Coastal Margins team
Researchers on the F&I Coastal Margins team work to quantify biological responses to climate-induced changes in physical and chemical conditions along a gradient of glacial to non-glacial coastal waters, and to understand the potential responses of fishing communities to resulting shifts in ecosystem services. Research will take place in two regions of the Gulf of Alaska, Kachemak Bay near Homer and Lynn Canal near Juneau (see map). Coastal Margins researchers will use field and remote sensing data, field and lab experiments, modeling, and user surveys to address four goals:
Coastal Margins Goal 1: Characterize the hydrological and biogeochemical dynamics of rivers along a glacial to non-glacial watershed gradient and their linkages to coastal oceanography. Through intensive measurement of physical and chemical data at the study sites, researchers will better understand how local hydrological and oceanographic drivers affect larger-scale coastal processes, and how these linkages may shift with a changing climate. Researchers will deploy up to 10 drifters a year across the two regions to gather oceanographic data; Lynn Canal deployments in project year 1 will also test drifter lifespan and recovery options. Researchers will then build circulation models based on both drifter and hyperspectral data from both regions. Oceanographic sensors in Kachemak Bay and Lynn Canal will be used to collect data at 3-hour intervals year-round, and monthly conductivity, temperature, and depth (CTD) transects will be conducted from April to September. Together, these datasets will yield four years of nearshore physico-chemical conditions including pH, salinity, photosynthetically active radiation and temperature. To quantify freshwater inputs to the coast, researchers will deploy sensors in 5-6 watersheds in each region and combine their data streams with in situ coastal measurements, creating a rich multi-year dataset of variables including discharge, stage height, temperature, conductivity, turbidity, and dissolved oxygen. These efforts will enable researchers to craft mechanistic models of freshwater and nutrient flux and nearshore circulation, which they will combine with a 30-year hindcast simulation to identify correlations between freshwater forcing, biogeochemistry and ecosystem structure and function for Gulf of Alaska coastal watersheds.
Coastal Margins Goal 2: Quantify biological responses of nearshore marine organisms to varying physical and chemical conditions along the glacial to non-glacial gradient. Impacts to coastal waters from glacial retreat and other climate-driven processes will likely affect both biological community structure, as measured by species composition; and primary and secondary production, as measured by organism abundance and biomass. Monthly beach seine, quadrat, and plankton sampling from April to September of each year will enable Coastal Margins researchers to quantify spatial, seasonal, and interannual variation in nearshore communities. To understand how the trophic ecology of commercially and ecologically important consumers varies along the glacial to non-glacial gradient, stomach contents will be sampled from at least 200 coho salmon to determine diets, and stable isotopes of carbon and nitrogen will be measured in three invertebrate species and primary producers. Researchers will also construct an Ocean Change Experimental System (OCES), a flow-through laboratory setup designed to test the physiological responses of marine species – in this case mussels, chitons, kelp, and salmon – to changes in temperature, pH, salinity and combinations thereof. Biological community data, fish diets, and stable isotope data will be modeled as a function of physical-chemical data collected in Goal CM1 to quantify species-environment relationships along the glacial to non-glacial gradient using multivariate statistics and regression models. A mechanistic consumption model for coho salmon will be used to explore how current and future temperature and prey quality scenarios could affect the growth potential of coho salmon. Experimental results will be used to generate functional relationships between metabolism and temperature, pH, and salinity for several organisms.
Coastal Margins Goal 3: Understand potential responses of coastal resource users to current changes and anticipated future shifts in nearshore marine resources. Changes to nearshore habitat and organisms could have major impacts to distribution and productivity of harvested species crucial to fishing communities. Researchers will interview up to 50 fishers and 30 institutional representatives in the communities of Homer and Juneau about their observations of changes in the environment, ways they have responded to past ecological, economic, and regulatory pressures, and anticipated future changes. Interviews will provide information on past responses to environmental change to identify avenues for building adaptive capacity to future change.
Coastal Margins Goal 4: Hire and train researchers and share results with academic audiences and stakeholders. The Coastal Margins team will make three faculty hires: a UAF biological oceanographer; UAF fish physiologist/geneticist; and a UAS microbiologist. The Boreal Fires team’s UAA terrestrial ecologist hire will also assist the Coastal Margins component to collect and analyze physico-chemical data from freshwater and the nearshore. Three postdoctoral researchers will be hired for data integration, model building, and remotely sensed data processing and analysis. Up to 10 graduate and seven undergraduate students will participate each year. Researchers will submit at least 28 articles for peer review and will hold at least six meetings/outreach events with stakeholders. All team members will participate in activities related to Goal CM4.