Featured Scientists 2015

April 2016 – Student Spotlight – Catherine Pham
December 2015 – Dr. Janet Duffy-Anderson
November 2015 – Dr. Brenda Norcross
August 2015 – Student Spotlight – Noel Sme
June 2015 – Dr. Alexei Pinchuk
April 2015 – Kristin Cieciel
March 2015 – BOEM Spotlight – Catherine Coon
February 2015 – Student Spotlight – Stacy Vega
January 2015 – Jim Murphy

Past Featured Scientists 2014
Past Featured Scientists 2013

April 2016

Student Spotlight – A. Catherine Pham

We are proud to introduce Catherine Pham as this month’s featured investigator! Her Arctic Eis research currently focuses on seabird distribution and abundance, and she studies at Hawai’i Pacific University in Waimanalo, HI.

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

As a fisheries observer at sea, Catherine got her first glimpse of marine ecology. Or better put, blob of marine ecology in this case. Here she holds a blob sculpin!

As a kid, I was fascinated with the great outdoors. I was always bringing back all sorts of bugs, rocks, and plants, to the great dismay of my parents who didn’t know what to do with my collections, particularly the bugs that never failed to escape. Through my high school and undergraduate years, I was interested in terrestrial ecology, and got a variety of experience working with lizards, stream invertebrates, phosphorus cycling in a tropical seasonal forest, and songbirds. And then I decided to go to Alaska. I got a job out of college as a fisheries observer working onboard commercial fishing boats on the Bering Sea, and it wasn’t long before I was hooked on everything saltwater. Saltwater + growing passion for birds = seabirds!

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

Catherine's enthusiasm and fun nature lend well toward K-12 student outreach! It takes a special scientist to engauge children and Catherine definitely puts in the extra time. Though, the time of the "Bering Dodo" may be past!

I went into science because I loved being outdoors, so naturally my favorite part is and always will be field work. When I got my first field job, I couldn’t believe I was getting paid to play outside! Unfortunately I am now spending more time in front of a computer than in the field, but I am finding great satisfaction in seeing the results from my own field work. Additionally, I am really enjoying education and outreach, particularly with children and college students. Last summer, I TA-ed (Teaching Assistantship) for Sea Education Association. Working with students who wanted to learn and were just beginning to develop their interests was a fantastic experience. I’m currently working with the Seabird Youth Network, writing blogs and developing a game to teach children about seabird at-sea ecology. I’m excited to try out that game in a classroom soon!

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

Children's books can influence our lives far beyond bedtime stories!



I’ve always been fascinated with polar regions, in large part because of their remoteness and the sense of mystery surrounding them. I recall reading all sorts of fiction books set in polar regions as a child, and moved on to nonfiction as I got older. After receiving my bachelor’s degree, I decided to scratch that polar itch, and went to Alaska. The real AK was even better than the AK of my dreams!

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?

Catherine scoping out the sea ice for seabird species on the 2012 Arctic Eis Surface Trawl Survey.

Compared to organisms like fish or zooplankton, seabirds are easy to survey. Seabirds could therefore be important indicators for Arctic marine ecosystems, but we know very little about their at-sea ecology. Determining the most important prey and habitat variables that influence their seabird spatial patterns will help us understand the links between different ecosystem components. That information can then be used to guide management of the northern Bering and Chukchi seas.

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

My results show a lot of overlap between seabird communities in the northern Bering and Chukchi seas, which implies (a) there are weakly distinct communities, (b) there are no communities, just individual species responding uniquely to their environment, or (c) August through September is a transitional time for most seabirds in the region, which blurs boundaries between communities. There are other possible explanations, and I am working on elucidating the best possible one. Ecology is messy, which is part of what makes it so intriguing to me!

NMDS of seabird community showing two axes on each plot. Region 1=northern Bering Sea, region 2=southern Chukchi Sea, region 3=northern Chukchi Sea. Dark blue dots represent seabird species. Circles represent samples colored according to their geographic region. Lines connect “outermost” samples within each region to help visualize overlap in seabird communities between regions.

Visit Catherine’s HPU webpage and the Arctic Eis Seabird webpage for more distribution and abundance summaries.

December 2015

Janet Duffy-Anderson

We are proud to introduce Dr. Janet Duffy-Anderson as this month’s featured investigator! Her Arctic Eis research currently focuses on Larval Fish Ecology from AFSC in Seattle.

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

Now this is just too cute!.. To a marine biologist with her beginnings in Delaware. Support your State Sea Grant Programs!

I always have loved science; I grew up with it in the house. My father was a biochemist and he would share his results and ideas with us at the dinner table. As kids, we were encouraged to ask questions, think critically, and talk science. Following Dad’s lead I took lots of science classes in school, I loved biology, ecology, and physics (I never warmed to biochemistry though!), and I graduated college with a degree in biology. After a year of puttering around and soul searching, I enrolled in graduate school at the University of Delaware’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment. There I met the first of a series of incredible mentors who exposed me to the tough problems of fisheries dynamics, recruitment variability, and ocean ecology, and climate change. I was hooked and it’s been fish science for me ever since!

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


Sending down the CTD oceanographic instrument and water bottle collection rosette. We have close collaborations with our physical oceanographers to associate our larval fish with seawater properties like temperature, salinity, and nutrients. This particular cast is taking place during a Coccolithophore algal bloom, hense the bright turqoise water color.

It’s incredibly stimulating to work on challenging problems in ocean and fisheries science. I like learning what mechanisms underlie observed patterns and figuring out how those mechanisms shift with changing conditions. It’s never the same answer twice! Most rewarding though is working on these problems in collaboration with other scientists. Marine science is a highly multidisciplinary field and provides numerous opportunities to connect with researchers working in other areas of science. Conversations with colleagues who have been thinking about similar problems from different angles provide a fantastic opportunity to share ideas, figure out new approaches, and potentially hit on innovative solutions.

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

One of the biggest fascinations in marine science has been the effects of changing climate on ecosystems and fisheries. I’ve worked on this problem across a variety of large ecosystems including in the US northeast Atlantic, the middle Atlantic, the Gulf of Mexico, the US west coast, the Gulf of Alaska, and the Bering Sea. Working in the arctic was a natural extension of my interest in climate influences on large marine systems. Specifically, the arctic is a place where effects of climate changes happen rapidly so scientists are able to make the necessary observations and measurements to describe and understand what is going on.

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?

Here Janet recovers the Ichthyoplankton collecting Bongo nets after deployment off the R/V Oscar Dyson.

We are collecting the eggs, larvae and juvenile stages of arctic fishes from the Chukchi Sea to help us resolve a number of questions. We seek to better characterize fish assemblages in the arctic so we can understand what happens to these groups when climates shift. We are also studying where eggs and larvae occur which will help us localize the spawning areas of adults and determine if ocean warming influences the timing of spawning and the distribution of those fish over spawning grounds. Finally we want to better describe how young fish get from areas where they were spawned to important juvenile rearing areas – this will help us to determine whether climate-mediated shifts in ocean circulation affects how larvae get from one place to another. These questions are important because the number of young fish that survive the young larval and juvenile stages largely determines the number that survive to adulthood, which provide an important food source for arctic seabirds and mammals. The latest updates to our data can be found on our Eis Ichthyoplankton webpage.

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

Our data indicate spatially distinct spawning areas for two important flatfish species in the Chukchi Sea: Bering flounder (Hippoglossus robustus) and yellowfin sole (Limanda aspera). Specifically, Bering flounder eggs are collected much farther north than are yellowfin eggs, indicating Bering flounder spawn at very high latitudes and quite far from yellowfin sole which occur in the southern Chukchi Sea. In fact, the yellowfin eggs we collected may not have even originated in the Chukchi Sea at all; they could have been spawned in the Northern Bering Sea, a known spawning ground for the species, but transported to the Chukchi via ocean currents through Bering Strait. More work to resolve the origin of these eggs and larvae is ongoing.

Visit Janet’s NOAA-RACE Recruitment Processes webpages and the NOAA-FOCI webpages for more background information.

November 2015

Dr. Brenda Norcross

We are proud to introduce Dr. Brenda Norcross, Professor of Fisheries Oceanography, as this month’s featured investigator! Her Arctic Eis research currently focuses on demersal fishes working from UAF in Fairbanks.

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

It is all about terrific teachers who have influenced me. I had a fabulous undergraduate Invertebrate Zoology professor. Even though we were in Illinois she had a marine aquarium in the back of the room which is where I sat. I stared at the aquarium and colorful nudibranchs for a semester and decided I wanted to study marine life more. When I was in the Biology MS program in St. Louis, I had the opportunity to study Ichthyology, and again thought the marine fish were the most interesting. Hence I went on the College of William and Mary, Virginia Institute of Marine Science for my PhD in Marine Science. During orientation I heard a professor talk about the importance of examining the physical environment in which fish live. The rest is history: I was immediately hooked on Fisheries Oceanography, though it was not an especially accepted subject in 1978. I had a Fisheries professor (not on my committee) who told me I should not be allowed to do that for my PhD because such a study required a Fisheries Biologist, a Physical Oceanographer, and a Statistician (all three were on my committee and were supportive.) My response was “Luckily I’m good!” The lesson from that is – do what you love, and never, ever tell me I can’t so something.

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

Former MS student Ben Gray


There are great parts to my job. My research is very exciting. I am very lucky to be able to work in the Arctic study fishes about which little is known. I really enjoy my students, who are excellent. I learn so much by working with students. I love that they can ask questions that make me think.

To the left, Ben Gray – now an Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game Biologist – was mentored by Brenda over the length of the Arctic Eis Program. His successful completion and two pending manuscripts are a testament to the quality of student-adviser relationships here at SFOS!

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

Anyone from Alaska knows the pleasures, and the discomforts, our home affords. Generally, they can be both at the same time!

I was living in Virginia 27 years ago and looking for a new job. I had a non-tenure track position there. A friend handed me a piece of paper that was an ad for a Fisheries Oceanographer at UAF; she said “Is this what you do?” The job was perfect. It was everything I wanted. Visiting Alaska was never even on my wish list, but when I was offered the interview I thought it was an excellent opportunity to see part of the state. Faculty interviews were longer then. I came for a whole week, including two days in Seward (but none in Juneau). My interview was the first week of June. I kept getting up in the middle of the night to see how dark it would get. I fell in love with SFOS and Fairbanks. When I took the job I decided when I got bored with the job or the place, I would leave. Neither has happened yet. I still love snow as much as I did when I was a child. I love watching the light change at 7 minutes a day in Fairbanks, but I must admit that it is more fun when light is increasing than when light is decreasing.

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?

Here, Brenda looks through some sea lettuce for interesting small fish and inverts!

My area of expertise as a Fisheries Oceanographer is bottom fish, though I spent a lot of years working on herring in Prince William Sound following the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Thus my contribution to Arctic Eis are two components both relating to bottom fish. Fish diets were the focus of research by an excellent student, Ben Gray, who completed his MS in Fisheries. I also worked with Bob Lauth (NOAA Fisheries) comparing two sizes of bottom trawls: the very large 83-112 eastern bottom trawl (EBT) that NOAA uses and the 3-m plumb staff beam trawl (PSBT) that I have used in Alaska since 1991 and in the Arctic since 2004. I really enjoy working on large integrated projects because of the opportunity to work with so many talented colleagues. I hope to be able to examine distribution of bottom fishes and epifauna together and compare the patterns in 2012 with those of earlier years.

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

Example Catch Comparison between the EBT and PSBT at Station CH-C01 (southcentral Chukchi, east of Kotzebue). Note the size and abundance differences in catch, this was a pretty standard contrast across gear types.

Two nets, big and small, must be used to adequately sample all species and sizes of bottom fishes in the Chukchi Sea and elsewhere in the Arctic.

Summary Report Results:
1) The EBT caught 12 fish species and 80 invertebrate taxa that were not observed in the PSBT catches while the PSBT caught 6 fish species and 54 invertebrate taxa that were unique.
Combining these results, 33% of the fish species and 47% of the invertebrate taxa were gear-specific.
2) Gear-specific sampling was also observed in the size composition of fishes and snow crabs from paired tows, with the EBT catching larger fish overall while rarely sampling the earlier life stages that were very common in the PSBT catches.
3) Obvious contrasting characteristics of the PSBT and EBT were mesh size, area-swept, tow speed, and vertical opening.

Conclusion: If used as complementary sampling tools, the PSBT and EBT provide a more inclusive catalogue of the composition and size range of epibenthic macrofauna present at each sampling station or within a survey area.

Visit Brenda’s SFOS webpage and her Arctic Eis Bottom Trawl Gear Comparison page for more background information.

August 2015

Noel Sme – M.S. Fisheries

We are proud to introduce Noel Sme as this month’s featured investigator! Her Arctic Eis research currently focuses on saffron cod genetics working with Dr. Tony Gharrett at UAF in Juneau, Alaska.

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

I grew up on the south shore of Long Island where a beach was never very far away. As a result, I became fascinated with the ocean, especially the weird things living in it. I knew from an early age that I wanted to be the person that discovers new and interesting things about sea creatures in a way that would matter. As an undergraduate studying marine biology, I started working in a marine virus lab and learned that not only was genetics interesting, but I was pretty good at it! During my time there I did genetic research in other labs—working on viruses, algae and tropical fish eggs and larvae. What drove me to continue my path in genetics was how you could use it as a tool to learn so much about so many different organisms with minor adjustments in your procedure.

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

Genetic research involves a lot of time inside the lab, so I’m lucky that I’m well suited for lab work (and that I actually enjoy it). Since I spend most of my time in the lab, it makes me appreciate the rare occasions where I get to go out and do some field work. I love seeing where the DNA I work with actually comes from and getting out and remembering why I got interested in science in the first place.

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

Incredible like a fox... Let's upgrade that to incredible like a polar bear!

I haven’t done much traveling outside the Northeast, so when I was in college I decided that now was the time to go see a different place. When I decided to go to graduate school, I cast a wide net and looked into schools all over the country where I could continue genetic research. I came across a position with Dr. Tony Gharrett at UAF and within two months of graduating I was in Juneau, Alaska. It’s been quite a change, but I’ve seen some incredible things that have made it worth it.

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?

Noel presenting her work at the Arctic Eis PI meeting last summer.


My research on saffron cod will provide a genetic baseline and microsatellite sequences that can be used as a foundation for future genetic research in the northern Bering and Chukchi Seas as well as throughout the species range. This research will help us gain a better understanding of saffron cod population structure, which can inform management and conservation.

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

Figure 1. Principal component analysis of Chukchi saffron cod, Kotzebue saffron cod, Arctic cod, and Kotzebue Arctic cod (formerly presumed to be saffron cod).

I think what most intrigues me (and simultaneously drives me insane) is how my preliminary results raise more questions than provide answers. A few of my original questions have been answered: saffron cod and navaga do appear to be genetically distinct separate species and genetic divergence appears to be present within saffron cod. However, I have found that the microsatellite markers used in this research may be able to detect misidentified species. For instance, individuals previously identified as saffron cod have shown to be arctic cod.

Visit Noel’s SFOS webpage and her Arctic Eis Saffron cod Genetics page for more background information.

June 2015

Dr. Alexei Pinchuk

We are proud to introduce Dr. Alexei Pinchuk as this month’s featured investigator! His Arctic Eis research currently focuses on zooplankton and he works with University of Alaska from Juneau.

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

Even still, Alexei loves putting critters in jars! Here he is hatching krill eggs in a shipboard refrigerator. (Photo by Wendee Nicole)


Apparently I wanted to be a “hydrobiologist” from my early childhood; since, as I have been told, I always enjoyed hanging around ponds in my city parks, staring at all those little things in the water. Eventually I figured out it was a lot more convenient to watch them in my own home and then drove my parents crazy filling up rooms with aquaria found in city dumpsters, filling them up with tropical fish I bought in the nearest pet store with my school lunch money. Later, while in college, I thought of continuing to study limnology, but fortunately had the opportunity to meet with marine biologists from the Russian Zoological Institute. I joined them as a student volunteer on a research cruise in the East-Siberian Sea and my career path was altered towards high-latitude oceanography which I have been exploring ever since.

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

I really enjoy all parts of scientific enquiry; starting with thinking of a new hypothesis and ways to test it, converting all these thoughts in an intelligible and readable form as a proposal, and following through all the necessary steps until a nice paper or presentation is achieved. I like equally going out to sea as conducting laboratory assays with live animals at shore stations, so my projects often combine “go-and-get” and “keep-and-observe” strategies.

To the left, in the ship science control room, Alexei reads the live data relay from a MOCNESS sampler’s sensors and ‘tells’ the instrument when to open and close its zooplankton nets. Every 20 meters or so, he closes one net and opens the next to get depth-stratified samples.

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

Growing up at the northern Baltic Sea shores, I always liked cooler climates and the Arctic seemed like a natural progression for my career focus. Modeling climate-related perturbations and their consequences to the marine biota also added some intrigue and sparked my curiosity. However, my research interests are not limited to the Arctic alone but include plenty of subarctic studies in the North Pacific and adjacent seas.

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?

Photo by Carin Ashjian, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

I have helped by analyzing and interpreting the zooplankton data, mainly focusing on effects of environmental drivers on composition and distribution of various zooplankton taxa. I am also interested in trophic interactions between zooplankton and apex predators and how climate change may affect these links.

Photo: Four major species of copepods in the Arctic. L to R: Metridia longa (~2.5 millimeters), Calanus glacialis (~4mm), Calanus hyperboreus (~7mm). The smallest, Oithona similis (0.5mm) is below the center. The largest species, C. hyperboreus, is a critical link in the Arctic food web, eating phytoplankton and microzooplankton when the returning spring light triggers their growth. They are eaten in turn by many larger animals. (edited caption from Carin Ashjian, WHOI)

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

The contrasting oceanographic conditions between two Arctic Eis years combined with broad sampling range provided a unique opportunity to examine effects of water mass circulation on the pelagic ecosystem of the Northern Bering and Chukchi shelfs under “warm” and “cold” scenarios (2013 and 2012, respectively). Shifts in distributions of resident and allochthonous taxa over the study area and increasing presence of lipid rich Arctic copepods in the northeastern Chukchi Shelf in 2013 is likely to have implications for local fish feeding and growth.


Figure Caption. The graph (click figure to enlarge) illustrates shifts in distribution of two biogeographic groups of zooplankton of different origin. Warm-water Pacific oceanic species are advected onto the Chukchi Shelf from deep water Bering Sea and spread across during 2012, while cold-water species originated from the Arctic basin occurred only in small numbers at a few locations. In contrast, during 2013 Arctic species group occupied substantial portion of the northeastern Chukchi shelf, while Pacific species group was confound to the southern and central shelf. The pattern seems consistent with two contrasting circulation patterns identified from long-term physical data sets (Luchin & Panteleev, 2014).

Visit Alexei’s SFOS webpage and his Arctic Eis Zooplankton page for more background information.

April 2015

Kris Cieciel

We are proud to introduce Kristin Cieciel as this month’s featured investigator! Her Arctic Eis research currently focuses on Jellyfish trophic interactions while working within the EMA Program at the NOAA-TSMRI facility in Juneau.

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

I still can't ride dolphins and our lack of Zissou-esque 'Albino Scouts' swimming with our research vessels is sometimes aggravating.

I grew up in the Midwest and most of my experience with aquatic life was fishing in lakes and ponds, with the occasional family trip to the East Coast. While I was still young, I saw a rerun of the tv show Flipper and decided I loved the beach and I liked fish. This led me to think, “I should ride dolphins and swim in the ocean all day long while looking for fish”. Later in my career I realized that there weren’t many opportunities for dolphin-riding fish finders, and I eventually landed in fisheries.

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

Early life history stages of jellyfish under the dock in Auke Bay (Juneau).

The best part of my job is when I am out on a survey vessel or diving for specimens and I see something I haven’t seen before. I am reminded of how lucky and cool it is to be out in these remote places studying the ocean. I also really enjoy the adventure of field work, and sometimes trying to accomplish research tasks in less than favorable conditions can be quite rewarding. Another fun aspect of my job are the outreach activities involving kids because their excitement for science is contagious.

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

Kris measuring some sea nettles.

I moved to Juneau in 1998, planning on only staying for a year of school. I had never been to Alaska before and thought it would be fun for a year. I really wanted to go finish my degree in Hilo, Hawaii but did not have enough money for paradise. It’s now 17 years later and I’m still living in Juneau, married with two kids, and loving it.

I have been working in the Bering Sea since 2003 with Auke Bay Labs. The opportunity arose to work on projects farther north, working with biological oceanography and to compare macro-jellyfish abundance and composition to the Bering and Gulf of Alaska, so I took it.

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?

A jellyfish-heavy tow on our BASIS cruise in 2014.

The macro jellyfish work for Arctic Eis provides more insight into trophic interactions. I also contribute to the biological oceanography component of this study.

... And the escapees!

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

The last decade of jelly catch biomass in the Bering Sea.


I have been collecting jellyfish biomass and abundance data from our surface trawl survey for the southeast Bering since 2004. Last year, 2014, was the highest recorded biomass year of the ten years we have been collecting data. Chrysaora melanaster (northern sea nettle) dominated over the other six species of large scyphozoans we encountered.

Visit Kris’ EMA Program webpage for more background information.

March 2015

BOEM Representative and Marine Biologist
Cathy Coon

Cathy shrimping in Prince William Sound.

We are proud to introduce Cathy Coon as this month’s featured collaborator! Cathy Coon is a Marine Biologist at the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), where she has worked in the Environmental Sciences Management Section since 2008. Cathy’s primary functions at BOEM is program management for specific scientific studies that focus on the marine and coastal environment. In addition to the Arctic Eis project, she facilitates Arctic science with other Federal Partners (USGS -Walrus Habitat Use, Spectacled Eiders; NOAA – Alaska Coastal Ecosystem Survey, USFWS – Seabird Monitoring in the Offshore Environment; State of Alaska – Pinniped Movement in the offshore, and collaboration on the ShoreZone program with other partners, including the Arctic Landscape Conservation Cooperative).

She has been assigned as staff on National Ocean Policy Issues, participates on the Arctic Landscape Conservation Cooperative steering committee, and represents BOEM on the Alaska Data Integration Work group. She participated in the report to the President on ‘Managing for the Future in a Rapidly Changing Arctic’ addition to recommending integrated management of Arctic resources, the report recommends continuing high-level attention on the Arctic, strengthening state and tribal partnerships, encouraging more stakeholder engagement, undertaking more organized and inclusive scenario planning, and coordinating and potentially consolidating environmental reviews that are now being prepared by multiple agencies.

For the next few years during the US Arctic Council Chairmanship – she represent the Nation as a member of the US Delegation to the Arctic Council’s Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment working group specifically Ecosystem Approaches to Management (think EBM) and collaborates on a pan-Arctic Marine Protected Area network framework.
She’s very involved with the Integrated Arctic Research Policy Committee and is enjoying the collaboration teams she is involved with (Distributed Biological Observatory and Chukchi and Beaufort Seas Ecosystems).

Prior to her work with the federal government she was employed by the State of Alaska at the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (10 years) and Department of Fish and Game (3 years). She enthusiastically enjoys being a public servant for marine resource management issues.

She has served on numerous state and federal advisory committees. Cathy earned her Master’s of Science at University of Alaska Fairbanks, and a Bachelors of Science in Biological Sciences at University of Arizona.

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

I am fascinated by the ocean, I started SCUBA diving with my Dad (a retired Marine diver) and his friends in the Florida Keys. I was passionate enough about the ocean to choose biology as my undergraduate focus. Coming to Alaska has been the greatest choice! I’ve learned a ton about natural resource management, first from a commercial fisheries perspective and now more from the oil and gas perspective.

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

Applying science to policy decisions. I am fortunate that I am involved with a lot of projects in terms of understanding the marine ecosystem in Alaska both in the Gulf of Alaska (Lower Cook Inlet) and the Arctic (Beaufort and Chukchi Sea), I’m currently managing $13 Million of research in Alaska. The key question for me is how do we apply that science into an Ecosystem Based Management Approach.

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

... Can't beat the fishing in Alaska either!


In short, a job. I had been working with the North Pacific Fishery Management Council for 9 years after graduate school (UAF-JSCFOS), done some great work with habitat protection (corals, EFH), and learned other issues in terms of marine resource management (commercial fisheries vs. ESA listed species). Later, I saw a posting for my current position at the then Minerals Management Service; it seemed like a unique opportunity (for employment) for new experiences in the budding frontier of Arctic 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?

At BOEM we are applied science. We use the information in the studies we fund to assist with our NEPA analysis, it’s not quite as exotic as being a PI, but it is a critical portion of how the science gets inputted into the process (assisting in fairly big decisions).

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

Though I missed the king crab cookout at the PI Meeting in Juneau, I was able to attend the final day to present BOEM's program perspectives and listen to summaries from my Eis colleagues.

Being a program liaison for Arctic Eis has been a wonderful experience. I get to revisit friends from my previous fish life, but also feel that we are onto some cutting edge integrated work with this project. The data management with the Ocean Workspace at AOOS has been a great way to stay engaged with the fine work you are all doing, a way to make sure the data is captured (meta data, archiving etc). The PI meeting in Juneau last year sounded like a great resource to get a lot of brain power together, I had wished I had been able to participate for the duration. I also look forward to the Arctic Eis special edition publication in Deep-Sea Research II coming early next year.

Visit Cathy’s BOEM Alaska Region webpage for more background information.

February 2015

Stacy Vega, M.S. Fisheries Program

We are proud to introduce Stacy Vega as this month’s featured investigator! Her Arctic Eis research currently focuses on early marine life history characteristics of juvenile chum salmon using otolith microchemistry and works with UAF-SFOS from Fairbanks.

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

Stacy tries to get on her 'seahorse' to catch up with a shelled friend off the coast of Australia! Even after 2014, the hottest year on record, its probably too early to worry about TMNT T-U-R-T-L-E power!

It’s cliché to say so, but I have loved the ocean and poking around tide pools since I was a kid growing up in southern California. Going to college right on the coast at UC Santa Barbara was the obvious choice for me to expand my knowledge of the marine environment. I spent almost every weekend SCUBA diving right outside the dorms and classrooms. Of course I jumped at the opportunity to study marine biology abroad in Australia too! It wasn’t until I took Biology of Fishes late in my undergraduate studies that my focus turned to fish. What a fortunate class selection!

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

Get out that microscope. Who would have thought keta salmon ear bones would be so small?

I don’t know what aquatic researcher doesn’t enjoy field work! There’s no place I’d rather be than in rain gear or waders getting hands-on with the study subjects and observing things in real-time. I don’t mind the laboratory components at all, and can be happy in front of a microscope or grinding otoliths! Another area that I have particularly enjoyed in graduate school is the opportunity to attend scientific conferences and discuss fisheries science with other researchers. I enjoy being part of a large community of intelligent people with great ideas.

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

Happier than her Arctic lamprey, Stacy relishes removing these parasites from her large immature salmon. Gives her good fish karma!



I had never been north of Canada until I made the drive up to attend graduate school in Fairbanks in late 2012. I was offered a chance to study salmon for my master’s degree and promptly accepted! Who wouldn’t want to live in a beautiful state with few people? Most of my previous experience and work was done in temperate or tropical regions, so it was a big change from what I was used to, but I feel like it was one of the best decisions of my life. The vast study areas and dynamic ecosystems of the Arctic make research up here so fascinating and important. I have a feeling I will be studying fishes (hopefully salmon) in Alaska for a long time to come.

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?

Juvenile chum salmon variation in length.

Although most chum salmon are harvested from the Bering Sea and southeast Alaska, there is little information and few studies that have looked at their distribution across all life history stages as far north as the Chukchi Sea. My results will not only give a baseline of growth rates in the region, but also provide insight into marine entry timing of juveniles and can be used to compare with future studies. My work compliments other salmon growth studies in Arctic Eis, but eventually I would like to see these data integrated with our diet and energetic work to get a more comprehensive picture of what these little guys eat, assimilate, and metabolize at these higher latitudes.

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

Figure 1. A) Chukchi Sea and B) Northern Bering Sea growth rates from 2007, 2012, and 2013.

As seen in weight at age exponential growth models (Figure 1), juvenile chum salmon growth rates in the Chukchi Sea in 2013 were significantly higher (6.8% wt/d) than in 2012 (5.3 % wt/d) and 2007 (4.2 % wt/d). It is intriguing that juveniles in higher latitudes show the capacity to be able to grow quickly in such variable environments. It is crucial for these juveniles to grow large quickly during their shortened growing seasons at high latitudes in order to survive their first winter at sea. The higher growth rate observed in 2013 could be due to more favorable growing conditions than in previous years (habitat and prey), perhaps due to slightly warmer surface temperatures (increased metabolism), or related to a myriad of other physical factors.

Visit Stacy’s SFOS Student webpage and her Salmon Ecology page for more background information.

January 2015

Jim Murphy

We are proud to introduce Jim Murphy as this month’s featured investigator! His Arctic Eis research currently focuses on Chinook Salmon stock dynamics in the northeastern Bering Sea while working from NOAA-AFSC in Juneau.

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

Life choices are sometimes difficult. But, Jim's probably went something like this.

I grew up on a farm in South Dakota and started college planning to be a veterinarian… what other reason was there to go to college? Along the way, I went to South Carolina on a national student exchange program and was lucky enough to land a summer job doing fisheries and oceanographic research aboard a NOAA research vessel. Not only did I get to see the ocean for the first time, I started down the path of pursuing something completely different. Ultimately I ended up in Alaska, traded my muck boots for XtraTufs, and completed my graduate research on the open ocean ecology and management of salmon on the high seas, something completely different!

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

Jim and the Fisheries Crew having some fun on deck!

The aspects of my job that I enjoy the most are the intangible elements of field work: the real-time sense of discovery, learning to recognize the unexpected, and making connections with diverse individuals working together to beat the odds. The most rewarding aspects of my job are the opportunities I have to connect others to the amazing, complex, and dynamic field of marine science and salmon ecology.

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

During the early years of BASIS over a decade ago, we learned a great deal from our Russian collaborators (Oleg and Natalia). All opportunities were exhausted, even quite a bit of time spent together on standby at the Dutch Harbor airport in typical ill-weather October.



My involvement with the Bering Aleutian Salmon International Survey (BASIS) shifted my work with NOAA from the Gulf of Alaska into the northern Bering Sea; my role on the US/Canada Joint Technical Committee of the Yukon River Panel keeps me engaged in marine research of Yukon River salmon.

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?

Jim processing immature salmon in between sampling stations.

Salmon are an integral part of the subsistence life style and culture of many Alaskans, particularly on the Yukon River. That means, most Alaskans share an important connection and responsibility for our marine ecosystems. Improving our understanding of ocean ecology and life history of salmon in Arctic ecosystems allows us to address current concerns on how climate change and loss of sea ice is and will alter production patterns of salmon. This will provide scientific information that can be used to guide fisheries management decisions linked to salmon populations in Arctic, Y-K Delta, and around the State.

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

Figure 1. Juvenile abundance index of Canadian-origin Chinook salmon from the Yukon River based on surface trawl surveys in the northern Bering Sea shelf 2003-2014. Yukon River Chinook salmon mature and return to the river after spending one to five years in the ocean (typically three to four years); therefore multiple juvenile years contribute to the return (harvest and spawners) each year. At a minimum, the increased abundance in 2013 it will help buffer the low juvenile abundance observed in 2012 and the contrast in abundance will help clarify the relationship between juvenile and adult abundance.

I believe the most significant contribution of the Arctic EIS survey to Chinook salmon was the increase in juvenile abundance observed in the northern Bering Sea during 2013 (Figure 1). The 2013 index was the highest we have seen in the northern Bering Sea. Previous work in the northern Bering Sea has identified a reasonably clear linkage between juvenile and adult abundance of Yukon River Chinook salmon, and has emphasized the importance of early life-history stages (estuarine and freshwater) to recent production declines and fishery closures in the Yukon River. Chinook salmon returns to the Yukon River over the next few years will be a critical test of the return predictions provided by the Arctic EIS survey and ultimately our current perspective on the production dynamics of Yukon River Chinook salmon.

Visit Jim’s Ecosystem Monitoring and Assessment: NE Bering Sea Ecosystem webpage for more background information.

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