Crew preps for onboard classroom by sourcing from the sea in Resurrection Bay.

It’s a chance for Alaskan kids to see, touch, feel and learn about the amazing world of marine biology. And to do it while cruising the dynamic waters of Resurrection Bay in Alaska. Kenai Fjords Tours is very proud of its award-winning Marine Science Explorers Program. Program manager Leslie Jacoby says at least 44,000 kids from across Alaska have experienced the program since it started in 1995. Each spring, school groups make the trip to Seward and then spend the day exploring Resurrection Bay on board the M/V Alaska Explorer, a Kenai Fjords Tours boat that is specially set-up for interpretive learning.

“It’s a real hands-on experience,” says Leslie. “Our team of educators this year is so passionate about what they do. They have lots of energy!”

Last week, the MSEP team spent a few hours getting the specimens ready to be transferred to aquariums and stations on the boat.

PHOTO: MSEP team member Emma Shrack (right) has a master's degree in marine biology. She started as a deckhand at KFT and is now obtained her captain's licence. Here, along with colleagues, she visits the Sealife Center in Seward for a behind-the-scenes tour and a chance to learn about the latest in educational programing. They’re observing seabirds.

PHOTO: Student Lydia Jacoby participated in the beach walk at Lowell Point, just south of Seward, with the MSEP crew. The program is a chance for kids to learn about the physical properties of seawater in a hands-on way. They can measure density and temperature to determine salinity, and use a Secchi disk to measure turbidity.

PHOTO: All the members of the team share a great passion for sea life and for science. This ochre star was not kept for the program as it was very large and would eat all the mussels in the tank, Leslie says. It’s a beautiful star that’s commonly found in Resurrection Bay.

PHOTO: MSEP’s Eileen Audette shows off a Leather Star she collected while snorkeling at Lowell Point. Eileen has a biology degree and is a professional field biologist. The collections will be moved to the aquarium on the boat. “We’re looking for good examples of intertidal creatures,” says Leslie.

PHOTO: Eileen was raised in Seward. She first experienced the Marine Science Explorers Program as a 4th grade homeschooler in Seward before going on to study fisheries biology. She spends her springtime onboard the Kenai Fjrods Tours boats. Her sister Reene Audette, a Kenai Fjords Tours Captain, is now KFT's Marine Operations Coordinator. Their brother Kenny Audette is KFT's Port Engineer.

PHOTO: The bottom of the bucket. These specimens that will make their way to the touch tank on board the boat. Left to right, Hermit Crabs, Sculpin, leather star, pacific blue mussel, Seaweed Isopod.

PHOTO: This leather star, collected by Eileen, will also be in the touch tank. It’s an excellent example of a “consumer” in this environment.

PHOTO: This crab will help kids learn about the ecosystem of Resurrection Bay and the role of interdependency among the living organisms here. Students observe not only what they can see on the surface of the water, but they’ll also get a chance to see beyond the surface of the water. They will learn the “who’s who” in the intertidal zone. This will help to increase the students understanding of the coastal and marine ecosystems.

All images courtesy of Heather MacIntyre.

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