Research ship will avoid disrupting Alaska Native hunters

The original story can be found at UAF News and Information.

by Lauren Frisch

Scientists using the research vessel Sikuliaq have a new process to avoid disrupting Alaska Native hunters in coastal communities.

Sikuliaq

The research vessel Sikuliaq travels through icy waters. Photo by Mark Teckenbrock.

The University of Alaska Fairbanks College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences operates the ship, which was designed to work in Arctic and sub-Arctic regions where coastal community residents hunt for whales, seals, walruses and other animals.

Researchers using Sikuliaq and coastal community members will use the new process to discuss research cruise plans and avoid conflicts between scientific research activity and subsistence hunting or other cultural practices. A key goal of the process is to develop cruise strategies that ensure the needs of both Sikuliaq researchers and coastal community members are met.

“Each Arctic research cruise will have different circumstances and require different conversations,” said Brenda Konar, associate dean of research at CFOS. “We designed our standard operating procedures to be flexible to the needs of each research operation, and to grow and adapt as the underlying circumstances change.”

Sikuliaq researchers on ice

Researchers working on ice during Sikuliaq's Juranek cruise. Photo by Kim Kenny.

Sikuliaq is the first vessel in the University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System to adopt such a process. The procedures are based on suggestions from the Arctic Waterways Safety Committee. The committee was created in 2014 “to ensure a safe, efficient and predictable operating environment for all Arctic waterway users.” Its 15 members primarily represent subsistence hunters, companies and municipalities.

“We hope that other research vessel operators will consider using this document to help meet the needs of their research field studies being conducted in Arctic and sub-Arctic waters,” said CFOS Dean Bradley Moran.

Read about the agreement in an article published by the academic journal Marine Policy in September.

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Chena logjams could be key to salmon survival

The original story can be found at UAF News and Information.

by Lauren Frisch

The plentiful logjams that line the Chena River can be annoying, scary or even dangerous for kayakers and canoers traveling downstream. But researchers believe they could be safe and supportive habitat allowing young salmon to survive the treacherous journey to adulthood.

Research techs at logjam

Research technicians Brian Crabill and Nate Cathcart conduct a snorkel survey of a logjam in the Chena River. UAF photo by JR Ancheta.

This summer, researchers from the University of Alaska Fairbanks and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service mapped out distributions of logjams in the Chena River and measured the abundance of juvenile Chinook salmon at each site. Together, the measurements will reveal how juvenile salmon rely on these habitats for growth and development.

Juvenile salmon are vulnerable to strong river currents and predation by larger fish as they grow, and they need a constant, stable source of food. Researchers believe that logjams, depending on size, external environment and placement in the water, provide the perfect habitat for these fish.

“Logjams are often situated where they provide refuge from predation and high flow velocities, where fish can easily move in and out to get enough to eat,” said Jeff Falke, a professor at the UAF College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences and Institute of Arctic Biology, and a researcher with the U.S. Geological Survey.

Salmon are an important resource for commercial fisheries as well as recreational and subsistence fishermen in Alaska. The Yukon River drainage has almost 200 spawning areas for Chinook salmon in Alaska and Canada. In the past, the Chena River has been in the top five spawning areas, based on the number of fish that return to the river to spawn. But in recent years, the number of adult Chinook salmon in the Chena River has declined from a high of more than 13,000 fish in 1997 to fewer than 2,000 in 2013.

Research technicians floating down Chena River

Research technicians Brian Crabill and Nate Cathcart float down the Chena River. UAF photo by JR Ancheta.

“The Chena River is one of the most important rivers to spawning Chinook salmon in Interior Alaska, but 100 years of human settlement has had implications for this habitat,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Jimmy Fox. “If we can figure out how juvenile salmon are using logjams, we may be able to work with the public to construct additional logjams in the Chena River to help support salmon populations moving forward.”

In particular, the researchers are interested in studying the area of the Chena River below the manmade Moose Creek dam. “Ecologically speaking, this area below the dam should be one of the best habitats for juvenile salmon,” Falke said. “But in recent years, numbers have consistently been lower than what we think they could be. This could be because the dam is preventing wood from flowing downstream, thereby impairing logjam formation and reducing possible habitats for the fish.”

The researchers set out to count all of the logjams in the Chena River and then determine how many salmon were able to live in small, medium and large jams. These two stages of sampling were funded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

First, research technicians Brian Crabill and Nate Cathcart started at the farthest-upstream point of the Chena River where Chinook salmon live. They floated down each fork, taking a GPS measurement for every logjam they spotted along the way. Each logjam was measured and categorized into small, medium or large based on size and number of logs. They noted which side of the river channel the jam was located on and how much of the logjam was underneath the surface of the river.

During the second phase of the study, they performed snorkel surveys at a random sample of small, medium and large logjams that had been measured in the first phase of sampling. At each of the chosen jams, either Crabill or Cathcart (randomly selected by a coin toss) would snorkel from the downstream end of the logjam to the upstream end, counting all of the juvenile salmon and other species found along the way.

Logjam on China River

Jeff Falke and Lauren Frisch spot some salmon swimming around a logjam in the Chena River. UAF photo by JR Ancheta.

The researchers hope these measurements will reveal how salmon use different types of logjams, if certain areas of the Chena River provide better habitats and how many salmon the logjams can support. This will give an indication of the value these logjams provide for the salmon population and ecosystem as a whole, and will help managers consider if and how constructed logjams could enhance salmon populations in the Chena River.

Falke and his team also plan to compare the GPS measurements for Chena River logjams to high-resolution imagery in the region. If the comparison reveals that the imagery does a sufficient job of counting logjams from space, this method could be used to remotely monitor the size and number of jams on the Chena River year after year. This could help the researchers better understand how the river and logjams are changing over time, and accordingly alter their estimates for the capacity of the jams to nurture juvenile salmon.

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Sikuliaq rescues $200,000 glider with makeshift scoop

The original story can be found at UAF News and Information.

by Diana Campbell

Slocum Glider

The malfunctioning Slocum Glider is tied down on the deck of the research vessel Sikuliaq after the ship crew and researchers captured it at about 1 a.m. Aug. 27. Photo by Diana Campbell.

Crew members and scientists aboard the research vessel Sikuliaq recovered a $200,000 University of Alaska Fairbanks-owned underwater glider that stopped communicating in August.

UAF College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences researcher Brita Irving and University of Washington researcher Kate Stafford launched the Slocum Glider in July.

The 5-foot yellow robot, equipped with wings and a rudder, was programmed to repeatedly dive to 164 feet in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska’s northwest coast. The researchers kept track of the glider and communicated with it via computers while it gathered data. It worked perfectly.

“You can pilot it from anywhere, with a cup of coffee, in your pajamas,” Stafford said.

The glider collected sounds of marine life and data on water temperature, salinity and currents in the Chukchi Sea. It reported back to Stafford and her colleagues at CFOS and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Data from the glider, funded by the Alaska Ocean Observing System and North Pacific Research Board, will help researchers better understand marine life in Arctic waters.

Near the end of August, the glider stopped sending reports. The glider couldn’t say what was wrong, nor could anyone tell it to run diagnostics or change its trajectory. The glider still reported its position via satellite each time it surfaced.

Stafford, by chance, was on the Sikuliaq as co-principal investigator for a Beaufort Sea research project this summer. The ship was scheduled to sail through the Chukchi Sea on its way to the Beaufort. Carin Ashjian, the project’s chief scientist, and Sikuliaq Capt. Forest McMullen agreed to try to recover the glider.

A daring midnight rescue was planned for the glider, which wasn’t set to be picked up until October.

“We had to seize the moment,” said McMullen. “The glider and all its data could have been lost.”

The glider was only a few hours away from Sikuliaq’s planned route. Once the ship got close enough, Stafford used communication equipment, which arrived by special delivery to Nome the day of Sikuliaq’s sailing, to tell the glider to stay on the surface.

The weather turned rough on Saturday, Aug. 26, the day of the rescue. The seas continuously rolled with 8- to 12-foot waves, making recovery by one of Sikuliaq’s smaller crafts impossible. That meant Sikuliaq would have to get close enough to the glider so the crew could scoop it from the water with a crane.

The rendezvous would occur late that night with little moonlight and cloudy skies. Though Sikuliaq has powerful spotlights, the Chukchi Sea is vast, and spotting a glider in the open ocean is no easy task. More than a dozen people on Sikuliaq’s bridge and deck scanned the dark waters for the bright yellow Slocum Glider. Finally, a little after 1 a.m., Ashjian spotted the machine at the edge of the spotlight.

Sikuliaq’s McMullen and crew had devised a scoop from a cargo net suspended from a ship crane. On the second attempt, the crane dipped the glider from the sea and brought it aboard without damage.

Kate Stafford

A relieved Kate Stafford celebrates after the Slocum Glider was rescued and secured to the deck of the research vessel Sikuliaq. Photo by Lisa Seff.

“It was perfect,” Stafford said. “It could not have gone smoother.”

Nothing appeared to be amiss on the glider. Stafford suspects the problem lies with the Iridium antenna. She downloaded diagnostic reports from the glider and sent them to shore for further analysis. Normally, the glider should have worked for three and a half months.

Stafford credited the science team and the ship’s crew with saving the $200,000 glider and its irreplaceable data. Had it kept drifting, she likely wouldn’t have gotten the glider back.

It was the right thing to do, Ashjian said. The Arctic research community is small, and work in the Arctic is difficult, she said.

“I was glad we were able to help,” Ashjian said.

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Seeking more than one species stabilizes fishing income

The original story can be found at UAF News and Information.

by Lauren Frisch

Commercial fishermen in Alaska who target a greater diversity of species have more stable incomes than fishermen who target one species, but diversifying isn’t easy, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

For people who make a living by harvesting natural resources, income volatility is a persistent threat. Crops could fail. Fisheries could collapse. Forests could burn. These and other factors—including changing management regulations and practices—can lower harvests, which depresses income for farmers, fishers and timber harvesters. But the ways that these forces interact to impact income have been difficult to track, especially at the level of the individual worker.

Fishing boats in Hoemr

Commercial fishing boats in Homer. Photo by Anne Beaudreau.

A team of researchers from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, University of Washington, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game studied about 30 years of income and permit data from individual commercial fishermen in Alaska to learn how diversification affects income stability.

Diversification can help reduce risk and uncertainty for fishermen. In any given year, a fisherman with multiple fishing permits has a number of options.

“If you’re fishing for species whose numbers fluctuate a lot, it’s good to diversify because maybe when one of your target species is low in numbers, another will have higher abundance that year,” said Anne Beaudreau, a professor at the UAF College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences. “When you diversify, you always have options.”

“One option for diversification is to target different species or fish with different permits, as we see in this study with commercial fishermen,” Beaudreau said. “But in a separate study, we found that charter fishermen are fishing for a diversity of species and targeting different areas. There are a number of ways to be flexible and make this approach work.”

Although this research shows that diversification is a safer bet for Alaska’s commercial fishermen, about 80 percent of fishermen currently hold only one fishing permit. Certain barriers to entry make it challenging for fishermen to diversify. For some species, there is a limit to the number of permits that can be purchased, and these competitive permits can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“We do not know which factors—including fishing costs, natural forces, market demand and management policies—have made the majority of individual fishers specialize despite high income variability,” said University of Washington professor Eric Ward. “But additional research may, in time, help scientists and policymakers come up with practices that can reduce income variability for fishers and keep fishery harvests sustainable.”

The project was spearheaded by Sean Anderson and Eric Ward at the University of Washington. UAF College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences faculty members Beaudreau and Milo Adkison and graduate students Jordan Watson and Ben Williams participated. The research was funded by the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council, David H. Smith Conservation Research Fellowship Program and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Learn more about the project from the University of Washington Press release, or read this paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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Federal grant aims to stimulate Alaska seaweed farming

The original story can be found at UAF News and Information.

by Paula Dobbyn

A half-million-dollar federal grant is headed to the University of Alaska Fairbanks for research in seaweed farming, a growing industry in Alaska.

“This project will bolster Alaska’s ocean economy in important ways as we work collectively to implement a more sustainable and diversified use of Alaska’s maritime resources,” said S. Bradley Moran, dean of the UAF College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences.

Michael Stekoll, a biochemist with a joint appointment at CFOS and the University of Alaska Southeast, will be the lead researcher on the project. The goal is to improve methods of growing, harvesting and transporting farmed sugar kelp, a common edible seaweed.

With more than 25 years of experience in the field, Stekoll is considered one of the state’s experts in seaweed farming in Alaska. He is already working on a $418,000 project funded by the National Sea Grant College Program to develop cost-effective cultivation methods so Alaska producers can grow and harvest commercial quantities of sugar kelp, Saccharina latissima.

Kelp drying on a clothesline. Photo by Carter Newell.

The new grant comes from the U.S. Department of Energy through the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy. The project aims to integrate the entire seaweed farming process, including seed production, planting, growing, harvesting and re-seeding, using methods from the commercial fishing industry.

“It’s a consortium of people who will be working on this project, including the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation, Blue Evolution—a private company that cultivates and markets seaweed products—and other seaweed farmers,” said Stekoll. “It’s exciting to have this new infusion of funding to broaden the scope of the research I’ve been doing.”

The Alaska project team also includes Hump Island Oyster Co., R&M Engineering, Efficient Coastal Resources and Kodiak Island Sustainable Seaweeds.

“Because seaweed is planted in the fall, grown throughout the winter and harvested in the spring, it could be an excellent source of additional revenue for fishermen and processors,” said Julie Decker, executive director of the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation.

Seaweed farming is a growing, multibillion-dollar industry worldwide and presents a new economic opportunity for coastal Alaska, according to research by Alaska Sea Grant. Commercial shellfish farmers have grown oysters, clams and mussels in Alaska for years. Seaweed has the potential to play a new role in the state’s aquaculture industry. Anyone interested in learning more can download a new publication by Alaska Sea Grant titled “Seaweed Farming in Alaska.

ADDITIONAL CONTACTS: Michael Stekoll, msstekoll@alaska.edu, 907-796-6279; Julie Decker, jdecker@afdf.org, 907-276-7315.

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Alaska stands to gain by boosting its blue economy

The original story was published by the Alaska Journal of Commerce and Alaska Dispatch News

by S. Bradley Moran and Joel Cladouhos

Alaska’s blue economy leadership potential is tremendous. We maintain more than half the nation’s coastline and a third of the U.S. exclusive economic zone with access to vast natural resources. The blue economy vision is that by 2040 Alaska would grow by 50,000 jobs and $3 billion in wages, approximately equal to the oil and gas industry today.

Alaska’s blue economy includes existing traditional sectors such as fisheries, coastal tourism and oil and gas, as well as additional “new” blue economy sectors such as ocean technology, renewable energy and marine biotechnology.

The application and commercialization of new technologies and innovation to fisheries and marine science and engineering—referred to as the new blue economy—is one of the fastest growing sectors of the global blue economy.  This maritime economic sector is currently valued globally at $1.5 trillion (measured as marine-based industrial contribution to economic output and employment) and predicted to expand to $3 trillion by 2030. Now is the time for Alaska to take a forward look beyond its traditional maritime economic sectors. Advancing the new blue economy is an opportunity for Alaska to diversify its economy, strengthen partnerships, create jobs and stimulate investment.

A goal for Alaska in expanding beyond a primarily resource extraction–based maritime economy is to include more sustainable, value-added approaches that bring additional revenue and jobs to the state. This is a path being developed nationally, in California, Maine, Rhode Island and Washington, and internationally in Canada, Iceland and several European countries. Key to advancing Alaska’s blue economy is strengthening collaboration, including with our public, Alaska Native and private entities. The goal should be to foster the development of new opportunities, investment and job creation.

As a step in this direction, the University of Alaska Fairbanks College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences has partnered with the Alaska Ocean Cluster Initiative to help advance discussion and coordination to develop and expand Alaska’s blue economy.

Through its Kodiak Seafood and Marine Science Center, the college is actively working on commercializing new pet treats made from pollock skins as well as working with Blue Evolution to help grow Alaska’s commercial seaweed farming industry. Over the past several years the college has worked with Alutiiq Pride Shellfish Hatchery to monitor ocean acidification risks to Alaskan shellfish harvests. The college is in the early stages of discussion with a variety of stakeholders to build on existing strengths in ocean observing by potentially establishing a second National Data Buoy Center. Together with the Alaska Ocean Observing System and ocean cluster initiative, we are advancing the discussion to address the growing need for increased infrastructure to strengthen Alaska’s ports and national/Arctic maritime security needs.

The Ocean Technology Innovation Sprint is just one of the innovative strategies to help advance Alaska’s blue economy being led by the initiative and the University of Alaska Anchorage Global Entrepreneur in Residence.  This involves a 5-day “sprint” process that engages designers, developers, engineers, marketers, and startup enthusiasts. The goal of the sprint is to provide a forum to share ideas and advance innovation with the sustainable blue economy.

ship's wake

A blue day on the Beaufort Sea in September 2017. Photo by Diana Campbell.

These are just a few examples of collaboration between the college and the ocean cluster initiative that align with Alaska’s blue economy. Alaska’s economic crisis requires us to think broadly and it is time to leverage our vast ocean resources to become a leader in the new blue economy where highly trained knowledge workers drive innovation, world‐class researchers are captivated, and an ecosystem of entrepreneurship forms around the foundation of a blue economy creating a sustainable future for generations of Alaskans.

This week (Sept. 18–21) Alaska will host OCEANS ’17 at the Dena’ina Convention Center in Anchorage. OCEANS ’17 is an international conference sponsored by cutting-edge ocean technology-based organizations and businesses. On Sept. 21, the Alaska Ocean Cluster Initiative and UAF College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences will convene a special panel, “Building Alaska’s Blue Economy,” at this conference.  Discussion will focus on opportunities and challenges in the ocean technology sector, include strategies to improve coordination and partnering, ocean observations and big data, maritime and port security, and stimulate new entrepreneurial investment.

The panel is free and open to the public.  We invite you to join this discussion and bring your ideas to help advance the next steps with this initiative and broaden the scope of Alaska’s maritime economy.

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Staff Snapshot: Dawn Montano

by Barb Hameister

Dawn (left) at Skiland with her daughters.

When Dawn Montano arrived in Fairbanks in August of 1995, she had no intention of staying.

She hadn’t really wanted to come at all, but her parents didn’t want her sister, who had just gotten a teaching job in Fairbanks, to face the long drive north from Idaho on her own. Dawn dutifully went along on the trip and then helped her sister get settled during the fall, fully expecting to be back home by Christmas. But when she was offered a job that she really enjoyed, and soon after met her husband-to-be, she decided to stay—and Fairbanks has been home ever since.

Growing up on a small farm in southeast Idaho in the shadow of the majestic Tetons, Dawn spent a lot of time outdoors. Horseback riding and hiking were frequent family activities. She especially loved skiing and Grand Targhee, the famous alpine ski resort just over the border in Wyoming, was her “home slope.”

Dawn attended a private college in Idaho to study health science, thinking she might want to be a nurse someday. She also got interested in graphic design, took a few courses, and found she had a knack for it. In Fairbanks she worked as a graphic designer until her daughters were born and continued freelancing from home while they were young.

For the past nine years Dawn has worked for Alaska Sea Grant. As the ASG bookstore manager, she processes and ships orders and manages inventory and billing. Dawn employs her graphic designs skills to create promotional pieces for the bookstore, authors, meetings and the various ASG programs. She also designs and manages email campaigns, and helps with social media and event planning. Her position is shared with UA Press, and she assists them with similar tasks one day a week.

With her helpful, friendly demeanor and can-do attitude, Dawn is a valued friend and colleague to many. Carol Kaynor, who worked with Dawn at ASG for many years, says “Dawn is one of the kindest and most thoughtful people I know. She’s always willing to help, no matter what the task.”

Dawn still loves horses and horseback riding, and shares her enthusiasm as a volunteer with 4-H, Pony Club, and the Fairbanks Competitive Trail Ride. She’s also very involved with the Fairbanks Alpine Ski Club, serving on the board of directors and coaching young skiers. “I enjoy the kids’ enthusiasm and excitement as they speed down the hill and work on their skills.  And I adore listening to their stories while riding up the chairlift or while getting hot chocolate!”

Dawn and her horse Hershey Bar trail riding near Ester Dome.

Dawn and her family enjoy traveling, and they try to take one big trip every year. In summer of 2016, while her oldest daughter was in Latvia as an exchange student, they took the opportunity to explore Europe. Dawn says the German state of Bavaria, with its spectacular mountain scenery, was her favorite place to visit.

While Dawn may have been reluctant to come to Fairbanks in the first place, it has turned out to be a good fit for her.  “I love nature and being outside,” she says. “I love living in the woods where I can walk out my back door, jump on my horse and ride for hours. That freedom is really important to me.”

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Project to investigate beluga whales’ failure to rebound

by Lauren Frisch

A new collaborative research project will investigate potential factors that have caused the Cook Inlet beluga whale population to remain in severe decline since the 1990s.

A Cook Inlet beluga cow, with its white tail section visible, swims with a calf, at left, in Knik Arm’s Eagle Bay. Photo by Chris Garner.

Beluga whales were once common throughout inlet waters, historically numbering around 1,300. Unmanaged subsistence hunting in the mid-1990s led to a nearly 50 percent population decline. Today, despite conservation efforts, only about 340 Cook Inlet belugas remain.

A moratorium on the subsistence harvest of Cook Inlet belugas was established in 1999. The whales were listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act in 2008, and critical habitat was designated in 2011. But Cook Inlet belugas have not recovered, and the reasons remain unknown.

To better understand why the belugas have not rebounded, University of Alaska Fairbanks researchers Mat Wooller and Mark Nelson will measure stable strontium, carbon and nitrogen isotopes in beluga whale teeth to determine how feeding patterns may be changing over time. This information will help determine if changes in foraging ecology and habitat are affecting the ability of beluga whales to recover from the population decline.

“Like tree rings, teeth have annual growth layers,” said Wooller, a professor at UAF’s College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences and Water and Environmental Research Center. “Measuring isotopes in these growth layers can reveal how whales’ feeding habits have changed over the life of an animal. By stacking records from many individuals sampled over time to create a long record of beluga behavior, we can create a long record of beluga behavior.”

Another component of the investigation will use existing data to build a population model to examine genetic factors that may be limiting population recovery. Because beluga whales use sound to find prey, a third group will use acoustic monitoring to detect where belugas forage for food. The three simultaneous projects will be coordinated by Mandy Keogh and Lori Quakenbush at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

The three-year research projects will start in fall 2017. Funding comes from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Endangered Species Act Section 6 Program, Georgia Aquarium and John G. Shedd Aquarium. The research is a collaboration between UAF, ADFG, the National Marine Fisheries Service’s Marine Mammal Laboratory, University of Washington, Florida Atlantic University and LGL Alaska Research Associates Inc. NOAA’s Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program has provided samples and data.

For more information on this project, refer to the ADFG press release.

A beluga whale skull with a labeled tooth. Photo by Mark Nelson.

ADDITIONAL CONTACTS: Mat Wooller, mjwooller@alaska.edu, 907-474-6738

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PSMFC Job Announcements | Fisheries Data Analyst (17-905 & 17-912)

PACIFIC STATES MARINE FISHERIES COMMISSION POSITION DESCRIPTION
Job 17-905 | Application Deadline 8.15.17 9pm PT | Apply Online www.psmfc.org/careers
Title: Fisheries Data Analyst (17-905)
Location: Juneau, Alaska (99801)
Anticipated Start Date: September 5, 2017
Position Type: Full Year (12 months or more), Hourly/Non-Exempt
Benefits Eligible: Yes | www.psmfc.org/benefits
Salary Target: $27.52/hour
Job Number: 17-905
How to Apply: Online at www.psmfc.org/careers
Closing Date: August 15, 2017 at 9pm PT
Group Definition: Data Management Specialists (Natural Sciences) use a background in the natural sciences as they assist in the population, maintenance, enhancement and distribution of databases. They locate, obtain, standardize, enter, verify, and correct various data sets related to project goals and work plans.


PACIFIC STATES MARINE FISHERIES COMMISSION POSITION DESCRIPTION
Job 17-912 | Application Deadline 8.15.17 9pm PT | Apply Online www.psmfc.org/careers
Title: Fisheries Data Analyst (17-912)
Location: Seattle, Washington (98115)
Anticipated Start Date: September 5, 2017
Position Type: Full Year (12 months or more), Hourly/Non-Exempt
Benefits Eligible: Yes | www.psmfc.org/benefits
Salary Target: $27.52/hour
Job Number: 17-912
How to Apply: Online at www.psmfc.org/careers
Closing Date: August 15, 2017 at 9pm PT
Group Definition: Data Management Specialists (Natural Sciences) use a background in the natural sciences as they assist in the population, maintenance, enhancement and distribution of databases. They locate, obtain, standardize, enter, verify, and correct various data sets related to project goals and work plans.

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Five new sensors will enable continuous monitoring of ocean acidification in Kachemak Bay

Metridium farcimen

Metridium farcimen , a giant anemone, is one of many species that inhabits Kachemak Bay. The bay is known for its incredible biological diversity. Photo courtesy of Amanda Kelley.

by Lauren Frisch

Researchers will be able to continuously monitor ocean acidification conditions in Kachemak Bay, Alaska thanks to five new sensors to be installed in September 2017.

University of Alaska Fairbanks College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences professor Amanda Kelley and her team installed a pH sensor at the Kasitsna Bay Laboratory in March 2017, and plan to deploy sensors throughout the bay in September. They will collect a range of ocean acidification data, allowing the researchers to study how fluctuating acidification conditions impact nearshore ecosystems, the shallow parts of the ocean right next to the coastline. This is important because Alaska has vast coastlines, vital subsistence and commercial fisheries and very little information on how ocean acidification impacts nearshore ecosystems.

Ocean acidification refers to a long-term decrease in ocean pH caused by increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide. The pH scale measures the degree to which something is acidic (like lemon juice) or basic (like baking soda).

Scientists from the CFOS Ocean Acidification Research Center have been monitoring acidification in the deeper open ocean since 2011, but there is no comparable data set documenting acidification in nearshore environments. Kelley’s team wants to fill that data gap, because nearshore environments play a critical ecological role in supporting and maintaining healthy Alaska fisheries.

“Nearshore ecosystems are complicated because they receive input from the open ocean as well as glaciers, rivers, the seafloor and more,” Kelley said. “But they are also very important, because many commercial fish and shellfish species in Alaska use the nearshore as a nursery environment. Understanding how pH fluctuates in nearshore environments will help us better understand what it might mean for species that are trying to grow and develop in the bay.”

As ocean acidification intensifies, animals like crabs and mollusks that make shells out of calcium carbonate may have difficulty growing or maintaining these shells. Commercially important finfish like salmon and pollock that rely on these organisms as a source of food may be indirectly impacted by ocean acidification if their food source is affected.

Often, the shell-building animals are even more vulnerable during their early years when they are growing and developing. Because nearshore environments serve as a nursery for many species, even small fluctuations in pH may have a substantial impact.

“Early life stages of a number of marine species spend time in these estuaries, which are highly dynamic,” said Angela Doroff, a research coordinator at the Kachemak Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. “We are working toward establishing baseline variability and long-term trends for pH ranges in the estuary in order to better understand impacts on animals that are developing in these environments.”

But if animals are used to rapidly changing conditions in the nearshore, they might actually be more adapted to changes in pH than animals living in a more stable or constant ecosystems. Kelley explains that monitoring regular seasonal fluctuations in pH will help the research team understand what kind of pH variability nearshore species can withstand, and what they might be in for as acidification episodes intensify in the future.

This project is a collaboration between the Ocean Acidification Research Center, NOAA Kasitsna Bay Laboratory and Kachemak Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. The research is funded by the University of Alaska Fairbanks and the NOAA Habitat Blueprint, Kachemak Bay Habitat Focus Area, KBNERR Bivalve Habitat grant.

go pro image

SeaFET pH sensors secured to the dock piling in front of the Kasitsna Bay Laboratory in Kachemak Bay. Photo courtesy of Amanda Kelley.

The five SeaFET sensors the team plans to use will remain in the water for a year before being recovered to download data and check the battery. Then they can be redeployed for another year of data collection. A few times a year the researchers will go out to calibrate the sensors, or make sure the sensors are giving numbers that are consistent with actual water conditions. All of this can be done with scuba divers in small boats.

“It’s a low maintenance program,” Kelley said. “Yet the ability to collect continuous data from five sensors in the same bay is groundbreaking for Alaska. We don’t have this comprehensive a data set anywhere in the state.”

The researchers plan to leave these five sensors in Kachemak Bay as long as funding is available, allowing the sensors to build a record that can be used to reveal how Kachemak Bay pH conditions vary throughout the seasons, and how they are changing over time. But they also hope to expand the program to other parts of coastal Alaska.

Each coastline is unique, with different drivers and mechanisms that cause acidification conditions to fluctuate. As a result, species in each region may be adapted to different environmental conditions. One long-term goal is to be able to compare nearshore environments around the state by comparing data collected by different networks of sensors, Kelley said.

Additionally, by comparing measured trends in pH to biological and ecosystem data collected by other research teams in Kachemak Bay, Kelley’s team hopes to understand how ocean acidification fits into the broader context of ecosystem change in the region.

This research will benefit people living near Kachemak Bay who rely on the bay as a source of food, Doroff explains. Residents of Kachemak Bay are engaged in coastal issues, and want to have a better understanding of what’s going on in their backyard.

“For those of us living close to our food source, ocean acidification is a scary topic,” Doroff said. “People who live and work in Kachemak Bay are aware of ocean acidification, and we lack the specific ways of how it could affect our food sources, our fisheries.”

sunset

Kachemak Bay at sunset, taken from the dock at the Kasitsna Bay Laboratory. Photo courtesy of Amanda Kelley.

ADDITIONAL CONTACTS: Amanda Kelley, alkelley@alaska.edu, 907-474-2474, Angela Doroff, adoroff@alaska.edu, 541-888-8270 x 315

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