research project

NOSB 2004 Research Project: Effects of contaminants upon Alaska's marine ecosystems

2004 student research papers

Contaminants in Alaskan ecosystems arise from physical, biological, and chemical pathways driven in part by geography, unique cold climate conditions, meteorology, and ocean circulation. Contaminants include persistent organic pollutants (POPs), heavy metals, acidification and arctic haze, radioactivity, and viruses and pathogens. Although most of these pollutants arise from recent anthropogenic factors, some have preindustrial sources. For example, dioxins and furans that are ubiquitous, toxic and environmentally persistent organochlorine compounds, have been found in northern coastal anthropological sites where trees are uncommon and coastal peat was burned for fuel.

Long-range transport and biomagnification of contaminants can pose a human as well as environmental health problem in Alaska, where much of the coastal population has traditional diets incorporating fish, birds, and marine mammals that reside high on marine and lake food webs. The health of coastal communities definitely depends upon the health of coastal ecosystems.

2004 student research papers

Research project description


Document preparation guidelines

Sea Grant's mailing and physical addresses (for submitting papers)

Judging criteria

Why a research project?

Past research papers (archives)

The Research Project

This project will count as 50 percent of the 2004 Alaska Region NOSB competition. The document will be worth 25 percent and the oral presentation of the project will count as 25 percent toward the 50-percent total.

The Topic
The research project for the 2004 Tsunami Bowl will be to:

  1. Determine the most important contaminant problem facing your coastal community (or a coastal community that your team chooses) and the marine or lacustrine ecosystem supporting that community. Describe the contaminant sources, physical and chemical transport processes, and biomagnification pathways influencing the sensitive species (including humans) in your marine or lake food web.

  2. Develop a local risk assessment study to determine what measures should be taken in either reducing the contaminant source (if possible) or reducing the health risk to sensitive individuals and/or species dependent upon the food web of your coastal ecosystem. Four basic mechanisms can transport pollutants into, within, or out of your coastal ecosystem: atmospheric, riverine, oceanic, and biotic. It is important that you consider all these pathways. In your risk assessment, it is important that you consider the effects upon infant, juvenile, and adult human and wildlife populations.

This is a contentious topic, so it is very important that you choose your resources wisely. Consult written and electronic publications that have been reviewed or produced by reliable organizations or groups and preferably have been peer-reviewed. Interview elders and your peers in your local community as well as managers at various state and federal agencies dealing with community or environmental health. Independent and international panels of scientists and local experts are often more "balanced" than studies by a specific interest group. Here are a few easily obtained Web sites:

Basic steps in the research process

General writing concerns (Planning/writing/revising)

Contaminants project list—Native Science Committee [PDF, 1.4 MB]

Alaska Division of Environmental Health site on contaminants

Butyltins (from antifouling paints) in otters' livers from Seward and Valdez

Alaska Contaminant and Tissue (Marine Mammal and Seabird) Archival Program (USGS)

Invasive Species

Organochlorine and trace element contents of Cook Inlet sediment and fish tissues [PDF, 1.7 MB

Yukon River monitoring program [PDF, 500 K]

ISER Report on Traditional Knowledge and Contaminants Project [PDF, 210 K]

Kenai watershed newsletter, Winter 2003 [PDF, 267 K]

Kenai watershed newsletter, Spring 2002 [PDF, 657 K]

1992 Kenai Peninsula borough environmental quality

Kenai watershed hydrocarbon pollution [PDF, 86 K]

U.S. Fish and Wildlife's Division of Environmental Quality

The status of Alaska's oceans (see Oceans and Watersheds report, pages 26-48 in section 2). Pages 26-48 extracted [PDF, 2.1 MB] (for slow modems).

Reports of the Canadian Arctic Resources Committee

Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP) based in Norway

Contaminants in Alaska

Alaska fish monitoring program

Document Preparation Guidelines | Judging Criteria
Past research papers

2004 student research papers | Info for coaches and teams
NOSB archives
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