89th American Meteorological Society Annual Meeting

Monday, 12 January 2009
The importance of online ocean studies for circumarctic communities
Hall 5 (Phoenix Convention Center)
John J. Kelley, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, AK; and D. W. Norton, C. Madison, C. Gering, C. Lott, and H. Olson
Proper stewardship of the ocean is critical to the long-term vitality of all nations. The ocean provides food and recreation, contributes to the nation's economic health, is important to national security, and is a major player in the global climate system. Despite its vast extent, the ocean is finite and cannot indefinitely absorb all the stresses being placed on it by the growing human population. All nations must commit to protecting the ocean through wise stewardship and sensible management. Scientific research and effective education opportunities can provide the information necessary to support these efforts. By addressing pressing national and global ocean-related issues, society can ensure a healthy ocean for this generation and the generations to follow. As pointed out by the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy, “America is a nation intrinsically connected to and immensely reliant on the ocean.”

Alaska, with its nearly 9,000 km of coastline, has a population with a strong interest and heritage in the sea and its commercial and subsistence resources. Environmental changes currently witnessed in the polar regions are vivid and in many cases greater than changes observed in the midlatitudes or tropics. The University of Alaska Fairbanks is a research and teaching institution with a strong interest in the Arctic. It is also a minority institution providing services to the many Alaska Native communities. Many of these communities are dependent on the sea for their support. Because of the great distances between communities in a state which is nearly one-fifth the size of the United States, distance education is an important component of Alaska's educational outreach.

For many years the School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences (SFOS) offered a beginning course in the marine sciences, ” The Oceans” which continues to enroll a large number of undergraduate students both semesters and a summer session. Students are primarily drawn from the interior Alaska. Frequent requests from potential students in other regions led to the search for an appropriate course which could be delivered entirely by web and would also include web-delivered laboratory exercises. The AMS Online Ocean Studies program was chosen for implementation during the course of the International Polar Year 2007/08. It fits one of the IPY objectives for educational outreach. The AMS course is closely tied to the SFOS introductory course. The course will be offered during fall 2008 and spring 2009 semesters. It will be supported through the UAF Center for Distance Education and Independent Learning. Emphasis and learning resources will reflect the importance of the polar regions in general and Arctic in particular to problems associated with climate change.

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