Kirsten Ressel

Kirsten Ressel

M.S. Student


2150 Koyukuk Drive
245 O'Neill Bldg, PO Box 757220
Fairbanks, AK 99775



Allegheny College
B.S. Environmental Science



Distribution, life history, and reproductive biology of spawning capelin Mallotus villosus in Norton Sound and putative stock differentiation in Alaska







I grew up in North Olmsted, Ohio. I graduated with my bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science from Allegheny College in Meadville, Pennsylvania in 2014. I have worked as a seasonal technician for a variety of aquatic biology jobs around the United States (including Alaska, Alabama, Florida, and Oregon), typically focusing on researching and monitoring fish in wadable streams.


Student Career Goals

I am interested in relying on field-based techniques, using fish as the primary research subject, to study anthropogenic effects on aquatic ecosystems, in hopes that the data obtained from this research can lead to better management, restoration, and conservation efforts in the future.


Current research projects

  • I am studying the distribution, life history, and reproductive biology of spawning capelin (Mallotus villosus) in northern Norton Sound. Additionally, I am determining whether local populations of capelin can be differentiated using relative warps, which is a type of morphometric analysis. Capelin are an important Arctic pelagic forage fish and help sustain marine predators, fisheries, and human cultures. They are considered both a keystone and indicator species in the North Atlantic (e.g., Newfoundland), however, despite their importance, we know surprisingly little about capelin in Alaska. Declines in marine predators in Alaskan waters have been observed over the last few decades, probably due to declines in preferred prey species, such as capelin. To broaden scientists’ and managers’ knowledge about capelin in Norton Sound, I will conduct aerial surveys to examine their spawning distribution, collect capelin samples from spawning beaches, analyze the physical spawning habitat characteristics (e.g., sediment size), and compare sex- and age-related trends in spawning timing. These data will be compared with historic data to identify potential changes in spawning behavior and/or individual fish condition. Additional samples will be collected from the Alaskan coastline and Newfoundland, Canada. To identify putative local populations, I will use multivariate analysis of variance tests to compare the relative warp scores of samples collected from various geographic regions. Shape differences may suggest that capelin are locally adapted to specific regions, reinforcing the need to protect these areas. Data obtained from this study can be used to help manage marine resources in Alaska by understanding where stocks are located and, consequently, the minimum number of areas within which separate management strategies may be needed.