Researchers collect water samples in the Chukchi Sea. (Courtesy of Amanda Kowalski/ArcticSpring.org)They’re not recognizable like polar bears or whales. But phytoplankton are a key part of life in the Arctic – and now, they’re at the center of a new research effort to predict how the region will respond to climate change.Download AudioAlmost every animal in the Arctic eats — or eats something that consumes — phytoplankton. They’re tiny specks of algae that usually blossom into big clouds out in the ocean in the springtime.But that’s not what Kevin Arrigo saw a few years back. He was in the Chukchi Sea for a research cruise funded by NASA.Arrigo: “The deeper we went into the ice, the more phytoplankton there were. They reached amazing concentrations, to the point where it was the largest bloom anybody had ever seen anywhere in the world’s oceans. And it was under three feet of ice.”Phytoplankton need two things to grow — nutrients and light.In the past, scientists have assumed that sun can’t get through thick Arctic sea ice. But as the earth warms up, the ice is thinning out. And it’s definitely easier for light to get through.Arrigo: “The thing we didn’t know was what the nutrient distributions look like — particularly before the bloom starts, early in the spring. Because nobody’s ever been in the Chukchi Sea, sampling the entire ocean from top to bottom at that time of year.”That’s what Arrigo set out to do this spring, with a team of about 40 other scientists. They examined the base of Arctic food web in the Chukchi Sea, with a grant from the National Science Foundation.That paid for a trip aboard the Coast Guard icebreaker Healy. Arrigo says it was an ideal vessel, but there were some roadblocks it couldn’t plow through.Arrigo: “We were really unlucky in that everything happened late this year. The melt ponds never formed while we were out there. The phytoplankton under the ice never developed because there was never enough ice. But we were really happy with the results because we know now that the whole region — the entire Chukchi Sea — is really prime habitat for these things to develop.”Bob Pickart is the lead physical oceanographer for this project. He says he’s coming away with hundreds of water samples from up and down the Chukchi Sea — all loaded down with nutrients.Pickart: “These nutrients –- they spur the growth of the phytoplankton. And then from there on, it just spirals right up the food chain. So it’s like the base of the ecosystem. This is what it’s all about.”Pickart says there’s a lot of work ahead to analyze the samples. His findings will be shared with other scientists on the team.Pickart: “They have to know, why are the nutrients in the water in the first place. How did they get there? Where does the water go? What’s the timing of the water? So they have to know all about the physics of the circulation on the Chukchi Shelf in order to then understand the biology.”Arrigo is a biologist, and he has his own questions — about the timing of the phytoplankton bloom.Arrigo: “Productivity has been shifting earlier and earlier, because the ice is melting earlier and earlier. But now the bloom — the productivity — is not even waiting for the ice to melt.”If it’s coming earlier than animals are used to:Arrigo: “What’s going to happen? Are they going to produce their offspring at a point when the bloom’s already happened, it’s too late, there’s no food in the water?”Arrigo says the best chance of predicting that is to understand how the phytoplankton are interacting with their environment right now.That’s why the researchers are hoping to return to the Chukchi Sea next year to gather more water samples, and a better look at the bottom of the Arctic food web.
For the 2014 Primary Election, candidates from all contested Senate and House districts in the Municipality of Anchorage and the Matanuska-Susitna Valley were invited to participate.Find the entire playlist by clicking on the “Playlist” button at the top left of the video player.
The state of Alaska is closing wolf hunting early in the Stampede area along the northeastern edge of Denali National Park.Download Audio:The emergency shutdown ends the season two weeks ahead of its scheduled closure. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game action follows the killing of two Denali wolves shot earlier this month on state land, near a bear baiting station. A state release says bear hunting regulation changes have resulted in more hunters in the area. Fish and Game Commissioner Sam Cotton says the situation increases the chances of wolves commonly seen in the park, being taken.Individuals and environmental groups petitioned the state to take the action to better protect a Park wolf population that’s plummeted to 48 this spring, its lowest level on record.State Division of Wildlife Conservation Acting Director Bruce Dale says there’s no biological or conservation issue. Wolf viewing has declined in recent years, but trapping and hunting aren’t the only reason cited by biologists, who also point to low snow winters that have made it tougher for wolves to prey on caribou and moose. Wolf advocates want restoration of a protective buffer zone along the park’s north eastern boundary. The board of game eliminated the wolf buffer in 2010.
Stories are posted on the APRN news page. You can subscribe to APRN’s newsfeeds via email, podcast and RSS. Follow us on Facebook at alaskapublic.org and on Twitter @aprn.Download AudioFAA break-up bill clears US House committeeLiz Ruskin, APRN – Washington D.C.A bill to privatize the nation’s air traffic controllers cleared the Transportation Committee in the U.S. House last night. Rep. Don Young says he amended it to protect Essential Air Service and Alaska’s air taxis.Organizations call for ban of heavy fuel oil in Arctic watersEmily Russell, KNOM – NomeA group of non-governmental organizations recently sent a letter to the state department calling for a ban on heavy fuel oil, or HFO, in Arctic waters. HFO is tough to cleanup, but the widespread use of HFO throughout the Arctic makes the ban an especially hard sell.KPC graduate takes first job with BlueCrestQuinton Chandler, KBBI – HomerBlueCrest Energy pledged to hire four Kenai Peninsula College graduates to work at their drilling site near Anchor Point. The company made good on its promise. One of BlueCrest’s local hires says the job is the next step in what he hopes will be a promising career.Anchorage, Willow will host Iditarod starts despite low snowThe Associated PressOrganizers have decided that a lack of snow in the Anchorage area won’t force a route change for this year’s Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.Sass first to leave Dawson in Yukon QuestMolly Rettig, KUAC – FairbanksIt was warm and misty on the Yukon River as Brent Sass left Dawson City with fourteen dogs just after midnight. Snowdrifts, ice melt and gold mines are just a few things mushers have to look out for in the second half of the Yukon Quest.The warm weather has caused some of the glaciated hillsides to melt onto the trail.Humane society addresses uproar over Coco’s last dayLisa Phu, KTOO – JuneauA couple gave up their dog to Juneau’s animal shelter on a Saturday morning in December. That same evening, they had a change of heart and wanted the dog back, but it was too late. The dog had already been euthanized. Gastineau Humane Society, which takes in animals from around northern Southeast Alaska, called the dog aggressive and not a viable candidate for adoption. The Juneau couple wishes they’d been notified before the dog was put down.AK: Leveraging your leopard: the biz behind Alaska’s only zooZachariah Hughes, KSKA – AnchorageIf you’ve ever wanted to feed a snow leopard, a moose, or a pack of wolves, this year you’ve got a chance. Albeit, for a tidy sum.49 Voices: Laurie Fernandes of AnchorageWesley Early, APRN – AnchorageThis week we’re hearing from Laurie Fernandes. Laurie moved to Anchorage with her husband and children last June from Houston, TX.
In order to stay on schedule, Kristina Woolston, Quintillion’s Vice President of External Relations, says they will have three vessels in Alaskan waters this summer to install 40 more miles of fiber, which wasn’t completed last year.Listen nowQuintillion fiber optic cable ship (photo: KNOM)“(It’s) because we needed more time to get the desired burial depth that we needed off of Prudhoe Bay and Oliktok Point,” Woolston said. “So, that one critical piece is what we have left to install this summer, but the rest of the fiber that is currently installed is up and running and in test mode, so we’re able to see all of the connections and how the signals are moving. So, we are monitoring that 24/7 right now, even into the community of Nome, and we are very pleased with what we are seeing for the performance.”It is expected that none of the three vessels will be coming to Nome’s waters this summer, but Woolston says there is still a chance. After all the connections are made between the sea-based cable and the land-based cable, Woolston says the testing phase will then have to continue.“Once the cable — the fiber — is installed, then, we have to do a series of interconnections and splices with the existing fiber,” Woolston said. “Then our customers, the telecommunications providers, then they need to do their interconnections with our system, to make sure the equipment is speaking to each other. And then, yes, the signal goes live.”Fiber between Fairbanks and Deadhorse has been up and running since April, which is the initial connection for the rest of the coastal communities included in Quintillion’s project. Besides Nome, land-based fiber connections are present in Kotzebue, Utqiagvik, Wainwright, Point Hope, and Prudhoe Bay.When asked if there would be any new telecommunications providers coming to Nome and contracting with Quintillion to provide faster internet to customers, Woolston could not give specifics.“I think you’ll start to see more information being provided to the end users as the summer goes on and the fall comes into play, and we move closer to that ‘turning on the service’ date of December 1,” Woolston said.Quintillion is also looking to expand its network to other communities in the state; however, it is unclear at this time as to which ones.
Stories are posted on the APRN news page. You can subscribe to APRN’s newsfeeds via email, podcast and RSS. Follow us on Facebook at alaskapublic.org and on Twitter @aprnListen nowLegislature split on budget, taxes and use of Permanent FundAndrew Kitchenman, KTOO – JuneauThe House and Senate finance committee co-chairs have reached an agreement that they’re going to talk about a long-term plan. That may be a step in the right direction. But it’s not clear how much reassurance Alaskans can take from it.State puts out list of companies that got $75 million in cashable tax credits last yearRashah McChesney, Alaska’s Energy Desk – JuneauThese cash-for-credits recipients used to be kept confidential, but a law passed in 2016 now requires that the state report them.Feds to drop new habitat rules, ending state’s legal challengeLiz Ruskin, Alaska Public Media – Washington D.C.The Trump administration has agreed to rewrite rules that would have made it easier for the government to designate areas as “critical habitat” for endangered species.Feds approve $1.7M to buy out homes in NewtokRachel Waldholz, Alaska’s Energy Desk – AnchorageThe state and federal government have announced almost $2 million dollars in funding to buy out homes in the eroding village of Newtok, in Western Alaska.Snow blocks road to Hatcher Pass; 10 stranded at lodgeAssociated PressTwo avalanches have stranded about 10 people at a lodge outside an Alaska state park.The Cost of Cold: When the only option is dieselAnnie Feidt, Alaska’s Energy Desk – AnchorageThere are a lot of heating options. Electricity, natural gas, wood, coal… even french fry oil. But in much of rural Alaska, and even some cities, the primary heating source is diesel.The Cost of Cold: Keeping warm in UnalaskaZoe Sobel, Alaska’s Energy Desk – UnalaskaFor The Cost of Cold, we profile Unalaska resident Travis Swangel, who heats his small home on the island with a Toyo stove.At 2018 Finisher’s Banquet, tales from a difficult IditarodDavis Hovey, KNOM – NomeThe 2018 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race has come to an end, as 52 out of the original 67 mushers have crossed the finish line in Nome.Wrangell assembly approves new $9 million water plantJune Leffler, KSTK – WrangellThe Wrangell assembly approved a new $9 million water treatment plant last week. The current plant hasn’t met the town’s needs for several years.New analysis adds to picture of how belugas are impacted by sea ice lossRavenna Koenig, Alaska’s Energy Desk – FairbanksResearchers have published a new paper that adds a little more to what we know about how beluga whales are navigating their changing habitat.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has released its final environmental impact statement on the proposed Donlin Gold project.Listen nowIf developed, the undertaking would be massive and span hundreds of miles in multiple directions, from a natural gas pipeline stretching between Cook Inlet and the Upper Kuskokwim River, to barging along the Kuskokwim, and, of course, a mine site near the Kuskokwim village of Crooked Creek that would extend across thousands of acres.If constructed, the mine is projected to produce more than 33 million ounces of gold over 27 years.The environmental impact statement is meant to list the potential and perceived environmental impacts of the mining project. The hardcopy version of the draft document totaled more than 5,000 pages and stood more than a foot high.The public has 30 days to comment on the final version. Then regulatory agencies will begin reviewing the document to work their way through the hundreds of permits that the project needs to operate. The final day to submit comments is May 29, 2018.
Fifty-two mushers running the 2019 Iditarod took part in the ceremonial start in downtown Anchorage on Saturday, March 2. (Ben Matheson/KNOM/Alaska Public Media photo)We talk about why the Ceremonial Start in downtown Anchorage is a thing, hear what mushers are talking about this year, and visit with the Trailgaters. It’s the last time anyone gets to catch their breath before the real start of the race. And maybe catch a few hotdogs, too.<span data-mce-type=”bookmark” style=”display: inline-block; width: 0px; overflow: hidden; line-height: 0;” class=”mce_SELRES_start”></span><span data-mce-type=”bookmark” style=”display: inline-block; width: 0px; overflow: hidden; line-height: 0;” class=”mce_SELRES_start”></span>