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Southeast Alaska Regional Science Fair

In March 2006, ABL scientists donated their time and expertise as mentors and judges for the Southeast Alaska Regional Science Fair. The fair, held in Juneau, provides high school students in Southeast Alaska the opportunity to compete for scholarships and awards while learning to apply the scientific method to research questions. The fair is affiliated with Intel's International Science and Engineering Fair, which is the world's largest science fair and awards more than $3.0 million in scholarships. Scientists from ABL mentored many of the 128 projects entered in this year's fair, and 3 of the ABL-mentored projects advanced to the final round of judging.

One of the ABL-mentored projects, A toxicity assay to understand the effects of global warming by students Brenna Heintz and Kevin Heffern and mentored by ABL fisheries scientist Ron Heintz, was among the four projects selected to advance to the international science fair in Phoenix in May 2005. Bonita Nelson and Lawrence Schaufler of the ABL Outreach Committee were on the judging and organizing committee for the Alaska Regional Science Fair. The ABL also provided 22 mentors and 17 judges to the fair.

By Bonita Nelson

Selendang Ayu Oil Risk to Early Life Stage Salmon

By request from NOAA's National Ocean Service, ABL researchers examined stream and marine water for evidence of pink salmon (Oncorhynchus gorbuscha) exposure to oil spilled by the freighter Selendang Ayu. The oil was spilled on 8 December 2004 (an estimated 7500 barrels) and spread into adjoining bays of Unalaska Island, extending approximately 40 km from the wreck. The impacted area included 19 streams utilized by pink salmon and other species as spawning and rearing habitat, raising concerns that incubating eggs, alevins, and fry could be damaged by oil exposure. Our primary objective was to determine if pink salmon embryos and alevins were exposed to meaningful quantities of biologically available oil, specifically polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).

Polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons from the Selendang Ayu oil spill were biologically available at detrimental concentrations in 1 of 14 streams examined, likely placing resident juvenile fish and possibly embryos at risk. Estimated aqueous total PAH concentrations in this stream (SKN14) were high enough to have negative impacts on survival and growth, but pink salmon embryos were generally absent in the affected river area. This was likely due to marginal habitat quality (too much sand and mud) rather than oil related mortality.

Species that reared in oiled reaches of the main channel (Dolly Varden and coho salmon) were also at risk, but this remains unquantified because analysis of tissues for hydrocarbon exposure has not been completed. Even though bioavailable PAHs in bays was widely distributed, only the water of Skan Bay posed a risk to emigrant juvenile pink salmon during the sampling period. Bioavailable total PAH concentrations in Skan Bay were significant, but several unknowns precluded definitive assessment of risk in marine water, including the residence time of juvenile pink salmon, their dependence on potentially oiled prey, and true aqueous total PAH concentrations.

By Mark Carls

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