Alaska Sea Grant awards $1 million to marine research
Coastal erosion, shellfish farming, fisheries models get funding
Fairbanks, Alaska—The Alaska Sea Grant College Program will spend more than $1 million over the next two years on research to protect Alaska's coastline from erosion and breed oysters that grow faster, among other projects.
"These investments will help Alaska's coastal communities deal with important issues as they grow their economies and conserve their natural resources," said Brian Allee, director of Alaska Sea Grant.
Alaska Sea Grant is a federal-state marine research, education, outreach, and advisory program at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Every two years, the program awards research grants following a scientific peer-review process to ensure projects address the needs of Alaska and the nation. In all, 16 research projects totaling about $1.1 million were funded.
Alaska Sea Grant scientists received funding to:
- Study two groups of zooplankton—larvaceans and thecosome pterodpods—that are the primary prey of juvenile salmon released by hatcheries in Prince William Sound. Researchers also will test a new digital imaging system called ZooScan. The device monitors zooplankton blooms and helps hatcheries time their release of salmon to take advantage of the food blooms.
- Develop and test new ecosystem models that predict the impact of fisheries management decisions on the marine environment.
- Examine the cause of the Kodiak Island red king crab collapse and potential for artificial enhancement as a way to rebuild stocks.
- Predict the future price of wild and farm-raised salmon and recommend steps Alaska fishermen and processors might take to remain competitive amid rapidly changing global markets.
- Develop an engineering manual to help coastal communities cope with coastal erosion.
- Refine and purify Alaska salmon oil into a powder that can be used as an ingredient in human foodstuffs.
In addition, three projects to assist Alaska's growing shellfish farming industry received Alaska Sea Grant funding. In one project, researchers will develop a strain of Pacific oysters that grow to market size faster in Alaska's cold waters. Scientists also will work with shellfish farmers to monitor for outbreaks of Vibrio parahaemolyticus, a naturally occurring bacterium that causes gastrointestinal illness in humans who eat raw or undercooked shellfish. A third project is aimed at better understanding how paralytic shellfish poison affects littleneck clams, a shellfish popular among recreational clam diggers.
In all, the program considered 33 proposals from around the country aimed at addressing five key Alaska Sea Grant themes: Coastal Communities and Economies, Ecosystems and Habitats, Fisheries, Seafood Science and Technology, and Marine and Aquatic Science Literacy.
Sea Grant scientists also will pursue studies of disease in Aleutian sea ducks, salmon genetics, and research to improve the accuracy of sonar used to count migrating salmon.
For complete project descriptions, visit the Alaska Sea Grant online project directory for 2006–2008.
The Alaska Sea Grant College Program is a marine research, education and outreach service headquartered at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences. Alaska Sea Grant is funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in partnership with the State of Alaska and private industry.