Alaska SeaLife Center

Seward, AK, United States

Alaska SeaLife Center

Seward, AK, United States
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Horning M.,Oregon State University | Mellish J.-A.E.,Alaska SeaLife Center | Mellish J.-A.E.,University of Alaska Fairbanks
PLoS ONE | Year: 2012

The endangered western stock of the Steller sea lion (Eumetopias jubatus) - the largest of the eared seals - has declined by 80% from population levels encountered four decades ago. Current overall trends from the Gulf of Alaska to the Aleutian Islands appear neutral with strong regional heterogeneities. A published inferential model has been used to hypothesize a continuous decline in natality and depressed juvenile survival during the height of the decline in the mid-late 1980's, followed by the recent recovery of juvenile survival to pre-decline rates. However, these hypotheses have not been tested by direct means, and causes underlying past and present population trajectories remain unresolved and controversial. We determined post-weaning juvenile survival and causes of mortality using data received post-mortem via satellite from telemetry transmitters implanted into 36 juvenile Steller sea lions from 2005 through 2011. Data show high post-weaning mortality by predation in the eastern Gulf of Alaska region. To evaluate the impact of such high levels of predation, we developed a conceptual framework to integrate density dependent with density independent effects on vital rates and population trajectories. Our data and model do not support the hypothesized recent recovery of juvenile survival rates and reduced natality. Instead, our data demonstrate continued low juvenile survival in the Prince William Sound and Kenai Fjords region of the Gulf of Alaska. Our results on contemporary predation rates combined with the density dependent conceptual framework suggest predation on juvenile sea lions as the largest impediment to recovery of the species in the eastern Gulf of Alaska region. The framework also highlights the necessity for demographic models based on age-structured census data to incorporate the differential impact of predation on multiple vital rates. © 2012 Horning, Mellish.


Steller sea lions were listed as endangered following a collapse of the western distinct population beginning in the late 1970s. Low juvenile survival has been implicated as a factor in the decline. I conducted a multistate mark-recapture analysis to estimate juvenile survival in an area of the western population where sea lions are showing signs of recovery. Survival for males and females was 80% between 3 weeks and 1 year of age. Approximately 20% of juveniles continued to be nursed by their mothers between ages 1 and 2 and 10% between ages 2 and 3. Survival for juveniles that suckled beyond 1 year was 88.2% and 89.9% to ages 2 and 3, respectively. In contrast, survival for individuals weaned by age 1 was 40.6% for males and 64.2% for females between ages 1 and 2. Birth mass positively influenced survival for juveniles weaned at age 1 but had little effect on individuals continuing to suckle. Cumulative survival to age 4 was double that estimated during the population decline in this region. Evidence suggests that western Steller sea lions utilize a somewhat different maternal strategy than those in the eastern distinct population. Western adult females generally invest more in their pups during the first year but wean offspring by age 1 more often. This results in better survival to age 1, but greater mortality between ages 1 and 3 compared to the eastern population. Different maternal strategies may reflect density dependent pressures of populations at opposite levels of abundance. © 2014 John M. Maniscalco.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: ARCTIC NATURAL SCIENCES | Award Amount: 324.79K | Year: 2013

This award will support program office and synergistic activities to conclude an integrated, multidisciplinary research program in the eastern Bering Sea, funded through a partnership between the National Science Foundation and the North Pacific Research Board (NPRB). Underway since 2007, the Bering Sea Project has involved dozens of individual research projects and more than 100 investigators, all working toward the goal of improving our understanding of how this highly productive (and economically critical) marine ecosystem may respond to climate change, particularly as mediated through changes in seasonal ice cover. This award seeks to maximize the return on NSF?s and NPRB?s investment during the final two years of the program, through several key activities deemed most critical to capturing and communicating the programs scientific accomplishments. The project would provide funds for 1) publication of thematic special issues of the scientific journal Deep-Sea Research II, 2) travel for members of the Bering Sea Project Science Advisory Board (SAB) to one in-person meeting in Arlington, Virginia and a scientific meeting (the 2014 Alaska Marine Science Symposium), and 3) travel and meeting expenses associated with a capstone open science meeting in 2014. From the start, the Bering Sea Project has incorporated a diverse suite of communication, outreach, and education activities to convey the scientific discoveries of the program to stakeholders, teachers, students, and the public. Funding would support print and electronic publication of short headlines scientific synopses, a longer Bering Sea Project magazine, and a programmatic lessons learned article.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: | Award Amount: 249.07K | Year: 2013

Throughout the Arctic, indigenous people are faced with difficult choices between the cash benefits of industrialization versus potential degradation of subsistence hunting. Subsistence hunting often provides a large fraction of foods, and may be more reliable in the long term than a cash economy based on nonrenewable resources. Subsistence hunting for certain species may also have cultural significance that far exceeds their dietary contribution. On the Chukchi Sea coast, pipelines connecting offshore oil wells to onshore terminals must be built across a nearshore corridor used by most marine birds and mammals that migrate to the western North American Arctic. These animals are hunted for subsistence by local Natives. During spring, these animals travel through a zone of open water that forms between landfast ice and moving pack ice. If an oil pipeline were ruptured by spring ice scour in this shallow zone, oil could probably not be removed from open water within broken ice during migration. Such an event could not only restrict the extent of viable habitat, but also eliminate local hunting areas. Thus, key habitats that are usually accessible to hunting should be avoided in pipeline placement. In this research, we will model habitat requirements and map viable prey densities for a formerly hunted but now threatened species (Spectacled Eider, SPEI) and a commonly hunted species (King Eider, KIEI) in the Chukchi nearshore zone, and determine long-term variability in the eiders? access to those areas through the ice. We will refine these maps with traditional ecological knowledge on conditions and areas where hunting for KIEI typically occurs. We will then estimate probabilities that different eider feeding areas that are accessible through the ice and conducive to hunting would be eliminated during migration by oil spills from pipelines built along four alternative routes. We will use this information to inform structured decision-making workshops we will hold in the Native community. These workshops will help create a local vision for sustainability, in terms of potential risks of different pipeline routes to subsistence and cultural values of eiders, relative to cash benefits of local construction projects.

Local villagers will be involved in creating and shaping the data set, and will be the main participants in structured decision-making workshops. We will integrate our work with outreach and education programs conducted in these villages by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Our project will yield important information for future evaluations and decision-making by Endangered Species and Migratory Bird Management Offices. Our modern scientific and traditional ecological data, and facilitation of community consensus-building, will expedite later impact assessments by BOEM and other agencies as oilfield development proceeds. On a hemispheric scale, the approach we develop will serve as a prototype applicable to the many such situations developing across the Arctic.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: INSTRUMENTAT & INSTRUMENT DEVP | Award Amount: 367.15K | Year: 2016

An award is made to the Alaska SeaLife Center (Seward, AK) to develop a miniaturized, implantable, life-long vital rate monitor for warm-bodied marine animals. This study will provide one postdoctoral researcher and a technical research associate the opportunity to participate in the multi-disciplinary integration of science and technology, and the application of technological innovation to promoting innovative biological research. Through a custom education and outreach package, the development efforts and linkages between technological innovation and biological research will be brought to a broad public audience including potential users of the new instrument, other scientists, public people of all ages, as well as grades 6-12 school children. The outreach package will enhance an existing, standards conforming STEM curriculum, downloadable from a project-specific website. Through addition of a geo-referenced data and information portal to this website (under development via separate funding, to go live in 2016), in combination with regionally available resources (distributed classroom activities kits) and remotely accessible training opportunities, modern science and technology learning opportunities will be brought to under-served rural classrooms in Alaska.

The purpose of the Life History Transmitter (LHX tag) is to determine survival, causes and locations of mortality of host animals. In female hosts, LHX tags also determine the age at birth of their first pup and the number of pups born over their life. Oceans comprise the majority of the Earths biosphere, and marine ecosystems are faced with potentially dramatic changes driven by natural and human factors, including use of natural resources and climate change. Many linkages between causes of changes, and effects in complex marine ecosystems, specially those involving top level consumers as well as their predators and prey, remain poorly understood, largely due to a lack of feasible ways to observe many marine species that spend most of their life at sea or under water. To overcome this difficulty, a new monitoring device was developed under previous IDBR funding that enables the collection of predation, survival and female reproductive data by a single instrument, no matter where the host might move to, feed, breed, and die. Building on the success of this new telemetry device that provided the first direct at-sea determination of predation rates on a large marine predator from satellite-linked transmissions initiated only after the death of the host, this project will improve the capabilities and enable the production of the Life History Transmitter, for collaborative studies on many top level species of interest and concern. This will enable researchers from a broad community of potential users to conceive and apply new experimental designs to provide a major surge in our understanding of marine ecosystems, food chain linkages, as well as consumer driven and resource driven effects within the many unresolved knowledge gaps.


Grant
Agency: Department of Defense | Branch: Navy | Program: STTR | Phase: Phase II | Award Amount: 750.00K | Year: 2011

Wildlife Computers presents a remote release device for use with marine mammal data-logging tags proposed with three variations to suit cetaceans and large and small pinnipeds. The device uses innovative approaches such as ElectRelease epoxy for the releasing mechanism and an Argos-based signaling system. Preliminary testing of device components are reviewed in summary from Phase I efforts. Outlined plans for prototype production and bench, field, and animal tests are described in detail as focus of this Phase II technical proposal. Production and bench tests are intended to test not only design features but numerous production materials to keep device light, strong and ocean-worthy. Bench and field tests will simulate real-world environment interactions the release devices may be exposed to in addition to testing signaling ranges and release-reliability. Animal tests are proposed for northern fur seals and Steller sea lions with oversight by research affiliate Dr. Russel Andrews. A Phase II Option will explore production of the cetacean device and its testing on short-finned pilot whales.


News Article | April 26, 2016
Site: www.treehugger.com

Located in Seward, Alaska about 125 miles south of Anchorage, the Alaska SeaLife Center does important work researching and promoting awareness of the wildlife that resides along the coast of Alaska. The center serves as an aquarium, but also operates as a marine research center and wildlife rescue and rehabilitation center. The size of the center and its location so far north meant that it has required several electric and oil-fired boilers to heat the buildings. Back in 2011, the center decided to take advantage of a resource right outside its doors and try to cut down on its reliance on fossil fuels and save some money in the process. The center began building a heat pump system that uses energy from the sea water in Resurrection Bay. The heat pump system was initially effective enough to cover hot water heating and radiant floor heating, but they were still relying on the boilers for baseboard heating. In December, they added a new, much more effective system and the center now meets 98 percent of the its heating needs through renewable energy and has eliminated the use of most of the boilers. Resurrection Bay is more than 900 feet deep. Through the summer, the water in the bay absorbs solar heat that warms the water through October. The water below the surface remains warmer than the air temperature through winter, which means the bay acts as a sort of heat storage. In the new system, seawater is pumped through a heat exchanger, which warms a water and glycol mix. (Seawater is corrosive, and it would freeze, so the glycol antifreeze is needed.) When liquid refrigerant (in this case CO2) comes in contact with the warmish water, it evaporates, which pulls heat out of the water the way melting ice pulls heat out of your drink – changing from a liquid to a gas absorbs energy. The CO2 then is compressed to 2000 PSI, which raises its temperature to 194°. The hot compressed gas then goes to a condenser, where it turns into a liquid, releasing all the heat that it had stored when it was turned into a vapor. The old system used a synthetic refrigerant that was not only less effective, but also posed a greenhouse gas risk if they were to leak from the system.The carbon dioxide refrigerant also poses a risk, but to a much lesser degree and the amount of fossil fuel use it's offsetting is significant. The center estimates that with the new system they are avoiding 1.24 million pounds of carbon emissions. The SeaLife Center is saving $15,000 a month in heating costs, a savings that can be redirected to its conservation and research programs. The system will have a complete return on investment in only 13 years. The center hopes this shows the potential for this type of heating system throughout the state of Alaska, which has more coastline than the rest of the country put together.


News Article | April 23, 2016
Site: phys.org

Thousands of people visit the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward for a look at Steller sea lions or harlequin ducks.


News Article | April 24, 2016
Site: www.techtimes.com

It is known that using renewable energy saves money and helps the environment that is why the Alaska SeaLife Center made a way to convert using fossil fuel to renewable seawater to heat and cool the center. The Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward announced April 22 that 98 percent of heating and cooling within the center is no longer using fossil fuel; instead, it converted into an alternative low-cost energy derived from seawater. The seawater heating system was designed by Andy Baker from the Anchorage consulting firm YourCleanEnergy. The materials used to build the complex pipe loops of the heating system are produced by Mayekawa, a Japanese firm. "The trick is to getting all those loops to transfer heat at the correct rate," said special projects coordinator Darryl Schaefermeyer of Alaska SeaLife Center. The renewable seawater system in SeaLife Center gets energy from the waters of Resurrection Bay. The 900-feet Resurrection Bay gathers heat from the sun over the summer months and retains the warm temperature over the winter. The water from the Resurrection Bay is then pumped from the 300-feet part of the ocean and transferred to the heat exchangers made of non- corrosive titanium plates. This is where the water loops, along with the 10 percent glycol serving as antifreeze. The warm water with the glycol passes on another loop with liquefied carbon dioxide, making the CO2 boils and turns into vapor. The vapor will then be compressed accelerating its pressure to 2,000 psi making the temperature increase from 100 to 194 degrees. After the long travel of water in the complex loop system, it will then circulate to another loop supplying the center with varying temperature in its offices and labs. The $1 million worth heating system has been functioning since Jan. 21 and had come in line in December of 2012. It is the first renewable heating system that uses seawater as the source of heat energy. This move of using an alternative energy is a way of fulfilling the SeaLife Center's mission on spreading the knowledge of Alaska's marine resources and a way to save money and help cut greenhouse gases which is estimated to reduce emissions by 1.24 million pounds ($1.79 million). "Simple payback is estimated to be 13 years at the estimated annual savings on electricity of $48,000," said Baker. Schaefermeyer added that since the installation of the heating system, the center had saved almost $4,000 per month on electric costs. © 2016 Tech Times, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.


News Article | April 24, 2016
Site: www.topix.com

Thousands of people visit the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward for a look at Steller sea lions or harlequin ducks. The SeaLife Center, which combines aquariums with research and wildlife rescue, announced Friday that 98 percent of its heating and cooling requirements are no longer filled by fossil fuel.

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