Dr. Shawn Larson, the Aquarium’s curator of conservation research, was recently part of the team for the Southwest Alaska Network’s (SWAN) Nearshore Vital Signs monitoring program 10-day research trip. The eleven participating researchers were affiliated with the United States Geologic Survey (USGS), National Park Service (NPS), University of Alaska Fairbanks and the Seattle Aquarium. Below, she recaps highlights from the second half of the trip. You can read Part 1 here.
Day 6: June 24, 2017
Today we moved the boat to Kinak Bay and anchored overnight in Hidden Harbor, a very beautiful spot. I was part of the mussel crew in the morning, and then in the afternoon we did black oystercatcher surveys “bloys” into “misty lagoon” with the incoming tide. The black oystercatcher surveys involve finding a pair of nesting oystercatchers and then finding their eggs or chicks. If there are eggs, we measure them by floating them in a container of water to determine their relative development (an egg that sinks is just laid and a floating egg is close to hatching). If there are chicks, then we gather the shells around the nest to determine what the parents are feeding their young. The oystercatcher, like the sea otter, is an indicator species of the health of these waters.
Day 7: June 25, 2017
The next day we pulled anchor and left for our final survey site in Kukak Bay, the end of which is near where Tim Tredwell, “the grizzly man,” was killed by a grizzly as he was camping near them. A documentary was made about Tim Tredwell and his connection to the Katmai grizzlies. My task for the morning was to be part of the soft crew digging clams and mussels. We were visited by a relatively tame red fox who tried to help us with our survey gear and our boat anchor line.
Day 8: June 26, 2017
Day two in Kukak. Today we need to gather sea otter foraging data, black oystercatcher surveys and marine bird and mammal surveys. Our goal is 50 foraging bouts for sea otters the entire trip but I think we’ll get more.
Day 9: June 27, 2017
We moved to the entrance of the harbor into a place called Devil’s Cove. We anchored there and finished marine bird and mammal surveys, and sea otter forage bouts. We perched on one rock in the middle of the outer bay and gathered over 38 bouts! For the trip we gathered over 75 bouts—way past our 50-bout goal.
Day 10: June 28, 2017
Today we are heading home! It’s been a great trip on board the Dreamcatcher and a life-changing experience in the Katmai National Park!