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Resource Assessment & Conservation Engineering (RACE) Division

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Russ Nelson is Appointed New RACE Divison Director

Russell E. Nelson, Jr. was appointed Director of the AFSC's Resource Assessment and Conservation Engineering (RACE) Division effective 19 March 2006. Russ has worked as second in command of the Division since 1992 and has an outstanding record of solving problems and providing steady vision for the Division and Center.

Russ enjoys wide, ongoing support from the Division staff as well as from the other AFSC Division Directors. The Center welcomes him to his new position and responsibilities.


Groundfish Assessment

RACE Groundfish Systematics

James Orr and Duane Stevenson are continuing work on the taxonomy and systematics of several families of fishes, most recently skates, snailfishes, rockfishes, eelpouts, manefishes, and deep-sea anglerfishes. With Jerry Hoff and John McEachran, Stevenson and Orr have prepared a guide to the cartilaginous fishes of Alaska to be published by Alaska Sea Grant. They are also participating in a collaborative study with Ingrid Spies and Mike Canino in their genetic analysis of skates of Alaska, a paper on genetic identification having just been submitted.

Orr's research on snailfishes has expanded with descriptions of two new species of Careproctus, with Katherine Maslenikov of the University of Washington Fish Collection, and several new species of Paraliparis, with Zachary Baldwin an undergraduate intern from the University of Washington. Orr's work with Sharon Hawkins of Auke Bay Laboratory on the recognition, identification, and nomenclature of Sebastes melanostictus, a member of the rougheye rockfish, S. aleutianus, complex newly recognized in the eastern Pacific Ocean, will be completed with the examination of important Japanese type specimens.

Orr is also collaborating with the University of Washington's Ted Pietsch on the description of a new species of sculpin from the western Pacific, as well as on the phylogenetics of deep-sea anglerfishes. Stevenson's two new species of eelpouts of the genera Lycodes and Bothrocara are now published. Stevenson's most recent research on eelpouts has focused on an examination of morphological variation in the black eelpout, Lycodes diapterus, from across its entire range in the North Pacific. He has also been working with Dave Csepp of the Auke Bay Lab on a range extension and review of the morphology of Caristius in the eastern North Pacific, a project that has led to his beginning a worldwide revision of the family Caristiidae with other collaborators.

By Mark Wilkins

FISHPAC Preintegration Exercise on NOAA Ship Fairweather

In preparation for a fisheries research cruise this summer, the RACE Division participated in a pre-integration exercise in Seattle on the NOAA ship Fairweather from 27 February through 3 March 2006. The ship's officers and crew, along with a team of scientists, engineers and technicians from NOAA, the University of New Hampshire and the U.S. Navy worked to integrate electronic and mechanical systems on the ship with supplemental navigation and research sonar systems (Photo below). This effort was intended to minimize program risk and also reduce installation time requirements during the brief mobilization period in Dutch Harbor, Alaska. Several major systems were successfully integrated and tested, while several issues were identified for remedy.

Photo of research sonar equipment
The long-range side scan sonar being developed for the FISHPAC project by L-3 Communications Klein Associates Inc. (Salem, NH). Shown here are the port and starboard pressure housings for the sonar electronics and the multibeam side scan sonar arrays (segmented black panels below) mounted on the towfish chassis. The final product will include additional sonar and navigation systems as well as environmental sensors and will be capable of better than 1-m resolution over a 1.5-km swath of seabed.

The NOAA "FISHPAC" project is a multiyear collaboration between the NMFS Alaska Fisheries Science Center, the NOS Office of Coast Survey (Hydrographic Surveys Division), and the Office of Marine and Aircraft Operations (Marine Operations Center - Pacific), with significant technical support from the UNH Center for Coastal Ocean Mapping (Durham, New Hampshire) and the Naval Undersea Warfare Center (Keyport, Washington). The primary objective is to evaluate the utility of acoustic backscatter for characterizing essential fish habitat (EFH). In July-August 2006, acoustic surveys will be conducted along strong gradients of groundfish abundance, as estimated using trawl survey catches at fixed stations over many years.

The value of backscatter as a habitat-defining character will be judged based on the statistical association between fully normalized backscatter and fish density. The benefits and costs of several different acoustical systems will be compared with data from multiple passes along the survey lines. Research in subsequent years will validate and/or refine any backscatter-abundance relationships with trawl sampling that targets specific backscatter levels. The end product of this research will be operational guidelines for seabed mapping in the eastern Bering Sea (EBS). Thereafter, a systematic survey covering the entire grid of EBS trawl survey stations will be conducted with the most cost-effective system, and spatially explicit habitat models for EBS species will be updated with these data. Ultimately, this research will be extended into the Gulf of Alaska, Aleutian Islands, and more northern waters, areas with substantial differences in vertical relief and seabed composition.

By Robert McConnaughey


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