An Award Winning RASOR Class

In the RASOR class, students are the scientists! The Rural Alaskan Students in One-health Research (RASOR) program offers a semester long course where students help design a research project, carry it out, and create a research poster to share their findings. For the Spring 2024 semester, Leif Gray, Israel Boe, and Dietrich Lewis earned both college and high school credit by working with Julian Narvaez and Jeromy Grant, mentors from HIA. Students met in class every day to complete assignments and work on their research project. They also “zoomed in” with professors Ellen Chenowith and Willa Johnson twice a week.  

The project they designed tested out prototype light traps, used to catch larval crab. The traps were modified from models used in the “lower 48” to catch invasive European Green Crab. The Green Crabs dig up eelgrass, which is an important habitat for shellfish, local crab, and young salmon. They are not in Hoonah yet, but were found in Metlakatla and are likely making their way up the coast.

Not expecting to find any larval crab this spring, the students’ research revolved around seeing how different colors of LED light attracted different marine species in Hoonah’s harbor. They observed that while the color of light used seemed to have some effect, the biggest factor to consider was the location where the traps were placed in the harbor. With the success of their testing though, the HIA team can re-deploy the traps later in the summer to see if they work on larval crabs.

While half of the semester focused on learning how to create a scientific research experiment, the other half dove into hands-on learning. Students took apart and re-designed traps made by the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, working on improving their flotation, and resealing critical parts to keep the batteries for the lights dry. They deployed the traps and checked them every two days, keeping accurate data sheets and learning to identify local marine species they caught. They then worked with the data they collected to create a research poster that was presented at the regional SHI & AISES (American Indian Science and Engineering Society) science fair at the end of April. At the end of semester, for an additional “communication” portion of the course, Dietrich also shared the project’s findings with the 6th grade class and presented about the harmful impacts of the invasive European Green Crab.

Congratulations to Leif, Izzy, and Dietrich!! For their excellent work, they took home the “Environmental Science and Sustainability” award from the AISES science fair! We were very impressed with their dedication to the research project and that they became subject matter experts by the end of the class. They’ve laid the groundwork for future invasive species monitoring efforts in Hoonah. We look forward to next year’s RASOR course and the projects new students will create!

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