What do Alaska’s artists, scientists, and children all have in common? They are curious, creative, and living in one of the fastest changing climates in the United States. This powerful combination inspired our Kachemak Bay Reserve to collaborate with local elementary school educators, students, and artists for a three-week study of climate change, culminating with an art show and contest.
Using reserve monitoring data and other sources, the students investigated the science behind climate change, graphed data related to impacts, and worked with a local artist to illustrate what they discovered in silk paintings.
“We wanted to educate the community about local climate change by emphasizing positive adaptation and a resilient community vision,” says Syverine Bentz, coastal training program coordinator at the Kachemak Reserve. “We had held a series of adaptation workshops that identified the need to communicate about this issue to a broader spectrum of people; this was the perfect opportunity to do just that.”
The students’ work captures the sometimes abstract impacts of climate change in vivid, colorful detail. It has been enjoyed, not only in their community, but also by the Alaska State Legislature and Lt. Governor Byron Mallott, who hung the donated artwork of Homer student Beatrix Strobel in his office.
“Blooms of Alexandrium” by Beatrix Strobel. Harmful algal blooms that cause paralytic shellfish poisoning are on the rise due to warmer, more acidic oceans. From 2011 to 2016, Alexandrium in samples taken at the Kachemak Bay Reserve have gone up from about 11 to 21% in 2016.
“Ocean Acidification” by Cyrus Wood. Pteropods, coral reefs, and other creatures are dying as more carbon dioxide is absorbed into the oceans, making them more acidic, and reducing the ability of pteropods and corals to produce their skeletons.
“Salty Ocean” by Marina Co. Rising temperatures melt freshwater glaciers and cause increased flows of freshwater into the oceans and a decrease in salinity. Between 2001 and 2016, Kachemak Bay Reserve water quality data showed that the salinity in the water has decreased by 3.5 (psu) in Seldovia, Alaska.