Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Week 2: the ball is rolling!

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but pictures cannot do this scenery any justice. Looking out over these icebergs never gets old. It’s amazing to think that there are animals that thrive in these freezing conditions... when this particular picture was taken the water was a balmy -0.92 degrees and we still caught fish in our net!

In the Arctic, weather conditions can vary greatly on an hourly basis, so it is important to collect data on the environmental conditions at every single sampling event. Here Ann is using a handheld anemometer to measure wind speed.

After we set our nets, we try to measure and release the fish as fast as possible. Unfortunately, some of our catch have to be sacrificed for the greater good, but this healthy, plump (probably full of eggs) fourhorn sculpin will hopefully live out its live to the fullest after being released by the gentle hands of our intern, Samuel George.

Here is an underwater picture of that fourhorn sculpin right after we released it. For bottom dwelling fish like sculpins, their best defense against predators is camouflage, and I can certainly see why it is difficult for a predatory bird or fish to spot one of these!

Sometimes when we get a large haul of fish in our net we simply put all of it into one big ziplock bag and bring it back to our field station to process the sample with a hot cup of tea. On this particular haul we caught well over 100 larval sculpin that were less than 2cm long, these fish are hard to measure in windy conditions as they sometimes blow right off of the measuring board. Here Sam is getting a bag ready to bring it back to the Arctic Research Facility (ARF), our home base for the summer.

Now, Barrow is not exactly known for its sport fishing opportunities, but there is no wifi or cable tv to watch at the ARF, so if the wind isn’t blowing too hard and all the field work is complete for the day, I like to take advantage by spending it outside on the Elson Lagoon trying my luck. So far in the last two summers I have not caught a fish, but I swear I hooked one once! I am determined to catch a fish this year, so stay tuned for a picture of a big fat salmon! And if that doesn’t work out at least I am getting some good fly casting practice…

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