Alaska Sea Grant 2010–2012 Research Project Directory

Research and information on Alaska coastal and marine issues

As part of our core mission to help Alaskans understand, conserve, and sustainably use our rich and diverse marine and coastal resources, Alaska Sea Grant supports a number of formal, peer-reviewed research projects through a biennial call for proposals.

Through each RFP, we seek creative and innovative research proposals in the natural and social sciences that focus on the environmental and economic viability of Alaska's coastal communities. For 2010–2012, we selected proposals that addressed either of two themes:

  1. Impacts on and adaptation strategies for coastal ecosystems and/or coastal communities from environmental change, especially in relation to climate change or human activity on various scales.
  2. Improvements to the economic viability of Alaskan coastal communities through innovation in marketing, processing, safety, or other means of adding to the value of local resources.

In addition to their scientific merit, and relevance to the themes above, research projects must contribute to one or more of our strategic focus areas and incorporate a significant program of outreach to communities or stakeholders. Additional favorable consideration is given to proposals that:

For 2010–2012, we funded six projects as listed below. To read about projects from previous funding cycles, see the list of continuing projects at the end of this page and also see our research archives.

NOTE: The linked titles below go to each project's summary web page in our research project database. PI links go to their faculty profiles. To return to this project directory, use your web browser's BACK button.

Focus Area: Healthy Coastal Ecosystems

Parsimony in Integrated Age-Structured Assessment Models: Modeling of Time-dependent Parameters and Uncertainty in a Changing Environment

Without good information and analysis in a stock assessment, major errors in management can occur and not be observed until it is too late to take action. In this project, researchers will continue work that began with the Alaska Sea Grant project "Dealing with Uncertainties in Integrated Age-Structured Assessment Models" (R/31-16) to create and evaluate methods to incorporate uncertainty in integrated age-structured assessment models. Researchers will complete this undertaking with two refined objectives: (1) develop statistical theory that enables quantitative evaluation of optimal parameter complexity and model comparison, and (2) evaluate the risks to management using current and spatially explicit ASA models for walleye pollock in the eastern Bering Sea with time-varying parameters due to factors such as climate change.

The Seasonal and Interannual Patterns of Larvaceans and Pteropods in the Coastal Gulf of Alaska, and Their Relationship to Pink Salmon Survival

Research stemming from the Gulf of Alaska Global GLOBEC program found that juvenile pink salmon preferentially feed on two understudied zooplankton groups, larvaceans and thecosome pteropods, and that this diet may be tied to salmon survival and adult returns. In this study, scientists will examine zooplankton collected during the GLOBEC program that are appropriate for assessing these groups, in order to estimate composition, abundance, biomass, and production of larvaceans and pteropods. Additionally, researchers will undertake experimental work to determine the growth rates of the major larvacean and pteropod species, so that their availability to higher trophic levels can be calculated. Finally, they will explore relationships between the production of these groups and salmon survival.

Identifying Red and Blue King Crab Stocks for Sustainable Harvest and Sustainable Coastal Alaskan Communities

Alaska waters support some of the world's largest concentrations of red and blue king crab, and commercial, subsistence, and sport fisheries for these species is an important part of many coastal community economies. In addition, multi-agency efforts are under way to develop the understanding and technology to hatchery-enhance depressed stocks of red and blue king crab in parts of the state. However, fishery managers lack an important management tool, an understanding of the genetic structure and mating structure of these important fisheries stocks. Research conducted to date has been inconsistent. In this study, researchers will continue a comprehensive analysis of the genetic and mating structure of Alaska's many stocks of red and blue king crab.

Ecological, Economic, and Social Changes as a Result of Sea Otter Recolonization in Southern Southeast Alaska

Sea otter numbers and range have expanded throughout southeastern Alaska, with unquantified environmental and economic impacts to commercial fisheries. This project investigates the impact of sea otter recolonization on the region by estimating the rate at which four commercially important species—geoduck clams, California sea cucumbers, red sea urchins, and Dungeness crab—are being depleted by sea otters. Researchers also will conduct an outreach program in the communities of Ketchikan, Craig, Hydaburg, Kake, and Petersburg to present and obtain information on how the growing sea otter population and resulting changes in the environment are affecting the region socially and economically. Finally, researchers will engage stakeholders in a discussion on ecosystem management and potential solutions for these coastal communities.

Please see The Southern Southeast Alaska Sea Otter Project for additional information.

Increased Variance as a Leading Indicator of Reorganization in Alaska Marine Ecosystems: An Empirical Test

Marine ecosystems may respond to external environmental or human forces, for example climate change or fishing, with abrupt ecological reorganizations that are economically and socially harmful to Alaska fishing communities. Currently, there is no way to predict these reorganization events. In this study, researchers will conduct a retrospective analysis of 12 different crustacean commercial fisheries with the goal of developing a technique to monitor and track a host of ecosystem variables—called a "variance tracking system." With such a system, scientists hope to monitor and detect sudden ecological change. Such an ability would help Alaska fisheries managers and fishing communities develop proactive responses to sudden ecosystem change and help minimize resulting economic and social disruption.

Focus Area: Safe and Sustainable Seafood Supply

Low-Intensity, Low-Cost Management of Salmon Fisheries

Conventional in-season management of salmon fisheries use test fisheries, escapement surveys, and other types of intensive monitoring to determine catch openings and closings. These techniques are labor-intensive and expensive. Low-intensity management approaches, such as a regular schedule of fisheries openings, potentially could provide satisfactory escapements and harvests at a much lower cost, particularly for fisheries on stocks of low commercial value. Researchers in this study will examine the feasibility of fixed-schedule fishery openings as a cost-effective alternative to intensive in-season management methods.

Continuing Projects

[funded under previous strategic plan]

The following projects were funded under Alaska Sea Grant's 2004–2010 strategic plan, which hinged on somewhat different major themes than do the projects that commenced in 2010. For project summaries, please follow the linked titles below. Use your BACK button to return to this page.

Coastal Communities and Economies
Ecosystems and Habitats
Marine and Aquatic Science Literacy
Seafood Science and Technology