Summer interns focus on seafood science in Kodiak

July 10, 2017

Man in boat holds fish Camron Christoffersen displays a sockeye salmon he caught near Kodiak.

Camron Christoffersen, a Utah resident, is spending his summer in Alaska exploring how long and at what temperature fish need to be frozen to be parasite-free.

At the same time, Phil Ganz is working on how best to communicate complicated science topics to the public.

Both Christoffersen and Ganz are working as interns at the Kodiak Seafood and Marine Science Center, operated by the University of Alaska Fairbanks College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences. The internships are funded by the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI).

“I’m creating material for the fishing and seafood industries, and the general public, on seafood science–related issues. Right now I’m working on an infographic about ocean acidification,” said Ganz, who is scheduled to graduate with a master’s in fisheries from UAF in August.

Ganz’ academic work was on natural mortality in commercially harvested groundfish.

two people working together at a cafe tablePhil Ganz (right) talks with artist Amarie Young about a science infographic.

“My master’s was focused on quantitative topics such as stock assessments. I was using models and doing that kind of analysis. I thought this internship would be a good change of pace and allow me to develop skills in communicating science to nonscientists,” Ganz said.

Besides creating the infographic, he is making videos and posters for seafood processors about safety issues, including how to avoid cross-contamination. Ganz previously worked as a federal fisheries observer for NOAA Fisheries and at a lodge on the Kenai Peninsula. He’s hoping to get hired by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game after his internship.

Christoffersen graduated from Brigham Young University with a bachelor’s degree in biology in April. While at BYU, he spent time researching age versus growth trends for quillback rockfish and gained some experience in stable isotope characteristics and parasite comparisons on rockfish species.

He’s spending the summer investigating the Food and Drug Administration’s requirements for making sure seafood is free of viable parasites before being sold to the public.

“There are scientists and commercial fishermen who feel that these requirements may be excessive for certain species of fish,” Christoffersen said.

bear climbing over a road barrierBear near Kodiak. Photo by Camron Christoffersen.

He has developed a study in which he will use pepsin, an enzyme that breaks down food and that is retrieved from pig stomachs. Pepsin will help him locate parasites and verify if they are dead after being frozen. 

But it’s not all work, all the time, for the interns.

“Chris Sannito took us gillnetting on his boat. It was sweet. We caught 63 sockeye,” Christoffersen said. Sannito is Alaska Sea Grant’s Kodiak-based seafood quality specialist.

He also got to do some bear viewing on the outing. “We saw a three-year-old sow last night at the Buskin River weir. She just came over the guard rail and followed the river,” Christoffersen said.

— By Paula Dobbyn

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.