Researchers from USGS, Monterey Bay Aquarium and other institutions are currently on a three-week expedition sailing Alaskan waters to study sea otters, as part of the Pacific Nearshore Project investigating coastal health. During their voyage, researchers will be sharing their shipboard life with us through journal entries that they’re sending home regularly.
Pacific Nearshore Project
Alaska Expedition Day 1 - May 17, 2011
Keith Miles and Jim Bodkin
Today, the Nearshore Project team members converged on Juneau, Alaska, with flights from Anchorage, Seattle, San José and Sacramento. A few other scientists had already arrived a few days earlier to conduct aerial surveys to locate groups of sea otters that we will study in the coming days.
The USGS research vessel Alaska Gyre sailed in from Homer, Alaska, nearly 500 miles away, beginning its journey on April 5th, arriving in Glacier Bay on April 15th, then on to Juneau to the meet the group of us eight scientists from the USGS Alaska Science Center, USGS Western Ecological Research Center, Monterey Bay Aquarium and UC Santa Cruz.
After arriving, last minute supplies were obtained and the next 2 to 3 hours spent loading the boat with research supplies, dive gear and staples. The trip from Juneau past Glacier Bay will take about 12 hours, where the remaining team members will fly in from Juneau by float plane.
The flights were mostly uneventful; some equipment had to be fixed before we left Seattle to Juneau but all in all good flights. Onboard now are George Esslinger (diver/captain/biologist), Jim Bodkin (lead scientist), Tim Tinker and Keith Miles (co-lead scientists), Mike Kenner (diver/biologist), Mike Murray (veterinarian), Michelle Staedler (sea otter biologist that works a lot with Mike Murray and Tim Tinker in California) and Jim Estes (science adviser).
We will sail for about 8 hours tonight, then 4 or 5 hours tomorrow morning when we meet up with the second research vessel, the chartered Snow Goose, out of Bellingham,WA and the remaining crew members, diver/biologists Dan Monson from Alaska, Joe Tomoleoni and Ben Weitzman from California, and fish biologist Vanessa von Biela and sea otter biologist Kim Kloecker, both from Alaska.
We are only a couple of miles from Juneau and it’s very calm -- and even warmer than Sacramento was this morning! We're passing the beautiful lighthouse at Point Retreat and several humpback whales were seen foraging in the vicinity.
Our sea otter captures will begin tomorrow afternoon along with fish sampling and sea otter forage data collection. Can’t wait.
-- Keith and Jim
Keith Miles is an ecotoxicologist with the USGS Western Ecological Research Center. Jim Bodkin is a sea otter biologist with the USGS Alaska Science Center and the project’s chief scientist.
Image Credits: Keith Miles/USGS
The Pacific Nearshore Project is a multinational, multiagency project investigating sea otters as health indicators of coastal waters and marine resources from California north through Canada and Alaska. The project is led by the U.S. Geological Survey with key research partners from the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Seattle Aquarium, University of California, University of Idaho, University of Wyoming and California Department of Fish and Game. For a full list of sponsoring agencies, research blogposts, otter photos, please visit the project homepage at http://on.doi.gov/nearshore.