2011 Symposium

Please contact presentation authors directly to obtain copies of presentations. Author contact information is provided in the 2011 Book of Abstracts.

Anchorage public radio show features the Alaska Marine Science Symposium

In January 2011, Clarence Pautzke, outgoing North Pacific Research Board Executive Director, was a guest on the Alaska Public Radio Network's "Talk of Alaska," a weekly Anchorage call-in radio show. NPRB is one of many organizations that help sponsor the yearly Symposium.

Host Steve Heimel talked with Pautzke about the effort to understand our changing Arctic and the work of the NPRB. Ocean acidification researcher Jeremy Mathis of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, deep ocean researcher Michelle Ridgway, and UAF taxonomist Nora Foster joined the conversation by phone from Fairbanks. Listen to the podcast

Keynotes, open sessions and Lunchtime presentations

Monday, January 17

1:30 - 2:15 pm
Keynote: John Piatt, US Geological Survey

John PiattPredator response functions and the "Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries"

Marine predators such as seabirds and marine mammals feed heavily on small forage species, facilitating rapid transfer of energy to top trophic levels. Because of this, apex predators are useful indicators of the current state of pelagic ecosystems and informative to the "Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries" adopted by many fisheries organizations.

Of course, marine birds and mammals are not just handy ecosystem indicators— we also want to maintain healthy wildlife populations and an adequate forage base to sustain them. Whether their primary concern is for fish stocks or for wildlife, managers need quantitative data on the functional relationships between predators and prey to identify "minimum biologically acceptable limits" of forage biomass.

We are compiling and contrasting data from several marine ecosystems of the world to assess the form of these basic predator-prey relationships. Preliminary analyses suggest that response functions are usually non-linear and exhibit thresholds. The threshold biomass of prey at sea (bS) required by seabird predators for successful reproduction appears to be 1-3 orders of magnitude greater than the biomass needed to meet metabolic energy demands (bE) of populations during summer. Different predators may have markedly different bS/bE ratios because of differing sensitivities to prey depletion, and sensitivity may be predicted from a few life history characteristics.

Our initial findings show promise for discerning what different "indicator species" are actually indicating, and what levels of forage abundance may be required to sustain healthy apex predator communities.

Tuesday, January 18

Clarence Pautzke12:30 - 1:15 pm
Luncheon Presentation: Dr. Clarence Pautzke, retiring Executive Director,
North Pacific Research Board

The Flowering of NPRB: Some Reflections on Nine Years Well Spent

With little fanfare in 1997, Senator Ted Stevens created the North Pacific Research Board to support marine research on pressing fishery management issues and marine ecosystem information needs off Alaska. He set aside an endowment within the U.S. Treasury to support research for many years to come.

Since 2001, the Board has fielded 252 projects worth some $41.5 million covering all major components of our northern marine ecosystems. The Board also has contributed $16 million to a $52 million partnership with the National Science Foundation to study the Bering Sea, and has just commenced a $9 million ecosystem study in the Gulf of Alaska. An Arctic initiative, now being developed, may result in a $3 million program in 2013-14.

The retiring Executive Director provided some reflections on the flowering of NPRB over the past nine years, concluding that this research institution may be one of Senator Stevens' greatest legacies.

Wednesday, January 19

Fran Ulmer8:00 - 8:30 am
Keynote: Fran Ulmer, Chancellor, University of Alaska Anchorage

Oil Spill Commission Report and the Implications for Future Offshore Oil Development

President Barack Obama established the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling Commission to investigate and document the causes of the spill and make recommendations to prevent future spills from offshore drilling. University of Alaska Anchorage Chancellor Fran Ulmer was appointed to the commission along with six others.

Since July 2010 Oil Spill Commission members have made site visits in all the Gulf states, held public meetings in New Orleans and Washington, D.C., and heard testimony from industry and government representatives and many others. They've received extensive background information describing the factors that contributed to the April 20 explosion that killed 11 workers, and led to an estimated 200 million gallon oil spill requiring the largest environmental cleanup in U.S. history.

On January 11, 2011, commissioners presented their final report to President Obama. Recommendations for improving process safety systems, creating higher standards for safe operation and a better-resourced and better-prepared regulator are among the recommendations which will have implications for future offshore oil development in the Gulf of Mexico, in Alaska and elsewhere.

Jack Dalton12:30 - 1:15 am
Luncheon Presentation: Jack Dalton, Storyteller

Rooted in Naparyarmiut (Hooper Bay), born in Bethel and raised in Anchorage, Alaska, Jack Dalton has grown up an ambassador between two worlds, his Yup'ik Inuit and European heritages. A professional storyteller, actor, writer and teacher, Jack has been honored by the World Indigenous Peoples' Conference on Education as a Distinguished Dignitary, featured as the cover story for the premiere issue of First Alaskans magazine and considered by many people around the world, indigenous and non-native alike, to be "The Storyteller."

He received one of the first Expressive Arts Grants from the Smithsonian Institute's National Museum of the American Indian, and was featured as the first storyteller ever at the 2008 Cama-i Dance Festival in Bethel, Alaska. He has created and produced five theatrical works of epic storytelling, written a book, co-wrote and starred in the play Raven's Radio Hour (which aired nationally in 2009), performed internationally in France, Norway, Denmark, New Zealand, at the National Multicultural Festival in Australia, and headlined the Scottish International Storytelling Festival.

Co-authored by Allison Warden, his play Time Immemorial premiered at Cyrano's Playhouse in Anchorage in April 2009, and was selected as part of The Autry National Center's Native Voices Festival of New Plays. It will be a full equity production at Native Voices in 2012. Cauyaqa Nauwa?: Where Is My Drum? is his first "musical/opera," co-written with Stephan Blanchett, and will premiere in March 2011. Assimilation is his fourth play. For more information, visit ravenfeathers.com.

Special Session: Lessons Learned from the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill

Convenor: Philip McGillivary, US Coast Guard

In the wake of the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico, scientists were asked to respond to track ship and personnel assets, track the surface oil, tar balls and underwater oil plume in four dimensions, measure rates of oxygen consumption by microbial decomposition oil and methane, assess damage to coastlines, fish stocks and fish larvae, and track effects on seabirds, sea turtles and marine mammals.

The science community responded with great alacrity, but varying levels of preparedness. A number of 'lessons learned' in the DWH response would be of great value in Alaska if a similar spill occurred in the Chukchi or Beaufort Sea. The goal of this workshop was to review these lessons learned so that Alaska scientists will be better prepared for the future.



Thursday, January 20

Rodger Harvey and Mike Sigler8:00 - 8:30 am
Keynotes: Mike Sigler and Rodger Harvey,
BEST-BSIERP Bering Sea Project

BEST-BSIERP Bering Sea Project Headlines from 2010 Research

MIKE SIGLER (far right) and RODGER HARVEY (right) are principal investigators with the BEST-BSIERP Bering Sea Project, the most comprehensive investigation of the Bering Sea ecosystem to date. Extensive fieldwork and ecosystem modeling link climate, physical and biological oceanography, lower and upper trophic level organisms, and economic outcomes in an attempt to predict the impacts of climatic change on the Bering Sea ecosystem.

This work has been made possible thanks to the coordinated efforts of nearly one hundred principal investigators working within a partnership between the North Pacific Research Board and the National Science Foundation.

Russ Andrews12:30 - 1:15 pm
Luncheon Presentation: Russ Andrews, UAF and Alaska SeaLife Center

Steller's curse: The unfortunate fate of Alaska's first naturalist and the marine animals that bear his name

In 2009, while Alaskans celebrated the 50th anniversary of statehood, another important anniversary was mostly overlooked -- the 300th anniversary of the birth of Georg Steller, Alaska's first naturalist.

Steller was the physician and naturalist on Vitus Bering's second expedition to search for the connection between Asia and North America. The voyage was tumultuous and fraught with peril. Many sailors died of scurvy and the voyage ended with a shipwreck on Bering Island. Along the way, Geog Steller became the first Westerner to collect and scientifically describe numerous animals and plants, including herbs that Steller successfully used to treat scurvy over a decade before a British physician laid claim to this discovery.

Amongst the marine animals he described, Steller provided the first scientific accounts of the Steller sea lion, the northern fur seal, the sea otter, and the Steller's sea cow. A few of these species, like Steller himself, did not survive for long after that fateful voyage, and others have recently been threatened with extinction.

I described Steller's discoveries on that voyage and weave in some interesting details of scientific research conducted by my colleagues and me on many of these same species in far eastern Russia and Alaska. We have not been content to spy through a looking glass like Steller but rather have turned to high-tech gizmos that we have designed and deployed so that we can peer out beyond the horizon and below the surface of the sea to track these animals and their main predator, the killer whale.

Although these sophisticated electronic devices can lead to accidental entanglement in real-life spy sagas, a threat perhaps even more dangerous than scurvy, they have allowed us to peek beneath the waves and gain insights that may be useful for managers seeking to mitigate threats to the animals that have fallen under Steller's curse.


Monday, January 17

Communicating Ocean Science: Helping Ocean Scientists with Outreach

Convenor: Nora Deans, NPRB, AOOS, and COSEE-Alaska

Download the Workshop Agenda


Ocean scientists, graduate students and outreach specialists had a chance to network and meet with national communications experts, regional educators and community members through presentations and hands-on sessions. Topics included the risks and rewards of communicating about research, how to work with the media, how to involve communities in research and outreach, how to achieve place-based, culturally relevant education and outreach and how to lead an outreach expedition around the Americas.


SEANET is the Ocean Scientists and Educators in Alaska Network and has the goal of promoting Alaska ocean and climate change literacy. The annual meeting of the network occurred over a networking lunch; participants helped plan the 2012 National Marine Educators Conference, which will showcase research in Alaska's marine ecosystems.

Present and Future Herring Research

Convenor: Scott Pegau, Prince William Sound Science Center

A significant amount of research is currently being done to understand Pacific herring. The Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council's FY12 request for proposals provides an opportunity to continue doing research on herring. This workshop provided a forum for herring researchers to share information and discuss what our approach on future work should be.

Northern Bering Sea Research Area Research Plan Science Workshop

Convenor: Russ Nelson, NOAA Alaska Fisheries Science Center

Download Agenda and detailed workshop description

The Alaska Fisheries Science Center is developing a scientific research plan for the Northern Bering Sea Research Area (NBSRA) to investigate the effects of bottom trawling on bottom habitat, and provide information to help with developing future protection measures in the NBSRA for crab, marine mammals, endangered species, and the subsistence needs of western Alaska communities.

The intent of this workshop was to gather the latest information and solicit expert opinions from the scientific community for research planning in the NBSRA.

Career Tracks at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game

Convenor: Candice Bressler, ADF&G

Calling all students and interested professionals! This is an informal information session, and participants can come and go as they please. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) was on site recruiting for current and future openings, and a department recruiter provided information about the department's numerous divisions and current opportunities and answering questions about department careers and internships.

ADF&G is a state government agency that is constitutionally mandated to protect, maintain, and improve the fish, game, and aquatic plant resources of Alaska through the sustained yield principle. ADF&G manages approximately 750 active fisheries, 26 game management units, and 32 special areas. Plus, the department has about 1,700 employees and an annual operating budget of almost $200 million, so there are many opportunities to become part of our team. Session attendees had a chance to learn more about ADF&G, pick up an Opportunities Guide, and sign up for e-mail notifications for new employment opportunities. Alaska is an amazing place to discover a career, and our careers are unlike any other. Come discover Your Career in the Last Frontier!

Tuesday, January 18

AOOS Demonstration and Feedback Session for New Visualization and Data Access Products

Convenor: Rob Bochenek, AOOS Data Manager

The Alaska Ocean Observing System data management team held a workshop to demonstrate new data access tools. They briefed the audience on technical approach and solicited feedback from users through a facilitated discussion.

The workshop was open to all interested parties. Users were encouraged to bring their laptops to explore the new web based tools showcased during this meeting. Among the tools highlighted were a Real-time Sensor Map, Arctic Research Assets Map, Model Explorer, and Sea Bird Portal.

How do Marine Indicators Influence Salmon Population Dynamics?

Convenors: Bill Heard, NOAA Auke Bay Lab, and Eric Volk, AK Dept of Fish and Game

Pacific salmon, keystone species in the Gulf of Alaska, Bering Sea, and adjacent waters, are subject to multiple influences in marine environments that affect behavior, survival and annual run strength of the different species and stocks. Salmon collectively function both as predator and prey and play significant but often poorly understood roles in marine ecosystems. These fishes are an important mainstay of the historic, cultural, social, and economic fabric throughout Alaska, yet much remains unknown about salmon in marine environments.

This workshop focused on a series of short reports by a group of knowledgeable scientists on issues affecting salmon in North Pacific marine ecosystems.

Yup'ik Environmental Knowledge: Natural and Cultural History of the Bering Sea Coast

Convenor: Ann Fienup-Riordan

The Yup'ik Environmental Knowledge Project is a major effort in indigenous observation and knowledge documentation initiated by Bering Sea coastal communities in collaboration with the Calista Elders Council. The workshop introduced conference participants to the project, including an opportunity to meet some of the elders and community members involved. A major project goal is to intigrate Yup'ik environmental knowledge with scientific observations to produce a holistic documentation of the unique natural history and cultural geography of the Bering Sea coast.

New Films, Books, and Songs about Alaska's Seas

Convenors: Marilyn Sigman and Nora Deans, COSEE Alaska

This session began with a panel of book authors. Each film was screened and followed by a question-and-answer session with someone who was involved in the production or featured in the film. Featured songs from Only One Ocean, a new album by the Banana Slug String Band that promotes ocean literacy, were also aired.

  • Featured Books: Field Guide to Seaweeds of Alaska by Mandy Lindeberg and Sandra Lindstrom; Imam Cimiucia: Our Changing Seas by Anne Salomon, Henry Huntington, and Nick Tanape, Sr.
  • Featured Films: Ancient Sea Gardens (48 minutes), Faces of Climate Change series: Introduction to Climate Change, Disappearing Sea Ice, and Life on the Ice (25 minutes); and People of the Seal (72 minutes)

North Pacific Seabird Diet Database Demonstration Session

Convenors: David Irons and Robb Kaler, USFWS; Rob Bochenek and Shane St. Clair, Axiom Consulting & Design

This brief workshop introduced and demonstrated the North Pacific Seabird Diet Database, which is available through the North Pacific Seabird Data Portal. Feedback from participants regarding the data output and its content was encouraged.

The workshop was open to all and registration was not required. Participants also received a brief tutorial on North Pacific Seabird Data Portal and the many tools this developing new portal will provide to seabird researchers and managers.

Alaska Marine Mammal Tissue Archival Project

Convenors: Cheryl Rosa, USARC, and Paul Becker, NOAA

Archival Revival: The banking of marine mammal tissues is of proven value to researchers performing a variety of investigations. In 2006 standardized tissue banking via the Alaska Marine Mammal Tissue Archival Project (AMMTAP) ceased to occur for Alaskan marine mammals. AMMTAP needs a restart. We discussed possible strategies to revive the AMMTAP program and tailor it to current needs.

Alaska's Landscape Conservation Cooperatives: Looking to the Marine Side of LCCs

Convenors: Karen Murphy, USFWS and Kim Rivera, NOAA

This session provided an overview of the current status of the five Landscape Conservation Cooperatives (LCCs) within Alaska and encouraged a dialog with marine scientists about future opportunities for collaboration. LCCs are self-directed partnerships designed to provide knowledge and science-based solutions to land and resource managers. LCCs have an emphasis on helping managers address climate change and other large "landscape"-scale effects into their management actions.

The Arctic LCC was initiated in FY10 and the Western Alaska LCC and North Pacific LCC are in a pilot phase. The Aleutians and Bering Sea Islands LCC has just begun the early pilot phase and we anticipate implementation funding in FY2012. All of these LCCs have strong ties to the marine environment and are looking for strategies for integrating with marine scientists and managers.

Applications of the Alaska ShoreZone Coastal Habitat Mapping Dataset Using Web and GIS

Convenors: Mandy Lindeberg, Steve Lewis and Cindy Hartmann Moore, NOAA; Mary Morris, Archipelago Marine Research; John Harper, CIRCAC; Sue Saupe, Coastal and Ocean Resources; Laura Baker, The Nature Conservancy

Download Agenda

ShoreZone is a coastal habitat classification, inventory and mapping system that is a powerful dataset for use in habitat modeling, oil spill prevention and response, marine debris catchment beaches, and a myriad of other uses. Since 2001, approximately 63% of Alaska's coastline has been imaged and approximately 39,000 km has been mapped.

This workshop focused on describing the Alaska ShoreZone coastal habitat mapping project and its current applications. Applications that were highlighted included oil spill response, habitat capability models for use in research and invasive species assessment, and essential fish habitat identification.

This workshop was open to all and registration is not required. We provided hands-on training with the ShoreZone web-based and GIS datasets for marine scientists, GIS specialists, coastal managers, and other users. Workshop attendees had access to one-on-one training of the online database and a venue for feedback on needs or ideas for future applications of the ShoreZone dataset. We encouraged participants to bring their own laptops. Visit the Alaska ShoreZone online database

Wednesday, January 19

Special Session: Lessons Learned from the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill

Convenor: Philip McGillivary, US Coast Guard

In the wake of the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico, scientists were asked to respond to track ship and personnel assets, track the surface oil, tar balls and underwater oil plume in four dimensions, measure rates of oxygen consumption by microbial decomposition oil and methane, assess damage to coastlines, fish stocks and fish larvae, and track effects on seabirds, sea turtles and marine mammals.

The science community responded with great alacrity, but varying levels of preparedness. A number of 'lessons learned' in the DWH response would be of great value in Alaska if a similar spill occurred in the Chukchi or Beaufort Sea. The goal of this workshop was to review these lessons learned so that Alaska scientists will be better prepared for the future.

Friday, January 21

Polar Bear Conservation Planning

Convenor: James Wilder, US Fish and Wildlife Service

This was an open workshop to aid USFWS in developing the Conservation/Recovery Plan for polar bears on the topic, "How to mitigate the impacts of climate change to polar bears." There were a series of invited presentations, and the workshop involved brainstorming sessions to develop specific mitigation measures to the potential impacts of climate change to polar bears.

Introduction to Metadata

Convenor: Viv Hutchison, USGS

This workshop provided an introduction to metadata as an organizational tool. The presentation defined the value of metadata to organizations, why federal agencies are required to create it, describe the role of metadata in data management and distribution, briefly explain the origin of the FGDC metadata standard and the Biological Data Profile, give an update on the status of the ISO North American Profile, illustrate ways in which a metadata program can be implemented, and how to search and submit records in the USGS-NBII Clearinghouse. Participants used Metavist, an online metadata entry tool to learn the elements of the standard and how to create an FGDC compliant metadata record.

Presenter Viv Hutchison is with the Biological Information Office within USGS. She is located in Denver, CO at the Center for Biological Informatics, and can be reached at 303-202-4227 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              303-202-4227      end_of_the_skype_highlighting.

U.S. Arctic Research Commission 95th Meeting

Download agenda (PDF)

The 95th Meeting of the US Arctic Research Commission was open to the public. The Commission's principal duties are:

  1. to establish the national policy, priorities, and goals necessary to construct a federal program plan for basic and applied scientific research with respect to the Arctic, including natural resources and materials, physical, biological and health sciences, and social and behavioral sciences;
  2. to promote Arctic research, to recommend Arctic research policy, and to communicate our research and policy recommendations to the President and the Congress;
  3. to work with the National Science Foundation as the lead agency responsible for implementing the Arctic research policy and to support cooperation and collaboration throughout the Federal Government;
  4. to give guidance to the Interagency Arctic Research Policy Committee (IARPC) to develop national Arctic research projects and a five-year plan to implement those projects; and
  5. to interact with Arctic residents, international Arctic research programs and organizations and local institutions including regional governments in order to obtain the broadest possible view of Arctic research needs.

We received input from a variety of researchers and other stakeholders at this meeting.

USGS Study on Science Needs to Inform Decisions on Outer Continental Shelf Energy

Convenor: Joy Geiselman, USGS
The US Geological Survey (USGS) is completing an initial independent evaluation of science needs as part of a multi-pronged effort by the Department of the Interior to inform its Arctic Outer Continental Shelf resource management activities. The USGS study summarizes key existing scientific documents informative to various Arctic regulatory and policy decision points, highlights critical knowledge gaps, documents ongoing efforts to address those gaps, and makes initial recommendations on key short- and long-term scientific investments and approaches to improve understanding and/or mitigation of risks. Specifically, USGS was asked to address science knowledge and gaps associated with:

  1. the effects of noise on marine mammals;
  2. cumulative impacts of development, infrastructure, and maintenance activities offshore and onshore;
  3. oil spill risk, response, and assessment in ice-covered regions; and
  4. changing climate conditions and how this might mitigate or compound the impacts from energy development in the Arctic environment.

The analysis focuses on any particular concerns that may be unique to the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas. This morning session was an open technical discussion to provide input on areas of critical and fruitful scientific investigation or approaches informative to the subject of the USGS assignment.

The Distributed Biological Observatory: A Change Detection Array in the Pacific Arctic Region

Convenors: Jacqueline Grebmeier, University of Maryland, and Sue Moore, NOAA

The marine system in the Pacific Arctic region is experiencing unprecedented seasonal sea ice retreats and changes in the physical domain, resulting in biological changes and the potential for ecosystem reorganization. This session will discuss and solicit input on the developing plans for a marine "Distributed Biological Observatory" (DBO) in the Pacific Arctic sector. The DBO includes biological and supportive environmental sampling at explicit regional sites via latitudinal transects using a collaborative international network of logistical support.

Provisional results from the international 2010 DBO pilot program, sponsored by the Pacific Arctic Group, were presented along with an update of future efforts.


Student Presentation awards 2011

Best Poster (cash award from Alaska Sea Grant)

Best Oral Presentations (cash award from NPRB)