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To Everything There is a Season

Nov 21, 2013 | Gulf of Alaska Project | 0 comments

November 18, 2013
by Olav Ormseth
A few days ago I returned from our last inshore survey of the 2013 field season (and the last field activity of the GOAIERP). The survey went very well, despite the challenges of short days and cold temperatures. We were blessed with weather that, while not perfect, didn’t get in the way of our research as it has sometimes done in the past. It’s always interesting to return to the same places in different seasons and see the changes that have been wrought, on land as well is in the sea. In Kiliuda Bay, the bare hills are sort of a tired brown in spring, bright green in summer, and golden in the fall (see picture). In Port Dick, a hint of termination dust was to be seen at the very top of the coastal peaks. 
In my last post we were headed north to Port Dick, and that is where we worked for the remainder of the survey. The situation there was similar to Kiliuda Bay, with fewer fish all around. We were confirmed in our belief that eelgrass patches seem to retain more fish than kelpy habitats later in the season. Why might that be? We don’t know, but one idea is that eelgrass persists year-round (although it dies back considerably) whereas many kelps disappear almost completely. So, it might be that during the winter, eelgrass simply provides the sort of protective habitat that little fish need.
We were also able to recover the mini-mooring that we had in Port Dick since May. I’ve taken a quick peek at the data and there are some interesting patterns there, including that the deeper water continues to warm even after the surface waters have begun to cool. Comparing the east and west inshore moorings should be interesting.
On the flight back from Kodiak to Anchorage, as we flew over two of our sampling sites in clear weather, I experienced a good illustration of the concept of scale as a major factor in the GOAIERP. From the viewpoint of our little skiff, the distance from the mouth of Izhut Bay to its head seems huge. But from an airplane the two areas seem very close, especially relative to the entirety of Marmot Bay and the Kodiak Island Archipelago. So it is from the perspective of a fish- or for that matter, a parcel of seawater- how different are things within a bay? How about among the various bays just on Kodiak Island? What about variability over the entire northern GOA? In the GOAIERP we are working at multiple scales, which affects everything from how we conduct our research to our interpretation of how the ecosystem works.
 

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