Looking for something to do during the holiday season aside from Christmas shopping and holiday parties? Perhaps something that is educational as well as entertaining? And free?
Staff at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Ted Stevens Marine Research Institute are offering free tours through next week.
Outreach educator Ralph Steeves says the tour focuses on the two missions of the Point Lena facility: assessment of the North Pacific fisheries stocks and study of the climate and health of the ocean.
“So, we visit the biology labs, the chemistry labs, the genetics labs,” Steeves says. “We will go into what they call the wet lab where we have live specimens going that are going through experimentation in regards to climate and water temperature. We also talk about some very interesting technology that keeps the building warm. This is a building is one of the only ones in the federal government that relies on no fossil fuels for heat.”
The hourlong tour through the facility includes artifacts from scientists studying Alaska’s fisheries and marine mammal populations, the wet lab where many of the research experiments are conducted, the heat exchange system which uses ocean water to heat or cool the facility and the lobby aquarium. It’s a bit like the tour offered to visitors during the summer season.
“And then, we have a presentation on the Science on the Sphere which is that globe you may have seen at the (Alaska State) Museum in the past. Of course, it’s decommissioned right now while they’re building SLAM,” Steeves says. “In Juneau (we’re) very fortunate. We’re the only city in the entire world that has two of them. One of them is here at NOAA. We have a presentation on that that talks about the other things that NOAA does beside fisheries, and some current data on climate change.”
Steeves says the Science on a Sphere presentation runs about 25 minutes and the whole experience at the lab runs about an hour and a half.
Tours are offered every weekday at 1 p.m. through next week. There’ll be no tours on Christmas Day, the following Friday of next week or New Year’s Day, when the facility is closed.
Call ahead at 789-6050 if you want to reserve a spot in the daily afternoon tours that are usually limited to a dozen people 16 years and older. Tours can also be arranged by appointment.
Most importantly, Steeves says don’t forget to bring your camera.
NOAA’s Joe Orsi describes a large ocean sunfish that was caught in a trawl during summer 2015.
NOAA’s Gordon Garcia describes an attempt to hatch market squid during summer 2015.