Fifty years of Alaska Sea Grant

2020 marks Alaska Sea Grant’s 50th year. Over the last five decades, the program’s research, education, and outreach activities have had countless positive impacts on Alaska’s coastal communities, ecosystems, and economies.

Alaska Sea Grant’s initial research in 1970 included studies of pinnipeds of the Bering and Chukchi Seas, and the uses of seafood waste. Since then, our research and activities have included hundreds of projects serving local, regional, state, and national interests. Today, Alaska Sea Grant and Marine Advisory Program agents deliver a range of training and technical assistance to Alaskans, from helping launch food-producing businesses, to responding to animal stranding, to planning for challenges brought by rapid changes in climate. Our student fellowships and K–12 programming support new generations of marine scientists and policy experts.

Alaska Sea Grant’s investments in education and outreach, and the ability to quickly transfer research to application has helped fuel important discoveries, diversify economies and build resilience in Alaska’s coastal communities. We’ve also responded to emergencies facing the state, immediately getting resources on the scene when the Exxon Valdez ran aground in Prince William Sound in 1989, and following through to help craft new safety reforms.

The next 50 years will bring new challenges, and Alaska Sea Grant and its Marine Advisory Program agents around the state will continue responding with nimble, science-based action and support.

As 2020 comes to a close, we know that Alaska Sea Grant is not alone in reflecting on the many ways this year has been difficult and challenging. Like so many of our colleagues and friends around the country and the world, the staff and faculty of Alaska Sea Grant have dealt with pandemic-induced separation from family, friends, and colleagues, observing safety protocols, canceling in-person events or moving them online, and otherwise adapting to the evolving challenge.

Among the events Sea Grant chose to cancel was a gathering to celebrate Alaska Sea Grant’s anniversary. We’re still committed to properly marking our 50-year milestone when group activities are able to resume, albeit a little later than originally planned. As our director Dr. Ginny Eckert explains, it will be our “fifty-ish anniversary party!”

For a timeline of select Alaska Sea Grant milestones and highlights over the past 50 years, see our online Alaska Sea Grant 2019–2020 Annual Report or download it from Alaska Sea Grant Program Reports.

by Anne Gore and Dave Partee