Program aims to provide Alaska Native and rural students with opportunities at NOAA

September 12, 2019

Paula Dobbyn

Alaska Sea Grant is partnering with NOAA Fisheries to provide opportunities to Alaska Native and rural students at the federal agency. The goal is to increase their representation in marine-related professions at NOAA Fisheries, an arm of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration formerly known as the National Marine Fisheries Service.

Students participating in the PEP AK program visit Toolik Field Station. Photo: Kara Chuang.
Students participating in the PEP AK program visit Toolik Field Station. Photo: Kara Chuang.

During summer 2019, NOAA Fisheries and the University of Alaska Fairbanks, which houses Alaska Sea Grant, launched a marine education and workforce development program that brought five undergraduate students to the UAF campus for a two-week course run by Vladimir Alexeev, research professor at the International Arctic Research Center. It’s called the Partnership in Education Program Alaska. The program was developed by policy analysts Sorina Stalla and Megan Hillgartner and by UAF faculty member Alexeev.

This summer’s curriculum focused on marine sciences and the drivers of Arctic change, climatology, oceanography, marine resource management and policy, law, subsistence use and perspectives, hydrology, climate modeling, permafrost, interior wildfires, meteorology, atmospheric science and more. Following their course work and a trip to the Toolik Field Station on the North Slope, students applied their knowledge and completed internships with NOAA’s regional Alaska office and its Alaska Fisheries Science Center in Juneau.

The Partnership in Education Program Alaska fosters understanding and practical use of policy and knowledge (including Indigenous knowledge) for undergraduates entering marine-related professions.

Moving forward, the program envisions being supported by a consortium of federal, state and academic entities committed to a diverse Alaska workforce to maximize impact. It will serve as an opportunity for these entities to support students, connect them to regional opportunities, and expose them to career pathways in the state.

For questions about the program or how to get involved, contact Sorina Stalla at


Annie Masterman

Annie Masterman
Bethel, Alaska
University of Alaska Southeast

My name is Annie Masterman. I am from Bethel, Alaska, and I major in marine biology. I am currently part of a long-term monitoring project on humpback whales after the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill. Over the 2018–19 school year I interned at NOAA, so my work this summer has been a continuation of my duties as part of the whale project. My work involved taking multiple drill samples of baleen and dry samples of humpback prey items, and weighing these for stable isotopes. Once ingested, prey items leave identifiable stable isotope levels in their predator’s tissues, hair, and keratin (nails, claws, baleen) based on where they lie on the food chain. We use these stable isotope ratios to shed light about what the whale is feeding on. This research experience is highly valuable to me as I begin my sophomore year of college. To be exposed to scientific research like this is very rare for somebody in their second year of college. It is my hope to continue this research and eventually work in this field.

Young man wearing wetsuit and diving gear
Dillon Quealey

Dillon Quealey
Sitka, Alaska
University of Alaska Southeast

I am from Fairbanks, Alaska, but have lived in Sitka most of my life. I have always considered the ocean my playground, from playing with my dogs to finding marine species hiding under the rocks.

Since going to the University of Alaska Southeast, I have had the opportunity to work with assistant professor Mike Navarro in Juneau on his project within the intertidal zone throughout California. I also dive with Mike, deploying an instrument called SeaPhox, which measures conductivity, temperature, salinity, and dissolved oxygen in the ocean. I look forward to continuing my education studying marine biology in Juneau, which is the best place to study since it is right on the ocean.


Summer Morse                                                               
Wasilla, Alaska
University of Alaska Anchorage

My name is Summer Morse and I am from Wasilla, Alaska. I am a sophomore majoring in biological sciences at the University of Alaska Anchorage.

For my project I worked at NOAA Fisheries’ Auke Bay Laboratories, Sashin Creek Weir, and Little Port Walter using long-term data (1999–2018) to look at migration timing of out-migrating salmonids, specifically O. mykiss smolts, O. mykiss residents, Steelhead adults, Dolly Varden, and Coho salmon. I also counted current out-migrating salmonids and measured length and weight of fish fragments at the Sashin Creek weir. The shifts in smolt and Steelhead adult migration timing and size could potentially be linked to environmental variables that have been recorded daily at Little Port Walter, including water temperature, air temperature, and precipitation.


Kara Chuang

Los Angeles, California
University of California Berkeley

My name is Kara Chuang and I interned in the Protected Resources Division at the NOAA Alaska Regional Office this summer. Originally from the Los Angeles area, I am currently a senior at the University of California, Berkeley, where I am pursuing a bachelor’s degree in integrative biology with an emphasis on ecology and evolutionary biology. This summer I worked with Kim Raum-Suryan on the Ocean Guardian School Program. My tasks were to gather resources and form a comprehensive curriculum for local Alaska schools to be a part of the Ocean Guardian School Program, which focuses on promoting marine stewardship and conservation practices through education and outreach events.

Joseph Monsef                                                           
Juneau, Alaska
University of Alaska Southeast

Hello everyone! I’m Joseph, a sophomore at the University of Alaska Southeast, currently studying biology. I’m from Juneau, which means I get to enjoy all the recreational activities we have year-round. In my free time I like to play hockey, rock climb, fish and hike. I am interested in microbiology and organisms living in extreme habitats. My project at NOAA involved the coastal mapping system ShoreZone and working to understand who is using ShoreZone data and what they are using it for.