Featured Scientists 2013

December 2013 – Morgan Busby
November 2013 – Kathy Kuletz
October 2013 – Trent Sutton
August 2013 – Tom Helser
July 2013 – Katrin Iken
June 2013 – Bob Lauth
May 2013 – Ed Farley
April 2013 – Mike Sigler
March 2013 – Franz Mueter

Featured Scientists 2015
Featured Scientists 2014

December 2013

Mr. Morgan S. Busby

We are proud to introduce Morgan Busby as this month’s featured investigator! His Arctic Eis research currently focuses on ichthyoplankton (eggs and larvae of fishes) and he works with NOAA’s Alaska Fisheries Science Center in Seattle.

Question #1: Why did you decide to become a marine scientist?


My Grandfather took me fishing in both fresh and marine waters numerous times when I was about 7-15 years old and I’ve been a fish lover ever since. I began working with marine fish larvae in the California Current Region at the Southwest Fisheries Science Center in La Jolla, CA in 1977 while I was still in high school and had some fantastic mentors. At one point I thought I wanted to change course to Ornitholology (birds) but am really glad I didn’t. I have also played rock and jazz guitar off and on since then but never wanted to pursue it as a career.

Question #2: What do you enjoy best about your job?

I really enjoy being at sea doing field work collecting both larval and adult fishes. Publishing results and travelling to scientific meetings to deliver presentations and talk with other marine scientists are also very rewarding experiences. I have very much enjoyed working in fish collections/museums around the world examining type specimens and other material in my taxonomic studies.

Question #3: What specifically led you north or into Arctic research?

Having the opportunity to become affiliated with the Russian-American Long-Term Census of the Arctic Program and now Arctic Eis. For this I must acknowledge my AFSC program leaders particularly Ann Matarese along with Brenda Norcross, Brenda Holladay, Franz Mueter, and Terry Whitledge of the University of Alaska, Fairbanks and Kathleen Crane of the NOAA Office of Arctic Research.

Question #4: How does your research contribute to the Arctic Eis project and its goal of promoting comprehensive and integrated study of the northern Bering and Chukchi Seas?

Now that identification of the ichthyoplankton samples from 2012 have been verified, we will investigate differences in species composition and assemblage structure in the different water masses (pelagic habitats) where we collected the samples.

Question #5: What is the latest result in your research that most intrigues you?

We don’t have many results from the 2012 Arctic Eis pelagic cruise yet but it does appear that there were perhaps multiple spawning events of Arctic cod (Boreogadus saida) in 2012. During the first leg of the 2012 pelagic cruise we encountered individuals <15.0 mm, some 15.0-25.0 mm, and others >25.0 mm in the bongo tows and surface trawls. It will be really interesting to learn if this is the case from future age and growth studies.Another interesting observation from the other Arctic surveys I’ve been involved with is that most Arctic fishes have relatively short larval durations and have evolved this strategy to get it over with during the short open water period. By September nearly all of the flatfishes have settled out of the plankton and in general all fish larvae are scarce when sampled with a bongo net.

Visit Morgan’s NOAA-AFSC Program and the Ichthyoplankton Information System homepages for more indepth look at AFSC’s ichthyo-research.

November 2013

Dr. Kathy Kuletz


We are proud to introduce Dr. Kathy Kuletz as this month’s featured investigator! Her Arctic Eis research currently focuses on seabird distribution and abundance working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Anchorage.

Question #1: Why did you decide to become a marine scientist?

I grew up in the Mojave Desert with lots of space to roam outside, and was always interested in natural history and animals. Maybe because I only knew the desert, anything to do with the ocean and boats seemed exotic, exciting, and fascinating. My first real experience with the ocean was at college in San Luis Obispo, and the first seabird I spotted was a Pigeon Guillemot. Years later, by a fluke I wound up in Prince William Sound studying that species and surveying seabirds for baseline data because of new tanker traffic from the pipeline terminal. I spent four formative years in the Sound, and nearly a decade later the Exxon Valdez oil spill happened, bringing me back to seabirds. My interests in marine ecosystems and conservation just kept growing.

Question #2: What do you enjoy best about your job?

I like being outside nearly anywhere I am, for fun as well as work, but the opportunities we have in Alaska are special. In most of the U.S. or other countries, if you are working in conservation and management you likely spend most of your time dealing with people issues, which is important, but I like that in Alaska we often deal directly with the resource. Alaska has vast, relatively intact wilderness, even where humans harvest animals and resources. In the field (or on a cruise) you’re in contact with the daily and seasonal variety of nature and wildlife. When it is time to look at the data, interpret, and write up results, that comes harder to me, but it has its own rewards. One benefit of the interpretive stage is the interaction and collaboration with others who are looking at the same ecosystem from a different angle. This process helps you see your own work in a new light.

Question #3: What specifically led you north or into Arctic research?

As a ‘desert rat’ I watched films about the Yukon and ‘far north’, with snow and ice, and wanted to see it. Like many, I traveled to Alaska for a summer job. That was in 1974. I asked Dr. George Hunt, now at the University of Washington, for a job and spent three weeks seasick in the Bering Sea. But the wilderness, and job opportunities in the field, kept me here. Now we’re ground zero for climate change impacts, and I’d feel left out if I wasn’t involved in this research.

Question #4: How does your research contribute to the Arctic Eis project and its goal of promoting comprehensive and integrated study of the northern Bering and Chukchi Seas?

From data collected during our visual surveys, we can map out the distribution and relative abundance of all species of marine birds, including seabirds that breed in Alaska, seabirds that breed elsewhere but come up here to feed in summer, or shorebirds and sea ducks that migrate and feed in marine waters after breeding. Different bird species feed on different prey, or in different parts of the water column or benthos, so their presence may tell us what is important at the ‘apex’ of the food chain in a given area. Because we record latitude and longitude for each observation, we can match the bird’s location with environmental attributes and prey data collected by other researchers. Eventually we will link the seabird data with data on zooplankton, euphausiids (krill), small fish, water temperature, salinity, and chlorophyll. We can also draw on publically available databases for attributes such as bathymetry, distance to shelf breaks, or seasonally averaged sea conditions.

Question #5: What is the latest result in your research that most intrigues you?

I find the seasonal changes in seabird distribution fascinating. For seabirds, studies often focus on the breeding period, when birds are tied to their colonies. But seabirds spend most of their lives at sea and we know little about those periods. After breeding they need to replenish the fat they’ve lost from laying eggs and raising chicks (both adults raise the chicks and sometimes the male does more of that work). They have to molt and grow new feathers and build fat reserves to make long migrations or survive winter conditions. We’ve found that the numbers of birds at sea increases in August and peaks in September (fall), the period covered by Arctic Eis. In fall, birds disperse to different areas, with several key species moving farther north rather than heading south. Some of the species that show up in the Arctic Eis study area don’t breed nearby, so they must travel great distances to get there. I want to discover what makes some of these areas of the northern Bering and southern Chukchi seas so valuable that it draws birds hundreds or thousands of miles north for this brief fall feast!

Visit Kathy’s US F&WS Migratory Bird Management Homepage for more seabird research information.

October 2013

Dr. Trent Sutton

Dr. Trent SuttonWe are proud to introduce Dr. Trent Sutton as this month’s featured investigator! His Arctic Eis research currently focuses on the early marine ecology of chum salmon as a faculty member out of UAF-SFOS in Fairbanks.

Question #1: Why did you decide to become a marine scientist?

Well, I cannot say that I would classify myself as a marine scientist. Yet. Growing up in Michigan, going to school in Michigan and western Virginia, and working as a faculty member at Lake Superior State University and Purdue University never provided me with much of an opportunity to work on marine systems. As a result, most of the research that I have been involved in during my career has focused on freshwater fishes. Moving to Alaska afforded me a great opportunity to get involved in marine fisheries research, and I find that I have become increasingly more marine focused since I have been at UAF.

Question #2: What do you enjoy best about your job?

One of the benefits of being employed at a university is working with students, so I have always enjoyed interacting with both undergraduate and graduate students. My position at UAF also allows me to be involved in teaching, research, service, and administration. While that is a lot to balance, it also provides me with a nice variety of different activities to be involved in on a day-to-day-basis. I do not think that I would want to do just research or just teach or just be an administrator, so having that variety is a pretty important aspect to me personally.

Question #3: What specifically led you north or into Arctic research?

I visited Alaska when I was younger and decided that I wanted to move here one day. After all, it is a great place to be a fisheries biologist! Since that point, I kept an eye on faculty positions at UAF in fisheries and one finally opened up. I was hired at UAF in 2006 to lead the revitalization of the undergraduate fisheries program, which has been pretty successful thus far. My research program before coming to Alaska focused primarily on the population ecology of freshwater fishes, primarily sturgeons, lampreys, whitefishes, and salmon/trouts. That research focus has been transferable to Alaska and I still get to work, for the most part, on that same group of fishes. The big difference is that most of the species that I work with in Alaska are migratory and spend time in both freshwater and marine systems. That also makes research here more interesting and challenging.

Question #4: How does your research contribute to the Arctic Eis project and its goal of promoting comprehensive and integrated study of the northern Bering and Chukchi Seas?

I have two studies that are part of the Arctic Eis project. The first project involves M.S. student Stacy Vega and focuses on the reconstruction of ocean-entry timing and growth rates of juvenile chum salmon in Alaskan waters of the Chukchi and northern Bering seas. The second project involves my first M.S. student from Purdue University Kevin Pangle (he is now a faculty member at Central Michigan University) and focuses on early marine ecology and regional discrimination of chum salmon in Alaskan waters using otolith elemental analysis. Both of these projects together will increase our understanding of chum salmon early life-history dynamics in marine waters, which ties in well with other Arctic Eis research focusing on juvenile salmon ecology in the northern Bering and Chukchi seas.

Question #5: What is the latest result in your research that most intrigues you?

Chum salmon exhibit lower genetic divergence than other Pacific salmon species, which makes it challenging to reliably delineate stocks using standard genetic methods. For several years now, I have had an idea that I wanted to explore to see if analysis of otolith elemental composition might allow for stock discrimination of chum salmon. For this study, we decided to examine among and within-region variability of juvenile chum salmon collected from the Chukchi Sea (wild origin), North Bering Sea (wild origin), and Southeastern Alaska (Icy Straight; wild versus hatchery origin). In our samples, we found the accuracy of discrimination from neighboring regions was relatively high (86%) but the ability to discriminate fish among sites within a region was relatively poor (29%). These results suggest regional separation among chum salmon stocks, but a mixed-stock assemblage within regions. While we are just starting to work on the data analyses, these results are encouraging and provide a first step in trying to delineate mixed stocks of juvenile chum salmon in Alaskan waters.

Visit Trent’s SFOS homepage for more background into his current and past research!

August 2013

Dr. Thomas Helser

We are proud to introduce Dr. Thomas Helser as this month’s featured investigator! His Arctic Eis research currently focuses on growth dynamics of Arctic and saffron cod with NOAA Fisheries, Alaska Fisheries Science Center in Seattle.

Question #1: Why did you decide to become a marine scientist?

Growing up among the many lakes and rivers of northern Wisconsin piqued my interest in aquatic life, especially fishes, and their habitats. My activities always seemed to center on being near water; whether fishing, kayaking, or scuba diving. Ultimately my educational pursuits aligned well with those activities; receiving an M.S. and Ph.D. in the marine sciences and a career for the last 16 years with NOAA Fisheries. Why not pursue a career where aquatic life is the focal point of your personal and professional interests?

Question #2: What do you enjoy best about your job?


I’ve always been a fan of puzzles, which is a lot like my work. What is satisfying about it is sorting through all the biological and oceanographic data looking for patterns in organization and structure, and drawing together a cohesive picture of the underlying biological system.

Question #3: What specifically led you north or into Arctic research?

Researching biological systems in regions where little is known is exciting. I researched marine animals in the Gulf of Mexico, North Atlantic, North Pacific and the sub polar Bering Sea. A chance to be part of Arctic Eis continues to be an exciting opportunity in pursuit of new science.

Question #4: How does your research contribute to the Arctic Eis project and its goal of promoting comprehensive and integrated study of the northern Bering and Chukchi Seas?

Our research will shed light on the longevity, age demographics and growth potential of two very important species in the Arctic. In addition, the age data collected during the 2012 Eis cruises will be used to contrast the contemporary age compositions and growth rates of Arctic and saffron cod to those decades earlier from historic survey efforts.

Question #5: What is the latest result in your research that most intrigues you?

We are finding a tremendous level of size at age variation among Arctic and saffron cod which might implicate extrinsic factors such as temperature and sea ice as growth modifiers.

Visit this Quest: Exploring the Science of Sustainability article for more information on otolith science and Tom’s own Age and Growth Lab website for current lab updates!

July 2013

Dr. Katrin Iken

We are proud to introduce Dr. Katrin Iken as this month’s featured investigator! Katrin’s Arctic Eis research focuses on snow crab population and trophic dynamics and she is a Professor of Marine Biology at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Question #1: Why did you decide to become a marine scientist?

During my undergraduate studies in Biology in Germany, I wanted to be a large animal vet working with sheep and cows etc. Everybody kept telling me that this was not a job for a “girl”. So, when the opportunity arose to do a PhD in Marine Biology in the Antarctic, which involved camping out on a beach for 6 months sleeping next to grunting (and smelly) elephant seals and diving with leopard seals, I decided to make my lifelong passion for the oceans and polar climates my profession – take that, nay-sayers to girls in tough jobs!
My family, all involved in business management, still wonders to this day if I was mixed up in the hospital somewhere. Needless to say that I never regretted my decision and am sure there are some great vets out there to care for all those sheep and cows.

Question #2: What do you enjoy best about your job?

The most fun part about my job is doing field work, being in the midst of things that I want to study. I love invertebrates (and algae, although this current project is sadly lacking in those) and tend to get quite literally immersed in them. I never learned how to keep clean when I am outside, so this is the ideal job for me. I am fascinated by the diversity of invertebrate communities and the interactions among them and with their environment. One aspect I have started to appreciate more and more over time is to work with graduate students and teach them about this fascinating topic and take them out for field research. And in the end it is quite fascinating to look at data and see how a boatload of slimy slippery critters turns into patterns and trends.

Question #3: What specifically led you north or into Arctic research?

After having worked in the Antarctic for 12 years, I thought it would remain the focus of my research forever. But you go where the job takes you and when I came to UAF in 2002, I made the switch to working in the Arctic. Now, while the Antarctic will always have a fond spot in my heart, I am fascinated by the Arctic marine ecosystem. It is such a complex ecosystem and there is so much to be discovered and learned. I feel very privileged that I am able to experience one of the most beautiful places on Earth (at least I think so) for my work.

Question #4: How does your research contribute to the Arctic Eis project and its goal of promoting comprehensive and integrated study of the northern Bering and Chukchi Seas?

Our group is studying snow crab in the Arctic, specifically the Chukchi Sea in the Arctic Eis project. Snow crab are an important fisheries resource in the Bering Sea, but stocks are moving northwards and it is important for us to understand both ecologically as well as for potential future economic use how snow crab populations are faring in the Arctic. How numerous are they and what size do these crabs reach? Do they reproduce in the Chukchi Sea or are they immigrating as larvae or adults from the Bering Sea? What is their role in the Arctic food web and energy flow? These are some of the questions that our group is asking within the Arctic Eis project.

Question #5: What is the latest result in your research that most intrigues you?


All snow crab we found in the Chukchi Sea were relatively small compared to their counterparts in the southeastern Bering Sea. But although they are small, there are many mature, reproductive females, meaning that size delineations used in the Bering Sea may not apply to the Arctic Chukchi Sea populations. Snow crabs in the Chukchi Sea are versatile feeders, preying on bristle worms, bivalves, and crustaceans, among the latter they even cannibalize on juvenile snow crabs! Next we hope to find out if diet is the same everywhere in the Chukchi Sea and if it differs from snow crab in the Bering Sea

Visit Katrin’s UAF-SFOS Faculty Page for more information on her exciting work!

June 2013

Dr. Robert Lauth

We are proud to introduce Robert Lauth as this month’s featured investigator! Bob’s Arctic Eis research currently focuses on the distribution of fish, crab and lower trophic communities in the Chukchi Sea and he works at the Alaska Fisheries Science Center in Seattle.

As our final Arctic Eis Lead Investigator, he was the main driving force behind the successful bottom trawl survey in 2012!

Question #1: Why did you decide to become a marine scientist?

It was hard to figure out how to make a living as a marine biologist being fresh out of college and from the Midwest. I was among a generation transfixed and inspired by Jacques Cousteau, so I moved from Maywood, IL to Seattle in 1980 to pursue a marine science career working at Harry Truitt’s Lighthouse Diving Center selling dive gear, instructing baby bubblers, and doing a lot of diving……Huh? By good fortune and not by design, the dive store was a nexus for meeting divers from federal and state fisheries agencies and from the UW graduate fisheries program. I never looked back.

Question #2: What do you enjoy best about your job?

I enjoy the expeditions and putting the data collected from an expedition to good use. Expeditions create camaraderie among diverse groups of interesting people sharing in a common purpose. Discovery from processing, analyzing, and sharing the data collected from an expedition is very rewarding.

Question #3: What specifically led you north or into Arctic research?



I have participated in bottom trawl surveys off every part of the coast from Point Conception, CA to Stalemate Bank in the Aleutian Islands, and on the Bering Sea shelf and slope from the Alaska Peninsula to the U.S-Russian Convention Line and Bering Strait. I had to see with my own eyes how marine life north of the Bering Strait compared with everywhere else in the eastern Pacific Ocean.

Question #4: How does your research contribute to the Arctic Eis project and its goal of promoting comprehensive and integrated study of the northern Bering and Chukchi Seas?

I hope that the Arctic Eis project is the beginning of a long time-series for monitoring the health of the Arctic ecosystem and understanding the effects of climate change. The data collected from the 2012 Arctic Eis bottom trawl survey in the Chukchi Sea is directly comparable to other survey data that are routinely collected on the eastern Bering Sea shelf, and in the northern Bering Sea and Beaufort Sea. The mosaic of survey information covers a wide geographical area and it is valuable for understanding ecosystem change on a broad scale.

Question #5: What is the latest result in your research that most intrigues you?


A gear study was conducted during the Arctic Eis bottom trawl survey to compare two primary research bottom trawl gears currently being used by U.S. researchers for long-term monitoring studies of the epibenthic macrofauna in Alaskan arctic seas: 1) the fine mesh 3-m plumb-staff beam trawl, and 2) the large mesh AFSC 83-112 Eastern bottom trawl. The results will intrigue you so stayed tuned!



Visit Bob’s NOAA Resource Assessment & Conservation Engineering Division Program pages for the RACE Groundfish Assessment and RACE Shellfish Assessment for more information on his great work!

May 2013

Dr. Ed Farley

We are proud to introduce Dr. Ed Farley as this month’s featured investigator! His research currently focuses on relating fish distributions to oceanographic features with the Alaska Fisheries Science Center in Juneau, Alaska.

As an Arctic Eis Lead Investigator, he is the main driving force behind the successful surface trawl surveys in 2012 and 2013!

Question #1: Why did you decide to become a marine scientist?


I paid for college commercial fishing for sockeye salmon in Bristol Bay, Alaska. I received a B.S. degree in mathematics, got a job in the computer field (systems administration), then another, but my experience in Bristol Bay had me longing to go back to grad school to learn more about salmon ecology. Fish research, math, and computers seem to go together, so I ditched systems administration, completed a PhD at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, School of Fish and Aquatic Sciences (in Juneau) and found a home in fisheries research here in Alaska.

Question #2: What do you enjoy best about your job?

The money! (Ha!) The most significant event during my career was performing a leadership role in our Bering Aleutian Salmon International Survey (BASIS) research in the Bering Sea. There was plenty of field work and our collaborative research efforts with our Russian, Canadian, and Japanese colleagues was fun and productive! The data we gathered from BASIS allowed me to produce several publications on juvenile Bristol Bay sockeye salmon marine ecology that help explain factors affecting early marine survival. I believe the information will help sockeye salmon management in that region, thus I feel lucky that I was able to use the skills I gained through grad school and data from field surveys to give something back to a resource that helped me and my family from 1982 to 1997.

Question #3: What specifically led you north or into Arctic research?

Ed's Juneau Family - "The gift that just keeps on giving the whole year!"

I moved from Seattle, WA to Juneau, AK during 1993 to go to grad school. My wife and I had figured we would stay until I finished school, then move back down south. That was before she found her dream job, then I found mine. Not too long after that, both sets of parents moved up from the Pac Northwest to Juneau… yes, the whole famn damily is here now! Including our one child, Kyle.

Question #4: How does your research contribute to the Arctic Eis project and its goal of promoting comprehensive and integrated study of the northern Bering and Chukchi Seas?

Climate models predict warming in this region, thus I am particularly interested in understanding the impact of warming on growth and energetic status of salmon during critical periods of marine life.

Question #5: What is the latest result in your research that most intrigues you?

The early life stages of salmon and marine fish are the period that year class strength is set. In fact, our data sets that include catch per unit effort of juvenile salmon and ecosystem metrics offer the best insight into future adult returns. Integrated modeling efforts that link climate to ecosystem productivity to fish growth and energetic status during their early life stages intrigue me the most, because the modeling effort will help us determine the ecosystem metric that is important in determining survival and year class strength for a particular year. As we have learned in the past, the important ecosystem metrics that help explain variability in fish recruitment are not the same every year.

Visit Ed’s NOAA Ecosystem Monitoring and Assessment Program page for more information on his great work!

April 2013

Dr. Mike Sigler

We are proud to introduce Dr. Mike Sigler as this month’s featured investigator! He is currently the Habitat and Ecological Process Research (HEPR) Program Leader with NOAA Alaska Fisheries Science Center from Juneau.

As an Arctic Eis Lead Investigator, his research currently focuses on summer zoogeography of the eastern Chukchi and Bering Seas.

Question #1: Why did you decide to become a marine scientist?

When I went to college, my plan was to become an animal doctor. But then I went to Shoals Marine Laboratory between my junior and senior years and my life turned in another direction. I loved the power of the ocean and was curious about the interrelationships of the animals and plants (or should I say fish and plankton). “Shoals” remains a great place for learning hands on marine science and changed my life’s path.

Question #2: What do you enjoy best about your job?

I regularly went to sea until 2005. I enjoyed the fieldwork and working on the ocean and spent over 800 days there. My favorite was a study of Stellar sea lions in southeast Alaska with year round fieldwork where I got to watch how much things changed between seasons. Herring concentrated during winter, spread out to spawn and then scattered to feed during summer. Sea lions shifted among seasonal concentrations of herring, eulachon and salmon. More recently, the best part of my job is working with scientists from other disciplines of marine science. It’s fun to learn about areas new to me and challenging and a bit scary (keep foot out of mouth) to analyze data and write papers.

Question #3: What specifically led you north or into Arctic research?

I grew up in upstate New York and earned my BS and MS at Cornell, an hour away from my childhood home. About a year before finishing my MS, I decided that I wanted to go to a far away, wild place and the first place that came to mind was Alaska. My parents weren’t too happy about that, as my brother had just joined the Navy and had a similar idea. College friends who’d been to Alaska encouraged me “It is a great place”. I traveled to Alaska 30 years ago for a job in Sitka and haven’t looked back since (well only once).

Question #4: How does your research contribute to the Arctic Eis project and its goal of promoting comprehensive and integrated study of the northern Bering and Chukchi Seas?

Two years ago, a few of us wrote a paper on the summer zoogeography of the Bering, Chukchi and Beaufort Seas. While the information for the Bering and Beaufort seas was recent, the information for the Chukchi Sea was 20 years old. Arctic Eis provides contemporary information for the Chukchi Sea so that we can redo the zoogeography analysis with information of the same, current vintage.

Question #5: What is the latest result in your research that most intrigues you?

By comparing the zoogeography of the Bering and Chukchi Seas, we can understand whether the large commercial fisheries in the southeastern Bering Sea, a subarctic system, will move north into the northern Bering and Chukchi Seas, an arctic system. While I would place a fair-sized bet against this happening anytime soon, comparing their physical oceanography and zoogeography will help me know how big a bet to place.

Visit Mike’s SFOS webpage and NOAA homepage for more information.

March 2013

Dr. Franz Mueter

Dr. Mueter is the overall project lead for the Arctic Eis project and is this month’s featured investigator. He is an Assistant Professor of Fisheries at the University of Alaska Fairbanks based at Lena Point in Juneau.

Question #1: Why did you decide to become a marine scientist?

My parents are still asking me to this day: Why fish and why the ocean? After all, I grew up on a small farm in northern Germany where chickens, pigs and dairy cows ruled, but few fish were to be found anywhere! I did, however, develop an early fascination with the natural world while wandering around in the woods and wetlands of my small hometown and reading about the world of wild animals in the African Savannah, the Amazonian rainforest, and the world’s oceans. The ocean, in particular, seemed like something impossibly far away and mysterious. I was simply drawn to this, for me, very foreign world, out of curiosity and because it seemed like a good excuse to travel and explore new places. Add the allure of Alaska, with its vast oceans and endless mountains – my other passion – and I was hooked for life!

Question #2: What do you enjoy best about your job?

In the past, it was definitely the field work and some of the fascinating places I got to go, like the Aleutians or – on one of my first cruises in the early 90s – the Chukchi Sea! Nowadays, I’d have to say I mostly enjoy helping students with their projects and seeing them grow and develop their careers and, secondly, applying my research to real-world management problems facing Alaska’s and the world’s fisheries. I mostly work with commercial fish species and I feel that my work can actually make a difference in how we manage these species and the marine ecosystems of Alaska.

Question #3: What specifically led you north or into Arctic research?

I was hooked on Alaska after my first visit in the late 1980s and in some ways this research project feels like a homecoming because it brings me back to one of the first places I got to do fieldwork! If Alaska is the ‘Last Frontier’, Alaska’s Arctic Seas feel like the ‘Final Frontier’.

Question #4: How does your research contribute to the Arctic Eis project and its goal of promoting comprehensive and integrated study of the northern Bering and Chukchi Seas?

Arctic Eis has grown beyond the simple baseline study we originally envisioned and, after having participated in two large Integrated Ecosystem Research Programs in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska, I see my main contribution as trying to ensure the best integration possible – by making it easier to share data, have regular meetings, and promoting synthetic activities. I think that will help us get to an understanding and appreciation of Alaska’s Arctic marine ecosystems that would not be possible through focused studies within any one discipline alone!

Question #5: What is the latest result in your research that most intrigues you?

We’re just beginning to work up the data from the first field season, but being a fish guy I’m fascinated by the unique role that Arctic cod (or Polar cod) seem to play in this ecosystem. I’ve long worked with walleye pollock, which play a central role in the Bering Sea food web, and I think that Arctic cod play a similar role in the Arctic. We found what looks like high densities of young Arctic cod in the northern Chukchi Sea, but Arctic cod and other fishes overall make up a relatively small portion of the biomass on the Chukchi Sea shelf. I suspect that there are larger concentrations of older Arctic cod over the slope and basin similar to what other studies have found in the Beaufort Sea, but at this point we simply don’t know! I’m also intrigued by Arctic cod occurring as far south as the Southeast Bering Sea, although they come and go with changing water temperatures in this region. Are they part of an Arctic population that migrates South through Bering Strait to feed? Do they return north to spawn? Is there a separate population in the northern Bering Sea? At this point, definitely a lot more questions than answers!

Visit Franz’s SFOS webpage and Personal homepage for more information.

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