Institute of Marine Science

IMS logo

Founded by a legislative mandate in 1960, the Institute of Marine Science (IMS) functions as the central research organization within the College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences (CFOS). Research conducted by CFOS faculty in its three departments (Oceanography, Marine Biology, and Fisheries) is administered through IMS, and the institute also serves as the home unit for all CFOS research faculty.

Research conducted in IMS spans the range of disciplines in fisheries and ocean sciences, including marine, estuarine and freshwater ecosystems and their related human dimensions. We utilize observational, experimental, and quantitative modeling approaches.

IMS fields of research

  • Oceanography includes the general areas of physical, chemical, biological, geological, and fisheries oceanography.
  • Marine Biology faculty specialize in environmental monitoring, benthic communities, kelp forests, food web ecology (including contaminants), biology of commercial invertebrates, marine mammal and seabird physiology, biological impacts of ocean acidification, and interactions between Native communities and the marine environment.
  • Fisheries fields include evolution, genetics, physiology, biology, ecology, population dynamics and statistics, fisheries oceanography, fisheries management and policy, economics, human dimensions, seafood science, and aquaculture.

Major research areas

  • Ecosystem structure and dynamics.
  • Effects of climate change.
  • Fisheries stock assessment and fishery management strategies.
  • Life history, biology and ecology of fishes, invertebrates, and marine mammals.
  • Oceanographic and ecosystem factors affecting Alaskan marine mammals, invertebrates and Alaskan fisheries, the largest in the nation.
  • Applied research problems facing the U.S. Arctic offshore oil and gas industry, and the state and federal regulators who oversee these activities.


IMS research programs are focused on the Arctic and Northeast Pacific subarctic waters; however, research is also conducted in the Antarctic, the Southern Ocean, Greenland, and elsewhere in more temperate regions.

Arctic and subarctic focus

IMS has the greatest combined expertise and knowledge of any research group regarding the oceanography, marine biology, and fisheries of the Gulf of Alaska and the Bering, Chukchi, and Beaufort Seas. Over the past few decades, IMS has maintained ongoing field research activities in all four of the marginal seas surrounding Alaska. The institute’s experience is unrivaled in successfully carrying out year-round observation programs and hypothesis-driven research in high-latitude systems.

Ocean observing, time series

IMS maintains unique long-term climate and ecosystem monitoring stations in the North Pacific and the western Arctic. These include an oceanographic time series since 1970 at hydrographic station GAK1 near Seward, which is the longest-running temperature-salinity-depth time series in the coastal Gulf of Alaska. The Seward Line is a long-term observation program operating since 1998, conducting transects from Resurrection Bay to the continental slope in the Gulf of Alaska. IMS also maintains the only long-term mooring in the Chukchi Sea for multidisciplinary and multi-trophic level ecosystem monitoring. In addition, since 1985 the Beaufort Sea Fish Monitoring Program, now maintained and conducted in IMS, has collected the most comprehensive and continuous database on nearshore Arctic fishes. These datasets and others represent rich resources for students and researchers.