RFRC Award Recipients

The conferring of the Rasmuson Fisheries Fellowship awards represents one of the distinctions offered by the College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences and the University of Alaska Fairbanks. The Fellowship is not just a source of funds for a graduate assistantship, but an award for scholastic achievement in selected areas of fisheries research. The Fellows are selected by the Advisory Board based on their academic record and their potential to contribute to the frontiers of knowledge related to Alaska's marine environs and living resources, especially the valuable commercial fisheries of the region.

Retrospectives of Rasmuson Fishery Fellows describes the many research projects that have been supported since 1994.

2019–2020 Award Recipients

Cheryl BarnesCheryl Barnes

PhD Fisheries (Advisor: Anne Beaudreau)

Impacts of predation and competition on ecologically and economically important groundfish species throughout the Gulf of Alaska

Changes in ecological processes (e.g., predation, competition) can have substantial and long-lasting effects on the population dynamics of marine fishes. Although they can greatly affect stock biomass and community structure, fluctuations in predation intensity, competitive interactions, and environmental conditions are not often explicitly accounted for in contemporary stock assessment models.

Using bottom trawl survey data collected by the Alaska Fisheries Science Center (AFSC), I am quantifying spatiotemporal variation in predation on walleye pollock by four major groundfish predators (Pacific halibut, arrowtooth flounder, Pacific cod, and adult pollock) to improve estimates of biomass and yield for walleye pollock in the Gulf of Alaska. I am also calculating spatial and dietary overlap between Pacific halibut and arrowtooth flounder as a first step toward testing the hypothesis that competition with an increasing arrowtooth flounder population has limited Pacific halibut growth in recent years.

Results from my dissertation are expected to enhance our understanding of complex interactions among economically and ecologically important species in the Gulf of Alaska and contribute to the development of management plans that improve long-term fishery sustainability.


Katja BerghausKatja Berghaus

PhD Fisheries (Advisor: Trent Sutton)

Stock assessment of a valuable groundfish species: Lingcod (Ophiodon elongatus) in Prince William Sound, Alaska

I graduated from Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) in Germany with a BS in Applied Biology in 2015 and with a MS in Zoology, Molecular Biology and Cell Biology in 2018 from the same institution. During my studies in Germany I realized that my true passion lies in a more directly applied field. Coming to Alaska (and to UAF) to study northern pike morphology as part of my master's degree reignited my passion for fishes and the outdoors. After sampling Alaskan freshwater habitats for a predatory species, my focus shifted again, this time toward a marine predator: lingcod. Lingcod (Ophiodon elongatus) are highly valued sport and commercial fishing targets, and recent catch data reveal a concerning trend of declining numbers and declining mean lengths in catches. In order to identify effective and satisfactory management strategies, a basic understanding of the species' behavior (movement, competition, etc.), recruitment and stock status need to be available. Since data and understanding for lingcod in Prince William Sound (PWS) are lacking, my research project will focus on obtaining essential life-history information to allow for the completion of a stock assessment on lingcod in PWS. This study will provide the necessary data to assess the stock status of lingcod by collecting data on length, weight and sex of heterogenous samples as well as obtaining fin ray samples in collaboration with the PWS Charter Boat Association in order to age the sampled fish without euthanizing. Aside from these direct measurements, a tagging study will provide information on mortality rates and potentially give an insight into lingcod movement rates specifically in PWS. With this project I hope to contribute to the available knowledge and help in developing a sustainable fishing method for these incredible predators.


Matthew CallahanMatt Callahan

MS Fisheries (Advisor: Anne Beaudreau)

Seasonal patterns of energy allocation in juvenile sablefish

Recruitment success in marine fish relies on juveniles encountering favorable temperatures and high-quality prey to achieve sufficient growth and build adequate energy stores to survive. Increased growth allows fish to consume larger prey while reducing risk of size-dependent predation, and stored energy decreases the chance of starvation. My objective in this study is to examine growth and nutritional condition of juvenile sablefish (Anoplopoma fimbria) before and after their first winter and to evaluate the influence of water temperature and prey quality on condition and growth. My work will help refine the conceptual model of energy allocation by sablefish during their early life history and improve our understanding of the environmental factors affecting sablefish recruitment.


Becca CatesBecca Cates

MS Fisheries (Advisor: Ginny Eckert)

Dungeness crab (Metacarcinus magister) abundance, recruitment and fishery catch along a sea otter (Enhydra lutris) gradient

Becca Cates is an MS Fisheries candidate at the College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences. She was raised in Poulsbo, Washington, and earned her bachelor's degree in Environmental Science–Marine Ecology at Western Washington University. Her love for the ocean and environmental education has taken her everywhere from Big Pine Key, Florida, to Juneau, Alaska. At UAF she is researching the trophic cascade between sea otters and eelgrass with a particular emphasis on investigating the role of Dungeness crab as an intermediate predator. As a keystone species, sea otters shape the ecosystem they reside in, creating a multitude of cascading impacts such as keeping intermediate predator populations in check to ensure the health of vegetated habitats. The trophic linkages between sea otters and eelgrass communities with an emphasis on Dungeness crab as an intermediate predator has not been well studied, and as the range and population of sea otters continue to grow, so does the stress on commercial and subsistence fisheries that rely on Dungeness crab. By investigating Dungeness crab abundance, recruitment and fishery catch along a sea otter gradient, Becca aims to understand the influence of sea otter predation on this valuable species and the overall health of an important coastal ecosystem.


Kelly CatesKelly Cates

PhD Fisheries (Advisor: Shannon Atkinson)

Top trophic predators as indicators of Alaskan ecosystem health

My graduate research focuses on humpback whale health indices. I primarily focus on steroid hormones extracted from blubber and blow spray to inform on stress and reproductive condition, as well as body condition which is determined from aerial photographs. Throughout my research I have enjoyed implementing and developing new technologies. Most recently I have incorporated UAV into my fieldwork to collect blow spray and aerial images and I helped developed code that can automatically analyze the condition of whale from a photo. I hope that my research will provide the foundation for long-term monitoring of humpback whales in Southeast Alaska and that the implementation of new technologies will pave the way for UAVs and body condition work to be conducted on other marine mammal species.


Austin FlanaganAustin Flanigan

MS Fisheries (Advisor: Andy Seitz)

Understanding spatial dynamics and stock structure of Pacific halibut (Hippoglossus stenolepis) in the northern Bering Sea

Austin Flanigan is a first-year fisheries master’s student at UAF. He was born and raised in Maine, where he gained an appreciation and love for marine and aquatic species. He attended the University of New England (Biddeford, Maine), where he graduated in 2019 with a BS in both Marine Biology and Applied Mathematics; Austin also graduated with honors, where his honors thesis focused on estimating the number of Atlantic sturgeon that utilize the Saco River Estuary on a yearly basis. For his master’s thesis, he will investigate the stock structure and spatial dynamics of the Pacific halibut Hippoglossus stenolepis) in the northern Bering Sea. Pacific halibut are a commercially valuable fish species, and currently there is a knowledge gap in what is known as the IPHC (International Pacific Halibut Commision) 4E management zone. As a result, studies are needed in order to properly set future catch quotas and to understand the population connectivity of the northern Bering Sea Halibut stock.

Following the attainment of his degree, Austin will pursue a career in fisheries management, where he can combine his interests of biology and mathematics to estimate abundance and set quotas for commercially important species. In this way, Austin hopes to conserve marine species for generations to come.


Jeanette GannJeanette Gann

PhD Marine Biology (Advisor: Sarah Hardy)

Phytoplankton and nutrition: Evaluating effects of phytoplankton community composition on food quality for young of the year pollock and cod

The goal of this project is to compare climate-forced changes in taxonomic composition and lipid content of summer phytoplankton communities as food resources for zooplankton, and in turn young of the year (YOY) walleye pollock and Pacific cod in the eastern Bering Sea (EBS) and Gulf of Alaska (GOA). The results of the project could possibly identify key species of phytoplankton that may be used as indicators for year-class strength within the pollock and cod fisheries. Phytoplankton data will be compared to zooplankton community data to evaluate the degree to which zooplankton community structure is coupled to particular phytoplankton assemblages. In addition, lipid content will be measured in a variety of different phytoplankton samples (representative of different assemblages) to provide a metric of food quality. These data will then be compared to lipid content (i.e., body condition) in age-0 fish collected in the EBS (pollock) and GOA (cod) to determine whether phytoplankton assemblage structure influences body condition in juvenile fishes that feed near the base of the food web. Ultimately this project will be helpful in assessing how YOY pollock and cod, and zooplankton communities change in response to variations in available food (phytoplankton) during warm- and cold-year climate conditions.


Marina WashburnMarina Washburn

PhD Marine Biology (Advisor: Amanda Kelley)

Ocean change impacts on three marine species critical to Alaska’s recreational, commercial and subsistence fisheries

Marina Washburn is a fourth-generation Alaskan. After growing up in Fairbanks, she attended Texas Christian University in Fort Worth where she graduated with a BS in Biology with an emphasis in developmental biology. For her PhD she is examining the impacts of projected ocean change on three different cornerstone Alaskan organisms: the Pacific razor clam (Siliqua patula), Black Katy chiton (Katharina tunicata), and pink salmon (Oncorhynchus gorbuscha). Each of these species is crucial for either recreational, subsistence, or commercial fisheries in Alaska, but has shown declining population numbers in coastal communities. Marina began with experimental work on larval razor clams exposed to elevated, variable and ambient pCO2 conditions to examine the stress implications of ocean acidification on the vulnerable early life stage of the species. Her focus then shifted to experimental work with Black Katy chitons looking at the impacts of both temperature and ocean acidification on adults. The goal is to understand the physiological, metabolic and behavioral response to this change.

Future work will examine the impacts of ocean acidification and food concentration on juvenile pink salmon in terms of behavior, physiology and growth. Marina hopes that answering questions about these three species will help lay the baseline of knowledge regarding ocean acidification in Alaska and possibly help answer questions regarding animals vital to Alaskan communities.


Archives

2018–2019 Award Recipients

Julia McMahonJulia McMahon

M.S. Fisheries (Advisor: Peter Westley)

Ecological barriers and bridges to introgression: hatchery-origin pink salmon on the wild spawning grounds of Prince William Sound, Alaska

Julia McMahon is a MS Fisheries candidate in the College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences. She was born and raised in Alaska, and adventures with her parents fostered a lifelong thirst for all things aquatic. She has a bachelor's degree in Biology and has a diverse portfolio of fisheries and marine research experience from the Arctic to the Aleutians. At UAF she is researching the interactions of hatchery and wild pink salmon in remote Prince William Sound (PWS) where hatchery pink salmon stray and interact in streams with wild populations. Impacts to wild populations are not currently understood. Ms. McMahon is investigating differences between hatchery and wild pink salmon morphology, stream life and spawning success in conjunction with a current Alaska Department of Fish and Game study investigating the proportions and genetics of straying pink salmon. In addition, Ms. McMahon is using bulk C:N isotope analysis to determine if potential differences in morphology and life history are correlated with origin.


Kirsten ResselKirsten Ressel

M.S. Fisheries (Advisor: Trent Sutton)

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

Kirsten Ressel is a first-year Fisheries master’s student at UAF. She graduated from Allegheny College (Meadville, Pennsylvania) in 2014 with a B.S. in Environmental Science and has since traveled around the continental United States contributing to various aquatic research projects. For her master’s thesis, she will examine the distribution of spawning capelin (Mallotus villosus) within Norton Sound and compare the reproductive biology and habitat characteristics of these spawning aggregations to historical data. Capelin are an integral component of the food web in the Gulf of Alaska and the Eastern Bering and Chukchi seas, so changes in the distribution and dynamics of this prey species could have cascading effects throughout the trophic food web. This research will help establish an ecological baseline that can potentially be used to identify future variations in the subarctic climate as it continues to change.

After obtaining her degree, Kirsten intends to pursue a career studying how climate change and anthropogenically driven factors affect aquatic ecosystems in hopes that the data obtained from this research can lead to better management, restoration, and conservation efforts in the future. She wishes to express her gratitude to the Rasmuson Fisheries Research Center and the North Pacific Research Board for funding her research.


Cheryl BarnesCheryl Barnes

PhD Fisheries (Advisor: Anne Beaudreau)

Impacts of predation and competition on ecologically and economically important groundfish species throughout the Gulf of Alaska

Changes in ecological processes (e.g., predation, competition) can have substantial and long-lasting effects on the population dynamics of marine fishes. Although they can greatly affect stock biomass and community structure, fluctuations in predation intensity, competitive interactions, and environmental conditions are not often explicitly accounted for in contemporary stock assessment models.

Using bottom trawl survey data collected by the Alaska Fisheries Science Center (AFSC), I am quantifying spatiotemporal variation in predation on walleye pollock by four major groundfish predators (Pacific halibut, arrowtooth flounder, Pacific cod, and adult pollock) to improve estimates of biomass and yield for walleye pollock in the Gulf of Alaska. I am also calculating spatial and dietary overlap between Pacific halibut and arrowtooth flounder as a first step toward testing the hypothesis that competition with an increasing arrowtooth flounder population has limited Pacific halibut growth in recent years.

Results from my dissertation are expected to enhance our understanding of complex interactions among economically and ecologically important species in the Gulf of Alaska and contribute to the development of management plans that improve long-term fishery sustainability.


Katja BerghausKatja Berghaus

PhD Fisheries (Advisor: Trent Sutton)

Stock assessment of a valuable groundfish species: Lingcod (Ophiodon elongatus) in Prince William Sound, Alaska

I graduated from Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) in Germany with a B.S. in Applied Biology in 2015 and recently with a M.S. in Zoology, Molecular Biology and Cell Biology (2018) from the same institution. During my studies in Germany I realized that my true passion lies in a more directly applied field. Coming to Alaska (and to UAF) to study northern pike morphology as part of my master's degree reignited my passion for fishes and the outdoors. After sampling Alaskan freshwater habitats for a predatory species, my focus shifted again, this time toward a marine predator: lingcod. Lingcod (Ophiodon elongatus) are highly valued sport and commercial fishing targets and recent catch data reveal a concerning trend of declining numbers and declining mean lengths in catches. In order to identify effective and satisfactory management strategies, a basic understanding of the species' behavior (movement, competition, etc.), recruitment and stock status need to be available. Since data and understanding for lingcod in Prince William Sound (PWS) are lacking, my research project will focus on obtaining essential life-history information to allow for the completion of a stock assessment on lingcod in PWS. This study will provide the necessary data to assess the stock status of lingcod by collecting data on length, weight and sex of heterogenous samples as well as obtaining fin ray samples in collaboration with the PWS Charter Boat Association in order to age the sampled fish without euthanizing. Aside from these direct measurements a tagging study will provide information on mortality rates and potentially give an insight into lingcod movement rates specifically in PWS. With this project I hope to contribute to the available knowledge and help in developing a sustainable fishing method for these incredible predators.


Kelly CatesKelly Cates

MS Fisheries (Advisor: Shannon Atkinson)

Top trophic predators as indicators of Alaskan ecosystem health

My graduate research focuses on humpback whale health indices. I primarily focus on steroid hormones extracted from blubber and blow spray to inform on stress and reproductive condition, as well as body condition which is determined from aerial photographs. Throughout my research I have enjoyed implementing and developing new technologies. Most recently I have incorporated UAV into my fieldwork to collect blow spray and aerial images and I helped developed code that can automatically analyze the condition of whale from a photo. I hope that my research will provide the foundation for long-term monitoring of humpback whales in Southeast Alaska and that the implementation of new technologies will pave the way for UAVs and body condition work to be conducted on other marine mammal species.


Jeanette GannJeanette Gann

PhD Marine Biology (Advisor: Sarah Hardy)

Phytoplankton and nutrition: Evaluating effects of phytoplankton community composition on food quality for young of the year pollock and cod

The goal of this project is to compare climate-forced changes in taxonomic composition and lipid content of summer phytoplankton communities as food resources for zooplankton, and in turn young of the year (YOY) walleye pollock and Pacific cod in the eastern Bering Sea (EBS) and Gulf of Alaska (GOA). The results of the project could possibly identify key species of phytoplankton that may be used as indicators for year-class strength within the pollock and cod fisheries. Phytoplankton data will be compared to zooplankton community data to evaluate the degree to which zooplankton community structure is coupled to particular phytoplankton assemblages. In addition, lipid content will be measured in a variety of different phytoplankton samples (representative of different assemblages) to provide a metric of food quality. These data will then be compared to lipid content (i.e., body condition) in age-0 fish collected in the EBS (pollock) and GOA (cod) to determine whether phytoplankton assemblage structure influences body condition in juvenile fishes that feed near the base of the food web. Ultimately this project will be helpful in assessing how YOY pollock and cod, and zooplankton communities change in response to variations in available food (phytoplankton) during warm- and cold-year climate conditions.

The following students have been selected to receive Rasmuson Fisheries Research Center Fellowships for the upcoming academic year:

  • Cheryl Barnes, Ph.D. Fisheries: “Impacts of predation and competition on ecologically and economically important groundfish species throughout the Gulf of Alaska” (Advisor: Anne Beaudreau).

    Changes in ecological processes (e.g., predation, competition) can have substantial and long-lasting effects on the population dynamics of marine fishes. Although they can greatly affect stock biomass and community structure, fluctuations in predation intensity, competitive interactions, and environmental conditions are not often explicitly accounted for in contemporary stock assessment models.

    Using bottom trawl survey data collected by the Alaska Fisheries Science Center (AFSC), I am quantifying spatiotemporal variation in predation on Walleye Pollock by four major groundfish predators (Pacific Halibut, Arrowtooth Flounder, Pacific Cod, and adult pollock) to improve estimates of biomass and yield for Walleye Pollock in the Gulf of Alaska. I am also calculating spatial and dietary overlap between Pacific Halibut and Arrowtooth Flounder as a first step toward testing the hypothesis that competition with an increasing Arrowtooth Flounder population has limited Pacific Halibut growth in recent years.

    Results from my dissertation are expected to enhance our understanding of complex interactions among economically and ecologically important species in the Gulf of Alaska and contribute to the development of management plans that improve long-term fishery sustainability.

  • Amanda Blackburn, M.S. Oceanography: “Potential ‘predator pit’ relationship between Tanner crab and Pacific cod, Kachemak Bay, Alaska” (Advisor: Jennifer Reynolds)

    Amanda is working to complete a M.S. in Geological Oceanography. She completed a B.S. with majors in Biology and Geology at the State University of New York at Potsdam.

    Tanner crab populations have suffered large reductions in population: and stocks have not recovered in Kachemak Bay and other regions of the Gulf of Alaska. The main focus of her thesis research is determining whether Tanner crab populations within Kachemak Bay, AK have been adversely affected by Pacific cod through the creation of a predator pit. This will be done through the creation of a habitat map of Kachemak Bay using multibeam and backscatter data. Determining potential habitat for these species can help determine where species habitat overlap may occur and how the population of Tanner crab is affected within these areas.

  • Maggie Chan, Ph.D. Fisheries: “Evaluating changes to fishing behavior and harvest patterns in subsistence and sport halibut fisheries in Alaska” (Advisor: Anne Beaudreau)

    My dissertation uses an interdisciplinary approach to examine the impacts of regulatory and environmental change for subsistence and sport harvesters of Pacific halibut (Hippoglossus stenolepis) in Alaska. This work is presented in three chapters. The first chapter examines patterns and drivers of spatial change in the charter fishing sector in Alaska. This chapter was published in PLOS ONE in 2017 (https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0179584). The second chapter explores charter operator perceptions to a suite of fishing management alternatives in Alaska. The third chapter uses local and traditional knowledge of subsistence and sport fishers to assess long-term ecological change in coastal Alaska. These chapters will contribute to our understanding of the adaptations that small-scale fishers make in response to environmental and regulatory change. Additionally, this project advances the use of local and traditional knowledge to help identify population and abundance trends in marine species, particularly in remote locations and for data-limited species.

  • Janessa Esquible, M.S. Fisheries: “Spatial and temporal trends in Steller sea lion stranding incidents and potential causes of fetal deaths” (Advisor: Shannon Atkinson).

    I am currently analyzing spatial and temporal trends in Steller sea lion (SSL) stranding incidents occurring in Alaska, Oregon and Washington. I am characterizing temporal trends through seasonality stranding occurrences, age, sex, length and cause of death (if determined) for all stranding incidents. Spatial trends are illustrated for the purpose of better understanding areas of more frequent SSL stranding occurrences, and may potentially correlate to areas of increased stranding effort. These datasets were provided to me by National Marine Fisheries Service Alaska Region and West Coast Region Mammal Stranding Network. With these datasets, we will develop a better understanding of possible long-term spatial and temporal trends affecting SSL population dynamics. This study may also prove beneficial in identifying critical components to consider when synthesizing stranding data, such as concerted effort put forth in responding to SSL strandings.
    The second chapter of my thesis will focus on identifying potential causes of death for SSL fetus cases collected from 1990-2015. Tissue specimens will be analyzed for different pathogens including coxiella burnetti, chlamydophila sp., brucella abortus, and phocine distemper virus, some of which have been elucidated to cause abortions in other marine mammals. This retrospective study will allow us to better understand factors playing a role in the overall health of SSL population dynamics with a focus on reproductive health. Both chapters include cases from the eastern and western SSL stock. Therefore, this study may illuminate potential factors affecting population dynamics of each stock. Ultimately, this study will effectively characterize spatial and temporal mortality trends in addition to disease factors playing a role in SSL strandings and spontaneous abortions.

  • Julie McMahon, M.S. Fisheries: “Illuminating the ecological barriers and bridges to introgression: hatchery-origin pink salmon on the wild spawning grounds of Prince William Sound, Alaska” (Advisor: Peter Westley)
  • Kirsten Ressel, M.S. Fisheries: “Distribution, timing, and reproductive biology of spawning capelin in Norton Sound, Alaska” (Advisor: Trent Sutton).

    Kirsten Ressel is a first-year Fisheries Master’s student at UAF. She graduated from Allegheny College (Meadville, PA) in 2014 with a B.S. in Environmental Science and has since traveled around the continental United States contributing to various aquatic research projects. For her master’s thesis, she will examine the distribution of spawning capelin (Mallotus villosus) within Norton Sound and compare the reproductive biology and habitat characteristics of these spawning aggregations to historical data. Capelin are an integral component of the food web in the Gulf of Alaska and the Eastern Bering and Chukchi seas, so changes in the distribution and dynamics of this prey species could have cascading effects throughout the trophic food web. This research will help establish an ecological baseline that can potentially be used to identify future variations in the subarctic climate as it continues to change. After obtaining her degree, Kirsten intends to pursue a career studying how climate change and anthropogenically-driven factors affect aquatic ecosystems in hopes that the data obtained from this research can lead to better management, restoration, and conservation efforts in the future. She wishes to express her gratitude to the Rasmuson Fisheries Research Center and the North Pacific Research Board for funding her research.

  • Leah (Sloan) Zacher, Ph.D. Marine Biology: “Sustainability of Alaskan King crab—distribution, movement and parasites” (Advisor: Sarah Hardy).

    Sustainability of Alaskan King Crabs- Distribution, Movement and Parasites
    I am investigating multiple factors that influence the sustainability of Alaskan king crabs and the fisheries they support. Spatial distribution of fisheries species must be well-characterized in order to avoid local depletions during fishing seasons, and to identify closure areas that minimize bycatch in other fisheries. The Bristol Bay red king crab fishery is one of the largest crab fisheries in Alaska. Despite its size, we lack detailed spatial information about king crab distributions and movement patterns. Daily fishing logs (DFL), kept by skippers since 2005, may provide these data because they contain detailed spatial information on the location of catch and effort. I am digitizing and analyzing DFL data from the Bristol Bay red king crab fishery to evaluate intra- and inter-annual variability in crab distributions.
    In addition, parasites can be significant stressors in crustacean populations, and render previously healthy stocks unable to recover from fishing pressures. The parasitic (rhizocephalan) barnacle Briarosaccus callosus can infect all commercially-harvested Alaskan king crab species. Infected crabs can no longer reproduce, instead they raise and care for the eggs and larvae of the parasite. I am examining the effects of temperature and salinity on B. callosus larval survival and development to help determine whether or not climate change-induced warming and salinity reductions will lead to a higher abundance of castrated crabs and a decline in fecundity of king crab populations. I am also comparing the metabolite profiles of infected and non-infected king crabs to determine how B. callosus changes the physiology of its crab host. Biomarkers that indicate infection will be identified from the hemolymph; these biomarkers could be used by management agencies to identify early infections that are not visible externally.

Patrick Barry - Ph.D. Fisheries candidate
Advisor: Anthony Gharrett
Fine-scale genetic structure of a salmon population: A prelude to tests of hatchery-wild interactions and an evaluation of the efficacy of genetic analysis on natural fish populations.

Leah (Sloan) Zacher - PhD Marine Biology -
Advisor: Sarah Hardy
Sustainability of Alaskan King Crabs- Distribution, Movement and Parasites
I am investigating multiple factors that influence the sustainability of Alaskan king crabs and the fisheries they support. Spatial distribution of fisheries species must be well-characterized in order to avoid local depletions during fishing seasons, and to identify closure areas that minimize bycatch in other fisheries. The Bristol Bay red king crab fishery is one of the largest crab fisheries in Alaska. Despite its size, we lack detailed spatial information about king crab distributions and movement patterns. Daily fishing logs (DFL), kept by skippers since 2005, may provide these data because they contain detailed spatial information on the location of catch and effort. I am digitizing and analyzing DFL data from the Bristol Bay red king crab fishery to evaluate intra- and inter-annual variability in crab distributions.
In addition, parasites can be significant stressors in crustacean populations, and render previously healthy stocks unable to recover from fishing pressures. The parasitic (rhizocephalan) barnacle Briarosaccus callosus can infect all commercially-harvested Alaskan king crab species. Infected crabs can no longer reproduce, instead they raise and care for the eggs and larvae of the parasite. I am examining the effects of temperature and salinity on B. callosus larval survival and development to help determine whether or not climate change-induced warming and salinity reductions will lead to a higher abundance of castrated crabs and a decline in fecundity of king crab populations. I am also comparing the metabolite profiles of infected and non-infected king crabs to determine how B. callosus changes the physiology of its crab host. Biomarkers that indicate infection will be identified from the hemolymph; these biomarkers could be used by management agencies to identify early infections that are not visible externally.


Katie Shink - MS Fisheries
Advisor: Andres Lopez and Trent Sutton
Understanding of the biology of Arctic lampreys in Alaska
The overarching goal of my study is to build our knowledge of Arctic lamprey biology using gene-based techniques. To achieve this goal, my research will pursue three primarily objectives:
1. Assess the population genetic structure of Arctic lampreys along the Yukon and Susitna River drainages.
2. Characterize the composition of Arctic lamprey diets (and incidentally caught Pacific lampreys) during their oceanic life-history stage.
3. Determine if Arctic lampreys are important predators or parasites of commercially valuable fish stocks in the Bering Sea.
The subsistence and commercial harvest of this species makes the proposed study critical to better understanding the population structure of Arctic lampreys in Alaska. This information will inform current management practices, and allow researchers and managers to assess potential harvest and environmental impacts on population structure.
Adult, marine-phase lampreys are important predators of teleost fishes. Currently, the significance of lamprey predation, and the potential impacts to commercially important fishes, remains underreported and/or unknown. The application of next-generation sequencing (NGS) technology will allow me to identify species presence within the intestinal contents of marine-phase lampreys. This research will aim to build upon documented trophic interactions occurring in the Bering Sea to better understand the role of lampreys in the ecosystem.


Jenell Larsen - MS Fisheries,
Advisor: Shannon Atkinson
Assessing changes in the reproductive capacity of female Pacific walruses (Odobenus rosmarus divergens) through the use of long-term monitoring programs
Pacific walruses (Odobenus rosmarus divergens) are an important dietary and cultural resource to coastal Alaska Native communities and are currently being considered as an endangered species. As temperatures in the Arctic increase and sea ice melts, more walruses have been recorded hauling out on land. This new trend in behavior creates several potential scenarios for walruses: (1) depletion of the food resources close to these land haulouts (2) foraging further distances from haulouts or (3) altering diet to attempt to meet their metabolic needs. These changes have the potential to affect the reproductive success and carrying capacity of Pacific walruses. The aim of my project is to answer the following questions: 1) what physiological, biological, spatial and temporal parameters influence ovarian activity and pregnancy? 2) have changes in the reproductive capacity of female Pacific walruses in the Bering Sea occurred in the past 40 years?
My research works collaboratively with USFWS’s Walrus Harvest Monitoring Program and subsistence hunters from the communities of Gambell and Savoonga on Saint Lawrence Island. Frozen reproductive tracts from harvested animals have been used to answer my first question and will continue to be collected during the 2016 spring harvest. I will be using historical ovaries on loan from the UA Museum of the North to answer my second question. Ovaries and ages of animals are present from the following 3 time periods: 1975, the mid-1990’s and the early 2000’s. We hypothesize that the peak number of ovulatory events by age will fluctuate with population estimates during these time frames, as is common in k-selected species as a response to changes in carrying capacity.


Michael Knutson -MS Fisheries
Advisor: Ginny Eckert
Reproductive Potential of Eastern Bering Sea Tanner Crab (Chinoecetes bairdi)
Michael Knutson graduated from Boise State University in 2012 with a BS in Biological Sciences and then began working with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) in Kodiak. On the job experience working with the eastern Bering Sea (EBS) Chionoecetes research group provided him the motivation and opportunity to pursue higher education while furthering research to improve management of Bering Sea crab fisheries. Michael is currently pursuing MS in Fisheries at UAF.
Michael is working closely with ADF&G to study the reproductive potential of EBS Tanner crab (Chionoecetes bairdi). Fisheries management is currently based only on male crabs, because only the males are fished. The objective of Michael's thesis research is to examine the contribution of females. He will examine the reproductive success of female Tanner crab over time and across the Bering Sea with the ultimate goal to incorporate the contribution and variability in female reproduction into management.


Janessa Esquible -MS Fisheries
Advisor: Shannon Atkinson
Mortality Trends in Steller Sea Lion Stranding Incidents, 1990-2015, and Potential Causes of Steller Sea Lion Fetal Deaths.
I am currently analyzing spatial and temporal trends in Steller sea lion (SSL) stranding incidents occurring in Alaska, Oregon and Washington. I am characterizing temporal trends through seasonality stranding occurrences, age, sex, length and cause of death (if determined) for all stranding incidents. Spatial trends are illustrated for the purpose of better understanding areas of more frequent SSL stranding occurrences, and may potentially correlate to areas of increased stranding effort. These datasets were provided to me by National Marine Fisheries Service Alaska Region and West Coast Region Mammal Stranding Network. With these datasets, we will develop a better understanding of possible long-term spatial and temporal trends affecting SSL population dynamics. This study may also prove beneficial in identifying critical components to consider when synthesizing stranding data, such as concerted effort put forth in responding to SSL strandings.
The second chapter of my thesis will focus on identifying potential causes of death for SSL fetus cases collected from 1990-2015. Tissue specimens will be analyzed for different pathogens including coxiella burnetti, chlamydophila sp., brucella abortus, and phocine distemper virus, some of which have been elucidated to cause abortions in other marine mammals. This retrospective study will allow us to better understand factors playing a role in the overall health of SSL population dynamics with a focus on reproductive health. Both chapters include cases from the eastern and western SSL stock. Therefore, this study may illuminate potential factors affecting population dynamics of each stock. Ultimately, this study will effectively characterize spatial and temporal mortality trends in addition to disease factors playing a role in SSL strandings and spontaneous abortions.

Patrick Barry - Ph.D. Fisheries candidate
Advisor: Anthony Gharrett
Fine-scale genetic structure of a salmon population: A prelude to tests of hatchery-wild interactions and an evaluation of the efficacy of genetic analysis on natural fish populations.


Emily Lescak - Summer 2015 funding only – Ph.D. Fisheries candidate
Advisor: Andres Lopez
Genetic Basis for Contemporary Evolution in Wild Populations that Experience Dramatic Changes to Their Environment

Phenotypic changes can occur rapidly when organisms experience fundamental environmental shifts. However, it is still unclear just how common contemporary evolution - or changes on the order of decades or even years - is in natural populations and how it is facilitated by genetic architecture. We have a rare opportunity to study parallel evolution in natural populations on decadal timescales. Middleton Island was uplifted as a result of the 1964 earthquake, leading to the formation of a new terrace that contains freshwater habitat. Within 50 years, resident freshwater stickleback from ponds on this terrace have diverged phenotypically and genetically from oceanic ancestors. The goal of my dissertation is to characterize patterns of parallel phenotypic and genomic evolution at the very early stages of adaptation to a novel environment.

This research is not only important for better understanding of ecotypic divergence in stickleback, but is also highly relevant to predicting species' responses to climate change. If species are unable to rapidly adapt to changing environmental conditions, they will be forced to migrate to more favorable conditions or risk extirpation. Both threespine stickleback and whitefish, another Holarctic species that has undergone post-glacial adaptive radiation, have already emerged as model organisms for understanding anthropogenic effects on phenotypic and genetic variation in wild populations on contemporary scales. Since climate change is hypothesized to impart strong selection pressures on traits associated with fitness, it is important to understand the genetic basis for microevolution and the role of standing genetic variation in species adaptability.


Charlotte Regula- Whitefield - Ph.D. Marine Biology candidate
Advisor: Sarah Hardy
Nutrition and reproduction in the California red sea cucumber: Applications for commercial fishery management and aquaculture

Charlotte Regula-Whitefield graduated from Roger Williams University, RI in 2008 with a Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology. She then received her Master of Science in Marine Science from the University of New England, ME in 2010. Currently, Charlotte is a PhD student in Marine Biology at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks.

Charlotte's dissertation was developed in close cooperation with Alutiiq Pride Shellfish Hatchery, Southeast Alaska Regional Dive Fisheries Association, and the Kodiak Area Divers Marketing Association to support current Alaskan aquaculture and fisheries management efforts for the California sea cucumber. Her primary objective is to determine the effects of diet on reproduction and larval survival of the California red sea cucumber. Through a combination of seasonal collections of wild commercial stocks and controlled feeding experiments, she will determine how changes in natural food supplies may affect reproduction and recruitment in commercial stocks, and identify nutritional requirements that maximize reproductive output of hatchery broodstock.


Leah (Sloan) Zacher - PhD Marine Biology -

Advisor: Sarah Hardy

Sustainability of Alaskan King Crabs- Distribution, Movement and Parasites

I am investigating multiple factors that influence the sustainability of Alaskan king crabs and the fisheries they support. Spatial distribution of fisheries species must be well-characterized in order to avoid local depletions during fishing seasons, and to identify closure areas that minimize bycatch in other fisheries. The Bristol Bay red king crab fishery is one of the largest crab fisheries in Alaska. Despite its size, we lack detailed spatial information about king crab distributions and movement patterns. Daily fishing logs (DFL), kept by skippers since 2005, may provide these data because they contain detailed spatial information on the location of catch and effort. I am digitizing and analyzing DFL data from the Bristol Bay red king crab fishery to evaluate intra- and inter-annual variability in crab distributions.

In addition, parasites can be significant stressors in crustacean populations, and render previously healthy stocks unable to recover from fishing pressures. The parasitic (rhizocephalan) barnacle Briarosaccus callosus can infect all commercially-harvested Alaskan king crab species. Infected crabs can no longer reproduce, instead they raise and care for the eggs and larvae of the parasite. I am examining the effects of temperature and salinity on B. callosus larval survival and development to help determine whether or not climate change-induced warming and salinity reductions will lead to a higher abundance of castrated crabs and a decline in fecundity of king crab populations. I am also comparing the metabolite profiles of infected and non-infected king crabs to determine how B. callosus changes the physiology of its crab host. Biomarkers that indicate infection will be identified from the hemolymph; these biomarkers could be used by management agencies to identify early infections that are not visible externally.


Katie Shink - MS Fisheries

Advisor: Andres Lopez and Trent Sutton

Understanding of the biology of Arctic lampreys in Alaska

The overarching goal of my study is to build our knowledge of Arctic lamprey biology using gene-based techniques. To achieve this goal, my research will pursue three primarily objectives:

  1. Assess the population genetic structure of Arctic lampreys along the Yukon and Susitna River drainages.
  2. Characterize the composition of Arctic lamprey diets (and incidentally caught Pacific lampreys) during their oceanic life-history stage.
  3. Determine if Arctic lampreys are important predators or parasites of commercially valuable fish stocks in the Bering Sea.

The subsistence and commercial harvest of this species makes the proposed study critical to better understanding the population structure of Arctic lampreys in Alaska. This information will inform current management practices, and allow researchers and managers to assess potential harvest and environmental impacts on population structure.

Adult, marine-phase lampreys are important predators of teleost fishes. Currently, the significance of lamprey predation, and the potential impacts to commercially important fishes, remains underreported and/or unknown. The application of next-generation sequencing (NGS) technology will allow me to identify species presence within the intestinal contents of marine-phase lampreys. This research will aim to build upon documented trophic interactions occurring in the Bering Sea to better understand the role of lampreys in the ecosystem.


Kevin Fraley - MS Fisheries,

Advisor: Jeff Falke (summer 2015 funding only)

Seasonal Movements and Habitat Use of Rainbow Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) in the Susitna River basin, Southcentral Alaska


Jenell Larsen - MS Fisheries,

Advisor: Shannon Atkinson

Assessing changes in the reproductive capacity of female Pacific walruses (Odobenus rosmarus divergens) through the use of long-term monitoring programs

Pacific walruses (Odobenus rosmarus divergens) are an important dietary and cultural resource to coastal Alaska Native communities and are currently being considered as an endangered species. As temperatures in the Arctic increase and sea ice melts, more walruses have been recorded hauling out on land. This new trend in behavior creates several potential scenarios for walruses: (1) depletion of the food resources close to these land haulouts (2) foraging further distances from haulouts or (3) altering diet to attempt to meet their metabolic needs. These changes have the potential to affect the reproductive success and carrying capacity of Pacific walruses. The aim of my project is to answer the following questions: 1) what physiological, biological, spatial and temporal parameters influence ovarian activity and pregnancy? 2) have changes in the reproductive capacity of female Pacific walruses in the Bering Sea occurred in the past 40 years?

My research works collaboratively with USFWS’s Walrus Harvest Monitoring Program and subsistence hunters from the communities of Gambell and Savoonga on Saint Lawrence Island. Frozen reproductive tracts from harvested animals have been used to answer my first question and will continue to be collected during the 2016 spring harvest. I will be using historical ovaries on loan from the UA Museum of the North to answer my second question. Ovaries and ages of animals are present from the following 3 time periods: 1975, the mid-1990’s and the early 2000’s. We hypothesize that the peak number of ovulatory events by age will fluctuate with population estimates during these time frames, as is common in k-selected species as a response to changes in carrying capacity.


Michael Knutson -MS Fisheries

Advisor: Ginny Eckert

Reproductive Potential of Eastern Bering Sea Tanner Crab (Chinoecetes bairdi)

Michael Knutson graduated from Boise State University in 2012 with a BS in Biological Sciences and then began working with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) in Kodiak. On the job experience working with the eastern Bering Sea (EBS) Chionoecetes research group provided him the motivation and opportunity to pursue higher education while furthering research to improve management of Bering Sea crab fisheries. Michael is currently pursuing MS in Fisheries at UAF.

Michael is working closely with ADF&G to study the reproductive potential of EBS Tanner crab (Chionoecetes bairdi). Fisheries management is currently based only on male crabs, because only the males are fished. The objective of Michael's thesis research is to examine the contribution of females. He will examine the reproductive success of female Tanner crab over time and across the Bering Sea with the ultimate goal to incorporate the contribution and variability in female reproduction into management.


Thomas Farrugia - half year funding only – Ph.D. Fisheries candidate
Advisor: Andrew Seitz
Developing a Bioeconomic Model of the Skate Fishery in the Gulf of Alaska

Rasmuson Fellows 2014 Award Recipients

Patrick Barry – Ph.D. Fisheries candidate
Advisor: Anthony Gharrett
Fine-scale genetic structure of a salmon population: A prelude to tests of hatchery-wild interactions and an evaluation of the efficacy of genetic analysis on natural fish populations.


Michael Courtney – M.S. Fisheries candidate
Advisor: Andrew Seitz

Dispersal patterns and summer ocean distribution of adult Dolly Varden from the Wulik River, Alaska, evaluated using satellite telemetry


Thomas Farrugia – Ph.D. Fisheries candidate
Advisor: Andrew Seitz

Developing a Bioeconomic Model of the Skate Fishery in the Gulf of Alaska


/>

Emily Lescak – Ph.D. Fisheries candidate
Advisor: Andres Lopez

Genetic Basis for Contemporary Evolution in Wild Populations that Experience Dramatic Changes to Their Environment

Phenotypic changes can occur rapidly when organisms experience fundamental environmental shifts. However, it is still unclear just how common contemporary evolution - or changes on the order of decades or even years - is in natural populations and how it is facilitated by genetic architecture. We have a rare opportunity to study parallel evolution in natural populations on decadal timescales. Middleton Island was uplifted as a result of the 1964 earthquake, leading to the formation of a new terrace that contains freshwater habitat. Within 50 years, resident freshwater stickleback from ponds on this terrace have diverged phenotypically and genetically from oceanic ancestors. The goal of my dissertation is to characterize patterns of parallel phenotypic and genomic evolution at the very early stages of adaptation to a novel environment.

This research is not only important for better understanding of ecotypic divergence in stickleback, but is also highly relevant to predicting species' responses to climate change. If species are unable to rapidly adapt to changing environmental conditions, they will be forced to migrate to more favorable conditions or risk extirpation. Both threespine stickleback and whitefish, another Holarctic species that has undergone post-glacial adaptive radiation, have already emerged as model organisms for understanding anthropogenic effects on phenotypic and genetic variation in wild populations on contemporary scales. Since climate change is hypothesized to impart strong selection pressures on traits associated with fitness, it is important to understand the genetic basis for microevolution and the role of standing genetic variation in species adaptability.


Charlotte Regula-Whitefield – Ph.D. Marine Biology candidate
Advisor: Sarah Hardy

Nutrition and reproduction in the California red sea cucumber: Applications for commercial fishery management and aquaculture

Charlotte Regula-Whitefield graduated from Roger Williams University, RI in 2008 with a Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology. She then received her Master of Science in Marine Science from the University of New England, ME in 2010. Currently, Charlotte is a PhD student in Marine Biology at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks.

Charlotte's dissertation was developed in close cooperation with Alutiiq Pride Shellfish Hatchery, Southeast Alaska Regional Dive Fisheries Association, and the Kodiak Area Divers Marketing Association to support current Alaskan aquaculture and fisheries management efforts for the California sea cucumber. Her primary objective is to determine the effects of diet on reproduction and larval survival of the California red sea cucumber. Through a combination of seasonal collections of wild commercial stocks and controlled feeding experiments, she will determine how changes in natural food supplies may affect reproduction and recruitment in commercial stocks, and identify nutritional requirements that maximize reproductive output of hatchery broodstock.


Benjamin Williams – Ph.D. Fisheries candidate
Advisor: Gordon Kruse

Implications of variability in reproductive biology on management of the fishery for walleye Pollock Gadus chalcogrammus in the Gulf of Alaska

In the broadest sense I am interested in examining the incorporation of ecosystem-based fisheries management theories into current single species fisheries management strategies. In this thesis, I will incorporate walleye pollock life history and reproductive biology (growth, fecundity, maturation), including their relationships to environmental variability and population size, into a management strategy evaluation (MSE) for Gulf of Alaska (GOA) walleye pollock. The purpose is to estimate the consequences of environmental- and density-driven variability in growth, maturity and fecundity on harvest strategies, including re-estimation of target and limit biological reference points.

This study begins with an examination of temporal and spatial distributions of fecundity and maturity of walleye pollock, and then relates this variability to postulated key environmental and/or oceanographic drivers that may influence reproductive biology. I will explore the consequences of variability in fecundity and maturity using two MSE analyses. First, identified variability in fecundity and maturity will be incorporated into the operational model within an existing MSE for the GOAto examine the current and alternative harvest strategies under this observed biological variability. Second, functional relationships among density-independent (i.e., environmental) and density-dependent (i.e., stock density) factors and pollock maturity and fecundity will be incorporated into the operational model to evaluate MSE harvest strategy robustness to variability in the pollock stock and its environmental drivers. Finally, these MSE results will be evaluated within the context of the current fishery entry system and a rationalized fishery model, with an emphasis on potential impacts to fishing communities.

Rasmuson Fellows 2013 Award Recipients

Michael Courtney – M.S. Fisheries candidate
Advisor: Andrew Seitz

Dispersal patterns and summer ocean distribution of adult Dolly Varden from the Wulik River, Alaska, evaluated using satellite telemetry


Thomas Farrugia – Ph.D. Fisheries candidate
Advisor: Andrew Seitz

Developing a Bioeconomic Model of the Skate Fishery in the Gulf of Alaska


Courtney Lyons – Ph.D. Fisheries candidate
Advisors: Courtney Carothers Ginny Eckert

Ecosystems, social-ecological systems, and culture: Using systems perspectives to inform fisheries management in the Pribilof Islands, Alaska

I am interested in incorporating interdisciplinary approaches into fisheries management and decision-making. By integrating approaches from social science with more traditional understandings of resource problems based on natural science methodology, I hope to gain a more holistic understanding of how complex social-ecological systems function. My research therefore draws upon the disparate fields of social-ecological systems theory, political ecology, and fisheries biology. Specifically, I plan to use the Pribilof Island blue king crab recovery failure as a case study to highlight how integrating social and ecological data can inform management processes.

My dissertation, therefore, consists of three chapters. The first chapter focuses on an ecological analysis of blue king crab (Paralithodes platypus). In this chapter I examine habitat preferences for juvenile blue king crab alone and in the presence of the congener red king crab (Paralithodes camtschaticus) at different water temperatures. In addition, I assess survival rates for single-species and mixed-species assortments of juvenile blue and red king crab in the face of Pacific halibut (Hippoglossus stenolepis) predators. My second chapter focuses on ethnographic fieldwork conducted in the Pribilof Island communities of St. George and St. Paul, Alaska. This chapter analyses data from six months of observation and immersion in the communities, as well as 50 semi-directed interviews. Finally, the third chapter will integrate data collected in the first two chapters. Among other things it will include a comparison social and natural science methodologies, discuss how they differ and how social science techniques can be used to enhance our understanding of the relationships between fish and people.

Rasmuson Fellows 2012 Award Recipients

Raphaelle Descoteaux – M.S. Marine Biology
Advisor: Katrin Iken

Effects of ocean acidification on larval development in Alaska Tanner crabs (Chionoecetes bairdi)

I am a Master's student looking at the effects of ocean acidification on the larvae of three different Alaskan crab species. Ocean acidification is a global problem that arises from the accumulation of carbon dioxide gas in seawater. The increased concentrations of the gas originate from the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation and cause a rapid decline in seawater pH.
Many marine organisms are known to be negatively impacted by acidification. Because crabs play such crucial economic and ecological roles in Alaskan waters, it is vital to understand the way they will respond to ocean acidification. In addition, the young life stages of marine invertebrates are frequently thought to be more vulnerable to change than the adult stage.
Consequently, the goal of my research is to determine the effects of ocean acidification on the larval development of Tanner, Dungeness and rock crabs in Alaskan waters. To address this goal, I am conducting a series of laboratory experiments in which I measure growth and survival of crab larvae raised in seawater of different pH levels. This research will be of great value to coastal communities for which crabs play important cultural and economical roles.


Courtney Lyons – Ph.D. Fisheries candidate
Advisors: Courtney Carothers Ginny Eckert

Ecosystems, social-ecological systems, and culture: Using systems perspectives to inform fisheries management in the Pribilof Islands, Alaska

I am interested in incorporating interdisciplinary approaches into fisheries management and decision-making. By integrating approaches from social science with more traditional understandings of resource problems based on natural science methodology, I hope to gain a more holistic understanding of how complex social-ecological systems function. My research therefore draws upon the disparate fields of social-ecological systems theory, political ecology, and fisheries biology. Specifically, I plan to use the Pribilof Island blue king crab recovery failure as a case study to highlight how integrating social and ecological data can inform management processes.

My dissertation, therefore, consists of three chapters. The first chapter focuses on an ecological analysis of blue king crab (Paralithodes platypus). In this chapter I examine habitat preferences for juvenile blue king crab alone and in the presence of the congener red king crab (Paralithodes camtschaticus) at different water temperatures. In addition, I assess survival rates for single-species and mixed-species assortments of juvenile blue and red king crab in the face of Pacific halibut (Hippoglossus stenolepis) predators. My second chapter focuses on ethnographic fieldwork conducted in the Pribilof Island communities of St. George and St. Paul, Alaska. This chapter analyses data from six months of observation and immersion in the communities, as well as 50 semi-directed interviews. Finally, the third chapter will integrate data collected in the first two chapters. Among other things it will include a comparison social and natural science methodologies, discuss how they differ and how social science techniques can be used to enhance our understanding of the relationships between fish and people.


Julie Nielsen – Ph.D. Fisheries candidate
Advisor: Andrew Seitz

Otolith chemistry of Arctic cod and Arctic staghorn sculpin in the Chukchi Sea

My goal is to support the management of sustainable fisheries and marine ecosystem conservation in Alaska by conducting research on the spatial distribution and movement of fish species. This information is needed to increase our understanding of stock structure and to help develop spatially explicit stock assessment models for many of Alaska's valuable commercially fished species. For my Ph. D. research at UAF CFOS, I will develop 1) methods for using new geomagnetic archival tags to determine large-scale movements of demersal fishes in Alaska, and 2) a model that incorporates both large-scale and fine-scale information, such as daily movement rates, to predict transfer rates between management regions. I will deploy geomagnetic archival tags in Pacific halibut and Pacific cod in the Gulf of Alaska to develop these methods, with the resulting products being relevant to any highly valuable demersal fish species such as sablefish. This research will build on my past experience studying the spatial distribution and movement of Tanner and red king crabs in Glacier Bay using acoustic telemetry. I am grateful for the support from the Rasmuson Fellowship that will enable me to pursue this research project.


Veronica Padula – M.S. Fisheries candidate
Advisor: Andres Lopez

Effects of ocean acidification on larval development in Alaska Tanner crabs (Chionoecetes bairdi)

I am interested in the population genetic structure of Least cisco (Coregonus sardinella), and how the landscape of the Arctic Coastal Plain affects their population genetic structure. These species encounter highly variable and stochastic environmental conditions on many spatial and temporal scales. Changing climate in the Arctic is increasingly noticeable and is producing substantial and rapid changes in Arctic fish habitat. Further investigation is necessary to better understand population status, resolve the genetic relationships within the species, and better understand how the landscape affects connectivity among populations. My project focuses on characterizing the dynamics of gene flow within the Least cisco population in the context of rapid change in landscape caused by a transforming climate. Ultimately I hope to pursue a career as an educator at the college and graduate level.


Megan Peterson – Ph.D. Fisheries candidate
Advisors : Franz Mueter Courtney Carothers

Impacts of Cetacean Depredation on Longline Fisheries in Alaska

Megan Peterson is pursuing a Ph.D. in Fisheries at UAF in Juneau and is a research fellow with the National Science Foundation Marine Ecosystem Sustainability in the Arctic and Subarctic (MESAS) IGERT. Megan did her undergraduate work at UC Davis and received her MAS in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, CA. The goal of Megan's dissertation research is to examine patterns in killer whale and sperm whale depredation (whales stealing fish) on longline Pacific halibut and sablefish fisheries in Alaska and to determine the socio-ecological impacts that depredation has on longline fishermen and fishery management. Her research addresses;
1) spatial and temporal trends in killer whale depredation on longline fisheries in western Alaska;
2) how cetacean depredation is altering fishing practices and fishing efficiency in the Bering Sea, Aleutian Islands and Gulf of Alaska, and
3) potential management/deterrent measures that could mitigate the impacts of depredation on longline fishermen and depredating killer whales. Megan is co-advised by Dr. Franz Mueter and Dr. Courtney Carothers.

Rasmuson Fellows 2011 Award Recipients

Raphaelle Descoteaux – M.S. Marine Biology
Advisor: Katrin Iken

Effects of ocean acidification on larval development in Alaska Tanner crabs (Chionoecetes bairdi)

I am a Master's student looking at the effects of ocean acidification on the larvae of three different Alaskan crab species. Ocean acidification is a global problem that arises from the accumulation of carbon dioxide gas in seawater. The increased concentrations of the gas originate from the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation and cause a rapid decline in seawater pH.
Many marine organisms are known to be negatively impacted by acidification. Because crabs play such crucial economic and ecological roles in Alaskan waters, it is vital to understand the way they will respond to ocean acidification. In addition, the young life stages of marine invertebrates are frequently thought to be more vulnerable to change than the adult stage.
Consequently, the goal of my research is to determine the effects of ocean acidification on the larval development of Tanner, Dungeness and rock crabs in Alaskan waters. To address this goal, I am conducting a series of laboratory experiments in which I measure growth and survival of crab larvae raised in seawater of different pH levels. This research will be of great value to coastal communities for which crabs play important cultural and economical roles.


Michael Garvin – Ph.D. Fisheries candidate
Advisor: Anthony Gharrett

A molecular genetic analysis of chum salmon (Oncorhynchus keta) populations: mixed stock analysis and population structure

I have always had an interest in fish and in salmon particularly. In 2004, I left a career in biotech to pursue a Master's degree at UAF CFOS that combined my background in molecular biology and technology development with salmon and fisheries management. The majority of that thesis work focused on the development of informative genetic markers (SNPs, single nucleotide polymorphisms) in chum salmon (Oncorhynchus keta) by reducing ascertainment bias. I also developed several inexpensive methods for genotyping and discovering SNPs. The tools and the data that I generated are being used by the Alaska Department of Fish and game and the National Marine Fisheries Service for salmon bycatch analysis. Chum salmon populations in western Alaska have been in decline in recent years and bycatch by the pollock fleet has increased. The origin of those bycatch is of interest to many parties and this can be determined using some of the genetic tools that I developed.

My Ph D. thesis is focused on five main areas that I am proposing for five chapters.

Chapter 1 is focused on SNPs in ecology and evolution. I was asked to write a review on the technical aspects of these markers for the journal Molecular Ecology Resources. Although these markers have been surveyed in humans and other model organisms for a few years, they are not used extensively in non-model organism. They are rapidly becoming the marker of choice for many studies and this review focuses on the technical aspects of incorporating SNPs into a laboratory. The manuscript has been submitted and is under review.

Chapter 2 is a short chapter that will report the conversion of SNPs that were discovered by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game into an inexpensive assay that I developed. The reagent costs are an order of magnitude cheaper than the standard genotyping assay.

Chapter 3 will evaluate the chum genetic baseline that we have developed. It is a baseline that combines two types of molecular markers, SNPs and microsatellites. Two questions that I will attempt to answer will be what is the resolution of the baseline (how many geographic regions can we assign bycatch samples to), and how many more SNPs will we need to equal or improve upon the microsatellite baseline that has been developed by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Canada.

Chapter 4 will describe the genetic structure of populations on the Kuskokwim River drainage in more detail than has been done previously. Some populations that I have genotyped have not been studied before, and we genotyped the fish with both SNPs and microsatellites. Another objective of this chapter will be to determine if any of the loci (genomic regions) are under selection (adaptive divergence) in these populations.

I am also interested in the phylogeography of chum salmon and possible refugia during the last glacial maximum. This may be a fifth chapter if I can obtain funding to perform an analysis of mitochondrial DNA.


Courtney Lyons – Ph.D. Fisheries candidate
Advisors: Courtney Carothers Ginny Eckert

Ecosystems, social-ecological systems, and culture: Using systems perspectives to inform fisheries management in the Pribilof Islands, Alaska

I am interested in incorporating interdisciplinary approaches into fisheries management and decision-making. By integrating approaches from social science with more traditional understandings of resource problems based on natural science methodology, I hope to gain a more holistic understanding of how complex social-ecological systems function. My research therefore draws upon the disparate fields of social-ecological systems theory, political ecology, and fisheries biology. Specifically, I plan to use the Pribilof Island blue king crab recovery failure as a case study to highlight how integrating social and ecological data can inform management processes.

My dissertation, therefore, consists of three chapters. The first chapter focuses on an ecological analysis of blue king crab (Paralithodes platypus). In this chapter I examine habitat preferences for juvenile blue king crab alone and in the presence of the congener red king crab (Paralithodes camtschaticus) at different water temperatures. In addition, I assess survival rates for single-species and mixed-species assortments of juvenile blue and red king crab in the face of Pacific halibut (Hippoglossus stenolepis) predators. My second chapter focuses on ethnographic fieldwork conducted in the Pribilof Island communities of St. George and St. Paul, Alaska. This chapter analyses data from six months of observation and immersion in the communities, as well as 50 semi-directed interviews. Finally, the third chapter will integrate data collected in the first two chapters. Among other things it will include a comparison social and natural science methodologies, discuss how they differ and how social science techniques can be used to enhance our understanding of the relationships between fish and people.


Julie Nielsen – Ph.D. Fisheries candidate
Advisor: Andrew Seitz

Otolith chemistry of Arctic cod and Arctic staghorn sculpin in the Chukchi Sea

My goal is to support the management of sustainable fisheries and marine ecosystem conservation in Alaska by conducting research on the spatial distribution and movement of fish species. This information is needed to increase our understanding of stock structure and to help develop spatially explicit stock assessment models for many of Alaska's valuable commercially fished species. For my Ph. D. research at UAF CFOS, I will develop 1) methods for using new geomagnetic archival tags to determine large-scale movements of demersal fishes in Alaska, and 2) a model that incorporates both large-scale and fine-scale information, such as daily movement rates, to predict transfer rates between management regions. I will deploy geomagnetic archival tags in Pacific halibut and Pacific cod in the Gulf of Alaska to develop these methods, with the resulting products being relevant to any highly valuable demersal fish species such as sablefish. This research will build on my past experience studying the spatial distribution and movement of Tanner and red king crabs in Glacier Bay using acoustic telemetry. I am grateful for the support from the Rasmuson Fellowship that will enable me to pursue this research project.


Megan Peterson – Ph.D. Fisheries candidate
Advisors : Franz Mueter Courtney Carothers

Impacts of Cetacean Depredation on Longline Fisheries in Alaska

Megan Peterson is pursuing a Ph.D. in Fisheries at UAF in Juneau and is a research fellow with the National Science Foundation Marine Ecosystem Sustainability in the Arctic and Subarctic (MESAS) IGERT. Megan did her undergraduate work at UC Davis and received her MAS in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, CA. The goal of Megan's dissertation research is to examine patterns in killer whale and sperm whale depredation (whales stealing fish) on longline Pacific halibut and sablefish fisheries in Alaska and to determine the socio-ecological impacts that depredation has on longline fishermen and fishery management. Her research addresses;
1) spatial and temporal trends in killer whale depredation on longline fisheries in western Alaska;
2) how cetacean depredation is altering fishing practices and fishing efficiency in the Bering Sea, Aleutian Islands and Gulf of Alaska, and
3) potential management/deterrent measures that could mitigate the impacts of depredation on longline fishermen and depredating killer whales. Megan is co-advised by Dr. Franz Mueter and Dr. Courtney Carothers.


Jonathan Richar – M.S. Fisheries candidate
Advisors : Dr. Gordon Kruse

Recruitment Mechanisms for Tanner Crabs in the Eastern Bering Sea

Rasmuson Fellows 2010 Award Recipients

Christy Gleason, M.S. Oceanography
Advisor: Brenda Norcross

Christine Gleason is a M.S. student focusing on Fisheries Oceanography at UAF. She graduated from UAF with a Bachelor of Science in Fisheries and has worked throughout Alaskan and Russian waters doing fisheries fieldwork.
Her thesis title is Otolith chemistry of Arctic cod (Boreogadus saida) and Arctic staghorn sculpin (Gymnocanthus tricuspis) in the Chukchi Sea. The Chukchi Sea is a marginal sea to the Arctic Ocean which supports forage fish for apex predators. Arctic cod (Boreogadus saida) and Arctic staghorn sculpin (Gymnocanthus tricuspis) are the dominant forage fish, though their geographic distribution and movement within the Chukchi Sea is understudied.
Her research focuses on the application of otolith chemistry as tool to learn about Arctic marine fish.


Elena Fernandez, M.S. Oceanography
Advisor: Jeremy Mathis

My interest in marine organisms' physiological response to ocean acidification started with a few college courses, and was reaffirmed with a Research Experience for Undergraduates fellowship at University of Alaska Southeast with Dr. Sherry Tamone. In the UAS REU program, I focused on the metabolic response, both in terms of standard metabolic rate and enzyme activity, of lyre crabs (Hyas lyratus) to ocean acidification. This interdisciplinary approach to looking at a problem fascinated me, and my developing curiosity in commercially harvested species was combined with my wide variety of existing interests: resource sustainability, physiological ecology, classical physiological techniques, marine biology, and nature's chemical cycles.

After finishing a B.A. in Biology at Kenyon College (Ohio), I knew that I had to be back in Alaska. I was accepted to UAF's Oceanography program in the fall of 2008, and plans were developed to take my REU project one step further. Working in collaboration with Dr. Jeremy Mathis (UAF) and Dr. Tom Hurst (NOAA) at the Hatfield Marine Science Center, I will study the effects of ocean acidification on larval and juvenile walleye Pollock. An interdisciplinary approach is at the heart of the project: simulating an oceanographic phenomenon and studying the resulting physiological parameters of growth, stress, and metabolism in this commercially fished species. This novel series of incubations and experiments will provide a snapshot of how these organisms will respond to changing ocean conditions on various levels. These results should also provide a glimpse as to the fate of this multi-billion dollar industry in response to the projected changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels.


Laurinda Marcello, M.S. Fisheries
Advisor: Franz Mueter

Laurinda Marcello is pursuing a M.S. in fisheries at UAF in Juneau. Her thesis is entitled "Effects of Climate Variability and Fishing on Gadid-Crustacean Interactions in Subarctic Ecosystems." In order to identify the most important factors regulating interactions between gadoids and crustaceans and their population dynamics, she is conducting comparative analyses within and among a number of subarctic ecosystems. Before coming to UAF, she completed her undergraduate degree at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon, receiving a B.A. in biology with a minor in mathematics. Laurinda spent her childhood in Sitka, one of Alaska's most important commercial fishing ports, and chose to return to her home state for her graduate education.


Greg Albrecht, M.S. Marine Biology Candidate
Advisor: Sarah Mincks Hardy
Defining genetic population structure in the snow crab (Chionoecetes opilio) in the Bering, Chukchi and Beaufort seas

Greg Albrecht is an M.S. student in Marine Biology, studying the genetic population structure of snow crab (Chionoecetes opilio) throughout their Bering/Arctic Seas distribution. He is a native born Alaskan from Juneau with a fisheries degree earned at the University of Idaho. His lifelong passions of fishing, boating and the marine world led him to UAF in the fall of 2008 where he took a semester of graduate courses that led to his official acceptance into the program the following year. His research focuses primarily on the question of population connectivity within a highly valuable commercial species that is contracting at its southern end while experiencing fishing pressures further north each year.

Currently, the snow crab population is managed as a single unit and fishing is not permitted within the arctic. Identifying the presence or absence of breaks in the larval dispersal and gene flow of the species will provide pertinent information to managers. Additionally, should climate change lead to a warmer Arctic with a potential for a snow crab fishery, establishing baseline information on the population structure will aid in the proper management of the resource.


Julie Nielsen, Ph.D. Fisheries Candidate
Advisor: Andrew Seitz
New methods for characterizing spatial dynamics of Pacific cod and Pacific halibut in Alaska

My goal is to support the management of sustainable fisheries and marine ecosystem conservation in Alaska by conducting research on the spatial distribution and movement of fish species. This information is needed to increase our understanding of stock structure and to help develop spatially explicit stock assessment models for many of Alaska's valuable commercially fished species. For my Ph. D. research at UAF CFOS, I will develop 1) methods for using new geomagnetic archival tags to determine large-scale movements of demersal fishes in Alaska, and 2) a model that incorporates both large-scale and fine-scale information, such as daily movement rates, to predict transfer rates between management regions. I will deploy geomagnetic archival tags in Pacific halibut and Pacific cod in the Gulf of Alaska to develop these methods, with the resulting products being relevant to any highly valuable demersal fish species such as sablefish. This research will build on my past experience studying the spatial distribution and movement of Tanner and red king crabs in Glacier Bay using acoustic telemetry. I am grateful for the support from the Rasmuson Fellowship that will enable me to pursue this research project.


Michael Garvin, Ph.D. Fisheries Candidate
Advisor: Anthony Gharrett
A molecular genetic analysis of chum salmon (Oncorhynchus keta) populations: mixed stock analysis and population structure

I have always had an interest in fish and in salmon particularly. In 2004, I left a career in biotech to pursue a Master's degree at UAF CFOS that combined my background in molecular biology and technology development with salmon and fisheries management. The majority of that thesis work focused on the development of informative genetic markers (SNPs, single nucleotide polymorphisms) in chum salmon (Oncorhynchus keta) by reducing ascertainment bias. I also developed several inexpensive methods for genotyping and discovering SNPs. The tools and the data that I generated are being used by the Alaska Department of Fish and game and the National Marine Fisheries Service for salmon bycatch analysis. Chum salmon populations in western Alaska have been in decline in recent years and bycatch by the pollock fleet has increased. The origin of those bycatch is of interest to many parties and this can be determined using some of the genetic tools that I developed.

My Ph D. thesis is focused on five main areas that I am proposing for five chapters.

Chapter 1 is focused on SNPs in ecology and evolution. I was asked to write a review on the technical aspects of these markers for the journal Molecular Ecology Resources. Although these markers have been surveyed in humans and other model organisms for a few years, they are not used extensively in non-model organism. They are rapidly becoming the marker of choice for many studies and this review focuses on the technical aspects of incorporating SNPs into a laboratory. The manuscript has been submitted and is under review.

Chapter 2 is a short chapter that will report the conversion of SNPs that were discovered by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game into an inexpensive assay that I developed. The reagent costs are an order of magnitude cheaper than the standard genotyping assay.

Chapter 3 will evaluate the chum genetic baseline that we have developed. It is a baseline that combines two types of molecular markers, SNPs and microsatellites. Two questions that I will attempt to answer will be what is the resolution of the baseline (how many geographic regions can we assign bycatch samples to), and how many more SNPs will we need to equal or improve upon the microsatellite baseline that has been developed by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Canada.

Chapter 4 will describe the genetic structure of populations on the Kuskokwim River drainage in more detail than has been done previously. Some populations that I have genotyped have not been studied before, and we genotyped the fish with both SNPs and microsatellites. Another objective of this chapter will be to determine if any of the loci (genomic regions) are under selection (adaptive divergence) in these populations.

I am also interested in the phylogeography of chum salmon and possible refugia during the last glacial maximum. This may be a fifth chapter if I can obtain funding to perform an analysis of mitochondrial DNA.

Rasmuson Fellows 2009 Award Recipients

Patrick Lane, M.S. Marine Biology
Advisor: Brenda Konar


Terril Efird, M.S. Marine Biology
Advisor: Brenda Konar

Terril Efird is working towards his M.S. in Marine Biology. His research is focused on how nearshore fishes stratify in kelp forest habitats. Specifically, how the size and algal composition of a kelp forest effects the fish species found there. Terril has worked in kelp forests for many years. While obtaining his B.S. in Marine Biology at the University of California, Santa Cruz he worked on several projects as a research diver that motivated him to pursue his field of study. Seeing the fish biodiversity that these highly productive ecosystems can support inspired Terril to investigate what habitat characteristics enabled this diversity and resource partitioning. Terril grew up in Oakhurst, California, a small community in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada's. He is now firmly planted here in Alaska where his enthusiasm for marine ecology and exciting field work is joined with the supportive faculty and research facilities that drew him to UAF.


Christy Gleason, M.S. Oceanography
Advisor: Brenda Norcross

Christine Gleason is a M.S. student focusing on Fisheries Oceanography at UAF. She graduated from UAF with a Bachelor of Science in Fisheries and has worked throughout Alaskan and Russian waters doing fisheries fieldwork. Her thesis title is Otolith chemistry of Arctic cod (Boreogadus saida) and Arctic staghorn sculpin (Gymnocanthus tricuspis) in the Chukchi Sea. The Chukchi Sea is a marginal sea to the Arctic Ocean which supports forage fish for apex predators. Arctic cod (Boreogadus saida) and Arctic staghorn sculpin (Gymnocanthus tricuspis) are the dominant forage fish, though their geographic distribution and movement within the Chukchi Sea is understudied. Her research focuses on the application of otolith chemistry as tool to learn about Arctic marine fish.


Elena Fernandez, M.S. Oceanography
Advisor: Jeremy Mathis

My interest in marine organisms' physiological response to ocean acidification started with a few college courses, and was reaffirmed with a Research Experience for Undergraduates fellowship at University of Alaska Southeast with Dr. Sherry Tamone. In the UAS REU program, I focused on the metabolic response, both in terms of standard metabolic rate and enzyme activity, of lyre crabs (Hyas lyratus) to ocean acidification. This interdisciplinary approach to looking at a problem fascinated me, and my developing curiosity in commercially harvested species was combined with my wide variety of existing interests: resource sustainability, physiological ecology, classical physiological techniques, marine biology, and nature's chemical cycles.

After finishing a B.A. in Biology at Kenyon College (Ohio), I knew that I had to be back in Alaska. I was accepted to UAF's Oceanography program in the fall of 2008, and plans were developed to take my REU project one step further. Working in collaboration with Dr. Jeremy Mathis (UAF) and Dr. Tom Hurst (NOAA) at the Hatfield Marine Science Center, I will study the effects of ocean acidification on larval and juvenile walleye Pollock. An interdisciplinary approach is at the heart of the project: simulating an oceanographic phenomenon and studying the resulting physiological parameters of growth, stress, and metabolism in this commercially fished species. This novel series of incubations and experiments will provide a snapshot of how these organisms will respond to changing ocean conditions on various levels. These results should also provide a glimpse as to the fate of this multi-billion dollar industry in response to the projected changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels.


Laurinda Marcello, M.S. Fisheries

Advisor: Franz Mueter

Laurinda Marcello is pursuing a M.S. in fisheries at UAF in Juneau. Her thesis is entitled "Effects of Climate Variability and Fishing on Gadid-Crustacean Interactions in Subarctic Ecosystems." In order to identify the most important factors regulating interactions between gadoids and crustaceans and their population dynamics, she is conducting comparative analyses within and among a number of subarctic ecosystems. Before coming to UAF, she completed her undergraduate degree at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon, receiving a B.A. in biology with a minor in mathematics. Laurinda spent her childhood in Sitka, one of Alaska's most important commercial fishing ports, and chose to return to her home state for her graduate education.

Rasmuson Fellows 2008 Award Recipients

Jennifer Marsh, M.S. Marine Biology
Advisor: Nicola Hillgruber


Megan Murphy, M.S. Marine Biology
Advisor: Katrin Iken

Megan Murphy is an CFOS graduate student in Homer where she is studying the oceanographic effects on crab larval transport in Kachemak Bay. Megan lives in Homer but does her coursework in Fairbanks. She was studying for an M.S. but recently changed to a Ph.D. program. She received her undergraduate degree from Washington University in St. Louis.


Ashwin Sreenivasan, Ph.D. Fisheries
Advisor: Bill Smoker


Patrick Lane, M.S. Marine Biology
Advisor: Brenda Konar


Terril Efird, M.S. Marine Biology
Advisor: Brenda Konar

Terril Efird is working towards his M.S. in Marine Biology. His research is focused on how nearshore fishes stratify in kelp forest habitats. Specifically, how the size and algal composition of a kelp forest effects the fish species found there. Terril has worked in kelp forests for many years. While obtaining his B.S. in Marine Biology at the University of California, Santa Cruz he worked on several projects as a research diver that motivated him to pursue his field of study. Seeing the fish biodiversity that these highly productive ecosystems can support inspired Terril to investigate what habitat characteristics enabled this diversity and resource partitioning. Terril grew up in Oakhurst, California, a small community in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada's. He is now firmly planted here in Alaska where his enthusiasm for marine ecology and exciting field work is joined with the supportive faculty and research facilities that drew him to UAF.

Rasmuson Fellows 2007 Award Recipients

  • William Bechtol, Ph.D., Fisheries
    Major Professor: Dr. Terry Quinn
  • Katy Howard, M.S., Fisheries
    Major Professor: Dr. Milo Adkison
  • Sean Rooney, M.S. Fisheries
    Major Professor: Dr. Brenda Norcross
  • Ashwin Sreenivasan, Ph.D. Fisheries
    Major Professor: Dr. Bill Smoker
  • Cindy Tribuzio, Ph.D. Fisheries
    Major Professor: Dr. Gordon Kruse
  • Jennifer Marsh, M.S. Fisheries
    Major Professor: Dr. Nicola Hillgruber
  • Megan Murphy, M.S. Oceanography
    Major Professor: Dr. Katrin Iken

Rasmuson Fellows 2006 Award Recipients

How are they doing? View the 2006 Mid-Year Report from the Rasmuson Fellows!

New Awards

  • Katy Howard, M.S. Fisheries
    Major Professor: Dr. Milo Adkison
  • Sean Rooney, M.S. Fisheries
    Hydrography and fish distribution in the Gulf of Alaska
    Major Professor: Dr. Brenda Norcross
  • Katie Palof, M.S. Fisheries
    Population genetic structure of Alaskan Pacific ocean perch (Sebastes alutus)
    Major Professor: Dr. Anthony Gharrett
  • Ashwin Sreenivasan, Ph.D. Fisheries
    Major Professor: Dr. Bill Smoker

Continuing Awards

  • Alison Banks, M.S. Marine Biology
    Seasonal foraging strategies and consequences for Northern Fur Seals at colonies with opposite population trends
    Major Professor: Dr. Alan Springer
  • Joel Markis, M.S. Marine Biology
    Essential larval and juvenile fish habitat in nearshore waters of Kachemak Bay, Alaska
    Major Professor: Dr. Brenda Konar
  • William Bechtol, Ph.D. Fisheries
    Retrospective analysis of Kodiak Red King Crab
    Major Professor: Dr. Gordon Kruse
  • Shannon Hanna, M.S. Marine Biology
    Interrelationships among temperature, metabolism and swimming performance in Pacific cod (Gadus macrocephalus): implications of a changing climate
    Major Professor: Dr. C. Loren Buck
  • Carrie Parris, M.S. Marine Biology
    Population dynamics and trophic interactions of intertidal clams in relation to oceanographic conditions
    Major Professor: Dr. Katrin Iken
  • Cindy Tribuzio, Ph.D. Fisheries
    Abundance, life history, and population demographics of spiny dogfish, squalus acanthias
    Major Professor: Dr. Gordon Kruse

Rasmuson Fellows
2005 Award Recipients

How are they doing? View the 2005 Mid-Year Report from the Rasmuson Fellows!

  • Alison Banks, M.S. Marine Biology
    Seasonal Foraging Strategies and Consequences for Northern Fur Seals at Colonies with Opposite Population Trends
    Major Professor: Dr. Alan Springer
  • Brian Knoth, M.S. Fisheries
    Investigating the Trophic Role of Arrowtooth Flounder (Atheresthes stomias), as a Top-Level Consumer, in the Gulf of Alaska Ecosystem Major Professor: Dr. Robert Foy
  • Mary Beth Loewen, M.S. Fisheries
    Seasonal Abudance and Habitat Characteristics of Nearshore Pelagic Fish in Kodiak, AK
    Major Professor: Dr. Robert Foy
  • Joel Markis, M.S. Marine Biology
    Essential larval and juvenile fish habitat in nearshore waters of Kachemak Bay, Alaska
    Major Professor: Dr. Brenda Konar
  • Olav Ormseth, Ph.D. Fisheries Oceanography
    The influence of ocean temperature on reproductive processes of Pacific cod in Alaskan waters
    Major Professor: Dr. Brenda Norcross
  • Katie Palof, M.S. Fisheries
    Population genetic structure of Alaskan Pacific ocean perch (Sebastes alutus)
    Major Professor: Dr. Tony Gharrett
  • Julie Nielsen, M.S. Fisheries
    Spatial dynamics of Tanner crab (Chioneceles bairdi) recruitment: the role of nursery areas
    Major Professor: Dr. Tom Shirley
  • William Bechtol, Ph.D. Fisheries
    Retrospective Analysis of Kodiak Red King Crab
    Major Professor: Dr. Gordon Kruse
  • Carrie Belben, M.S. Marine Biology
    Community composition, population dynamics and recruitment of intertidal clams in Kachemak Bay, Alaska, in relation to oceanographic conditions
    Major Professor: Dr. Katrin Iken
  • Shannon Hanna, M.S. Marine Biology
    Interrelationships among temperature, metabolism and swimming performance in Pacific cod (Gadus macrocephalus): implications of a changing climate
    Major Professor: Dr. C. Loren Buck
  • Cindy Tribuzio, Ph.D. Fisheries
    Abundance, Life History, and Population Demographics of Spiny Dogfish, Squalus acanthias
    Major Professor: Dr. Gordon Kruse

Rasmuson Fellows 2003-2004 Award Recipients

  • Georgina Blamey, Ph.D. candidate
    Natural variability of salmon stocks in the coastal Gulf of Alaska: links to physical forcing and lower trophic levels
    Major Professor: Dr. David Musgrave
  • Sonya El Mejjeti, M.S. candidate
    Metabolic and endocrine responses of tanner crabs (Chionoecetes bairdi) to physical stressors associated with Alaskan crab fisheries
    Major Professor: Dr. Loren Buck
  • Katie Murra, M.S. candidate
    Black-legged kittiwake foraging ecology and reproductive performance in Kodiak, Alaska
    Major Professor: Dr. Loren Buck
  • Julie Nielson, M.S. candidate
    Spatial dynamics of tanner crab (Chionoecetes bairdi) recruitment: the role of nursery areas
    Major Professor: Dr. Tom Shirley
  • Olav Ormseth, Ph.D. candidate
    The influence of temperature on reproductive processes of Pacific cod in Alaskan waters
    Major Professor: Dr. Brenda Norcross
  • Jack Piccolo, Ph.D. candidate
    Modeling the mechanisms linking stream habitat characteristics to the distribution, growth, and abundance of juvenile coho salmon and steelhead trout
    Major Professor: Dr. Nick Hughes
  • Brian Pyper, Ph.D. candidate
    Setting salmon escapement goals to account for climatic fluctuations and uncertainty
    Major Professor: Dr. Milo D. Adkison
  • Cara Rodgveller, M.S. candidate
    Growth and survival of intercrossed wild and hatchery-bred Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha)
    Major Professor: Dr. William Smoker

Rasmuson Fellows
Some Past and Present RFRC Fellows

Grace Abromaitis Simpkins has continued to work in both education and research since she earned her M.S. in marine biology in 2000. In 2001 and 2002, Grace worked at "Science on Wheels," an outreach science education program sponsored by the Pacific Science Center in Seattle. Grace traveled throughout the state of Washington providing hands-on, exciting science lessons to elementary school students. Since 2002, Grace has shifted to educating college students as an associate faculty member at Cascadia Community College and North Seattle Community College. During the summers, she has continued her involvement in marine research as both a volunteer and an independent contractor, working in field research camps conducting research on Steller sea lions and harbor seals. Grace is grateful for the support provided by the Rasmuson fellowship, which allowed her to gain the knowledge and research skills necessary for her success as both an educator and research scientist.


Gretchen Bishop is the shellfish project leader for the Commercial Fisheries Division of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Southeast Alaska. She leads a team of three shellfish biologists and a technician in Juneau and Petersburg charged with the stock assessment and management of commercially valuable crab and shrimp resources. She oversees and participates in annual stock assessment pot surveys for red king crab, Tanner crab, Dungeness crab, and pot shrimp and an onboard observer program for golden king crab and beam trawl shrimp. Gretchen's team manages commercial, personal use, and subsistence fisheries for red/blue and golden king crab, Tanner crab, Dungeness crab, and beam trawl shrimp and provides assessment advice to the pot shrimp fishery managers. In addition to inseason fisheries management, she develops long-term management strategies for these fisheries to keep up with changing fishing practices and market conditions. When time and resources are available, Gretchen and her staff address life history questions on the commercially valuable species they manage with more focused research and scientific articles.


Georgina (Blamey) Gibson is working towards her Ph.D. in biological oceanography. Her thesis is entitled Natural Variability of Salmon Stocks in the Coastal Gulf of Alaska: Links to physical Forcing and Lower Trophic Levels. Her research centers around a computer based modeling effort to simulate biological interactions in the lower trophic levels of the marine food web, notably salmon prey items. She aims to understand how such biological dynamics, and the survival of juvenile salmon, could potentially be influenced by changes to the physical forcing regime. Following graduation, she hopes to pursue her research interest in the dynamics of lower trophic levels in the marine ecosystem.


Sherri Dressel has pursued two degrees concurrently at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, a Ph.D. in Fisheries Oceanography and a M.S. in Statistics. Her research included three studies evaluating alternative sampling designs and analysis methods for multispecies groundfish surveys. In all three studies, Sherri used bias, precision, and practicality (time and cost) to evaluate the alternative survey designs and analysis methods. In addition to completing her degrees, Sherri has worked as a graduate intern with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Sportfish Division, programming computer simulations of chinook salmon tower-count escapement data to determine optimum sampling and analysis strategies relative to required cost.


Brian Fadely investigates factors affecting the population status of Steller sea lions and northern fur seals in Alaska. He conducts field studies of health status, physiology and foraging behavior with the National Marine Mammal Laboratory Alaska Ecosystems Program, part of the Alaska Fisheries Science Center of the National Marine Fisheries Service in Seattle. Brian spent the first three years after graduation from UAF working on policy and wildlife management issues with the NOAA Fisheries Alaska Regional Office Protected Resources Division in Juneau, Alaska. While there he implemented research and management programs to conserve marine mammal populations in Alaska. This included marine mammal observer programs on coastal fisheries and the development of co-management agreements with Alaska Native organizations.


After receiving his M.S from UAF, Masami Fujiwara received his doctorate from MIT/Woods Hole. Currently a researcher at the University of California Santa Barbara, his research focuses on disentangling signals caused by environmental stressors from those that are intrinsic to population and community systems (i.e. signals of individual variability as well as of interactions among individuals). He uses various mathematical models such as matrix models and differential equation models and tries to link them to actual data using modern statistical methods. In particular, he is currently studying how survival and reproduction of the North Atlantic right whale have changed during the past 20 years and trying to find causes of the changes. He is analyzing effects of contaminants on growth of estuarine fish using laboratory and field data, a first step toward a more detailed understanding of how environmental stressors affect populations and communities, and toward finding ways to reduce the harmful effects of anthropogenic stressors.


Michio Fukushima was one of the initial recipients of the Rasmuson Fellowship. Ten years ago Michio and the other recipients visited Anchorage to meet Mr. Rasumson, and showed him what he had been doing for his doctoral dissertation. Michio recalls that trip as a memorable one because it was first time for an indigent student with no stipend to get out of the small town of Juneau in nearly four years! The Rasumson Fellowship helped him accomplish my goal of earning his Ph.D. in fisheries from UAF. Michio returned to Japan several years ago and since then has been working as a research biologist at the National Institute for Environmental Studies in Tsukuba, Japan. He is a member of the Biodiversity Conservation Research Project and is studying the effects of habitat fragmentation and channelization on freshwater fishes. Recently, he participated in the American Fisheries Society Annual Meeting in Quebec and presented a poster which included some of the results of the project.


Patrick Goddard was one of the first recipients of the Rasmuson Fellowships in 1994. The focus of his research with advisor Professor Tony Gharrett was a quantitative genetic analysis of a fitness-related life-history character in local pink salmon populations. After completing his degree in 1995, Patrick returned to his home state of Colorado where he managed a private aquaculture facility. Patrick received his Doctorate of Veterinarian Medicine in 2002 from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Never intending on leaving the fish world to practice medicine on furry creatures, he combined his veterinarian skills with his graduate studies and applied them towards the prevention and control of diseases in the growing industry of aquaculture. Currently, Patrick is one of two veterinarians employed by the State of Utah working with fish. He manages and maintains a fully equipped fish disease diagnostic laboratory and is responsible for monitoring the health of the State's hatchery fishes. His mission as a fish health specialists is toensure state hatcheries and wild broodstock sources are specific pathogen free and meet the requirements for legal transport of fish/fish eggs within the state of Utah.


Amy Hirons received her Ph.D. in biological oceanography in 2001. Since that time, she has worked as a research associate and adjunct professor at the College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences at UAF. Amy uses stable isotope ratios to assess marine and freshwater trophic structure and assess potential productivity changes in these systems. She also uses faunal remains (bones, teeth, baleen) from coastal archaeological sites to assess what paleoceanographic environments looked like and how past changes may help explain current conditions in the oceans.


Subsequent to being a Rasmuson Fellow, Patrick Malecha initially worked as a research analyst at the Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission where he reported on aspects of diverse Alaska fisheries including Pacific cod, weathervane scallops, Pacific herring, and horsehair crab. Since 2001, Patrick has worked as a research fishery biologist for the National Marine Fisheries Service at the Auke Bay Laboratory in Juneau. In his primary role, he studies the effects of commercial fishing on benthic habitats. These studies, utilizing both submersibles and scuba, have varied objectives from simple habitat typing to manipulative studies identifying effects of trawling at varied intensities. Patrick is also involved with other work that is attempting to determine growth rates of two species of sponge and two species of coral. These studies will help managers understand habitat and fishery interactions and allow for sustainable fisheries.


Susan McNeil uses much of what she learned while a student at UAF, especially writing, presentation and organizational skills, in her position as a fisheries biologist with the State of Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Arctic-Kuskokwim-Yukon Region. Susan primarily supports the U.S./Canada Yukon River Salmon Treaty, Joint Technical Committee and Panel; coordinates semi-annual meetings, gives presentations, and writes agendas, reports, and reviews. She also researches proposals for the Restoration and Enhancement Fund administered to the Canadians through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, visits the projects in the water in season, and helps project leaders with research projects during the inseason salmon migrations. Susan is the chief author of the JTC Plan.


Katie Murra is currently studying the breeding biology and foraging ecology of Black-Legged kittiwakes in Chiniak Bay, Kodiak Island. Using radio telemetry and nest monitoring, she is gaining insight to the forage patterns of kittiwakes in this region and how this affects their reproductive performance. As part of the Gulf Apex Predator Prey program, she looking at seabirds as bioindicators of the nearshore ecosystem, determining the extent of seabird competition with Steller Sea Lions and other apex predators in the Gulf of Alaska, and using seabirds as samplers of the intermediate trophic level forage fishes that are notoriously difficult to catch and quantify with standard survey techniques. She received the Rasmuson Fellowship in 2002/2003 and 2003/2004, and plans on graduating with a Master's degree in Marine Biology in the summer of 2004 and returning to Kodiak to continue seabird-monitoring efforts. She hopes to eventually become involved with NOAA's Coastal Zone Management program.


Julie Nielsen is working toward a Masters degree in Fisheries at the Juneau Center of the UAF College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences. Her research focuses on the spatial distribution and movement of juvenile Tanner crabs in Glacier Bay National Park and spatial processes such as nursery areas that might be important for Tanner crab recruitment. Understanding the processes that produce spatial patterns is extremely important if spatial information is to be used to improve fisheries management, optimize marine reserve design and better designate essential fish habitat. She participated in a USGS systematic Tanner/king crab survey in Glacier Bay National Park and is analyzing the results to determine the spatial distribution, association with habitat and environmental conditions, and movement patterns for juvenile Tanner crabs. Her research will contribute to a more thorough understanding of the spatial aspects of recruitment for Tanner crabs, an important commercial species in Alaska.


Olav Ormseth is working towards a Ph.D. in fisheries oceanography. His research focuses on reproduction in Pacific cod, a commercially and ecologically important species in the North Pacific Ocean. For one of his projects, Olav is looking at how the age and nutritional condition of female cod affects their reproductive potential. The research involves laboratory work and winter cruises in the Bering Sea, and the findings will enhance understanding of cod population dynamics and aid in the assessment and management of commercially fished cod stocks. In a second project, Olav is using fishery catch data from the 1970s to the present to examine shifts in cod spawning distribution from year to year, in order to determine whether distribution is affected by changes in ocean temperature. A last project compares recruitment patterns among cod populations in different parts of the North Pacific.


In July 2003, Jack Piccolo accepted a position as research associtate with UAF on pink salmon ecology in the Gulf of Alaska. With the new postion, completing his dissertation, and his 11-month old daughter Marianna, he's staying plenty busy. Jack would like to express his indebtedness to the Rasmuson Fisheries Research Center for their support, and would like to thank all of the Board members and staff. The Rasmuson Fellowship plays a key role in supporting fisheries research in Alaska. Among his accomplishments has been constructing from scratch a stream tank for his research on juvenile coho and steelhead feeding ecology.


As a graduate student at the Juneau campus, Cara Rodgveller has examined the effects of inbreeding and family origin on the size of chinook salmon fry. She was involved with a genetic parentage analysis using microsatellites to determine the degree of inbreeding and the parents of the experimental fry. While they did not detect inbreeding depression of size from mating brothers and sisters, they did detect an effect of family origin on the size of the fry. This means that members within a family were similar in size, and that families differed in size from each other. Because variation among families can be large, it can potentially confound the results for which a study was designed to detect. To avoid drawing improper conclusions, studies should estimate the amount of variation that can be attributed to family origin, or be certain that many families are sampled. In the future, Cara would like to do research and management of salmon in Southeast Alaska, with an emphasis on minimizing the interactions between hatchery-bred and wild salmon.


Gregg Rosenkranz began working for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) shortly after he received his M.S. from UAF. The main thrust of his work is research and data analysis for Alaska's weathervane scallop (Patinopecten caurinus) fishery. He's also leading development of an underwater video stock assessment program for the species, which takes him to sea 3-4 weeks per year. He consults with fishery managers around the state regarding scallop harvest levels and serves on the North Pacific Fishery Management Council's Scallop Plan Team. Besides being a great place to live, Kodiak is becoming a hub for marine fisheries research, with a growing community of scientists from UAF, the National Marine Fisheries Service, and ADF&G.


After a recent two-year sabbatical, Karen Scheding is nearing completion of her Master's thesis "Dungeness crab depth distribution: effects of sea otters." Karen has presented chapters of this work at international conferences. "Critical habitat for ovigerous Dungeness crabs" was presented at the 17th Lowell Wakefield Fisheries symposium on "Spatial processes and management of marine populations" October 1999 in Anchorage, Alaska, and published in the proceedings. Another chapter, "Sea otter predation and the bathymetric distribution of Dungeness crab near Glacier Bay, Alaska" was presented August, 2003, at the American Fisheries Society meeting in Quebec City, Canada. The manuscript has been submitted to the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences. After completion of her degree, Karen hopes to continue to conduct invertebrate research.


Zhenming Su is a Research Biology Specialist at the Institute for Fisheries Research, Department of Natural Resources, State of Michigan. Prior to his current position, he was a postdoctoral fellow in salmon fisheries population dynamics and management under the direction of Dr. Randall M. Peterman at Simon Fraser University, British Columbia, Canada. Dr. Su's research interests include fisheries population dynamics and management, hierarchical Bayesian models for the analysis of fisheries data, and statistical sampling. His current work focuses on angler survey design for the inland waters of Michigan. He was a recipient of the fellowship from 1998-2001 and completed his degree in December 2001 with the thesis Optimal in-season mangement of pink salmon given uncertain run sizes and declining economic value.


After finishing his doctoral work at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Steve Trumble received a National Research Council Postdoctoral Fellowship and relocated to the National Marine Mammal Laboratory in Seattle, Washington. As part of the ongoing debate regarding fishery interactions and population declines in specific marine mammal species in Alaska, his work at NMML includes assessing energy balance, lipid and protein assimilation, body composition and digestive performance in response to diet quantity or quality in Steller sea lions. Also, as was included in his doctoral work, he has continued to work in marine mammal population health assessment by examining changes in plasma metabolites in response to environment or development. He continues to work closely with faculty at UAF and UAA on various projects involving the physiology and ecology of pinnipeds.


Steve Whitney was recently hired by National Marine Fisheries Service Sustainable Fisheries Division in Juneau. His division within sustainable fisheries, an mix of computer programmers, regulation specialists, and fish people, is responsible for accounting for all fishing activity within federal waters in Alaska as well as in-season management. It takes the collective talent and knowledge from several disciplines and individuals to keep in-season management of the fisheries working in a smooth and accountable manner. While climbing a steep learning curve, Steve has been applying his knowledge of Bering Sea fisheries and fish to practical management, as well as gaining knowledge of the administrative and technical aspects of fishery management.


After completing his dissertation, Erik Williams left Juneau, Alaska in 1999 to work for the National Marine Fisheries Service at the Tiburon Laboratory in California. He served on the groundfish management team and worked on stock assessments of lingcod, canary rockfish, and widow rockfish. When the Tiburon Lab moved to Santa Cruz, Erik moved to the Beaufort Laboratory in North Carolina. He has been with NMFS in Beaufort since 2000, where he continues his research on stock assessment methods. He has been instrumental in bringing the "West Coast" methods of stock assessment to the South Atlantic. Erik has been the lead scientist for stock assessments of menhaden, cobia, Atlantic croaker, red porgy, and vermilion snapper. He is an associate editor for the North American Journal of Fisheries Management and serves on numerous advisory and review panels serving the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Councils and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission.


After receiving her M.S. in fisheries in 2003, Briana Witteveen began work as a marine mammal researcher for the University of Alaska Fairbanks in Kodiak. Her research focuses on the population dynamics and foraging ecology of large whales (primarily humpback and fin whales) as part of the Gulf Apex Predator prey study. The research Briana and her colleagues conduct around Kodiak Island includes photo-identification of individual humpback whales, distribution, habitat use, and prey associations of baleen whales. In the future, she hopes to extend her research to include the use of tags, including time depth recorders, to further understanding of the foraging strategies of whales in a dynamic marine environment.


Jamie N. Womble completed an M.S in Fisheries in August of 2003. Her research addressed hypotheses regarding the distribution of Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) during spring in relation to the distribution of two spring-spawning prey species, Pacific herring (Clupea pallasii) and eulachon (Thaleichthys pacificus). This research provided insights into the seasonal foraging ecology of Steller sea lions during spring, a time when energetic demands are high for Steller sea lions. Currently, she works at the National Marine Fisheries Service-Auke Bay Laboratory in Juneau, conducting research on the seasonal distribution and diet of Steller sea lions in southeastern Alaska.