Anchorage, AK, United States
Anchorage, AK, United States

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Day R.H.,ABR Inc Environmental Research and Services | Prichard A.K.,ABR Inc Environmental Research and Services | Rose J.R.,ABR Inc Environmental Research and Services | Streever B.,BP Exploration Alaska Inc. | Swem T.,U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Arctic | Year: 2017

During migration, Common and King Eiders (Somateria mollissima and S. spectabilis) cross the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas of Arctic Alaska. Because they may become attracted to lights, eiders are susceptible to collision with structures, including offshore oil facilities. We used ornithological radar in 2001 – 04 to characterize the behavior of eiders migrating past Northstar Island, an oil-production island near Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, and to assess the effects of a hazing-light system on migrating eiders. “Eider” radar targets exhibited pulsed, irregular periods of movement; movement rates were higher when sea ice was present, without precipitation, and during tailwinds and crosswinds but were not affected by lights. Velocities (ground speeds) were higher when ice was present and with strong tailwinds. They were lower at night when the lights were on, but higher during the day when the lights were on. Radar targets exhibited little variation in flight behavior as they passed the island; the proportion of non-directional behavior was larger when ice was present, with tailwinds, with weak winds, and near the full moon when it was not visible. Lights had no effect on flight behavior. Birds tended to exhibit more course changes as they approached the island, greater angular changes when they changed course, and larger net increases in passing distance as a result of those course changes when the lights were on; however, none of these differences were statistically significant. Overall, the hazing lights at Northstar did not disrupt the birds’ migratory movements but resulted in increased avoidance of the island. © The Arctic Institute of North America.

Logerwell E.,National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration | Busby M.,National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration | Carothers C.,University of Alaska Fairbanks | Cotton S.,University of Alaska Fairbanks | And 15 more authors.
Progress in Oceanography | Year: 2015

The increased scientific interest in the Arctic due to climate change and potential oil and gas development has resulted in numerous surveys of Arctic marine fish communities since the mid-2000s. Surveys have been conducted in nearly all Arctic marine fish habitats: from lagoons, beaches and across the continental shelf and slope. This provides an opportunity only recently available to study Arctic fish communities across a spectrum of habitats. We examined fish survey data from lagoon, beach, nearshore benthic, shelf pelagic and shelf benthic habitats in the western Beaufort Sea and Chukchi Sea. Specifically, we compare and contrast relative fish abundance and length (a proxy for age) among habitats and seas. We also examined ichthyoplankton presence/absence and abundance of dominant taxa in the shelf habitat. Our synthesis revealed more similarities than differences between the two seas. For example, our results show that the nearshore habitat is utilized by forage fish across age classes, and is also a nursery area for other species. Our results also indicated that some species may be expanding their range to the north, for example, Chinook Salmon. In addition, we documented the presence of commercially important taxa such as Walleye Pollock and flatfishes (Pleuronectidae). Our synthesis of information on relative abundance and age allowed us to propose detailed conceptual models for the life history distribution of key gadids in Arctic food webs: Arctic and Saffron Cod. Finally, we identify research gaps, such as the need for surveys of the surface waters of the Beaufort Sea, surveys of the lagoons of the Chukchi Sea, and winter season surveys in all areas. We recommend field studies on fish life history that sample multiple age classes in multiple habitats throughout the year to confirm, resolve and interpret the patterns in fish habitat use that we observed. © 2015.

Gates H.R.,U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service | Gates H.R.,University of Alaska Fairbanks | Gates H.R.,ABR Inc. Environmental Research and Services | Yezerinac S.,Mount Allison University | And 5 more authors.
Journal of Field Ornithology | Year: 2013

Five subspecies of Dunlins (Calidris alpina) that breed in Beringia are potentially sympatric during the non-breeding season. Studying their ecology during this period requires techniques to distinguish individuals by subspecies. Our objectives were to determine (1) if five morphometric measures (body mass, culmen, head, tarsus, and wing chord) differed between sexes and among subspecies (C. a. actites, arcticola, kistchinski, pacifica, and sakhalina), and (2) if these differences were sufficient to allow for correct classification of individuals using equations derived from discriminant function analyses. We conducted analyses using morphometric data from 10 Dunlin populations breeding in northern Russia and Alaska, USA. Univariate tests revealed significant differences between sexes in most morphometric traits of all subspecies, and discriminant function equations predicted the sex of individuals with an accuracy of 83-100% for each subspecies. We provide equations to determine sex and subspecies of individuals in mixed subspecies groups, including the (1) Western Alaska group of arcticola and pacifica (known to stage together in western Alaska) and (2) East Asia group of arcticola, actites, kistchinski, and sakhalina (known to winter together in East Asia). Equations that predict the sex of individuals in mixed groups had classification accuracies between 75% and 87%, yielding reliable classification equations. We also provide equations that predict the subspecies of individuals with an accuracy of 22-96% for different mixed subspecies groups. When the sex of individuals can be predetermined, the accuracy of these equations is increased substantially. Investigators are cautioned to consider limitations due to age and feather wear when using these equations during the non-breeding season. These equations will allow determination of sexual and subspecies segregation in non-breeding areas, allowing implementation of taxonomic-specific conservation actions. © 2013 The Authors. Journal of Field Ornithology © 2013 Association of Field Ornithologists.

Miller M.P.,U.S. Geological Survey | Haig S.M.,U.S. Geological Survey | Mullins T.D.,U.S. Geological Survey | Ruan L.,U.S. Geological Survey | And 12 more authors.
Evolutionary Applications | Year: 2015

Waterfowl (Anseriformes) and shorebirds (Charadriiformes) are the most common wild vectors of influenza A viruses. Due to their migratory behavior, some may transmit disease over long distances. Migratory connectivity studies can link breeding and nonbreeding grounds while illustrating potential interactions among populations that may spread diseases. We investigated Dunlin (Calidris alpina), a shorebird with a subspecies (C. a. arcticola) that migrates from nonbreeding areas endemic to avian influenza in eastern Asia to breeding grounds in northern Alaska. Using microsatellites and mitochondrial DNA, we illustrate genetic structure among six subspecies: C. a. arcticola, C. a. pacifica, C. a. hudsonia, C. a. sakhalina, C. a. kistchinski, and C. a. actites. We demonstrate that mitochondrial DNA can help distinguish C. a. arcticola on the Asian nonbreeding grounds with >70% accuracy depending on their relative abundance, indicating that genetics can help determine whether C. a. arcticola occurs where they may be exposed to highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) during outbreaks. Our data reveal asymmetric intercontinental gene flow, with some C. a. arcticola short-stopping migration to breed with C. a. pacifica in western Alaska. Because C. a. pacifica migrates along the Pacific Coast of North America, interactions between these subspecies and other taxa provide route for transmission of HPAI into other parts of North America. © 2014 The Authors.

Kuletz K.J.,U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service | Ferguson M.C.,National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration | Hurley B.,George Mason University | Gall A.E.,ABR Inc. Environmental Research and Services | And 2 more authors.
Progress in Oceanography | Year: 2015

The Chukchi and Beaufort seas are undergoing rapid climate change and increased human activity. Conservation efforts for upper trophic level predators such as seabirds and marine mammals require information on species' distributions and identification of important marine areas. Here we describe broad-scale distributions of seabirds and marine mammals. We examined spatial patterns of relative abundance of seabirds and marine mammals in the eastern Chukchi and western Beaufort seas during summer (15 June-31 August) and fall (1 September-20 November) from 2007 to 2012. We summarized 49,206km of shipboard surveys for seabirds and 183,157km of aerial surveys for marine mammals into a grid of 40-km×40-km cells. We used Getis-Ord Gi* hotspot analysis to test for cells with higher relative abundance than expected when compared to all cells within the study area. We identified cells representing single species and taxonomic group hotspots, cells representing hotspots for multiple species, and cells representing hotspots for both seabirds and marine mammals. The locations of hotspots varied among species but often were located near underwater canyons or over continental shelf features and slopes. Hotspots for seabirds, walrus, and gray whales occurred primarily in the Chukchi Sea. Hotspots for bowhead whales and other pinnipeds (i.e., seals) occurred near Barrow Canyon and along the Beaufort Sea shelf and slope. Hotspots for belugas occurred in both the Chukchi and Beaufort seas. There were three hotspots shared by both seabirds and marine mammals in summer: off Wainwright in the eastern Chukchi Sea, south of Hanna Shoal, and at the mouth of Barrow Canyon. In fall, the only identified shared hotspot occurred at the mouth of Barrow Canyon. Shared hotspots are characterized by strong fronts caused by upwelling and currents, and these areas can have high densities of euphausiids in summer and fall. Due to the high relative abundance of animals and diversity of taxa, these sites are clearly important areas of congregation for seabirds and marine mammals that should be prioritized in the development of management and conservation plans. © 2015.

Aerts L.A.M.,LAMA Ecological | McFarland A.E.,Fairweather LLC | Watts B.H.,Fairweather LLC | Lomac-MacNair K.S.,Northern Exploration Services LLC | And 4 more authors.
Continental Shelf Research | Year: 2013

This paper describes the distribution and abundance of marine mammals during the open-water season within and near three offshore oil and gas prospects in the northeastern Chukchi Sea, known as the Klondike, Burger, and Statoil study areas. We collected vessel-based marine mammal data during July-October 2008-2010 along line transects oriented in a north-south direction. Over this period, we surveyed ~18,600. km of on-transect effort in the three study areas. Sightings of cetaceans were rare. The bowhead whale was the primary cetacean species sighted and was mostly observed in October (33 of 35 animals). Pinnipeds were the most abundant marine mammals in the study area, with 980 seals and 367 walruses recorded on transect. Most seals were observed as solitary animals, while walruses were often observed in aggregations. We calculated seal and walrus densities using species-specific detection functions corrected for probability of detection. There was high interannual variability in the abundance of seals and walruses that for some species may be related to interannual differences in ice conditions. Notwithstanding this variation, the distribution data suggest that benthic-feeding bearded seals and walruses generally were more common in the Burger and Statoil study areas, which can be characterized as more benthic-dominated ecosystems. The distribution of ringed/spotted seals did not show any statistically significant differences among the study areas, although a slight preference for the Klondike and Statoil study areas was suggested. Both of these study areas are affected by Bering Sea Water from the Central Channel and have a stronger pelagic component than the Burger study area. Continued sampling of these areas will help establish whether the observed trends in marine mammal distribution and abundance are persistent. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd.

Day R.H.,ABR Inc. Environmental Research and Services | Weingartner T.J.,University of Alaska Fairbanks | Weingartner T.J.,National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration | Hopcroft R.R.,University of Alaska Fairbanks | And 11 more authors.
Continental Shelf Research | Year: 2013

We conducted an interdisciplinary ecological study in and near 3 nearby proposed exploratory oil and gas prospects in the offshore northeastern Chukchi Sea during the open-water seasons of 2008-2010. This region exhibits a classical pelagic-benthic dichotomy of food-web structure in ecological function. The Klondike study area borders the eastern edge of the Central Channel and functions as a pelagic-dominated ecosystem, whereas the Burger study area lies south of Hanna Shoal and functions as a benthic-dominated ecosystem. The Statoil study area, which is located north of Klondike and northwest of Burger, has both pelagic and benthic attributes, although it is more like Burger than like Klondike. Klondike has lower benthic density and biomass, a higher biomass of oceanic zooplankton, and more fishes and planktivorous seabirds than does Burger, which has benthic communities with high density and biomass, primarily neritic zooplankton, and higher densities of benthic-feeding marine mammals than Klondike; Statoil has characteristics of both ecosystems. Patterns of sea-ice retreat vary interannually; in some years, much of the northeastern Chukchi is ice-free by mid-May, leading to pelagic and ice-edge phytoplankton blooms, whereas heavy ice cover in other years leads to substantial within-ice production. The characteristics of this region during the open-water season are not consistent among years, in that Bering Sea Water impinges onto all study areas only in some years, resulting in interannual variation in the distribution and abundance of zooplankton, planktivorous seabirds, and pelagic-feeding seals. These interannual variations alter several aspects of this pelagic-benthic dichotomy, and some aspects of this region suggest unusual structure (e.g., replacement of benthic-feeding fishes in some areas by predatory invertebrates, a lack of benthic-feeding seaducks). © 2013 Elsevier Ltd.

Gall A.E.,ABR Inc. Environmental Research and Services | Day R.H.,ABR Inc. Environmental Research and Services | Weingartner T.J.,University of Alaska Fairbanks
Continental Shelf Research | Year: 2013

We examined the seasonal and interannual variation in the marine-bird community and its relationship to physical oceanography in the northeastern Chukchi Sea in 2008-2010 as part of a multi-year, interdisciplinary study. We sampled 3 study areas, each ~3000km2, located in the offshore northeastern Chukchi Sea: Klondike, Burger, and Statoil. We quantified the marine habitat by measuring strength of stratification, depth of the mixed layer, and temperature and salinity in the upper mixed layer. The total density of seabirds was the highest in 2009, when warm (5-6°C), moderately saline (31-31.5) Bering Sea Water (BSW) extended across Burger and Klondike at all depths. Bird density was generally higher in Klondike than in Burger in 2008 and 2009; densities did not differ significantly among study areas in 2010, when BSW covered all 3 study areas. The relative abundance of alcids in all study areas combined increased from 2008 to 2010. Klondike was numerically dominated by alcids and tubenoses in all years, whereas Burger was numerically dominated by larids and tubenoses in 2008 and by alcids in 2009 and 2010; Statoil also was numerically dominated by alcids in 2010. Least auklets, crested auklets, and northern fulmars were positively associated with strong stratification and high salinity (>31) in the upper mixed layer, characteristics that indicated the presence of BSW. Phalaropes were positively associated with salinity but negatively associated with stratification, suggesting that well-mixed water provides better foraging opportunities for these surface-feeding planktivores. The distribution and abundance of marine birds, particularly the planktivorous species, is influenced by advective processes that transport oceanic species of zooplankton from the Bering Sea to the Chukchi Sea. This transport apparently differed among years and resulted in a broader northeastward intrusion of Bering Sea Water and greater total abundance of planktivorous seabirds in the region in 2009 than in 2008 or 2010. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd.

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