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Humans

A wide range of communities rely on the Bering Sea for sustenance and cultural life, with some almost wholly connected to the marine waters. Research in local communities was a priority from the outset. Ethnography, anthropology, and subsistence research all had a place in the Bering Sea Project, with more quantitative science operating hand-in-hand with traditional ecological knowledge and the study of natural and cultural history.

Subsistence harvest users, and local & traditional knowledge (ltk) ecosystem perspective
Lead Investigator | Henry Huntington

This project examines all animal species harvested by residents of our partner communities. We focus on species that are significant subsistence resources (nutritionally, culturally, or otherwise) and that are also focal species for other Bering Sea Project components. Read More

Final Report
Nelson Island Natural & Cultural Heritage Project
Lead Investigator | Henry Huntington

We will work with elder experts in five Bering Sea communities, non-Native scientists, and younger community members to document their unique natural history and cultural geography, including traditional place names, weather and ice conditions, harvesting patterns, animal and plant communities, and related oral traditions.

Read More
Final Report

Marine Mammals

Whales and porpoises (or “cetaceans”)found in the Bering Sea cover vast areas in search of the optimal balance between concentrations of their preferred prey and the environmental conditions that best suit their needs. Fluctuations in cetacean abundance and distribution are therefore more likely an indication of broad-scale rather than local changes. Variations in ocean conditions affect the distribution and abundance of important prey species on a large scale. How cetaceans react to these changes in real-time and long-term is still unclear. 

Whale Broad-Scale Distribution
Lead Investigator | Nancy Friday

We will collect sightings of fin and humpback whales during routine annual AFSC/NOAA walleye pollock stock assessment surveys. We will then analyze the sightings to estimate whale density and abundance.

We will also analyze whale distribution data and density estimates in terms of oceanographic and bathymetric variables, prey distribution, and prey density to investigate whale habitat characteristics and to create predictive distribution models. We will include sightings of other cetaceans as sample sizes permit.

Final Report

Seabirds

The Bering Sea is home to millions of seabirds that breed on islands and coasts, and supports visiting species like shearwaters and albatross. The Pribilof Islands lie near the edge of the Bering Sea shelf and are breeding areas for seabirds including the thick-billed murre (Uria lomvia) and black-legged kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla). Despite their close proximity to one another, seabird populations on St. Paul continued to decline, whereas those on St. George recently stabilized.

Seabird Telemetry
Lead Investigator | David Irons, Daniel Roby, Rosana Paredes

We will compare seabird foraging location and trip duration for Black-legged Kittiwakes and Thick-billed Murres nesting on two geographically associated islands in the Pribilof group, St. Paul and St. George.

The maximum edge of the winter ice on the Bering Sea shelf is generally nearer to St. Paul than to St. George. St. George is nearer the productive edge of the Bering Sea shelf. Read More

Final Report
Seabirds (Colony-Based)
Lead Investigator | Kathy Kuletz

We will examine the relation of seabird distribution to oceanographic and biological features of the eastern Bering Sea. Size, location, and composition of seabird foraging flocks at sea and diet composition can change when prey distribution or abundance changes.

Read More
Final Report
Seabird Broad-Scale Distribution
Lead Investigator | Heather Renner

We will examine the relation of seabird distribution to oceanographic and biological features of the eastern Bering Sea. Size, location, and composition of seabird foraging flocks at sea and diet composition can change when prey distribution or abundance changes.

Read More
Final Report

Fishes

Fish play a range of starring roles in the year-round drama that is the Bering Sea, from prey for a host of marine creatures during their drifting ichthyoplankton stage to voracious predators in adult form—even cannibalizing their own. And the ecological importance of fish is matched by their importance to subsistence harvests and to the regional economy, with tens of thousands of jobs and several billion dollars annually tied to Bering Sea fisheries.

Acoustic Surveys
Lead Investigator | Chris Wilson

We will estimate midwater walleye pollock (age 1+) abundance in the eastern Bering Sea through acoustic-trawl surveys conducted by NOAA Alaska Fisheries Science Center.

Read More
Final Report
Surface Trawl Survey Acoustics
Lead Investigator | John K. Horne

We will quantify forage fish (e. g. , juvenile pollock, capelin, herring, and myctophids) distribution on the Bering Sea shelf, and examine how oceanography and climate forcing may influence forage fish distribution, abundance, and ultimately effect apex predator distribution and abundance. Read More

Final Report
Pollock and Cod Distribution
Lead Investigator | Lorenzo Ciannelli

We will conduct a retrospective analysis of ichthyoplankton catches of pollock, cod, and arrowtooth flounder and wintertime fisheries data to create species spawning distribution models.

Final Report
Functional foraging response
Lead Investigator | Kerin Aydin, Ed Farley

We will provide biological and physical data on the food habits of groundfish relative to predator and prey fields. We will use this information to evaluate whether competition for common prey or predator avoidance influences the spatial and temporal distribution of forage fish. Read More

Final Report
forage distribution and ocean conditions
Lead Investigator | Anne Hollowed

We will provide biological and physical data from a commercial fishing vessel, acoustic surveys and bottom trawl surveys. We will use this information to identify the processes influencing the spatial and temporal distribution of forage fish, their predators and competitors relative to ocean habitat conditions and to evaluate hypotheses regarding the potential impact of climate change on forage fish movement and seasonal distribution.

Final Report
Surface trawl survey
Lead Investigator | Ed Farley

The Alaska Fisheries Science Center conducts annual surface (epi-pelagic) trawl surveys to monitor the condition of the eastern Bering Sea continental shelf epi-pelagic fish community. This survey is funded with in-kind money and will support BEST-BSIERP by providing biological and environmental survey data to other PIs in the program.

Final Report
bottom trawl survey
Lead Investigator | Robert Lauth

The NOAA Alaska Fisheries Science Center conducts annual bottom (benthic) trawl surveys to monitor the condition of the eastern Bering Sea continental shelf epi-benthos. This survey is funded with in-kind money and will support BEST-BSIERP by providing biological and environmental survey data to other PIs in the program.

Final Report

Food Chain Interactions

The ecological chain connecting nutrients, phytoplankton, zooplankton, fishes, and other predators is quite complex, especially now that microzooplankton are thought to play a role as well. New evidence from the Bering Sea Project has revealed that diatoms are also consumed by protists, single-celled predators known as microzooplankton. How this non-linear food chain impacts larger predators such as commercial fishes, seabirds, and marine mammals and where these predator-prey interactions are occurring are of ecological concern.

Fish, Seabirds, and Mammals
Lead Investigator | Franz Mueter

We quantify past patterns of variability among of productivity of selected fish, seabird, and marine mammal species over time; test whether historical patterns and trends are consistent with existing hypotheses; suggest new hypotheses based on relationships among the productivity of different ecosystem components and relationships between their productivity and observed climate variability; and provide functional forms and parameter estimates (and their uncertainty) that link the productivity of different ecosystem components to climate variability.

Final Report
Top Predator Hotspot Persistence
Lead Investigator | Nancy Friday

The ability to predict the location of prey is an important component of foraging behavior of predators. Predictable prey locations reduce search time and thus energetic costs of foraging. We will analyze data collected from four other projects.

Seabird and cetacean locations from at-sea visual surveys will be analyzed in relation to pelagic forage species abundance and nutritional energy data from acoustic surveys.

Read More
Final Report

Life on the Seabed (Benthos)

The spring bloom creates a short window of time when so much excess food is available that copepods are able to increase their biomass up to 10-fold between early spring and summer. Even so, the zooplankton community does not fully graze the spring bloom, and the ungrazed portion falls to the sea floor, feeding the benthos. The amount of organic matter that falls to the sea floor (also called carbon “export”) varies across the Bering Shelf.

Carbon export in the eastern bering sea water column
Lead Investigator | S. Bradley Moran

We will quantify the export flux of organic carbon in the Eastern Bering Sea water column. Read More

Final Report
Epi-benthic video survey
Lead Investigator | Jacqueline Grebmeier

We will use a custom-built benthic digital imaging system at shallow stations in the Bering Sea. We will then analyze the imagery to determine grouping patterns of association between infaunal animals, bottom types and environmental factors.

Final Report
benthic ecosystem response to changing ice cover in the bering sea
Lead Investigator | Jacqueline Grebmeier

We will document benthic infaunal community composition and biomass as a means to determine key indicator species that should be monitored to evaluate climate change impacts on the Bering Sea ecosystem. Read More

Final Report
the impact of changes in sea ice extent on primary production, phytoplankton community structure, and export
Lead Investigator | S. Bradley Moran

We will investigate how the production and partitioning of spring bloom organic carbon, phytoplankton community structure, export, and water column-benthic coupling varies spatially (north-south) and temporally (seasonally and from year to year), as a function of sea ice extent. Read More

Final Report
nitrogen supply for new production and its relation to climatic conditions
Lead Investigator | Ray Sambrotto, Dan Sigman

We will measure new (nitrate) and regenerated nitrogen product ion directly with tracer incubation measurements in ice-impacted and ice-free regions of the eastern Bering Sea shelf. Read More

Final Report
denitrification and global change in bering sea shelf sediments
Lead Investigator | Allan Devol, David Shull

Denitrification in shelf sediments of the southeastern Bering Sea is estimated to remove about one third of the total nitrate supply to the Bering Shelf. We will measure profiles and fluxes of oxygen, nitrate, ammonium, phosphate and silicate. Read More

Final Report
sea ice algae, a major food source for herbivorous plankton and benthos
Lead Investigator | Rolf Gradinger

We will analyze spatial and temporal patterns of abundance, biomass, community composition and productivity of sea ice algae and phytoplankton just below the ice. We will measure salinity, temperature, and nutrient concentrations in ice cores and under-ice water, as well as ice thickness, snow cover and light regime. Read More

Final Report

Plankton

The intricate connections between ice retreat, intensity of the spring phytoplankton bloom, and the productivity of the Bering Sea motivated researchers to understand the drivers behind the timing and extent of the spring bloom. Ice algae flourish in association with the seasonal ice covering much of the northern portion of the shelf, and in ice-free areas, ocean circulation and biological processes combine to support open-water phytoplankton blooms that feed vast populations of zooplankton.

ichthyoplankton surveys
Lead Investigator | Janet Duffy-Anderson

Successful recruitment of fish larvae to suitable juvenile nursery areas is a necessary condition for growth, energy storage, survival, and subsequently recruitment to adult populations. Read More

Final Report
seasonal bioenergetics
Lead Investigator | Ron Heintz

We will study how growth, energy storage and metabolism interact to regulate the distribution and abundance of walleye pollock, Pacific cod and arrowtooth flounder in the Bering Sea. Read More

Final Report
summer microzooplankton in the bering sea
Lead Investigator | Diane Stoecker

Microzooplankton do most of the “grazing” on phytoplankton in the Bering Sea and are an important link in the food web between phytoplankton and zooplankton, which are food for fish. Read More

Final Report
trophic role of euphausiids in the eastern bering sea
Lead Investigator | H. Rodger Harvey, Evelyn Lessard

We hypothesize that seasonal and interannual variation in the timing and coverage of sea-ice and associated food resources will lead to differences in age structure, diet history and nutritional condition for euphausids, which ultimately translate into differences in product ion rates and availability as prey to higher trophic levels. Read More

Final Report
mesozooplankton-microbial food web interactions and sea ice
Lead Investigator | Evelyn Sherr, Carin Ashjian, Robert Campbell

We will analyze zooplankton (standing stock determinations and rate measurements) to determine relative microzooplankton and mesozooplankton grazing impacts. Read More

Final Report
mesozooplankton population and biomass in the eastern bering sea
Lead Investigator | Ken Coyle

We will assess mesozooplankton populations during the spring and summer cruises during the field seasons outlined for BEST-BSIERP. Read More

Final Report
a service proposal to examine impacts of sea ice on the distribution of chlorophyll-a over the eastern bering sea shelf
Lead Investigator | Rolf Sonnerup

We will collect, quality control, analyze and distribute the core chlorophyll-a data on databases at PMEL, NODC, and AOOS. Read More

Final Report

Atmosphere, Ocean, & Climate

The eastern Bering Sea ecosystem is structured in part by seasonal ice, advancing in the late autumn and retreating in the spring. The extent of sea ice is controlled by local and regional weather—wind and cold combine with currents and other oceanographic features to shape the formation, extent, and duration of ice. Oceanographic processes influence life in the eastern Bering Sea, controlling much of the rhythm and change in nutrient availability, plankton populations, etc. These ‘bottom-up’ processes consequently influence fish, birds, and mammals, making them key topics of study in the Bering Sea Project.

Downscaling Global Climate Projections With Nested Biophysical Models
Lead Investigator | Nicholas Bond, Enrique Curchitser, Katherine Hedstrom

Climate-induced changes will alter food availability for all trophic levels of the shelf ecosystem through “bottom-up” processes (processes beginning at the bottom of the food web and moving up through trophic levels).Read More

Final Report
Role of Ice Melting in Providing available iron to the surface water of the eastern bering sea
Lead Investigator | Jingfeng Wu

We will test the hypothesis that melting ice is a significant source of iron for biological growth in Bering Sea shelf water during spring. Read More

Final Report
Stratification on the bering shelf and its consequences for nutrients and the ecosystem
Lead Investigator | Tom Weingartner, Knut Aagaard

The enormous Bering shelf, containing one of the most productive marine ecosystems in the world, has changed significantly in recent decades, both physically and biologically, and often in concert with regional climate fluctuations. Read More

Final Report
Impact of changes in sea ice on the physical forcings of the eastern bering sea
Lead Investigator | Jinlun Zhang

We will study historical and contemporary changes of Bering Sea ice cover and the impacts of these changes on Bering Sea climate. We will also investigate future changes of the eastern Bering marine environment under global warming scenarios.Read More

Final Report
Examining summer hydrographic structure and nutrients
Lead Investigator | Rolf Sonnerup, Terry Whitledge

We will collect, quality control, analyze, and distribute the core physical and chemical observations collected on the BEST summer cruise as a service component of the larger ecosystem program. Read More

Final Report

Ecosystem
Modeling

To weave together existing and new information at the ecosystem level, the Bering Sea Project invested in an ambitious numerical modeling effort anchored in physical oceanography. The models explored both “bottomup” (resource-limiting) mechanisms, such as climate and physics, as well as “top-down” (predation) forces, such as fisheries and management strategies.

Fish, Seabirds, and Mammals
Lead Investigator | Franz Mueter

We quantify past patterns of variability among of productivity of selected fish, seabird, and marine mammal species over time; test whether historical patterns and trends are consistent with existing hypotheses; suggest new hypotheses based on relationships among the productivity of different ecosystem components and relationships between their productivity and observed climate variability; and provide functional forms and parameter estimates (and their uncertainty) that link the productivity of different ecosystem components to climate variability.

Final Report
Top Predator Hotspot Persistence
Lead Investigator | Mike Sigler

The ability to predict the location of prey is an important component of foraging behavior of predators. Predictable prey locations reduce search time and thus energetic costs of foraging. We will analyze data collected from four other projects.

Seabird and cetacean locations from at-sea visual surveys will be analyzed in relation to pelagic forage species abundance and nutritional energy data from acoustic surveys.

We will quantify the existence of prey “hotspots,” whether these hotspots persist across years, and the location of apex predators relative to hotspot persistence based on apex predator frequency of association with persistent hotspots.

Final Report

Predator-Prey Dynamics

We define “patches” as significant spatial variation in any feature of prey that is important for exploitation by predators. Prey patches may occur at scales of <1 meter to several kilometers, and may last anywhere from minutes to months. Patches also vary in species composition, biomass, energy content of prey, and distribution (size of patch, density within a patch, density of patches, and distance from colony/rookery).

We don’t know how top predators respond to variability in prey patches (patch dynamics) and the consequence this has on population dynamics of top predators in the Bering Sea. We need this fundamental information to predict how the Bering Sea ecosystem will respond to global warming.

Patch Dynamics
Lead Investigator | Andrew Trites

We are studying birds, mammals, and their forage bases to determine the consequences of spatial patterns (patches) on predator-prey dynamics.

We will seek to determine how groups of species are controlled — by fishing, predators, food availability, the physical environment, or a combination of all four.

Final Report
WHo we are
GENERAL INFO

Established in 2001, NPRB is a marine research organization that supports pressing fishery management issues or marine ecosystem needs.

REPORTS & PUBLICATIONS

More than 600 peer-reviewed publications have been produced through NPRB-funded research. Browse our library and our reports here.

LEADERSHIP

NPRB comprises a 20 member Board, representing Federal, State, and other entitites while receiving advice from Science and Advisory Panels.

PARTNERSHIPS

Looking to partner with NPRB? NPRB welcomes partnerships to co-fund research in areas of common interest and across its programs.

OUTREACH & ENGAGEMENT

NPRB communicates and engages with a broad and diverse set of Alaskan stakeholders and audiences, from coastal communities to academia.

STAFF

NPRB staff support the Board, Science, and Advisory Panels for funding decisions, science priorities, recommendations, and program management.

Funding Available

The Core Program offers year-round funding with flexible rolling submission options.

SUBMIT YOUR RESEARCH PRIORITIES

NPRB staff begins developing draft research priorities for the Core Program in late July and August. Submit before July 2nd to be considered for the current year’s RFP development. 

Our Programs
INTEGRATED ECOSYSTEM PROGRAMS
SCIENCE FOUNDATION

NPRB maintains scientific programs designed to address pressing fishery management issues and Alaska marine ecosystem information needs.

CORE PROGRAM

NPRB supports a competitive, peer-reviewed annual request for proposal (RFP) process dedicated to marine research in Alaskan waters.

The Arctic Integrated Ecosystem Reserach Program looked at how physical changes in the ocean influence the flow of energy through the marine food web in the Bering Strait, Chukchi Sea, and western Beaufort Sea from 2017-2021.

OUTREACH PROGRAM

Supporting science communication, engagement, outreach, and education initiatives for all our research programs.

LONG-TERM MONITORING

This program supports new or existing time-series research that enhance the ability to understand the current state of marine ecosystems.

The Bering Sea Project, a partnership between the North Pacific Research Board and the National Science Foundation, sought to understand the impacts of climate change and dynamic sea ice cover on the eastern Bering Sea ecosystem.

INTEGRATED ECOSYSTEM RESEARCH

These are large-scale interdisciplinary ecosystem-based programs, requiring multiple agency coordination, collaboration, and investigation.

GRADUATE STUDENT RESEARCH AWARDS

NPRB supports next generation scientists, researchers, and resource managers to further their studies in relevant fields of marine science and to our mission.

The Gulf of Alaska Project tested three main hypotheses about the survival and recruitment of five focal groundfish species (Pacific cod, Pacific ocean perch, walleye pollock, arrowtooth flounder, sablefish) during their first year of life.

About NPRB
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