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Anchorage Museum, SeaLife Center launch ambitious expedition to study marine debris crisis in Alaska


ANCHORAGE, Alaska – In one of the most breathtaking places on the planet, an ambitious new scientific expedition and museum exhibition will tackle the global marine debris crisis. The Gyre project is a collaboration between the Anchorage Museum and Alaska SeaLife Center, in partnership with several national and Alaska organizations.

On June 7, an international team of scientists, artists and educators launch an expedition to study marine debris in southwest Alaska. Howard Ferren of the Alaska SeaLife Center leads the expedition, along with scientist Carl Safina, the founding president of Blue Ocean Institute. The expedition also includes representatives from the Smithsonian Institution, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Geographic, Alaska Marine Stewardship Foundation, Anchorage Museum and Ocean Conservancy.

The R/V Norseman leaves Friday, June 7 from Seward and travels 450 nautical miles west from Resurrection Bay along the Kenai Peninsula coast, then crosses the Kennedy Entrance channel to Shuyak and Afognak islands. Along the way, the crew will stop to observe, document and collect shoreline trash. The expedition ends with an intensive cleanup of Hallo Bay in Katmai National Park, a remote area seeing an influx of debris from the 2011 Japanese tsunami.

The expedition is the first stage of the Gyre project, a collaboration between the Anchorage Museum and Alaska SeaLife Center that addresses the marine debris problem through this expedition and a related art and science exhibition in 2014.

The 7,500-square-foot exhibition “Gyre,” on view February through September 2014 at the Anchorage Museum, will tell a global marine debris story through the work of more than 20 artists from around the world. These include Los Angeles’ Cynthia Minet, who re-purposes plastic containers into life-size animal sculptures, and San Francisco’s Susan Middleton, who photographs the effects of marine debris on animals.

An exhibition section specific to Alaska will feature the 2013 expedition’s resulting scientific discoveries, as well as art created from trash gathered on Alaska’s beaches during the journey. The exhibition also incorporates content from the Burke Museum’s “Plastics Unwrapped” exhibition, offering a scientific and cultural history of how plastics are used in our daily lives.

Following its Anchorage debut, the “Gyre” exhibition will be repackaged by the Smithsonian Institution for a tour of the Lower 48.

Learn more at anchoragemuseum.org/gyre.


The Anchorage Museum is the largest museum in Alaska and one of the top 10 most visited attractions in the state. The museum’s mission is to share and connect Alaska with the world through art, history and science. Learn more at www.anchoragemuseum.org.


The Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward is a private, nonprofit marine science facility dedicated to generating and sharing scientific knowledge to promote understanding and stewardship of Alaska's marine ecosystems. Learn more at alaskasealife.org.

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