Apply now to be an Alaska Salmon Fellow

Salmon is a defining factor in the culture of Alaska; it’s something we all have in common. But salmon, Alaska’s third largest industry, is also frequently a flash point of conflict over difficult issues such as racial justice, the urban-rural divide, and balancing sustainability against the needs of resource development. Alaska Humanities Forum, along with partner organizations, has designed the Alaska Salmon Fellows program to facilitate demanding conversations about salmon issues among leaders in salmon policy, management, industry, activism, research, and indigenous sectors.  It serves as a:

  • Pathway for new and stronger connections across the diverse sectors that have a key stake in the future of Alaska’s salmon.
  • Network to share lessons and deepen understanding of differing perspectives among the Fellows, and through them, other stakeholders.
  • System of Influence, sparking new relationships and advancing tangible opportunities to inspire action on key issues and challenges.

Get more information, nominate a fellow, or apply online by Feb. 28 at

ADDITIONAL CONTACTS: Courtney Carothers,, 907-375-1412; Peter Westley,, 907-474-5254.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Faculty Focus: Amanda Kelley

by Barb Hameister

Amanda Kelley Diving

Ready for a research dive in Friday Harbor, San Juan Islands, Washington

Amanda Kelley may not have followed a traditional path on her way to becoming a scientist—among other things, she toured the world as a guitar tech with the rock band Everclear—but she says the additional life experience is a real benefit in her job as an assistant professor with the UAF College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences.

Amanda moved to Alaska in May 2016 from California, where she had been a postdoc at the University of California Santa Barbara. Living in southern California for three years might not seem like the best way to prepare for life in Alaska, but thanks to the many trips she made to Antarctica for her postdoctoral research, it turns out that Amanda is no stranger to extreme cold.

While growing up in the Pacific Northwest, Amanda loved taking summer trips with her family around Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands. She was especially drawn to the beaches and tide pools, and was fascinated by all the wonderful critters she found there. That sense of curiosity and wonder, along with her lifelong love of the ocean, were a big part of why she ultimately chose marine science as a career.

Amanda enrolled at Oregon State University straight out of high school, and was most of the way through a forestry degree program when she decided to leave college to play in several rock bands. After a few years this evolved into a gig as a guitar technician, and she toured around the world with a number of different bands, keeping their instruments in good order.

For a while Amanda made her living as a carpenter. She spent a decade learning the trade of finish carpentry, and specialized in the renovation of Victorian and Arts and Crafts era homes.

Then, in 2006, in her mid-30s and with a renewed focus and determination (and a realization that she couldn’t live the rock and roll carpentry life forever), Amanda enrolled at Portland State University and completed a bachelor’s degree in organismal biology and a doctoral degree in ecological physiology.

She says the problem-solving skills she picked up in the intervening years, not to mention a lot of experience working with many different kinds of people in different situations, have served her well in the world of science and academia.

As an ecological physiologist, Amanda has a particular interest in coastal marine species. Her research primarily focuses on the changes in pH, temperature and salinity that are occurring the world’s oceans, especially around the polar regions, and how coastal marine species and ecosystems may respond to those changes.

She was drawn to the study of physiology by a fascination with the way organisms are able to adapt to environmental changes in both the short- and long term. Having previously worked with a variety of organisms including crabs, snails and sea urchins, now that she’s a faculty member and working with new collaborators, Amanda is excited to be learning about a range of other species such as deepwater corals and pink salmon.

Another major interest is ocean acidification, which refers to the shift in pH of the world’s oceans as they absorb excess CO2 from the atmosphere. Currently Amanda is working with the Alutiiq Pride Shellfish Hatchery in Seward to determine the potential vulnerability of multiple native Alaska clam species to ocean acidification. She is also investigating how marine invertebrates in Antarctica will respond to ocean change.

Amanda was hired by CFOS as a co-director of the Ocean Acidification Research Center (OARC) at UAF. OARC is known world-wide as a research center that has done foundational work identifying ocean acidification hot spots in Alaskan waters. In addition to monitoring areas for the threat of ocean acidification, the center is expanding its efforts to determine the potential vulnerability of marine species to ocean acidification, and Amanda’s expertise will help guide that work.

Along with her own research and her duties at OARC, Amanda is developing a new course called “Human Impacts on the Marine Biosphere” which will explore how species in the ocean are responding to a range of human-caused environmental change.

As a person who is proud of her Native American ancestry (Te-Moak Tribe of Western Shoshone), Amanda also has a keen desire to work with underrepresented people in higher education, and especially with individuals whose communities are impacted by climate change. “I want to share information that will help communities understand and cope with the changes they are experiencing,” she says.

Amanda Kelly Carpentry

Fashioning an architectural knee brace for an Arts and Crafts home restoration project

A big fan of the Alaskan do-it-yourself spirit, Amanda has already put her planning and carpentry skills to good use at her home in the hills outside of town. “I knew I could survive a Fairbanks winter if I had a wood stove and hot tub,” Amanda says. So she got busy and built them just in time for her first winter.

With that can-do attitude, her seemingly endless curiosity about the natural world, and a keen sense of adventure, Amanda seems well suited for life in Interior Alaska. She loves being active outdoors and exploring, but also really appreciates the quiet moments to be found while bird-watching, or simply walking her dogs at the end of a long workday.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences students win awards at science symposium

Sarah Traiger (left), Paula Cullenberg (center), and Janell Larson. Photo by Brendan Smith/North Pacific Research Board.

Sarah Traiger (left), Paula Cullenberg (center), and Janell Larson. Photo by Brendan Smith/North Pacific Research Board.

Original story can be found on Alaska Sea Grant News Website

Alaska Sea Grant director Paula Cullenberg presented two graduate students with awards at the 2017 Alaska Marine Science Symposium (AMSS) in Anchorage.

Sarah Traiger, a doctoral student at the University of Alaska Fairbanks College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, received the Best Student Oral Presentation Award at the PhD Level. Along with a certificate, Traiger received a $250 cash award.

Traiger’s presentation was “Supply and survival: kelp microscopic life stage challenges across a glacial gradient.” Her research is funded by Alaska Sea Grant.

Jenell Larsen, a master’s student also at the University of Alaska Fairbanks College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, won the Best Student Oral Presentation Award at the Master’s Level. She will receive a $250 cash award along with her certificate.

The title of Larsen’s presentation was “Old ovaries, new tricks: what walrus ovaries can tell us about population fluctuations.”

A total of sixteen graduate students gave oral presentations—ten at the PhD level and six at the master’s level. The oral presentations were judged by scientists attending the symposium.

The oral award competition was sponsored by Alaska Sea Grant. Seven awards also were presented for student posters, in a competition sponsored by the North Pacific Research Board.


Editor’s note:

A number of CFOS students won awards for poster presentations as well.

At the doctoral level, Taylor White at the University of California Santa Cruz received first place for her poster. White is working on a project that received partial funding from Alaska Sea Grant.

Additionally, Leah Sloan received second place for a doctoral level poster.

At the master’s level, Teresa Minicucci received first place for her poster. Kelly Walker received second place for her master’s level poster.

Finally, Michelle Dela Rosa received the high school level poster award. Dela Rosa was part of the UAF Rural Honors Institute.

Congratulations to all of the award recipients.

Posted in Fisheries, Sea Grant | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Meet the Sikuliaq Crew: Mark Teckenbrock

By Lauren Frisch

Mark Teckenbrock

Photo of Mark Teckenbrock on the deck of the R/V Sikuliaq. Photo courtesy of Mark Teckenbrock

Mark Teckenbrock thrives in the flexibility of the R/V Sikuliaq’s work environment.

As the ship’s cook, Teckenbrock can be responsible for feeding anywhere between 20 and 50 people, depending on the science mission. Sikuliaq research cruises can be up to a month long, meaning Teckenbrock and his team are often responsible for planning and executing a month’s worth of meals with one shipment of food.

Teckenbrock has been a cook since 1992, although this is his first cooking position on a ship. He previously worked as a deckhand for the summer, but all of his other jobs have been land-based.

Teckenbrock and the rest of the mess team have a system for ordering and planning meals that enhances their ability to be flexible, and work with the available resources. In order to get food onboard, Teckenbrock explains, the crew typically does a multi-day inventory of what is remaining at the end of a science mission.

Pad thaiTeckenbrock.

Pad thai is a crowd favorite for lunch on the R/V Sikuliaq. Photo by Mark Teckenbrock.

“We start our inventory maybe 10 days before a cruise is over, because it takes a few days to complete and we need to place orders a week in advance. But even as we start to input this inventory, we are still going through more and more of our resources. So you start inputting numbers based on what you think you’re going to go through by the end of the cruise, and what you think you’re going to want and need based on who will be onboard next.”

He says it helps that the Sikuliaq doesn’t have a set meal schedule. This allows the cooks to be flexible, and use food as needed, rather than committing to a specific schedule.

“If we head down to the refrigerator and realize the asparagus is starting to look a bit gnarly, we tackle it right away,” Teckenbrock said. “The flexibility to cook things as needed helps us use our food efficiently, and reduce product waste.”

Heirloom tomato and Alaska mountain goat lasagna

The cooks onboard strive to come up with hearty and creative dishes. This photo features an heirloom tomato and Alaska mountain goat lasagna. Photo by Mark Teckenbrock

To Teckenbrock, working on a ship that is always moving, with a crew that is constantly rotating, adds another source of variety that keeps him motivated and excited about what he is doing.

“One day you may be assisting a science mission in the ice up in the Arctic Ocean, and then the next day you might begin a transit down to San Diego,” Teckenbrock said. “There is lots of potential for adventure and sightseeing.”

Always on the lookout for new recipe ideas, Teckenbrock finds that traveling to new places and experiencing different cultures inspires new combinations. He especially likes the opportunity to work off the coast of California, where the nearby communities have a diverse culture and year-round farmer’s markets.

Teckenbrock says part of the reason working on a ship like the Sikuliaq is so rewarding is because he is part of a supportive, hard-working team. “I am thankful that we have a really good team onboard,” he said. “We have good chemistry in the kitchen, and on the ship overall. Being away from family can be a bit of a hardship, but it makes it easier to have a strong community onboard.”

Crispy crab cakes

Crispy crab cakes are ready to be snatched up. Photo by Mark Teckenbrock.

Posted in SIKULIAQ | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Meet the Sikuliaq Crew: Arthur Levine

By Lauren Frisch

Arthur Levine works on the sea ice with the R/V Sikuliaq in the background. Photo by Kevin Reinhardt

Arthur Levine, an able-bodied seaman on the R/V Sikuliaq, has discovered he loves working in the arctic.

Levine grew up surrounded by naval officers and other boat-oriented professionals. “Hearing their stories, and then sailing during high school got me wanting to work out on a ship as well,” he said. Levine decided to attend the Massachusetts Maritime Academy where he focused on marine transportation and earned a third mate’s license.

Levine started working on the Sikuliaq in March 2016. As an able-bodied seaman, he helps out with anything and everything involving the ship’s deck. This includes running cranks, helping to deploy scientific instruments, keeping the ship clean and maintained, and working on the bridge as a lookout.

Levine likes the variability of his tasks, and the ability to gain experience in all different kinds of work. “One of the things I really enjoy about working on the Sikuliaq is that it’s different every day. I could be doing routine maintenance one day, helping deploy scientific equipment another, and visiting a village the next. That mixes it up a bit, and keeps the work exciting and rewarding.”

One of his favorite parts about working on the Sikuliaq is learning to travel safely and operate machinery in and near sea ice. This involves determining if ice is safe for both travel and scientific experiments, and learning to navigate through icy waters.

“Working on the ice is completely different that anything I’ve done on a ship before. I am learning how to detect different kinds of ice, thinking about what types of ice to avoid, and considering how to go through it most effectively and safely.”

Levine explains that working around the ice was totally new to him when he started his job on the Sikuliaq, but it is becoming one of his favorite aspects of his job, and something he hopes to continue to pursue as his career unfolds.

Levine also gets to travel out onto the ice with science parties. “When we’re working in the ice, I’m trained to actually go out on the ice and walk around with the scientists, making sure the ice is safe. That’s really fun.”

Arthur Levine travels on the R/V Sikuliaq small boat, called Biscuits and Wavy, to a research site. Photo by Kim Kenny

In his current role on the ship, Levine is also able to leave the ship every once in awhile to visit communities near where the ship is working. In fall 2016, Levine participated in two community trips to Point Hope and Golovin, where he learned about local perspectives on regional change, and got to talk with local residents about what it’s like to live and work on a research vessel.

“A lot of times I’m still trying to understand details in the science that our researchers are doing onboard,” Levine said.  “But looking at the big picture, it’s about much more than the details. It is great to work with researchers who are documenting the wide variety of changes that our oceans are experiencing.”

Posted in SIKULIAQ | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Meet the Sikuliaq Crew: Tristan Conrad

By Lauren Frisch

Tristan Conrad stands by a large cable drum used by the winches that deploy off the ship’s deck. The winch helps scientists lower instruments into the water to collect samples and measurements. Photo by Lauren Frisch.

Tristan Conrad enjoys using his troubleshooting skills to help keep the R/V Sikuliaq in great condition.

Conrad is an oiler, which is a general maintenance position in the engineering group. He always begins his shift with a round of checks. Starting in the Bridge at the top of the ship and working his way down to the machinery spaces at the very bottom, Conrad checks for the three Fs: fire, flooding, or anything funny looking.

“I may notice a leak, or that the main hot water is low, or that it smells like exhaust somewhere,” Conrad said. “This can help dictate what I do during the course of my shift.”

Conrad and the other engineers rely on the system checks to keep track of what is going on onboard, and must be trained to quickly think on their feet in order to stay ahead of problems. Each day brings a different set of challenges and tasks. Some days he focuses on burning garbage or cleaning the engine room. On others, he may be checking or resetting valves, or conducting maintenance on various pieces of equipment in the engine room.

Conrad likes working on a ship that has smart technology to rapidly alert the engineers to any problems that may be forming onboard.

“We have a huge support system for the ship machinery,” Conrad said. “The computer might say hey, this needs an oil change or hey, you need to grease this,” Conrad said. “With this information, we try to knock those issues out right away.”

Tristan Conrad checks the engine's display that shows information including engine speed, fuel pressure and oil temperatures. Photo by Lauren Frisch.

Conrad’s cousin started working as a deckhand while Conrad was still in high school, which first sparked his interests in working on a ship himself.

“Working on a ship really appealed to me, because I knew I would be able to problem-solve quickly in an environment that was constantly changing, and have the stability of knowing that I could move up the ranks as I continued to get more experience and take more training courses,” Conrad said. “The process is straightforward and the work is exciting.”

Conrad went to a 9-month training program at the Seattle Maritime Academy, which gives students the qualifications necessary to begin working on a research vessel like the Sikuliaq, as well as tug boats and oil tankers. Conrad participated in the program to earn his qualified member of the engine department rating, or QMED, which is required to work as an oiler. He took specialized classes on diesel engines, refrigeration, electricity, ship propulsion, and hydraulics, as well as more general classes on seamanship, survival craft, leadership and management, and steam systems.

Following completion of the program, Conrad worked as an oiler on a commercial fishing ship for a year, and then as an assistant engineer for a few months.

He enjoys the work and atmosphere on the Sikuliaq, but especially appreciates working on a ship with a ballasting system that contributes to a steady ride.

“I didn’t know prior to starting at the Seattle Maritime academy that I got sea sick. That was an interesting discovery. Fortunately, the Sikuliaq rides so steady that I have yet to have issues onboard, which hasn’t been the case with other vessels,” Conrad said.

This photo shows a close-up of chilled water piping that runs throughout the engine room. A water tight door in the background can close manually or remotely from a damage control station in case of flooding. Photo by Lauren Frisch.



Posted in SIKULIAQ | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Meet the Sikuliaq Crew: John French

By Lauren Frisch

John French splices a new rope in the R/V Sikuliaq main lab. Photo by Lauren Frisch.

John French splices a new rope in the R/V Sikuliaq main lab. Photo by Lauren Frisch.

Growing up, playing in the ocean was John French’s favorite hobby. It is no surprise that French has dedicated his career to working on ships.

John French is one of two bosuns on the R/V Sikuliaq, which is the head deckhand. He is responsible for all things happening on the deck, including anything having to do with anchoring the ship and handling mooring lines. He also helps launch the small boats used for off-ship operations and is in charge on deck when deploying and recovering science equipment.

French was born in Colorado. At the time, his parents were taking turns working and putting the other through college. In 1969, French’s father received his engineering degree, and shortly after got a job in Honolulu. “As a little kid in a big city with no place to go, I ran to the water, surfed, and played on boats,” French said. “It was this initial draw to the ocean that later led me to a career on the water.”

Four years later French’s family moved to American Samoa. After graduating from high school in Samoa, French got a job working at a boat yard and fish processing plant in Oregon. He jumped around to a few different jobs, but knew he wanted to work on boats. He had a goal of saving money to attend a fiberglass boatbuilding class on Woodby Island in Washington.

“When I met my wife, I didn’t have a steady job. So I got the idea that I would join the Coast Guard for four years, then take my GI bill to go to the boatbuilding class,” French said. He ended up spending 27 years working for the US Coast Guard. Seventeen years were spent at Coast Guard stations driving the small boats, and the rest were spent on larger ships.

“By the time I was done working with the Coast Guard, I knew I wanted to stay at sea. I had been on boats my whole career.”

French got his merchant marine document, which led him to a job working for the Alaska Marine Highway as a seaman for a couple of years. The job was reliable, but did not have enough variability in tasks or locations to satisfy his adventurous personality. French jumped at the opportunity to work as a bosun for the R/V Sikuliaq, and joined the crew before the ship was delivered in 2014.

He enjoys the variety in both location and day-to-day operations that the Sikuliaq has to offer. He explains that the work style on the Sikuliaq, where everyone onboard has a number of different duties that they are called on to perform, is similar to how the Coast Guard works, and provides the kind of diversity he thrives on.

French has enjoyed getting to know the new ship along with the rest of the crew. “It has been interesting, although somewhat frustrating, and a lot of fun to getting to know a brand new ship like this,” he said. “There have been a number of extra projects that crew members have had the chance to be part of, including woodworking for the bridge and the crew lounge. It is amazing to see all of the exceptional skills that our crew have when we get together to do work outside of our normal duties.”

Posted in SIKULIAQ | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

UAF’s Baker uses fishing background to feed role as educator



 Torie Baker and Sunny Rice .

Photo by Beverly Bradley As colleagues, Torie Baker (left) and Sunny Rice often collaborate on statewide initiatives in fishing business and direct marketing assistance.

With the dual perspective of a commercial fisherman and educator, Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory agent Torie Baker strives to help Cordova fishermen connect with each other and run successful businesses.

“Sometimes I feel like the den mother,” Baker said. “I like that people are able to come to my office and ask basic questions or run through ideas they’ve been thinking about to improve their bottom line.”

Baker grew up on a small, multicrop farm in central California. Her family benefited from an extension agent at a local university campus who provided technical assistance on subjects like almond tree pollination and crop rotations for alfalfa. It was Baker’s first exposure to community-based extension work.

Baker moved to Cordova in 1988 to be a commercial fisherman. Cordova instantly appealed to her because of the thriving fishing port and the small-town, family-oriented culture. Baker owned and operated her fishing boat, the F/V Delta Tango, for more than 20 years.

Alaska Sea Grant first recruited Baker in the early 2000s to coordinate a statewide technical support program for salmon fishermen who were suffering an ongoing price collapse. She was hired into a permanent faculty position at the University of Alaska Fairbanks as the Prince William Sound Marine Advisory Program agent in 2004.

Torie Baker leads new commercial fishermen in a discussion

Photo by Beverly Bradley Torie Baker leads new commercial fishermen in a discussion at the 2013 Alaska Young Fishermen’s Summit in Juneau.

Sunny Rice, a Marine Advisory agent in Petersburg, was hired at the same time as Baker. Since Rice and Baker both work in small, fishing-oriented towns, they frequently collaborate on projects.

“A lot of the work we do is geared toward commercial fishermen,” Rice said. “She brings that fisherman’s experience, which is completely invaluable. It’s really hard to do something effectively without that perspective. She knows what our program is capable of providing, understands how to teach fishermen and brings this realistic, on-the-water experience.”

Baker said the biggest thrill of her job comes from helping someone bring a project or way of thinking to the next level, either by providing information or fostering a new connection.

“The success of fishing family businesses is critical in coastal Alaska. I especially enjoy working with the newer generation, those 30 and under who are putting a lot of things together on their plate now between the business side, the safety side and the fishing side,” Baker said.

Torie Baker works aboard the F/V Chagvan.

Photo by Troy Tirrell Torie Baker works aboard the F/V Chagvan.

Marc Carrel, a 31-year-old fisherman in Cordova, recently purchased a new boat and asked for Baker’s input as he explored what to buy, how to get a loan and other steps in the process. He ended up purchasing a boat similar to Baker’s and has continued to rely on her as a resource to customize the vessel for use in the local fishery.

Carrel also reviewed content for a website Baker and Rice recently upgraded, called the FishBiz Project, which provides information and tools for starting, managing, diversifying and exiting a commercial fishing business.

“Every time I have needed help from Torie or worked with Torie, it has been fantastic,” Carrel said. “It’s super valuable to have somebody in town who understands the fishing world and the fishing industry, but also has that bigger-picture understanding through the Sea Grant world and has resources available for people in the fishery.”

Baker and Rice coordinate the Alaska Young Fishermen’s Summit series, a three-day event for new industry entrants that includes networking and skill-building to manage modern commercial fishing businesses. A goal of the summit is to give fishermen a venue to work together and discuss relevant issues with industry mentors. The seventh summit will be held in December 2017.

During the first summit in 2007, Rice said, the schedule was packed with lectures and activities. But sitting at dinner after the first day, it became clear to Baker and Rice that participants needed more time to talk to each other about issues that were important to them. The two dropped everything and stayed up late to change the schedule, making sure the attendees would have time for the conversations they needed.

“This was one of my favorite moments working with Torie,” said Rice, “because it required real teamwork and a great partner to think about how to facilitate this discussion.”

The summit continues to attract both new fishermen eager to learn and industry leaders eager to share their knowledge and experience. “Making sure we give participants the workshop they need is a challenge that we are happy to keep working on,” Rice said. “Torie’s experience and dedication are crucial to making sure we do it in a practical way that makes sense for the fishermen we serve.”

Posted in Fisheries, Sea Grant | Leave a comment

Student Profile: Kofan Lu

Kofan Lu

Kofan Lu

by Barb Hameister

Kofan Lu is a long way from her home country of Taiwan, but Alaska seems to suit her perfectly.

Kofan is a doctoral student at the College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences studying ocean and sea-ice modeling. “My research topic is about instability-induced eddies, sea ice dynamics and modeling,” she explains. “The time and length scales of mesoscale eddies are relatively small compared to other climate change processes. This means they can be observed and perturbed over short periods of time. Also, the physics of sea ice dynamics and thermodynamics are very complicated. That means any small factor can make big changes to the eddies and sea ice. Though it’s complicated, it still has regularity based on physical laws. This is very appealing to me.”

Kofan’s graduate advisors, Tom Weingartner and Seth Danielson, are enthusiastic about her work. “Kofan is an incredibly productive and focused student whose computational and programming abilities have allowed her to make great strides in her research very quickly,” Danielson says. “Her idealized ocean-ice models have provided a lot of insight to hydrographic features that we observe in data collected from ships.”

Before coming to UAF, Kofan earned a master’s degree in Computer Science from National Tsing Hua University in Taiwan, where she focused on physics simulation in computer graphics.

“The ways that ocean scenes in animations or video games are simulated are quite similar to modeling the real ocean,” Kofan says. “However, ‘fake physics’ is often used for efficiency or to create dramatic visual effects. This means that even though we can ‘see’ unknown worlds through animation, we don’t really understand them at all.”

After receiving her master’s degree, Kofan got a job as an engineer in a studio that produces animated footage for news programs. Soon she began to wonder if there was a way to use computers to simulate and investigate real oceans. When a friend, who happened to be a biological oceanographer at the Institute of Oceanography, National Taiwan University (IONTU), mentioned that her research group needed a programmer to do ocean modeling, Kofan jumped at the opportunity.

By the time she took the job at IONTU, Kofan had already come under the spell of the Arctic. As a teenager she loved the movie “Ice Age” which, as it turned out, was also her first exposure to the animation of ice-covered regions. But after seeing the documentary “Beyond the Arctic,” which follows the adventures of a Taiwanese team competing in the 2008 Polar Challenge race, she was truly hooked, and knew she wanted to try living and studying in the Far North.

Kofan’s decision to pursue further training in Arctic research and ocean modeling led her to CFOS, a natural fit for her interests. She was accepted into the doctoral program and began her studies in spring 2014.

This past summer, Kofan was excited to be among the group of CFOS faculty and students who participated in the Chukchi Borderlands cruise aboard the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy. The goal of this international research cruise was to learn more about the species and processes found in the transition region between the Chukchi Sea shelf and the Arctic Basin. Kofan assisted with CTD and mooring recovery and deployment in addition to processing and analyzing CTD data. But it wasn’t all work. “We saw polar bears, ribbon seals, and many fascinating ice-covered and underwater views,” says Kofan. “It was a wonderful experience.”

Recently Kofan had the opportunity to be a teaching assistant for Mark Johnson’s Physical Oceanography class. “I love teaching and had been a TA in Taiwan, but only for large undergraduate classes,” she says. “To be a TA in a graduate class with less than 10 students is very different. I could have thorough discussions with the instructor and students, and not be simply grading homework. I got great feedback from the class, and I really appreciated the chance to work with Dr. Johnson and all the students.”

Life in Alaska is just as wonderful as Kofan expected it would be. “Here I can enjoy excellent views, work with awesome researchers without having to live in a crowded city, and do lots of outdoor activities such as kayaking and hiking—not to mention getting to see the aurora. Everything is great in Alaska.” She learned to snowboard two years ago and now, she says, “I’m addicted to it!”

Kofan at the Angel Rocks

Enjoying a winter hike

But despite her love of Alaska and the Arctic, the call of home

is strong. Before coming to UAF, Kofan spent several years teaching math and science to students from some of Taiwan’s aboriginal groups, and ultimately she would like to continue that work. “There are very limited education resources in the tribes and not many certificated teachers are willing to teach there,” Kofan says. “However, I found the people there are full of knowledge about nature inherited from their ancestors. I learned a lot from my students and their families and would like to reciprocate by returning to Taiwan and teaching again in the tribes.”

Before she returns home, Kofan plans to investigate post-graduate research opportunities in Japan so she can find out how scientists in Asia approach Arctic and climate change research. She also hopes to learn how the results of research in Japan might be applicable to Taiwan, since both are island countries with similar climate, geography and productive fisheries.

For now, though, Kofan is happy to be living her Alaskan dream and pursuing her Ph.D. at CFOS.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Genetic research may help trace chum salmon to home rivers

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

Photo by Chris Lunsford Michael Garvin sails through Auke Bay, just north of Juneau in Southeast Alaska.

University of Alaska Fairbanks researchers have uncovered genetic markers that can help trace chum salmon to the rivers in which they hatched, according to a new paper published in the journal Methods in Ecology and Evolution.

Mapping out chum salmon pathways could help improve management of the species in Western Alaska, according to UAF College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences postdoctoral fellow Michael Garvin.

“In some years, chum salmon are frequently the bycatch of pollock fishermen” in the Bering Sea, Garvin explained. “Genetically, chum salmon that originate in Western Alaska tend to look very similar. This makes it difficult for stakeholders because management and conservation efforts to address this bycatch can differ among these regions, but the ability to identify them with genetics is not possible.”

Garvin, CFOS professors Megan McPhee and Tony Gharrett, and colleagues used small variations in the DNA of a cell’s mitochondria, the powerhouse of the cell that is involved in energy production, to learn about a salmon’s history. Mitochondria are incredibly important to our bodies. Without our bones, Garvin said, mitochondria make up about one third of our weight. And mitochondria have their own DNA.

“When people talk about DNA, they tend to be talking about DNA in a cell’s nucleus,” Garvin said. “DNA in the mitochondria is totally separate.”

The changes or mutations in mitochondrial DNA are what people typically use to trace their ancestors back to the earliest human populations. Mitochondrial DNA is useful for this because we inherit it from our mothers, so we can trace a particular genealogy back through time.

Mutations can cause physiological changes in an individual that can make them more or less able to adapt to a particular environment.

Garvin and McPhee mapped out where different mutations occur in chum salmon’s mitochondrial DNA. Then they used this information to begin to learn about DNA in the nucleus. Even though the two sources of DNA are separate, they must work together for a cell to function properly.

The researchers found that changes in mitochondrial DNA enabled detection of corresponding change in the DNA of the nucleus. This uncovered new genetic markers that agencies can now use to improve their ability to determine the natal rivers of salmon in waters off Western Alaska.

This effort has been ongoing for 30 years, Garvin said, but is now possible to tackle because of new and less expensive sequencing technology.

“New technology has moved so fast that we can now determine what mutations actually do,” Garvin said. “We can look at genetic sequences and understand more about why certain individuals can thrive in one region, but not another.”

The researchers are based at the CFOS Lena Point Fisheries Facility near Auke Bay north of Juneau. This project was funded by the Coastal Impact Assistance Program and was conducted in partnership with the Western Alaska Salmon Coalition, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Ted Stevens Marine Research Institute at Auke Bay.

Posted in Fisheries | Tagged , | Leave a comment