The Arctic Coastal Ecosystems Survey (ACES) is focused on nearshore and lagoon communities of the Chukchi and Beaufort Sea surrounding Point Barrow, AK. These communities are subsisted on by local peoples of the north slope of Alaska, and are expected to be sensitive to climate change and increasing human interferences associated with commercial fishing, trafficking, and oil exploration. Our research will establish a baseline to observe changes in these communities as these interferences progress. The target species are those with potential for fisheries and abundant fish that are expected to play a large role in trophic dynamics (cod, salmon, char, smelt, capelin, sandlance, sculpin, whitefish).
The project consists of three major components: (1) Beach seining (2) Acoustics (3) Trawling
The beach seining portion has been underway since the 11th of July and will continue until the end of August. This sampling effort documents the progressive change of community structure, growth and trophic interaction along the shores of the Chukchi, Beaufort and the Elson Lagoon throughout the summer shift from ice covered waters to open water.
So far we have seen great fluctuation in community structure that seems to be related to weather, water temperature, and salinity but analysis of these relationships will confirm this. We have seen anadromous fish such as salmon, whitefish, and dolly varden char, to bottom dwelling fish such as sandlance, sculpins, cod, shanny, prickelbacks, and flounders. And pelagic fish such as capelin and smelt, crustaceans and plankton. The target species are those with potential for fisheries and abundant fish that are expected to play a large role in trophic transfer (cod, salmon, char, smelt, capelin, sculpin, whitefish).
The acoustics portion has just begun in the nearshore sites using an unmanned sampling vessel (USV). This vessel is equipped with several sonar devices and the ability to drive itself across a preprogrammed pattern while collecting sonar data. This data will be used to map the bottom topography of the nearshore, and quantify the distribution of fish biomass and abundance.
Furthermore, similar sonar devices will be used on the trawling vessel to quantify the distribution of fish biomass and abundance along transects perpendicular to the shorelines. The trawling portion of the project has yet to begin, but the fish collected will be processed and analyzed in the same way as those from the beach seines to allow for comparison.
Eventually, the data collected in the ACES project will be used to quantify and qualify the importance of the Arctic nearshore, and this blog will continue to update you on our progress throughout our field season.
When moving between sampling sites someone always keeps a high power firearm handy in case we run into an angry bear and need to defend ourselves. Though this situation would be a last resort and will be avoided at all costs if possible.
The USV during sea trials. FIU Panther Power!!!!