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

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Huntington H.P.,The Clearing | Braem N.M.,Alaska Department of Fish and Game | Brown C.L.,Alaska Department of Fish and Game | Hunn E.,University of Washington | And 7 more authors.
Deep-Sea Research Part II: Topical Studies in Oceanography | Year: 2013

We documented local and traditional knowledge (LTK) about the Bering Sea ecosystem through interviews with Alaska Native elders, hunters, and fishers in the coastal communities of Akutan, St. Paul, Togiak, Emmonak, and Savoonga. Their observations describe a complex and changing ecosystem, with indications of divergent impacts of change in the south (many species in decline) and the north (a productive ecosystem). Observed changes in species abundance suggest that the marginal zone of maximum (March) sea-ice extent is experiencing the most rapid directional changes, including shifts in distribution of ice-associated species such as bearded seal ( Erignathus barbatus). Causes of declines in other species such as northern fur seals ( Callorhinus ursinus) and murres ( Uria spp.) are harder to identify, and seabird abundance trends appear to vary greatly with location. Connections between the LTK findings and other research under the North Pacific Research Board and National Science Foundation's Bering Sea Project were modest due to mismatches in temporal and spatial scales of reference and the fact that LTK observations were not initially made with scientific relevance in mind. We found, however, the overall observations to be consistent with the emerging picture of high spatial variability in the Bering Sea ecosystem. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd.


Sigler M.F.,National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration | Harvey H.R.,University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science | Ashjian C.J.,Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution | Lomas M.W.,Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences | And 3 more authors.
Eos | Year: 2010

The Bering Sea is one of the most productive marine ecosystems in the world, sustaining nearly half of U.S. annual commercial fish catches and providing food and cultural value to thousands of coastal and island residents. Fish and crab are abundant in the Bering Sea; whales, seals, and seabirds migrate there every year. In winter, the topography, latitude, atmosphere, and ocean circulation combine to produce a sea ice advance in the Bering Sea unmatched elsewhere in the Northern Hemisphere, and in spring the retreating ice; longer daylight hours; and nutrient-rich, deep-ocean waters forced up onto the broad continental shelf result in intense marine productivity (Figure 1). This seasonal ice cover is a major driver of Bering Sea ecology, making this ecosystem particularly sensitive to changes in climate. Predicted changes in ice cover in the coming decades have intensified concern about the future of this economically and culturally important region. In response, the North Pacific Research Board (NPRB) and the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) entered into a partnership in 2007 to support the Bering Sea Project, a comprehensive $52 million investigation to understand how climate change is affecting the Bering Sea ecosystem, ranging from lower trophic levels (e.g., plankton) to fish, seabirds, marine mammals, and, ultimately, humans. The project integrates two research programs, the NSF Bering Ecosystem Study (BEST) and the NPRB Bering Sea Integrated Ecosystem Research Program (BSIERP), with substantial in-kind contributions from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.


Madison E.N.,U.S. Geological Survey | Piatt J.F.,U.S. Geological Survey | Arimitsu M.L.,U.S. Geological Survey | Romano M.D.,U.S. Geological Survey | And 6 more authors.
Marine Ornithology | Year: 2011

The Kittlitz's Murrelet Brachyramphus brevirostris is adapted for life in glacial-marine ecosystems, being concentrated in the belt of glaciated fjords in the northern Gulf of Alaska from Glacier Bay to Cook Inlet. Most of the remaining birds are scattered along coasts of the Alaska Peninsula and Aleutian Islands, where they reside in protected bays and inlets, often in proximity to remnant glaciers or recently deglaciated landscapes. We summarize existing information on Kittlitz's Murrelet in this mainly unglaciated region, extending from Kodiak Island in the east to the Near Islands in the west. From recent surveys, we estimated that ~2400 Kittlitz's Murrelets were found in several large embayments along the Alaska Peninsula, where adjacent ice fields feed silt-laden water into the bays. On Kodiak Island, where only remnants of ice remain today, observations of Kittlitz's Murrelets at sea were uncommon. The species has been observed historically around the entire Kodiak Archipelago, however, and dozens of nest sites were found in recent years. We found Kittlitz's Murrelets at only a few islands in the Aleutian chain, notably those with long complex shorelines, high mountains and remnant glaciers. The largest population (~1600 birds) of Kittlitz's Murrelet outside the Gulf of Alaska was found at Unalaska Island, which also supports the greatest concentration of glacial ice in the Aleutian Islands. Significant populations were found at Atka (~1100 birds), Attu (~800) and Adak (~200) islands. Smaller numbers have been reported from Unimak, Umnak, Amlia, Kanaga, Tanaga, Kiska islands, and Agattu Island, where dozens of nest sites have been located in recent years. Most of those islands have not been thoroughly surveyed, and significant pockets of Kittlitz's Murrelets may yet be discovered. Our estimate of ~6000 Kittlitz's Murrelets along the Alaska Peninsula and Aleutian Islands is also likely to be conservative because of the survey protocols we employed.


Suchman C.L.,North Pacific Research Board | Brodeur R.D.,National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration | Daly E.A.,Oregon State University | Emmett R.L.,National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Hydrobiologia | Year: 2012

Blooms of jellyfish around the world have been correlated with climatic variables related to environmental causes. Sizeable populations of large medusae, primarily Chrysaora fuscescens and Aequorea sp., appear annually in shelf waters of the Northeast Pacific Ocean. Previous research has shown that C. fuscescens is abundant seasonally in the inner shelf and exhibits high feeding rates on zooplankton. We examined medusae caught in surface trawls over an 8-year period (2000-2007) using (1) mesoscale surveys sampling 8-10 transects in May, June, and September, and (2) biweekly surveys along two transects from April to August, relating abundance to environmental parameters. C. fuscescens abundances generally peaked in late summer, whereas Aequorea sp. peaked in May or June. General additive models of the mesoscale data indicated that station catches for both species correlated with latitude, temperature, salinity, and distance from shore (and chlorophyll a for Aequorea sp.). Analysis of interannual variability revealed that highest catches of medusae correlated with cool spring-summer conditions, or negative anomalies of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, and low winter-summer runoff from the Columbia River. Results confirmed our hypothesis of connections between jellyfish populations and regional climate conditions in a region known for strong physical forcing of ecosystem processes. © 2012 Springer Science+Business Media B.V.


Fautin D.,University of Kansas | Dalton P.,University of Washington | Incze L.S.,University of Southern Maine | Leong J.-A.C.,Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology | And 14 more authors.
PLoS ONE | Year: 2010

Marine biodiversity of the United States (U.S.) is extensively documented, but data assembled by the United States National Committee for the Census of Marine Life demonstrate that even the most complete taxonomic inventories are based on records scattered in space and time. The best-known taxa are those of commercial importance. Body size is directly correlated with knowledge of a species, and knowledge also diminishes with distance from shore and depth. Measures of biodiversity other than species diversity, such as ecosystem and genetic diversity, are poorly documented. Threats to marine biodiversity in the U.S. are the same as those for most of the world: overexploitation of living resources; reduced water quality; coastal development; shipping; invasive species; rising temperature and concentrations of carbon dioxide in the surface ocean, and other changes that may be consequences of global change, including shifting currents; increased number and size of hypoxic or anoxic areas; and increased number and duration of harmful algal blooms. More information must be obtained through field and laboratory research and monitoring that involve innovative sampling techniques (such as genetics and acoustics), but data that already exist must be made accessible. And all data must have a temporal component so trends can be identified. As data are compiled, techniques must be developed to make certain that scales are compatible, to combine and reconcile data collected for various purposes with disparate gear, and to automate taxonomic changes. Information on biotic and abiotic elements of the environment must be interactively linked. Impediments to assembling existing data and collecting new data on marine biodiversity include logistical problems as well as shortages in finances and taxonomic expertise. © 2010 Fautin et al.


Arimitsu M.,U.S. Geological Survey | Piatt J.F.,U.S. Geological Survey | Romano M.D.,U.S. Geological Survey | Romano M.D.,National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration | And 2 more authors.
Marine Ornithology | Year: 2011

The Kittlitz's Murrelet Brachyramphus brevirostris is a candidate species for listing under the US Endangered Species Act because of its apparent declines within core population areas of coastal Alaska. During the summers of 2006-2008, we conducted surveys in marine waters adjacent to Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska, to estimate the current population size of Kittlitz's and Marbled murrelets B. marmoratus and examine seasonal variability in distribution within coastal fjords. We also evaluated historical data to estimate trend. Based on an average of point estimates, we find the recent population (95% CI) of Kittlitz's Murrelet to be 716 (353-1080) individuals, that of Marbled Murrelet to be 6690 (5427-7953) individuals, and all Brachyramphus murrelets combined to number 8186 (6978-9393) birds. Within-season density estimates showed Kittlitz's Murrelets generally increased between June and July, but dispersed rapidly by August, while Marbled Murrelets generally increased throughout the summer. Trends in Kittlitz's and Marbled murrelet populations were difficult to assess with confidence. Methods for counting or sampling murrelets varied in early decades of study, while in later years there is uncertainty due to highly variable counts among years, which may be due in part to timing of surveys relative to the spring bloom in coastal waters of the Gulf of Alaska.


Shuert C.,University of Alaska Fairbanks | Shuert C.,Alaska SeaLife Center | Horning M.,Alaska SeaLife Center | Horning M.,Oregon State University | And 3 more authors.
PLoS ONE | Year: 2015

Two novel research approaches were developed to facilitate controlled access to, and longterm monitoring of, juvenile Steller sea lions for periods longer than typically afforded by traditional fieldwork. The Transient Juvenile Steller sea lion Project at the Alaska SeaLife Center facilitated nutritional, physiological, and behavioral studies on the platform of temporary captivity. Temporarily captive sea lions (TJs, n = 35) were studied, and were intraperitoneally implanted with Life History Transmitters (LHX tags) to determine causes of mortality post-release. Our goal was to evaluate the potential for long-term impacts of temporary captivity and telemetry implants on the survival of study individuals. A simple open-population Cormack-Jolly-Seber mark-recapture model was built in program MARK, incorporating resightings of uniquely branded study individuals gathered by several contributing institutions. A priori models were developed to weigh the evidence of effects of experimental treatment on survival with covariates of sex, age, capture age, cohort, and age class. We compared survival of experimental treatment to a control group of n = 27 free-ranging animals (FRs) that were sampled during capture events and immediately released. Sex has previously been show to differentially affect juvenile survival in Steller sea lions. Therefore, sex was included in all models to account for unbalanced sex ratios within the experimental group. Considerable support was identified for the effects of sex, accounting for over 71% of total weight for all a priori models with delta AICc <5, and over 91% of model weight after removal of pretending variables. Overall, most support was found for the most parsimonious model based on sex and excluding experimental treatment. Models including experimental treatment were not supported after post-hoc considerations of model selection criteria. However, given the limited sample size, alternate models including effects of experimental treatments remain possible and effects may yet become apparent in larger sample sizes. © 2015 Shuert et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


Shuert C.,University of Alaska Fairbanks | Shuert C.,Alaska SeaLife Center | Mellish J.,University of Alaska Fairbanks | Mellish J.,Alaska SeaLife Center | And 3 more authors.
Conservation Physiology | Year: 2015

This study builds on a continued effort to document potential long-term research impacts on the individual, as well as to identify potential markers of survival for use in a field framework. The Transient Juvenile Steller sea lion (TJ) project was developed as a novel framework to gain access to wild individuals. We used three analyses to evaluate and predict long-term survival in temporarily captive sea lions (n = 45) through Cormack-Jolly-Seber open population modelling techniques. The first analysis investigated survival in relation to the observed responses to handling stress through changes in six principal blood parameters over the duration of captivity. The second analysis evaluated survival compared with body condition and mass at entry and exit from captivity. Finally, the third analysis sought to evaluate the efficacy of single-point sampling to project similar survival trends for use in field sampling operations. Results from a priori models ranked through Akaike information criterion model selection methods indicated that mass gains (4.2 ± 12%) over captivity and increases in leucocytes (WBC, 1.01 ± 3.54 × 103/mm3) resulted in a higher average survival rate (> 3 years). Minor support was identified for the single-point measures of exit mass and entry WBC. A higher exit mass predicted a higher survival rate, whereas a higher WBC predicted a lower survival rate. While changes in mass and WBC appear to be the best predictors of survival when measured as a change over time, single-point sampling may still be an effective way to improve estimates of population health. © The Author 2015.


Burke C.M.,Memorial University of Newfoundland | Montevecchi W.A.,Memorial University of Newfoundland | Wiese F.K.,North Pacific Research Board
Journal of Environmental Management | Year: 2012

Petroleum exploration and production on the Grand Bank of eastern Canada overlaps with productive marine habitat that supports over 40 million marine birds annually. Environmental assessments for oil and gas projects in the region predict insignificant adverse effects on marine birds from oil spills, incineration in platform flares and collisions. Limited baseline data on seasonal occupancies and a failure to quantify the nature and extent of marine bird attraction to platforms and related mortality undermines these assessments. We conducted 22 surveys to offshore platforms on the Grand Bank during 1999-2003 to measure avian associations with platforms and to determine the level of monitoring needed to assess the risks to marine birds. We document seasonal shifts in marine bird occurrences and higher densities of auks (fall) and shearwaters (summer) around platforms relative to surrounding areas. The limited temporal and spatial coverage of our surveys is more robust than existing industry monitoring efforts, yet it is still inadequate to quantify the scale of marine bird associations with platforms or their associated mortality risks. Systematic observations by independent biologists on vessels and platforms are needed to generate reliable assessments of risks to marine birds. Instead, the regulatory body for offshore oil and gas in eastern Canada (Canada - Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board; C-NLOPB) supports industry self-reporting as the accepted form of environmental monitoring. Conflicting responsibilities of oil and gas regulatory agencies for both energy development and environmental monitoring are major barriers to transparency, unbiased scientific inquiry and adequate environmental protection. Similar conflicts with the oil and gas regulatory body in the United States, the former Minerals and Management Service (MMS) were identified by the U.S. President as a major contributor to the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. The MMS has since been restructured into the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, (BOEM) with separate departments responsible for drilling leases and the regulation of drilling activities. Similar restructuring of the oil and gas regulatory bodies in Canada is needed for better public information, scientific investigation and environmental protection in the offshore. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd.


Artukhin Y.B.,Russian Academy of Sciences | Vyatkin P.S.,Russian Academy of Sciences | Andreev A.V.,Russian Academy of Sciences | Konyukhov N.B.,RAS Severtsov Institute of Ecology | And 2 more authors.
Marine Ornithology | Year: 2011

The Kittlitz's Murrelet Brachyramphus brevirostris is one of the rarest seabird species in northeastern Asia. The species is widely distributed in the Chukchi and Bering seas, where it is observed from de Long Strait to Kamchatsky Bay and also in the northern Sea of Okhotsk. However, the species' Asian breeding range is not well documented. All four nests found historically in the region were located in inland alpine habitats. The species' wintering areas are also poorly documented; the northern boundary of winter distribution lies along the Sireniki polynya near the southern coast of Chukotka Peninsula. Migrating and wintering birds have also been recorded near northeastern Sakhalin and the islands of northern Japan. We provide an overview of the known distribution and conservation status of the Kittlitz's Murrelet population in the Russian Far East. Our assessment is based on at-sea surveys conducted from the 1970s to the early 2000s, with a total survey distance of >10 000 km. These surveys covered the presumed main potential breeding area of the Kittlitz's Murrelet in our study area. In the Bering Sea, highest densities were observed in the coastal waters of the eastern and southern parts of the Koryak Highlands and southern Chukotka Peninsula. In the Sea of Okhotsk, the species occupies roughly 500 km of coastline from Amakhton Bay to Tavatum Bay, with a total estimate of roughly 500 breeding pairs. The Asian coast likely supports a larger proportion of the global population of Kittlitz's Murrelet than previously acknowledged, and an expansion of surveys, research and monitoring of this species in Asia will be important for its conservation.

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