Communicating stories of world-class research to better understand Alaska's marine ecoystems

Photo Credit: Michael Canino

Communications & Outreach

researcher showing tagging data to students

Photo Credit: BEST-BSIERP Project at Bering Sea Days

NPRB has long recognized the need to pair its world-class funded research with equally robust communication, education, and outreach initiatives. These initiatives not only communicate its brand and identity to stakeholders, but also directly support education and outreach efforts by principal investigators funded through each research program. Placing such an emphasis on scientific communication and outreach continues to be one of NPRB’s distinctive organizational attributes. The Communications and Outreach Program objectives are to:


Support funded investigators in developing and executing their own education and outreach plans


Translate technical scientific information into user-friendly terms


Package scientific information for maximum accessibility, exposure, and impact

Stakeholders & Target Audiences

NPRB communicates with a broad and diverse set of stakeholders and audiences. NPRB stakeholders have direct interests with NPRB actions and objectives, and can affect or be affected by NPRB; audiences are intended to be more generalized. It is important to note that funded investigators may have more specific audiences in mind when executing their community involvement or outreach plans.

Marine Science Community - Stakeholder

Keeping marine researchers abreast of new scientific funding opportunities, research techniques, science planning, results, resources, scientific collaborations, etc.

Policy & Resource Management - Stakeholder

Providing scientific information that enables effective management and sustainable use of marine resources

Teachers & Students - Target Audience

Provide useful and accessible resources, scientific information, and scientific networking for formal & informal educators

Commercial & Subsistence Use - Stakeholder

The economic and cultural importance of the North Pacific makes sustainable management critical. Sharing the same waters as commercial fisheries are coastal communities reliant upon subsistence. Not only is it imperative to communicate NPRB science to these stakeholders, but equally important is to be receptive and responsive to their input.

Interested Public - Target Audience

Inform and educate the general public about NPRB, the research it has funded, and how/why that information is important in broad ecosystem concepts

Importance of Outreach

Without communication there would be no science (Abelson 1980).

Communicating scientific results can be mutually beneficial for investigators and their target audiences. For investigators, not only does it provide public awareness, exposure, and support, it may also lead to additional funding opportunities. In turn, public audiences become better informed about the science, which can ultimately lead to more effective resource management and public policy. To achieve the best results, it is important to develop effective communication strategies that are consistent, appropriate, and invite engagement specific to the intended audience.

Abelson, P. H. (1980). Scientific communication. Science, 209(4452), 60–62.

NPRB Outreach Requirements

NPRB requires that all requests for proposals in each of the research programs include a certain level of stakeholder and/or community involvement as well as outreach.

Research proposals funded through the Core Program will be invited to apply for up to $20,000 in a separate Outreach Subaward to support outreach-specific efforts. Historically, the outreach requirement for this program was a minimum of $2,000 nested within each proposal. 

The Long-Term Monitoring Program also requires outreach, but investigators must allocate at least $5,000 in education/outreach funding within the research proposal. Graduate Student Awards do not require specific plans or funding, but a community involvement statement is required for the application. Lastly, Integrated Ecosystem Research Programs (IERP) have their own dedicated outreach funding independent from individual investigators.

Alaska native elders working with marine scientists in Savoonga

Photo Credit: Tom VanPelt

Reaching audiences has never been more challenging as new technology continues to emerge, competition for user attention escalates, and the speed at which information accessibility has soared. With each call for proposal, NPRB challenges investigators to be creative, think about levels of consistent engagement, and to develop attainable goals for assessment when building education and outreach plans. Although fact sheets and web pages/sites have their utility, NPRB encourages education and outreach plans to complement the world-class research it supports annually.

Here are a few helpful tools and resources to improve your outreach and build communication skills:

Tools & Resources

Featured Outreach

Since 2002, NPRB has supported numerous projects that have demonstrated excellent education and outreach initiatives. Investigators have launched a public media campaign surrounding sperm whale depredation in Southeast Alaska, engaged with Arctic coastal community members to collect local oceanographic data—even built remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) with high school students. Below are several outreach projects NPRB has recognized as exceptional that use different tools to engage specific target audiences.

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Crowdsourcing  |  Project 1530

A Citizen Science Mediated Optical Character Recognition (OCR) Module for Large-scale Data Rescue

Accessing historical data is an important way to draw a better understanding of environmental change and variability. Old ship log books from vessels traveling in North Pacific waters contain a wealth of information, but much of the data is still in a non-collated printed text form. Using a crowd sourcing web portal called Zooniverse, interested public learn about the project and help investigators transcribe data online.

More Info

A group of young fishermen posing next to a fishing boat

Photo Credit: Danielle Ringer

Op-Ed & Social Media  |  Project 1323

Graying of the Fleet in Alaska’s Fisheries:
Defining the Problem and Assessing Alternatives

Local Alaskan fishermen—especially young fishermen—are finding it increasingly difficult to enter into and continue to operate community-based fishing due to high start-up and operational costs. Investigators have used social media to target younger audience demographics and also local news media outlets contributing consistent content to newspaper OP-ED sections.

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Researcher demonstrating a microscope to young rural community student

Courtesy: Seth Danielson

Citizen Science  |  Project 1415

Coastal Community Ocean Observers (C2O2): A Network of Community-driven Coastal Ocean Observations

Community-based participatory research is an excellent way to lower investigator travel cost, increase community engagement, and increase scientific understanding and capacity. Coastal Community Ocean Observers (C2O2) is a long-term monitoring effort in remote Alaskan communities. Investigators provide instrumentation and instruction to record and monitor a suite of environmental variables.

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Seaswap website thumbnail

Courtesy: SEASWAPP

Digital Media  |  Project 626

Testing Low-cost Methods to Reduce Sperm Whale Depredation in the Gulf of Alaska

Web pages and sites have become a common method of communication. Web development is cost efficient and websites continue to get easier to build. However, effective web development requires solid design, content written specifically for the web, consistent engagement, and evaluation. Investigators developed their brand surrounding SEASWAPP and carried it throughout their publication materials.

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Lesson plan graphic thumbnail


Curricula  |  Project 1321

Blue King Crab, Habitat, and the Ecosystem: Data Rescue from the 1980s

Developing age-appropriate, standards compliant educational curricula is a challenge. It often requires additional personnel such as graduate students, or ideally, marine science educators to help develop, test, distribute, and evaluate the overall effectiveness. These investigators developed three lesson plans for Grades 9-12 about blue crabs: life history, climate change implications, and habitat.

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Screenshot of website video game

Courtesy: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Exhibitry  |  Project 1222

Technology Development- Improving Phytoplankton Assessment

Marine research institutions and public aquariums have the ability to engage large numbers of people and share important research findings to an interested public. Developing content for these institutions require considerable cost, planning, and personnel. Woods Hole investigators developed a novel approach to showcasing their algae research by developing a touchscreen kiosk and online game.

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