Community Corner: Citizen scientists help the Council monitor our region

By Lisa Matlock, Outreach Coordinator

Lisa Matlock

One of the Council’s federal mandates involves environmental monitoring. With a small staff and vast geographic area, this monitoring takes many forms. Monitoring is often done by staff or contractors, but some monitoring takes place thanks to the Council’s volunteers and interns – all citizen scientists.

Since 2014, the Council has had high school interns in the community of Cordova who help monitor for aquatic invasive species. Three interns, Sarah Hoepfner, Cadi Moffitt, and currently Cori Pegau, have volunteered to hang sturdy plastic “settling plates” in the Cordova harbor each spring, to be picked up in the fall. The interns check the organisms that accumulate on the plate for critters such as invasive tunicates and bryozoans.

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Smithsonian partners with council to search for marine invasive species

Citizen scientists, the Prince William Sound College, the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, and the council partner for invasive species event in Prince William Sound

Linda McCann
Smithsonian Environmental Research Center

An opalescent nudibranch is a native species common in Prince William Sound. This one was found during the September bioblitz. Photo by Nelli Vanderburg.
An opalescent nudibranch is a native species common in Prince William Sound. This one was found during the September bioblitz.

A crew of marine biologists ventured to Prince William Sound this September for the third Smithsonian-led “bioblitz” in Alaska, this time in Valdez. During a bioblitz, volunteer citizen scientists team up with professional scientists to search for invasive marine invertebrates. This year, the Smithsonian partnered with the council and Prince William Sound College for a week of scientific sampling.

Three months before the bioblitz, council staff placed “settlement plates,” sheets of sanded PVC that the invertebrates attach to over time. During the bioblitz, volunteers and staff collected the plates, towed plankton nets, set crab traps, and went scuba diving, to look for various nonnative species.

The study helped establish critical baseline data for future research, invasive species management, and conservation initiatives. Fortunately, no new non-native species were found during the bioblitz or the scientific sampling.

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Homer teens use technology to monitor Kachemak Bay for aquatic invasions

By Beth Trowbridge
Executive Director for the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies

Students put together the drones prior to a test drive.

Four Homer high school students, a project leader, and lots of volunteers took part in the center’s “Creating Teen Leaders through Marine Technology and Research” program this summer, helping monitor for aquatic invasive species throughout Kachemak Bay.

The students built an underwater remotely operated vehicle, or ROV, from a kit, which they used to explore the Homer and Seldovia harbors for aquatic invasive species. “We all had various skills that we could contribute but it took all of our expertise to organize, create, and improvise the structure,” said Landon Bunting, one of the students, describing the teamwork that developed between the students during the project.

The students also used drones to help learn to navigate the underwater ROV. “Flying the drones and watching them be flown allowed for a better understanding of operating ROVs through a ‘fluid’ such as air or water,” added Bunting. “This experiment allowed each of us to learn from our mistakes and to learn the benefit of different types of remote operated vehicles.”

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Marine Invasive Species Bioblitz in Valdez

The council is collaborating with the Prince William Sound College and the Smithsonian for a two-day Marine Invasive Species Bioblitz on September 9 and 10 in Valdez. Learn about invasive species that threaten Prince William Sound and look for them in Valdez Harbor.

Your help with this bioblitz will help establish critical baseline data for future research, invasive species management, and conservation initiatives.

Dates:
Pre-training workshop on Friday, September 9.
Expedition to look for invasive species in Valdez harbor.

More details at the event website: Marine Invasive Species Bioblitz in Valdez