Estuary fish study presented at biology conference

March 2, 2017

Two researchers measuring and tagging fish on the beach with a black dog Carolyn Bergstrom (left) and JoMarie Alba measure and tag fish at Eagle Beach Estuary just north of Juneau. Alba, a University of Alaska Southeast undergrad, was a funded intern for the Alaska Sea Grant project.

In January 2017 Alaska Sea Grant researcher Carolyn Bergstrom attended the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology meeting in New Orleans, where she gave a presentation on glacier-influenced habitat and fishes. Bergstrom is an associate professor of marine biology at the University of Alaska Southeast.

Since 2015 Bergstrom and her student assistants have done some pretty intensive fieldwork to find out if glacier cover has an effect on nursery and spawning habitat for marine fishes. They discovered that it does. In Southeast Alaska estuaries, Bergstrom found that a higher number of fish species are associated with less glacially influenced estuaries, but the fish that do prefer glaciers are abundant in those locations. 

Bergstrom and her students captured fish in seine nets in four estuaries during the summers of 2015 and 2016. They identified the fish, measured them, noted abundance, and tagged some so they could recapture them the following year to measure growth. In all, they captured and released 4,200 fish in 23 species. Two species—starry flounder and Pacific staghorn sculpin—were tagged with small color labels.

JoMarie Alba, a UAS undergraduate student who helped with the fieldwork, also attended the conference where she presented a poster on flatfish metabolism. “While her project was funded by BLaST, the idea for it was spawned from helping me in the field to collect my Alaska Sea Grant data,” said Bergstrom. BLaST (Biomedical Learning and Student Training) is a University of Alaska student mentoring program.

“This is the second time I have attended SICB but it is quickly becoming my favorite and I do intend to go again,” said Bergstrom. Her talk was well attended and she got some good feedback. This summer she will write up her research results and submit it for publication.

For more information on this project, see the Sea Grant research page “Resilience of Estuarine Groundfish Communities to Future Changes in Glacial Effluent.”

— By Sue Keller

Alaska Sea Grant is a statewide marine research, education, and outreach program, and is a partnership between the University of Alaska Fairbanks and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program agents provide assistance that helps Alaskans wisely use, conserve, and enjoy marine and coastal resources.