Sunday, August 16, 2015

Sun hover to sunset

Another up close and personal look at the beach cast polar bear from last week. Here you can see that bottom jaw split in half again. More importantly, you can see how terrifying it would be to get attacked by a polar bear! This is a great reminder that everyone needs to respect these amazing creatures and keep their distance when encountered!

The offshore crew arrived and here they are on the R/V Annika Marie dropping off samples on a gorgeous sunny day in Barrow. 

Here a local wildlife biologist from NSB department of wildlife proudly shows off her first chum salmon of the summer.

Due to last years success, we organized another family science day this year. The kids (and parents) really enjoyed looking at some of the tiny fish and crustaceans that live along the beaches of Barrow.

This might be my favorite picture so far... A young boy helps his sister who is too short to reach the oculars on the microscope by holding her up so she can see. 

Here, Sam George educates some local children on some critters we had on display in our touch tank.

We finished off family science day by performing a dissection on a fourhorn sculpin. Everyone was really excited to see that this sculpin had eaten 12 of the amphipods that they had all seen in the microscope. 

 When Barrow weather cooperates, it creates some beautiful never ending sunsets, or should I say 'sun hovers'?!

Another great sun hover...

Another picture of ARFie the Arctic Science bear in the field collecting data. This time he is out in the tundra with Marcela Estens, a field technician with Dr. Craig Tweedie's lab from University of Texas El Paso (UTEP).

Barrow is now a cruise destination. Here, you see a French cruise ship that departed from Seward and is bringing small groups of people ashore on a zodiac to explore the town. 

This week a new team member joined the crew, Stella Mosher from the NOAA Auke Bay Labs in Juneau, AK. 

Along with Stella's arrival came the giant hauls of capelin and sandlance that we experience a couple times a year. This was a long day of processing back at the lab!

We finished our sites early so we offered another science crew a helping hand. Here, I am driving Amorita Armendariz from the UTEP crew in our zodiac down a shallow creek that winds through the tundra to the lagoon. Along the length of the creek we collected some water samples and recorded various physicochemical parameters. 

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Ecology of Forage Fish in the Arctic Nearshore (EFFAN)

On our way to one of our Chukchi sites we came upon this complete Grey Whale skeleton. Here you see Sam standing next to it for size reference.

 We learned another valuable lesson this summer... a species of amphipod we catch seems to LOVE eating saffron cod. We had them in the same container for 5 minutes and they had eaten most of the cod. We had to do a second seine haul to get new samples... we now keep them separated!

While we were seining some passing children became interested and offered to help. Here you see them picking fish out of the net with us.

Here they are proudly displaying their catch of samples!

 Ice is pretty... enough said.

The USV Nanuq doing bathymetry surveys in the Lagoon after a strong current through the Eluitkak Pass pushed a lot of sea ice into it. Perhaps this will motivate us to finally put in a obstacle avoidance system on the boat!

A panorama of our Elson Plover Point site with the beach seine gear setup on the right, the USV nanuq control center on the left, and the USV Nanuq cruising in the middle.

I never thought I would get to be so close to a polar bear... unfortunately this one was dead and washed onto the beach and discover by a local native Alaskan. We offered him a helping hand to uncover it so he could harvest some crafting materials.

Here it is uncovered, just a little girl, maybe a year old. It had puncture wounds on its head that make it look like it got into a fight with another bear.

Here you can see that the lower jaw was split in half during the supposed fight. It was probably a much larger bear, this one stood no chance!

We are starting a new NSB ARF tradition. This bear is ARFIE the Bear, the NSB ARFs mascot. He is a Pizzly (Polar Bear/Grizzly hybrid). The idea is to have all the researchers that visit the ARF take him into the field to take pictures doing work with them, and post the picture on the ARFIE Wall. We'll see if it catches on!

Today we had a tinsy SNAFU. While preparing to move a ADCP mooring offshore we turned our back on our zodiac for just a moment. When we turned around again it had drifted off of the beach and caught the wind, taking off like a balloon. It drifted almost 8 miles before we caught up to it with another boat! These things happen to the best of us... we lost a day of sampling but we will catch up!

Stay tuned for another update in about a week!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

From the cold... back to the scorching hot

The field season has come to an end and I am back in the blistering heat of the Miami sun, but I still have a number of cool pictures to share with you.

Snowy owls used to be very abundant in Barrow, so much so that the Inupiaq village name Utqiagvik actually means "place where they hunt snowy owls". Nowadays they are not as common but we were lucky enough to have one guarding a nest every day about 100 meters from the ARF.

Here is another snowy owl hanging out in the middle of town, sitting on top of a gas line blow off valve... oh the irony...

In the middle of the summer we had 2 weeks of terribly windy weather that made sampling most of our stations impossible. This panoramic shot is taken from the middle of the spit that leads to Plover Point facing parallel to the Beaufort coast. It shows the Beaufort Sea of the left and the Elson lagoon on the right, and as you can see the waves had gotten so big that they went all the way over the spit and into the lagoon. This is aparent from the smooth surface left behind by the crossing water.

Apparently turbid water does not affect the Beluga Whales ability to catch fish though, near Plover Point we found a pod of well over 50 whales feeding on something that we will never know (though it was probably Arctic Cod as we caught lots of them at a nearby site that same day). This extra curious whale came right up to the beach to take a better look at me. This behaviour is called pilot hopping and allows whales to see what is going on above water, its much more common in other whales and I was pretty lucky to see a beluga do this, let alone capture it on camera.

This spotted seal was being necropsied by a North Slope Borough Department of Wildlife biologist. The pelt was still in good condition so it was removed and given to a local native Alaskan. 

This is the only 8ft zodiac I know of that is powered by a 175 HP yamaha. We towed this boat all the way to Cooper Island at speeds well above 30MPH so that we could pull a few seines out there and pay George Divoky ( a visit.

Cooper Island is an old Naval establishment. This island is often referred to as the golden island because its sediment is a gold/bronze color which is quite unique when compared to the other sediments in the area which are predominantly brown.

When the Navy left, they left behind a great deal of debris which Black Guillemots have since started using as nesting sites. George Divoky has been monitoring this breeding colony of Guillemots for 40 years now, and has provided incredibly important data for understanding how global climate change will affect the Arctic regions.

Over the years, the naval debris has fallen apart and no longer provided suitable protection for raising young guillemots, especially with hungry bears roaming the island. George has modified these hard cases to provide a nesting cubby for the guillemots, it also allows him to easily access the birds to weighing and measuring. Here we see George measuring a chick, and a nest filled with fourhorn sculpin that have been delivered to the chick by the parents.

We were told that there were lots of polar bears in the area and it seemed likely that I would finally see my first polar bear.

We didn't see one on the island, but on our way back we finally saw one near Plover Point, only a few hundred yards away from where we often sample. This was a rather small bear (6-7ft) and was munching on a piece of whale carcass on the beach.

Back on the mainland, our Family Science Day Coloring Contest deadline had past. After much deliberation we chose this flounder as the winner! The winner was 12 year old, Ida Kilapsuk.

Here is Ida receiving her prizes, an ACES team shirt and a huge flaming hammerhead shark kite.

 This was too expensive to purchase and too beautiful to not share. this is a carving made from a full walrus tusk, it is just stunning!

On a trip down to monument we came across this little Arctic Fox, he was just hanging out at the top of the bluff watching us drive by.

To our surprise, when we got to monument, there was another polar bear on the beach! (photo credit goes to Yosty Storms). 

Here is the same bear swimming away (against the current). They are surprisingly fast!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

ACES Family Science Day

 Today was a special day for the ACES team, instead of sampling, we hosted a Family Science Day for kids and adults alike. It involved fun activities to learn about local creatures as well as a talk going into a bit more detail on our research. It was a great success, and here are some pictures from the event.

Sam George showing some local children how to test the water salinity of our touch tank’s water using a refractometer.

We setup several microscopes with specimens of local plankton so that the children could see what their beloved whales are eating. Needless to say the words “eeeewww” and “that’s creepy!” were thrown around a lot, but the kids really enjoyed it and so did we.

Local whale biologist Craig George brought out his inner child to come join the fun. He was most impressed by the whale lice and large copepods. At one point I actually heard him say “I am coocoo for cocopods!”

Here, Sam is showing some kids all the live fish and other critters that we had in our touch tank. This was a great hit! So much so that I couldn’t even get close enough to get a picture of the animals themselves..

In the past 2 weeks the weather has been very bad, with winds above 30mph most of the time. This has push in lots of plankton, and sea birds are in a complete frenzy along the beaches to pick out whatever they can find. A local hunter was kind enough to let me take a look at the stomach contents of an Arctic Turn so that we could find out what they were eating, and we allowed to locals to take a look for themselves. This image shows three Krill or Mysiid shrimp that had recently been eaten by the bird.

Team In-Seine posting infront of all of the flounder coloring contest entries.

A closer look at entries, these kids really did a great job at coloring these in, so the library agreed to hang them in their kids area so that all their friends could come by and see them.

And here are the artists preparing their masterpieces to win the contest. The winner’s drawing will be post on the next blog, and they will also receive one of our ACES long-sleeve shirts and a mystery prize!