive northern pike and their effect on salmon within the Cook Inlet watershed. The “pike unit” involves a presentation that covers the work CIAA and other organizations are doing to combat invasive pike followed by a hands-on northern pike dissection.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we had to think outside the box on how to continue to reach students when schools were not allowing visitors. That led to the creation of the Pike Briefcase Camp. The briefcase camp is a standalone kit that teachers can use in their classrooms with or without an educator. This lets teachers help students learn about salmon during a time when schools are not allowing visitors.
The briefcase camp walks students through how CIAA crews combat the invasive northern pike problem. This allows students to experience what it is like to be part of a pike suppression crew. The students collect environmental data; remove stuffed northern pike from a gillnet and collect a variety of biological information on the pike; learn how to mend a gillnet; and practice aging the northern pike using their cleithra, the scientific term for the jaw bone.
The students are always really pumped after the hands-on experience of pike camp. The question I most often get is “When can I come work for CIAA?” Students are typically disappointed when they learn they have to be 18 before they can apply.
It’s wonderful to see so many young kids be so engaged and thoughtful about the natural resources here on the Kenai Peninsula, one of the reasons I enjoy working with young kids and strive to do it as much as I can.
Other Education and Outreach Opportunities
We also give hatchery tours and are open to visiting classrooms that would like to learn more about salmon, salmon aquaculture, invasive species as they relate to salmon, and much more!
There are other educational opportunities that we take part in when we have the opportunity like Nanwalek and Port Graham schools’ Sea Week, which teaches the students about marine life and the benefits of living so close to the ocean. It’s a celebration of spring and the sea.