Fishlines newsletter

Vol. 31, No. 1–2
January–February 2011

Nome MAP Agent Hired

Gay Sheffield Gay Sheffield, Bering Strait region MAP agent. Kurt Byers photo.

Gay Sheffield has been hired as the new Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory agent for the Bering Strait region. She will be based at the UAF Northwest Campus in Nome. Sheffield has been a marine mammal biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game since 1997, assigned to the ADFG regional office in Nome for the last three years.

“She’s been working with residents of the villages in the region for more than a decade, and has a great rapport with people there,” said Chuck Crapo, chair of the hiring committee. “Her experience with local issues, her science and biology background, and her connections to the region are what swayed the hiring committee. We are looking forward to her joining our team on Feb. 28.”

Sheffield’s work in the Bering Strait region began in 1992, on walruses, ice seals, belugas, and bowhead whales. Her recent research with Saint Lawrence Island residents documented the range extension of Steller sea lions into the Bering Strait.

“I look forward to being part of MAP here in the Bering Strait region, and working with our coastal communities on important issues including marine safety, subsistence, marine mammals, fisheries, and community economic development,” said Sheffield.

Sheffield holds a master’s degree in marine biology from UAF, and is a UAF affiliate research associate.

New Staff at MAP

Asia Bader Asia Beder, AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer. Kurt Byers photo.

Asia Beder is the new AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer in the Marine Advisory Program Anchorage office. During her one-year stint, she will work on projects for the Alaska Marine Science and Fisheries Career Coalition and COSEE, and will represent MAP at some outreach events. Beder has a degree in marine biology from Alaska Pacific University.

Cullenberg Is Interim FITC Director

Paula Cullenberg has accepted the position of interim director of the SFOS Fishery Industrial Technology Center in Kodiak, in addition to her role as MAP leader and Alaska Sea Grant associate director. The appointment will likely last through June 2011.

Copper River Delta Science Symposium

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The Copper River Delta Science Symposium is scheduled for March 22-24, 2011, in Cordova, Alaska. Presenters at the conference will discuss the delta as a system, covering topics from hydrology and geomorphology to avian nesting ecology and trophic relationships. The goal is to identify research needs to help manage and conserve this ecologically significant area. The Copper River delta is the largest contiguous wetland on the Pacific Coast of North America. It provides vital salmon habitat, serves as a key shorebird stopover and breeding site, and is the primary nesting area for the dusky Canada goose.

Marine Advisory agent Torie Baker serves on the steering committee for the symposium. For more information and to register see the CRDSS website.

Symposium Set for Kodiak

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At the Kodiak Area Marine Science Symposium, organized by Kate Wynne and a steering committee, about fifty scientists will give oral and poster presentations geared to inform local fishermen and residents about research conducted near Kodiak. Also on the program are workshops on the Alaska Seas and Rivers curriculum, the Coastal Observing and Seabird Survey Team, Community Monitoring of Marine Invasive Species led by Gary Freitag, Communicating Ocean Science led by Marilyn Sigman, and Data Gaps and Cooperative Research Opportunities led by Kate Wynne. John Piatt, U.S. Geological Survey bird researcher, will be a keynote speaker.

The symposium will be held April 9-12, 2011, in Kodiak. Visit the KAMSS website for more information or to register.

Videos on Northern Climate Change

Instructional media specialist Deborah Mercy presented three short videos during the book and film session at the Alaska Marine Science Symposium—Climate Change in Alaska's Seas, Disappearing Sea Ice, and Life on the Ice. Based on interviews with scientists and Native Alaska elders and community members, the videos show evidence for change in the sea ice-scape.

The main audience for the videos is students. “I have been told by several teachers that they can't wait to use them,” said Mercy. “They plan to play one each day and then have discussions, afterward.” The videos can be viewed at the AOOS website.

Partners in the video project are Alaska Sea Grant, COSEE Alaska, the Alaska Ocean Observing System, and the Alaska Marine Conservation Council, with funding from the National Science Foundation and NOAA.

Podcast on Changing Arctic Sea Ice

Marine education specialist Marilyn Sigman assisted in the production of a 10 minute podcast, The Imminent Thaw: Changing Arctic Sea Ice, which was broadcast in early November. The podcast is archived at The focus is on COSEE Alaska themes of ocean climate change and the integration of Alaska Native knowledge with Western science. The podcast was based on interviews with scientists Tom Weingartner, Hajo Eicken, and Phyllis Stabeno, and members of Alaska Native communities. COSEE (Centers for Ocean Sciences Education Excellence) is a National Science Foundation program aimed at helping ocean scientists reach broad audiences with their research.

Alaska Ocean Sciences Bowl

NOSB team photo Sunny Rice (bottom center) and Aquateen Hungerforce students from Petersburg. Kurt Byers photo.

High school students from 14 Alaska communities, on 20 teams, competed in the annual Alaska Tsunami Ocean Sciences Bowl in Seward, in early February. The 2011 overall winners (knowledge quiz plus research project) were Absolute Vorticity from Juneau-Douglas High School, first place; Tiger Sharks from Mat-Su Career and Technical High School, second place; and Auto-Eviscerators from Cordova, third place.

The Absolute Vorticity team of five students will compete in the National Ocean Sciences Bowl in Galveston, Texas, April 29–May 1, 2011. The first- and second-place teams are awarded tuition waivers to UAF or UAS. All Alaska student participants are eligible for a $1,000 scholarship at the UAF School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences.

Aquateen Hungerforce, the Petersburg team coached by Sunny Rice and Joni Johnson, took third place in the knowledge quiz. Reid Brewer coached two teams from Unalaska, Frisky Phromina and Teal Turtles; and Gary Freitag coached a team from Ketchikan, Phycodurus eques.

The Alaska Sea Grant team of judges was tapped by students for an additional round of judging in the final quiz bowl. Members were Carol Kaynor, scorekeeper; Dave Partee, rules judge; Karina Gonzales, timekeeper; David Christie, moderator; Asia Beder, runner; and Kurt Byers, science judge. Mike Castellini filled in for Kurt as science judge in the final match. Paula Cullenberg served as a judge for the research projects.

Phyllis Shoemaker, SFOS Seward Marine Center, organized the 14th annual competition, and more than 100 people volunteered from Seward and around the state. As a first-time volunteer judge for research projects, Ian Dutton was impressed with the students.

“I was simply blown away by the quality and creativity of the research presented,” said Dutton, Alaska SeaLife Center CEO. “I hope that all the talent scouts in the audience were paying attention as there was clearly some great talent on offer in the competition. I also hope that all participants are able to realize their potential as they move into higher education! The world needs more students like these.” The SeaLife Center hosted the art show and a dinner for all.

Alaska Sea Grant donated $500 in classroom supplies, each, for the teacher of the Ocean Connection Art competition winner (Brook Morgan of Wasilla High School) and for the coach of the first-place winning team in the research project category (Absolute Vorticity). The Ocean Alaska Science and Learning Center awarded $500 for classroom supplies to the coach of the first-place quiz winner (Absolute Vorticity) and $1,000 for the team that finished last (Scammon Bay Tidal Waves).

The evening before the competition, Kurt Byers teamed up with Tara Borland, SFOS grant technician, at Seward Middle School to give a swing dance lesson to the quiz bowlers as an icebreaker social activity. About 35 students took part.

NOSB is sponsored by the Consortium for Ocean Leadership in partnership with the National Marine Educators Association. The Alaska regional competition is also sponsored by the UAF SFOS, with additional support from Alaska Sea Grant and others. For more information see the Alaska Tsunami Ocean Sciences Bowl website.