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OR&R Contributes to Alaska Forum on the Environment

FEBRUARY 22, 2019 — Each year, the Alaska Forum on the Environment brings together a diverse audience to discuss ongoing and emerging environmental issues such as contaminants, hazardous waste cleanup, hazardous materials management, and pollution prevention within Alaska’s many different communities and regions.

An illustration highlighting post-Exxon Valdez developments.
Representation of lessons learned following the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Image credit: Anne Jess, graphic recorder for the event.

The forum has expanded over the years to include issues and concerns affecting the state, including climate change, mining impacts, and alternative energy sources. The conference organizers work with agencies, businesses and non-profit organizations in a spirit of cooperation to ensure that environmental issues and concerns can be addressed with an understanding of the diversity of perspectives and a fundamental educational background of the available science, technology, knowledge and Alaskan experiences. This year’s forum, held on February 11 – 15, was attended by over 1,000 people.

Gary Shigenaka, biologist with OR&R’s Emergency Response Division, gave a keynote talk on the day the 30th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill was highlighted. Gary, who began his emergency response career with the Exxon Valdez in 1989, and then spent another decade monitoring recovery from the spill and cleanup in Prince William Sound, provided his perspective on the experience and the significance of Exxon Valdez in the portfolio of major spills since 1967. The Exxon Valdez was an important benchmark for oil spill research, and many of the important scientific studies from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill can trace their origins to groundbreaking Exxon Valdez scientists working to understand fate and effects from that incident.

OR&R’s Marine Debris Program worked with partners across the state to plan and coordinate multiple marine debris sessions, each focusing on different aspects of the issue. Partners’ presentations focused on topics such as: lessons learned in removal operations, education and outreach, and new tools and techniques to investigate and quantify the presence and impacts of marine debris.

The conference also provided an invaluable opportunity to hear from, and interact with, community stakeholders across Alaska – sometimes large but often small – on what they are experiencing and seeing in their local environments.

For further information, contact Gary.Shigenaka@noaa.gov or Peter.Murphy@noaa.gov.

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