Online teaching tool for oil spill response

The University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA), in conjunction with the Defenders of Wildlife organization recently produced an online teaching tool for oil spill response in the Bering Strait.  The Bering Strait Response Teaching Tool (BSRTT) is now available online and will be allows the public to share information with various organizations and agencies about threats to arctic marine life, such as oil spills.

Allison Dunbar, a junior studying environmental engineering and biology at UAA, is project lead for the online teaching tool. She’s been working part time on the layers of the website for the last year in order to make the tool accessible to everyone, including those who live in the Bering Strait region.

“The local people will know the tides and the currents and will best be able to inform that response, and that is our ultimate goal,” Dunbar said.  “By utilizing and working with the local experts, impacts to marine mammals and to the communities will be less, and for us, (that’s) a common sense thing, but we want it to be written into the protocol for response agencies.”

The BSRTT was created to streamline the oil spill response process and cut response time.  Through the teaching tool and with the participation of the community, spill responders can draw upon persons in the public with knowledge of local currents and other factors that may impact spill movement and influence spill response.

Defenders of Wildlife is in charge of implementing the online teaching tool into local communities, which will involve her visiting and training residents throughout the region.  Part of the training will include discussions on spill response and spill response preparedness. 

The educational tool helps inform its users about response plans to oil spills and other potentially harmful situations that occur in the Bering Strait.  It is also a tool by which information is shared.  Through the training tool, the community gains a better understanding of the complexity of a spill response.

Anyone who uses the BSRTT website can share their knowledge with the Coast Guard or other organizations that also use the tool.  Community trainings on spill response and the teaching tool in the Bering Strait region are expected to begin this month.

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