Catch the latest news from ACRC's scientists, staff, students, and partners.
Digging for the future of shellfish: UAS and Tribal researchers work together to understand changes to a valued subsistence resource
As the tide creeps up the shoreline at Juneau’s Amalga Harbor, ACRC researcher John Harley works shoulder to shoulder with collaborators from the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska (CCTHITA), digging shallow holes in search of clams. By the end of the day, the group will have uncovered nearly 500 clams. Most of the bounty will be weighed and reburied for a large-scale survey of the abundance of clams in the region, but the remaining clams will travel to the Sitka Tribe of Alaska Environmental Research Lab to be tested for toxins that can accumulate in shellfish.Read More
In the Gulf of Alaska, snow and glacier loss could mean fewer food options for salmon
Cool, clear snowmelt, icy, turbulent glacial runoff, and dark wetland rainfall streams meet among Alaska’s coastal mountain watersheds, providing diverse food sources, plant and animal communities, and habitat types. But the mountain glaciers surrounding the Gulf of Alaska have some of the highest rates of mass loss on Earth, and as snowmelt and glacial influences fade, watersheds are losing the diversity of stream conditions brought about by cryospheric –or frozen water–contributions. The result is rivers that look more alike in their hydrology, temperature, and importantly, the structure of food webs that salmon rely on.Read More
ACRC Launches Report on Juneau’s Changing Climate and Community Response
Today, the Alaska Coastal Rainforest Center at the University of Alaska Southeast (UAS) released a comprehensive report on the impacts and response to climate change in Juneau titled, Juneau’s Changing Climate and Community Response. From more frequent intense rainfall events to the response of local wildlife, the report features accessible information from twenty-three local experts, scientists, and managers on the historic impacts, expected trends, and community response to climate change in the City and Borough of Juneau.Read More
ACRC’s Jason Fellman assumes acting director role
UAS Research Associate Professor of Environmental Science Jason Fellman has stepped into the role of Acting ACRC Director, leveraging his coastal research expertise and history as a guiding force within the Center to drive ACRC’s mission and strategic activities going forward.Read More
ACRC welcomes postdoctoral researcher Megan Behnke
For Megan Behnke, Juneau’s coastal temperate rainforest represents the familiar and the unknown all at once. Behnke, who was born and raised in Juneau, rejoins ACRC this month as a postdoctoral researcher funded through the Coastal Rainforest Margins Research Network over five years after first engaging with ACRC as a research technician. Realizing a long-held goal of living and conducting research on the microscopic ongoings of carbon in her own backyard has given Behnke a new lens to view the familiar settings of her past.Read More
Assessing the value of “forest fish” in Alaska’s national forests
Containing some of the world’s largest remaining temperate rainforests, Alaska’s national forests are valued for the ecosystem services they provide, forest products, and the recreational and cultural value they offer. But the streams of the Tongass National Forest in southeast Alaska and Chugach National Forest in southcentral Alaska hold a living, migrating resource that is harder to put a number on. ACRC research technician Emily Whitney and affiliates Ryan Bellmore and Di Johnson at the USDA Forest Service Pacific Northwest (PNW) Research Station and Stormy Haught with the Forest Service in Cordova are working to quantify the number of “forest fish” originating from Alaska’s National Forestlands in the last decade.Read More
Linking Traditional Ecological Knowledge and herring spawn records to predict the future of Harmful Algal Blooms
Harvesting shellfish is a practice that dates back thousands of years in Alaska, but it can also be a risky one. Toxins can accumulate in shellfish following certain phytoplankton growth bursts known as Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs), making them toxic for human consumption, causing illness and fatalities. While shellfish are often harvested in the winter and spring when phytoplankton activity is low, warming ocean temperatures have lengthened the season where HABs can occur in Southeast Alaska putting coastal communities relying on shellfish harvest at greater risk.Read More
Climate Change Impacts and Solutions in Southern Alaska
Join us to discuss key climate change issues affecting communities in our region of Alaska and explore specific mitigation and adaptation strategies being pursued in our coastal forest and ocean environments as climate change policy takes center stage at this year’s UNFCCC 26th COP (Conference of Parties) gathering in Glasgow, UK in November.Read More
From Streambed to Glacial Ice, Students Lead Research at the Alaska Coastal Rainforest Center
On the banks of Juneau’s Montana Creek, Claire Delbecq leans over a small metal strainer, sorting through the plant matter, insects, and sediment that have been collected from the water column of the nearby stream. The contents of this sample can tell us about where and when salmon are getting their food, and how altered patterns of stream flow due to climate change might affect their growth.
Delbecq is a University of Alaska Fairbanks masters student at the Alaska Coastal Rainforest Center, an ecological research institute founded in 2009 to strengthen collaborations between the University of Alaska Southeast, the University of Alaska Fairbanks, the US Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station, and the US Forest Service Alaska Region. Understanding how nutrients move from streams out to the ocean and how salmon growth fares in varying hydrologic conditions is a small thread of a larger picture scientists are weaving together of how retreating glaciers, changing hydrological patterns, and our warming climate are altering coastal rainforest environments.
Though warmer and wetter years are predicted for Southeast Alaska, the implications for streamflow are not straightforward. Year-to-year variations in precipitation patterns can cause both drought as well as larger and more frequent storm events. Meanwhile, melting glaciers can supplement stream flows, until retreat becomes so advanced that glaciers may disappear from some watersheds completely.
Amid high and low flow, salmon persist in these waters as the landscape changes around them. Delbecq and fellow UAF graduate student Kevin Fitzgerald are studying the flow of nutrients from land to sea, and how juvenile salmon feed during storm events and how different hydrological patterns affect their growth, which is central to our understanding of their future survival. At the ACRC, students have an opportunity to gain lab and fieldwork experience and contribute to our understanding of ecological processes in the temperate rainforest, as well as develop their own research questions about the coastal environment we live in.
“We have an amazing group of undergraduate and graduate students out in the field and lab this year. It’s a chance for them to go beyond topics learned in the classroom, and experience the challenges and successes of ecological research” said UAS Research Assistant Professor Jason Fellman. Last week, ACRC staff, faculty, students and affiliates met for the first annual ACRC science symposium, a chance for students to learn about the research they are helping to carry out. “We hope to see our students do presentations at the end of the summer on the research they conducted during their time with us,” said Fellman.
Salmon growth and stream hydrology are just a facet of research within the ACRC network, where scientists study carbon storage and movement in soils, peatlands, landslide paths, and vegetation, as well as glacier and avalanche dynamics, climate and adaptive governance, and ocean acidification.
Delbecq and Fitzgerald supervise undergraduate students helping collect and process data for their research. “It's very cool to be a part of a research team that is doing work in a place that is so dynamic. Everyone has their own specialties and there are a lot of opportunities for interesting connections. Having a strong group of undergrads working with us this summer has already proven to be incredibly helpful. They consistently ask questions that help me understand my work better. This crew of undergrads is excited to learn new skills, ask questions, and explore their own interests,” said Delbecq.
Other student research at the center includes collecting and processing drone imagery to track ice dynamics in Juneau’s Suicide Basin, a glacial-dammed lake along Mendenhall Glacier that has released floods nearly every year since 2011, looking for the presence of microplastics in sediment and water bodies, and monitoring water quality in streams.
Back on Montana Creek, Delbecq and Fitzgerald lead a group of undergraduate students through collecting water samples and measuring streamflow. Funding to support these students is brought in through federal or state research grants, of which ACRC is projected to bring over $1.25 million to the University of Alaska Southeast next year. The funding for their research at Montana Creek is provided by the Alaska Climate Adaptation Science Center.
“In addition to gaining valuable scientific experience, our summer students help the ACRC fulfill its mission to link land, sea, and society through integrative research on environmental change and social-ecological conditions in the Pacific Coastal Temperate Rainforest system,” said ACRC Director Tom Thornton. “We look forward to their results and to their development into rainforest scientists,” said Thornton.