NOAA 2005-027
Contact: Glenda Powell
NOAA News Releases 2005
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A new educational case study describing the impacts and recovery of the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska’s Prince William Sound is now available from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Ocean Service. NOAA is an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

The new Discovery Story, titled Prince William’s Oily Mess: A Tale of Recovery, is part of the NOS Discovery Center. It includes detailed educational information on the infamous Exxon Valdez oil spill that occurred almost 16 years ago, its ecological effects on the remote and scenic environment, and the research that has been conducted in the area since the accident. The case study examines the nuances and complexities involved in the ecological recovery of the area and what scientists are doing to learn from the event. Some of the lessons learned from this incident may help scientists better respond to future oil spills.

“One of NOAA’s priorities is to enhance the public’s understanding of environmental processes, including the effects of oil spills on our ecosystems,” said retired Navy Vice Admiral Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Jr., Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “This educational tool will help teachers and students understand the nature of the Prince William Sound oil spill.”

Among many other components, the Discovery Story features an oil spill trajectory model, which helped scientists predict how the oil would spread across the sound. It also includes numerous other teaching tools such as a primer on oil spills written for high school students, and a Working with Real Data section. The case study also includes an interview with Dr. Alan Mearns, a NOAA scientist who has been studying the effects of the Prince William Sound oil spill since the event occurred.

This Discovery Story on Prince William’s Oily Mess is the second in a series of educational case studies NOAA is producing to improve the understanding of ocean science and the changing Earth. A Discovery Story on lionfish is also available. Lionfish are a venomous invasive species currently thriving off the coast of Florida and as far north as North Carolina. Its existence may be affecting the native habitat of the mid-Atlantic coast. The stories can be found at the NOS Discovery Center, a comprehensive educational offering on the NOS Web site. The center includes a Discovery Classroom and a collection of Discovery Kits.

The Discovery Classroom is a collection of 15 inquiry-based, formal lesson plans based on NOAA science and developed for use at the high school level. The lesson plans can be easily adapted for use by middle school and undergraduate students as well. All of the lessons emphasize hands-on activities using online data resources, and all are correlated with National Science Education Standards and the Benchmarks for Science Literacy, which were developed by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Discovery Kits contain interactive tutorials on science subjects, roadmaps to Web-based data resources and formal lesson plans. The tutorials, roadmaps, and lesson plans in each Discovery Kit are designed to work together, but are comprehensive enough to be used on their own. The National Science Teachers Association, which undertook a formal review of the kits, called them “excellent models that are well designed, easy to navigate, and have beautiful photographs and diagrams, which complement the content.” Currently three Discovery Kits are available, covering coral reefs, tides and water levels, and geodesy. Several more Kits are on the way.

The NOAA National Ocean Service balances environmental protection with economic prosperity in fulfilling its mission of promoting safe navigation, supporting coastal communities, sustaining coastal habitats and mitigating coastal hazards.

NOAA is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of our nation’s coastal and marine resources.

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