Alaska Sea Grant Current Projects

Research and information on Alaska coastal and marine issues

As part of our core mission to enhance the wise use and conservation of Alaska’s marine, coastal, and watershed resources, Alaska Sea Grant supports a number of formal, peer-reviewed research projects through a biennial call for proposals.

Select "Show project description" to reveal a short project description. Click on the title of the project to go to the detail page for that project.

New research projects

Southeast Alaska trolling vessel ocean measurement program [R/2022-01]

Understanding of oceanographic conditions and the impact of environmental variability and long term changes on local communities in remote areas of Alaska requires observational data at spatial and temporal scales only community observers can provide with their year-round presence on the water and long term awareness of conditions. Such critical high-resolution environmental data are important not only for the local communities and fisheries, but addresses needs for stakeholders and fisheries management agencies as well. This project will establish year-round ocean monitoring of temperature and salinity in Southeast Alaska by engaging local community observers, specifically the Alaska Trollers Association. Partnering with ATA helps to overcome one of the major hurdles of any oceanographic field program, namely affordable ship time. Their widespread presence around Southeast Alaska will enable an unprecedented set of regular and systematic observations that will help to fill in critical gaps in marine environmental variability.

Pink Arctic: patterns, processes, and consequences of increasing Pacific Salmon in the high north [R/2022-02]

The aim of this project is to harness the best available western and Indigenous knowledge to better understand what the increasing occurrence of Pacific salmon in the Arctic may mean from the perspective of the salmon, the native fishes, and the people of the region. We will meet this goal with a co-production approach, working authentically with Arctic residents to shape the direction and focus of the PhD student dissertation and burgeoning research program as a whole. We will also carry out pilot field work to confirm a set of candidate locations that are suitable for addressing community concerns regarding Arctic salmon.

A transformative approach to rapidly assess critical life history and energetic responses of fish to environmental change [R/2022-03]

The goal of this project is to develop physiological and life history indices for fisheries management. To contribute to this long-term goal, we will develop innovative, cost-effective, and efficient approaches for measuring life history attributes of important fisheries species based on the chemical structure of fish tissues and hard parts inferred from spectroscopy.

Spectroscopy methods, indices, and habitat information from this study will contribute to long-term monitoring in support of fisheries management. Spectroscopy approaches are transferable to ongoing monitoring efforts and will facilitate the collection of important data to assess the impacts of changing conditions on fisheries species. Assessing habitat heterogeneity that impacts body condition and growth will help to identify important nurseries and develop strategies to incorporate spatial variability into monitoring. This work impacts Alaskan communities by advancing management to support sustainable fisheries, enhancing knowledge of important nearshore nursery habitats, and by developing cost-effective and efficient monitoring tools that can be adopted and implemented by federal, state, and local agencies.

Development of cultivation protocols for the red seaweed, dulse, to support traditional food systems in Southeast Alaska [R/2022-04]

We seek to merge indigenous knowledge with academia to develop, implement, and disseminate reliable cultivation methods for dulse in tumble culture. Dulse (commonly referred to as red ribbon seaweed) is a culturally valuable resource sitting at the heart of indigenous communities in Southeast Alaska. In 2016, an investigation found widespread contamination originating from the former Haines Tank Farm and Fuel Terminal that potentially harmed a traditional dulse harvest site. Increasing concern on reducing natural harvest sites motivates the development of viable and replicable cultivation protocols as an alternative to relieve pressure on natural populations and eventually grow dulse for income without supplanting or diminishing the traditional use of wild populations.

The relationship between oyster farms and their environment, a sea otter’s perspective [R/2022-05]

This project will examine sea otter interactions with oyster farms and the relationship of these interactions with environmental parameters. Sea otter behavioral observations (activity and foraging) in and around oyster farms will be compared with observations where oyster farms do not exist or are not active. Environmental parameters that may influence sea otter behavior will also be examined as part of this study and will include benthic community structure, benthic habitat structure (substrate type, rugosity, and slope), static attributes (such as protection from storms, and water depth) and hydrographic attributes (turbidity, conductivity, salinity, temperature, and dissolved oxygen). Fouling organisms on the oyster cages themselves may also influence sea otter interactions with farms. This project will be tightly linked with the long-term monitoring Gulf Watch Alaska Program and the pending Mariculture Research and Restoration Consortium Program. Data collected in this proposed Sea Grant project will contribute data to these other programs and data collected by the other programs will contribute to the data needs of this project.

Continuing research projects

The importance of seaweed wrack as habitat and resource [R/101-19]

This study will determine 1) which organisms are impacted when wrack habitat is harvested/removed, 2) if the macroinvertebrate wrack communities change with the different stages of wrack decomposition, 3) the spatial and temporal variability in wrack biomass and composition, 4) the spatial variability and timing of when reproductive wrack is found and 5) how long wrack can stay reproductive after being deposited on beaches.

Supporting coastal community resilience in Alaska: an evaluation of the Sea Ice for Walrus Outlook (SIWO) [R/127-03]

The primary objectives of this project are to: (1) evaluate the SIWO to identify how to increase its usability and impact; and (2) optimize the SIWO based on a set of stakeholder-generated recommendations. Achieving these objectives will have implications that extend beyond the SIWO, including building coastal community resilience for Bering Strait communities through improving knowledge co-production between Indigenous knowledge holders and Western scientists (see section 5).

The evaluation is based on six types of knowledge co-production indicators: inputs, processes, outputs, outcomes, impacts, and external factors (Kettle 2019, Wall et al. 2017). Inputs focus on capitals and capacities (human, social, natural, financial), including resource allocation, involvement across the science-practice boundary, leadership, and skill sets. Processes refer to actions taken to meet program goals, such as the frequency and level of engagement and inclusion of individuals on both sides of the science-practice boundary. Outputs refer to the deliverables, such as reports, publications, and other products as well as their timely delivery. Outcomes are more conceptual and refer to achieving project goals, perceptions of legitimacy, relevance, credibility, and continued interest in collaboration. Impacts are longer-term socio-environmental consequences, and historical factors are contextual variables. Indicators (n~35) will be qualitatively and quantitatively mapped against the SIWO objectives.

Our project approach is grounded in a model of use-inspired science, whereby the purpose of the research is driven by the application of science to inform decisions, rather than the pursuit of scientific theory alone (Stokes 1997, NRC 2008). As such, we will work iteratively with stakeholders to evaluate and refine the SIWO decision support tool, which has a direct bearing on their information needs (Dilling and Lemos 2011, Lemos and Morehouse 2005). Our approach consists of four steps discussed below: literature review, two surveys, optimization, and outreach.

Increasing the capacity of Alaskan coastal communities to adapt and respond to storm driven coastal hazards [R/127-04]

The overarching goal of the research is to employ an innovative strategy to measure, map, and model storm-related coastal hazards to assess coastal and maritime risks while increasing coastal science literacy through the development and implementation of place-based educational materials and citizen-scientist training programs. This combined approach will lead to increased coastal hazard literacy and build on the concept of StormSmart coasts in the Bristol Bay region. To achieve this goal the proposed research will carry out three objectives:

1. Collect baseline oceanographic and terrestrial datasets that were not collected as a part of the community-based erosion monitoring, including observation systems for storm surge water levels and waves, additional UAV aerial imagery and elevation data, and coastal elevation profiles which will require continued engagement with citizen-scientist monitoring activities.
2. Apply geospatial analysis of remotely sensed datasets and hydro-morphodynamic modeling to map flood and erosion vulnerability to coastal storms with the purpose of assessing risks to coastal and maritime activities and infrastructure and providing meaningful data products for local hazard mitigation plans.
3. Work collaboratively with the ASG Education Specialist to build from existing curricula to design and implement standards-based high school educational materials to engage students in understanding STEM concepts while gaining skills in responding to storm and erosion hazards.

Climate-driven Arctic coastline modeling: improving erosion forecasts for communities [R/201-01]

The rapidly warming Arctic is leading to increased rates of coastal erosion, placing hundreds of Alaska communities at the frontline of climate change. Understanding current rates of coastline change and accurately forecasting future changes is critical for communities to mitigate and adapt to these changes. Current modeling approaches typically use a simple linear model based solely on historical coastline positions to measure rates of change and extrapolate them into the future. In doing so, these models fail to capture the dynamic effects associated with decreasing sea ice, increasing annual wave energy, and increasing temperatures. Given the number of communities threatened by rising rates of erosion, there is a need to expand the scope of these models and improve their quality.

This proposal has three main objectives:
1. Develop automated processing techniques to incorporate satellite imagery data into state-of-the-art Arctic coastal erosion models.
2. Generate coastline location forecasts for a selected at-risk Alaska community through the year 2100 using satellite imagery and downscaled climate data.
3. Engage with stakeholders and communities to co-produce the knowledge, improving the quality of the models and ensuring that research findings are of direct benefit to them.

Reassessing hatchery mating policy in Alaska: is non-selective mating unnatural? [R/40-10]

Hatcheries are an important component of the Alaska salmon socio-environmental system, generating a commercial ex-vessel value of $120 million and $600 million total economic output annually in recent years (2012-2017; McDowell Group 2018). Alaska is also obligated to produce hatchery salmon for harvest under the Pacific Salmon Treaty (PSC 2019). However, salmon hatcheries are a source of considerable controversy within the State of Alaska, primarily due to potential risks to wild stocks related to competition in the ocean and deleterious genetic 1 effects on wild populations when hatchery fish stray into natural spawning habitat. The precautionary principle codified in Alaska’s Policy for the Sustainable Management of Fisheries requires that management actions, including hatchery operations, consider “the needs of future generations and [avoid] potentially irreversible changes” [5 ACC 39.222(c)(5)]. As such, the genetic effects of hatchery practices have been subject to much scrutiny throughout the development of salmon hatcheries in the state. Alaska Department of Fish & Game also has in place a ‘Genetic Policy’ (Davis et al. 1985) that addresses both the potential risks to wild stocks in terms of genetic diversity and population genetic structure as well as potential genetic risks to hatchery populations, and provides recommendations for how to minimize both. Alaska’s Genetic Policy is over 30 years old, though, and is based largely on theoretical treatments of genetic risks and mitigation strategies. We now have the genetic tools necessary to evaluate these principles empirically, allowing us to advance genetics policy for hatchery management in Alaska out of the theoretical realm, with more realistic context based on data from real salmon populations. Outbreeding depression is identified in the Genetic Policy as a potential risk of hatchery programs to wild salmon populations. The policy assumes first that wild populations are locally adapted, and second, that hatchery populations are likely to diverge from source wild populations through random genetic changes (‘drift’) as well as through adaptation to the hatchery
environment. Outbreeding depression would occur if divergent hatchery fish stray onto wild spawning grounds, successfully interbreed, and alter the genetic composition of the next wild generation, thereby reducing the wild population’s average survival and reproductive success. One way to reduce the probability of outbreeding depression is to minimize the degree to which the genetic composition of the hatchery population is changed by hatchery practices. This involves managing the hatchery population in ways that reduce genetic changes due to artificial selective forces and demographic effects.
The Genetic Policy does not prescribe specific mating practices for hatcheries, but one charge of the policy is to avoid artificial selection for certain traits, either consciously or unconsciously.

Geographic variation of nearshore carbonate chemistry in the Gulf of Alaska [R/206-01]

Distinctly different from the Holocene, we have entered the age of the Anthropocene- a geologic epoch where human activities have been the primary driving force behind observable shifts in climatic processes (Zalasiewicz et al. 2008; Waters et al. 2016). Ushering in a new epoch has included notable global-scale changes to earth’s physical, chemical and biological processes (Zalasiewicz et al. 2011). A byproduct of human activities, carbon dioxide- CO2, a greenhouse gas, is largely responsible for these observed climatic shifts. CO2 released into the atmosphere has directly modulated an increase in atmospheric temperature (IPCC 2013), and for marine ecosystems in particular, these shifts have been manifested as an increase in seawater temperature and a decrease in ocean pH, resulting from absorption of atmospheric CO2 by the world’s oceans, termed ocean acidification (hereafter OA). With the development of the first ever pH sensor- seaFET (Martz, Connery, and Johnson 2010), studies of coastal pH have ably
demonstrated the complexity of natural nearshore dynamics, both spatially and temporally (Kapsenberg et al. 2015; Kapsenberg and Hofmann 2016). This high pH variability confounds our current understanding of the organismal sensitivity of OA as well as the reliable detection of an anthropogenic signal in coastal ocean pH seascapes. Other abiotic factors influence the frequency and amplitude of pH variability. Increasing freshwater discharge driven by climate change accentuates and accelerates ocean acidification (Evans, Mathis, and Cross 2014). These human-driven environmental changes are expected to not only continue, but intensify, as atmospheric CO2 concentrations are predicted to increase over the next few centuries (IPCC 2013). As ocean pH continues to decrease and ocean temperatures continue to rise (IPCC 2013), the combined impact of anthropogenic CO2 is already evident. The physical and chemical changes highlighted above raise numerous questions about the long-term persistence and
sustainability of marine ecosystems. The phenomenon of OA across the planet has initiated the implementation of interconnected regional networks to monitor and report the chemical changes occurring within the carbonate system (Newton et al. 2014). The purpose of this global ocean acidification network ( is to observe how acidification affects ecosystems from the tropics to the arctic within the context of marine resource viability. Thus far, three open ocean pH monitoring programs have identified a decline of 0.002 pH units per year (Bates and Peters 2007; Dore et al. 2009; González-Dávila et al. 2010). Specific to the United States, Alaskan aquaculture and fisheries marine resources are highly vulnerable to the effects of acidification due to high social and economic reliance on these marine resources (Ekstrom et al. 2015; Mathis et al. 2014). Scientists and researchers currently employ several methods to track acidification events and temporal trends in Alaskan coastal waters. Moored PCO2 sensors and ship-based bottle sampling of TCO2 and total alkalinity (TA) in deeper waters (Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea); shore-based continuous PCO2 sampling by Burke-o-Lators (South east and central coasts); and Saildrones in South-central Prince William Sound (Dugan et al. 2017). While this effort has seen robust traction in the past few years, high spatial and temporal resolution measurements are still lagging in nearshore areas within the Gulf of Alaska (hereafter GoA).

Copper toxicity to Bristol Bay sockeye salmon larvae under field-relevant water quality conditions [R/91-01]

Potential mining activities within the Bristol Bay watershed (BBW) have raised concerns over the possible impacts that releases of copper (Cu) and other elements may have on the health of the valuable salmonids occupying the region’s freshwater habitats. Copper bioavailability and toxicity are highly depends upon local water quality; Cu bioavailability and toxicity decrease with increasing hardness and dissolved organic matter (DOM). Notably, freshwaters within the BBW are low in both hardness and DOM, suggesting that there would be little protection against potential releases of Cu for local salmonids. In our previous research, we showed that the model endorsed by USEPA under-predicts Cu toxicity to fathead minnows (a model test species) exposed in water collected from the BBW. In addition to the variation brought about by local water chemistry, Cu toxicity also varies among life stages and species of fish; salmonids are more sensitive than fathead minnows, and larvae are more sensitive than embryos and adult fish. While our previous work with fathead minnows indicates that the current model under estimates Cu toxicity, more testing is needed with a species of fish (i.e., sockeye salmon) that is relevant to the BBW. In addition to determining toxic levels of Cu to local sockeye salmon, it is necessary to both characterize baseline levels of Cu and other trace elements in freshwater environments of the BBW and understand their historical variation.

Potential for resilience—Examining the effects of ocean acidification on native Alaskan bivalves [R/101-14]

No experimental work exists that characterizes the response of native Alaska bivalves to conditions of ocean acidification. Here, researchers will investigate the physiological responses of two juvenile clam species, the basket cockle (Clinocardium nuttallii) and the littleneck clam (Protothaca staminea), to pH/pCO2 conditions predicted for the year 2100 (based on International Panel on Climate Change models). Comparing the physiological responses of two species at the same life-­history stage allow us to identify the "winners" or "losers" in the face of ocean change. To characterize the environmental conditions that exist for these species, seasonal sampling of in-­sediment pore water carbonate parameters (total alkalinity, pH, pCO2 and aragonite/calcite saturation) will be measured at sites that currently support clam populations. An important subsistence species for Alaska Natives, these clams also function as a recreational harvest species of interest for a wide variety of stakeholders. What’s more, anecdotal evidence suggests that Alaska clam populations are shrinking, with no known cause. Conducting field measurements of pH may elucidate areas that are "pH hotspots" where pH levels are corrosive and prove to inhibit clam growth and performance.

Integrating local ecological knowledge and survey data to improve assessment and management of rockfishes in Alaska [R/105-01]

Despite the wealth of data collected by state and federal agencies, there are still significant gaps in information for many harvested species in Alaska. This is particularly true for more than 30 species of rockfish (Sebastes spp.) that support commercial, sport, and subsistence fisheries. While rockfish populations in the Gulf of Alaska are assumed to be healthy, there have been growing concerns about the ability to sustainably manage them, given limited biological information and dramatically increasing harvest in recent years. Our project seeks to advance the use of local ecological knowledge (LEK), in combination with scientific data, to address information needs for management and conservation of rockfishes in Alaska. Fishermen’s knowledge is a valuable source of place-­based information about long-­ term changes in coastal marine ecosystems. To address information needs for management and conservation of rockfishes, we will document LEK of commercial, sport, and subsistence fishers in three communities of Southeast and Southcentral Alaska through in-­depth interviews. Our objectives are to: (1) synthesize LEK of Alaskan fishers to characterize long-­term trends in size, distribution, and relative abundance of rockfishes; (2) assess sources of variation in fishers’ perceptions of ecological change; and (3) integrate LEK and scientific data to develop distribution maps and time series of relative abundance for rockfishes that are used in assessment and management. This study will provide estimates of relative abundance from LEK that, combined with fishery monitoring data, will enable estimation of stock status and development of harvest objectives. The research is highly collaborative and involves diverse Alaska Sea Grant stakeholders in design and implementation, including fishermen, state agency staff, and university faculty and students. Our project directly responds to ASG goals by engaging stakeholders in the development of shared knowledge about marine fish populations to directly address fishery management needs in Alaska.

Kelp reproduction and harvest rebound in Kachemak Bay, Alaska [R/101-12]

This project will supply managers and harvesters of seaweeds with vital information that is needed to ensure successful management and sustainable harvesting of two kelp species and one rockweed species in southcentral Alaska. This project was developed through discussions with managers at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) and will address questions they have regarding seaweed harvesting. This research also is relevant to the Alaska Sea Grant Strategic Plan. It will support Healthy Coastal Ecosystems by increasing knowledge on Alaska’s diverse and productive coastal ecosystem addressing harvesting concerns of management (ADF&G). In addition, this research will support Sustainable Fisheries and Aquaculture by providing knowledge that will facilitate the sustainable use of harvested marine resources. Lastly, this research will address Resilient Communities and Economies by providing managers with information that is needed for the regulation and permitting of commercial seaweed harvesting.

Currently, kelp mariculture research focused on the sugar kelp, Saccharina latissima is funded by Sea Grant in southeast Alaska. This project will compliment that research by asking questions of the wild populations of S. latissima, the bull kelp, Nereocystis luetkeana, and the rockweed, Fucus distichus in southcentral Alaska as it relates to harvesting. Specifically, researchers will determine the timing of reproduction and the size that adults become reproductive. They will also determine temporal variability in in situ harvestable biomass and will compare these harvestable measurements with regrown biomass to determine biomass rebound rates of harvested areas. Finally, researchers will examine beach wrack for potential harvestable biomass and the reproductive potential of beach-cast seaweeds. The results of this research will be shared with managers, researchers, and the public through various venues, including presentations at meetings, a peer-reviewed publication, outreach events, and informational flyers/posters. Approximately 100 Homer Middle School students will participate in this project.

This project was highlighted in July 2018 by KTVA, Harvesting Alaska: New research could change seaweed rules

Metabolic and growth physiology of early life history stages of the northern spot shrimp, Pandalus platyceros [R/101-13]

The Northern spot shrimp (Pandalus platyceros) ranges from southern California waters to the Aleutians. There continues to be a commercial fishery for this species from Santa Barbara, CA, to Southeast Alaska and Prince William Sound although the commercial fishery in many regions of Southeast Alaska have been closed since 2011. The closure in Southeast Alaska also extends to personal use harvest after 2012. The life history of this species is generally known to include planktonic larvae that hatch in the spring and settle as benthic juveniles. Molting increases their size and all shrimp become functional males prior to transitioning to reproductive females. This type of life history is known as protandry and as the functional male molts first to a transitional stage and later to the functional female, the shrimp increases greatly in size. As the fishery targets the largest shrimp, the reproductive females are removed preferentially. The timing of the fishery coincides with egg brooding and ovigerous females are removed from the population. To date, studies of spot shrimp life history are limited to California, Washington, and British Columbia where warmer waters accelerate life history parameters. The objectives of this project are to investigate the early life history of Alaska P. platyceros. Specifically researchers will study molting physiology (molt intervals and molting hormones) and oxygen consumption as a proxy for metabolic rate. After investigating the baseline physiological parameters, we will measure the effects of multiple stressors to include increased temperature and CO2 on molting biology and metabolism. Because early studies have published nutritional needs of the larvae and because we can maintain brooding females and post hatch larvae in the laboratory, we are confident that we will reveal important biological information concerning this Alaska species and potential impacts of climate change.

Arctic Risk Management Network: Linking Regional Practitioners and Researchers to Improve Mitigation Through Participatory Action Research by Community Monitors about Erosion, Surges, and Nearshore Sea Ice Loss as Mutual Priorities [R/127-02]

This project will continue the development of the Utqiagvik (Barrow) community-based coastal observation network, and will develop a coastal hazards forecasting system focused on the forecasting of coastal surge and flooding and coastal erosion. The existing coastal monitoring system consists of the monitoring of six cross-shore transects, and was initiated two years ago by project team member Anne Garland (ARIES). The coastal monitoring system will be expanded in two respects. First, a team of community observers will be formed to document storm surge heights. Second, an Argus video camera will be deployed on a public building to document the near-shore wave conditions and water level. Data collected by the observers and the observation system will be used to calibrate and validate the storm surge, coastal flooding, and coastal erosion forecasting system. In the event of a large storm, erosion forecasts generated by the project will be provided to the North Slope Borough Risk Management Office so local emergency responders can take pro-active measures to control erosion and flooding.

Assessing the resilience of southeast Alaskan salmon to a shifting freshwater environment [R/31-25]

Salmon are important economic, subsistence, and cultural resources for Alaskans. The forest stream ecosystems that salmon depend on for spawning and rearing are already responding to climate change and are likely beginning to influence salmon growth and survival at multiple stages of their life cycle. In contrast to threatened and endangered populations of salmon in the Lower 48, we have an unprecedented opportunity to prioritize future management actions for freshwater ecosystems in a region where salmon populations are generally still healthy. Researchers propose to model and predict the implications of shifting stream temperature and discharge regimes on salmon productivity in Southeast Alaska, where in the coming decades climatologists predict increasing air temperatures, increased annual rain accumulation, and decreasing precipitation falling as snow. Researchers will work with tribal partners to focus research on anadromous streams that are important for subsistence, as well as document local observations as to which streams are being impacted by changing climate conditions. Results will be shared with communities via local meetings and contribute to scenario-­planning exercises that explicitly incorporate stakeholder input into future proposed management actions. User-­friendly models developed as part of this project will be made publicly available, and communities will receive training to adapt them to local systems.

National Strategic Initiative

The following projects were funded as part of the National Strategic Investments (NSIs) established by the National Sea Grant College Program to complement the strategic objectives of the state Sea Grant programs. NSIs have a national focus and are intended to enhance Sea Grant's network-wide capabilities to respond to high priority issues and opportunities.

Applied Research for a New Seaweed Aquaculture Industry in Alaska [R/40-09]

The proposed research has the objective to address major constraints that limit the development and progress of developing seaweed aquaculture in Alaska. There has been increasing interest in seaweed aquaculture in the state. But currently, there is no commercial production of seaweed by any of the aquaculture farms in Alaska. The species that is most likely to have a ready market is the sugar kelp, Saccharina latissima. Although kelps have been under artificial culture for decades in other countries, little work has been accomplished on kelps in northern latitudes. The research proposed here addresses some critical questions, the answer to which will help create a viable seaweed aquaculture industry in the state. The objectives under this proposal are 1) to determine the timing of fertility of parent plants used to create seed, 2) to investigate ways to slow down the normal life cycle of the kelps to control the timing of outplanting, 3) to determine the best season, depth and location for outplanting the seeded lines, 4) to determine how to grow the kelps for the optimal quality, and finally 5) to determine whether strain selection is feasible with this species. The research involves both field and lab work. Fertility will be determined on plants collected by scuba throughout the year. Plants on seeded lines will be placed in the ocean throughout the year and at different depths. Oceanographic data will be collected and plant growth and quality monitored. Research on the alternate generation, gametophyte, will entail subjecting the microscopic plants to various conditions of light, temperature and nutrients to find ways to retard growth and reproduction. Strain selection will be examined using both parent plants and by making crosses using cloned gametophytes. Results of this research will be disseminated to interested parties by various means.

Project news can be found in the 2016 stories “University of Alaska professor receives Sea Grant funding for seaweed aquaculture research” from Alaska Sea Grant, “Investors bet on farmed kelp being Alaska's next seafood export” from Alaska Dispatch News, and “Southeast to begin seaweed farming soon” from Capital City Weekly.

2017 National Aquaculture Initiative

The following projects were funded as part of a national initiative focused on answering key questions impeding the development and expansion of sustainable United States marine, coastal, and Great Lakes aquaculture.

Geoduck Spawning, Nursery Techniques, Seed Security and Technology Transfer for Alaska [A/152-41]

This project will provide Alaska geoduck farmers with Native Alaska geoduck seed to provide farmers with access to seed to grow and expand their farms. Broodstock for the hatcheries will be provided by Alaskan divers. The spawning and nursery project will take place on land based facilities that will not impact the environment. The seed produced will be planted by farm sites that have already been approved by the State of Alaska.

MaricultureMap - Development of a GIS Tool to Inform Mariculture Expansion in Alaska [A/152-42]

Development of mariculture in Alaska has been restricted to date by a lack of information needed to assess the profitability of mariculture investments, which depends upon key environmental and social variables. This project will define and prioritize parameters important to mariculture development, identify existing data sets related to these parameters, and collect, analyze/process and layer existing data into a GIS tool which can be used by investors and regulators to better inform and focus investment in mariculture development in Alaska.

Assisting Alaska Shellfish Managers to Avoid Emergency Rainfall Closures [A/152-43]

The project will create a highly-detailed dataset characterizing key water quality and microbiological conditions at remote farm and harvest sites currently subject to closures due to storm and rainfall events. Project staff will conduct baseline water profiles for currents, temperature and salinity while collecting bacteriological samples at an Alaska oyster farm site currently subject to rainfall closure conditions. A real-time instrument for bacteria indicator organisms will also be deployed at the farm, and spot samples will be collected at nearby geoduck harvest sites. These observations will be compared with the historical and current bacteriological sampling regimes. Project partners—including shellfish growers, harvesters and regulators—will then review the findings to assess current water quality monitoring and management procedures and recommend new ones.

This project aims to address a significant impediment to shellfish production in Alaska, provides critical support to ADEC, fulfills regional shellfish grower objectives, and contributes to the national need for sustainable seafood production. Efficiency of farm and wild harvest in Alaska will be increased through reduced water quality closures. The results of this project will effectively increase production of safe shellfish to meet growing domestic and international demand.