Petersburg kids get close-up look at sea creatures, courtesy of Alaska Sea Grant and Alaska Department of Fish and Game

children and chaperones standing on dock

Marine Advisory agent Sunny Rice teaches kids about local sea creatures on the Petersburg dock. Petersburg is one of the nation’s top fishing ports and home to three major seafood processing plants.

Kids in Petersburg, Alaska, had a sea animal touch tank come right to their doorstep this week. The dockside activity was part of a summertime science lesson offered by Alaska Sea Grant’s Sunny Rice in partnership with the Petersburg Public Library and Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

A few days earlier, Fish and Game divers collected anemones, sea stars, hermit crabs, and other animals while they were out on a trip and kept them alive on their research vessel. They brought the animals to the dock and put them in totes for the kids to look at.

After the 10 elementary-age children studied the animals, the divers dove in the harbor and found more animals to view, adding a few species of crabs, sea urchins and sea cucumbers to the totes. The kids decided which tank each new species belonged in.

The divers found some trash too—an opportunity to talk about what doesn’t belong in the ocean.

“We usually have an event called ‘Diving for Science’ as part of the Rainforest Festival, but our divers will not be available in September, so we did it in conjunction with the public library summer reading program this time around,” said Rice, a Marine Advisory agent based in Petersburg.

a toddler and adult at a dockside touch tank

Joe Stratman, fishery biologist at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, shows a boy one of the leather stars collected near Petersburg.

“It was nice because we limited the number of participants to 10, which made it a bit more structured. Two of the kids were brand new to Alaska and had never been on the dock before!” Rice said.

The totes served as temporary touch tanks for kids who don’t usually have access to a museum or aquarium. They learned how to observe quietly, and all about where the animals live and how they move, eat and protect themselves.

The divers gave the kids an overview of their gear and safety practices, and talked about the sea bottom sampling system they follow while counting geoducks and sea cucumbers in Frederick Sound.

After the two-hour children’s program, they invited the public to come down to check out the animals.

“I’m glad to be part of the broader marine literacy effort by Alaska Sea Grant around the state. It’s always great to expose the public to the world under the sea they don’t get to see very often,” Rice said.