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Glacier Bay Fieldwork

Searching for Clams in Glacier Bay

Research Assistant Professor John Harley and undergraduate intern Kellie Blair traveled to Glacier Bay National Park to gain some insight into harmful algal blooms in the region. The pair collected butter clams to test for paralytic shellfish toxins that accumulate in shellfish during algal bloom events. These clams are an important diet item for humans and sea otters, and there is relatively little known about the presence of these toxins in the Bay. Harley is working on setting up a long-term monitoring program with the park to see when and where the blooms are occurring and if the bloom dynamics are shifting with the changing glacial landscape.

Learn more about John's research on shellfish toxicity in Alaska.

 a person on the beach collecting shells with a humpack whale in the water behind
Undergraduate Kellie Blair searches for clams in the intertidal near Russel Island as a humpback whale lunge feeds in the background.
a person on a beach with a boat behind in the water
The National Park Service research vessel allowed us to access remote sites deep in Glacier Bay where glacial influence is stronger and affects water temperature, intertidal substrate, and turbidity.
a person on the shore of a beach
Kellie sifts through sea stars, kelp, marine worms, and sea stars to dig into suitable habitat for butter clams.
a bear on a beach
Coastal brown bears also look for clams in the intertidal. This one was foraging a few hundred yards down the beach from the fieldwork site, mostly flipping over large rocks to munch on mussels and barnacles.