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Weekly Highlights for 10-4-2012
I. Departmental/Bureau News
A. Upcoming Events
No Upcoming Events highlights for this week
The first Alaska bird conference was held in Sitka, AK in 1982 and since then ornithologists and other scientists from across Alaska have continued to gather every two years to report on all aspects of bird biology, management and conservation issues. This year the 15th Alaska Bird Conference will be held in Anchorage, AK, October 22-26. Numerous students and scientists from the USGS Alaska Science Center will be presenting their research findings on topics such as climate change effects on loons, prevalence of blood parasites among waterfowl, impacts of fire on wetland characteristics and use by waterbirds, disease as a constraint to populations of Emperor Geese, landbird beak deformities as a factor in parental care, and effects of wind and atmospheric circulation on the migration of shorebirds. Biologists John Pearce, Dan Ruthrauff, and Bob Gill are assisting with conference organization. Further information may be found at: http://www.alaskabirdconference.com/.
Anchorage, AK, (907) 786-7094
The 2012 PICES meeting held October 12–21in Hiroshima, Japan is hosted by the Government of Japan, in cooperation with the Fisheries Research Agency and in coordination with the PICES Secretariat. USGS Alaska Science Center Research Wildlife Biologist John Piatt will present a summary of work by an international team to determine the functional relationship between marine bird populations and their forage base. This work has significance for ecosystem-based approaches to commercial fishing management worldwide. The presentation is titled "How much food is enough? The challenge in maintaining an adequate forage base for marine bird and mammal predators in a naturally variable environment." This year's theme is "Effects of natural and anthropogenic stressors in the North Pacific ecosystems: Scientific challenges and possible solutions." Further information may be found at: http://www.pices.int/meetings/annual/PICES-2012/2012-background.aspx.
Nordland, WA, (360) 774-0516
Shad O’Neel, Research Geophysicist with the USGS Alaska Science Center will attend the 2012 Meeting of Northwest Glaciologists held at the University of Washington, Seattle October 19-20.
Anchorage, AK, (907) 786-7088
On September 28, 2012, Tony DeGange, Karen Oakley, Karyn Rode and David Douglas participated in a teleconference with Jill Cohen and Ana Unruh-Cohen of the Ranking Minority Member Staff of the House Natural Resources Committee. The motivation for the briefing was to obtain scientific information on polar bears relative to climate change. While they were very interested in how polar bears are projected to respond to diminishing sea ice in the Arctic, they were also very interested in the population status and harvest management of polar bears in Canada. We did discuss this to a limited extent (namely that it is very complex in Canada—more populations, complex jurisdictions, different laws), but given it is outside of our area of expertise, we referred them to the Fish and Wildlife Service (MMM) and provided them with names of polar bear experts in Canada. Our remarks were primarily focused on polar bear ecology, relationships to sea ice, variation in how polar bears are responding to diminishing sea ice around the circumpolar North, and recent observations of sea ice declines in relation to modeled projections of sea ice decline, namely the recent phenomenon known as "faster than forecasted". We may be contacted again, as they noted that Congressman Ed Markey (D-MA), the ranking minority member, is also interested in how development in the Arctic will affect polar bears.
Anthony (Tony) DeGange
Anchorage, AK, (907) 786-7046
The USGS Alaska Technical Data Unit provided research assistance to Megan Friedel, an archivist and assistant professor of library science at the University of Alaska Anchorage. Access was given to the 1898 field notes of W.C. Mendenhall, a USGS geologist who, at the request of the War Department, accompanied an Army expedition to Alaska in that year. Headed up by Capt. Edwin Glenn, the party travelled from Resurrection Bay on the Kenai Peninsula through mostly unmapped territory to the mouth of the Delta River. Friedel is researching the diaries, journals, and photographs of the men who participated in the expedition for the creation of a website that will give people a concept of what the expedition was like for all involved.
Anchorage, AK, (907) 786-7457
During October 2012, USGS Alaska Science Center (ASC) scientists will enlist the help of a new cadre of students in a quest to solve the mystery of avian keratin disorder, which causes grotesquely crossed and overgrown beaks in Black-capped Chickadees and other familiar backyard birds. This autumn marks the twelfth year of a mark-recapture study in which ASC scientists are investigating seasonal and interannual prevalence of this beak disorder in the local chickadee population, measuring its effects on survival and reproduction, and seeking clues as to the cause. Researchers have formed a partnership with Mirror Lake Middle School to capture and bring live birds into the classroom and to teach students the basic principles of forming and testing hypotheses to solve real-world problems. Similar partnerships with BLM's Campbell Creek Science Center and the Eagle River Nature Center involve both school children and the adult public as apprentice detectives in this intriguing scientific investigation. For more information visit: http://alaska.usgs.gov/science/biology/landbirds/beak_deformity/index.html.
Anchorage, AK, (907) 786-7181
David Gustine (USGS Alaska Science Center biologist), Lindsay Vansomeren (USGS Volunteer and UAF graduate student), and Nathan Wolf (UAA post-doctoral researcher) recently completed the 2012 field season with a 6-day trip along the northern section of the Haul Road in northern Alaska. Part of the Alaska Science Center's Changing Arctic Ecosystem initiative, this field component is examining the potential influences of climate change on the phenology and availability of nutrients within the summer habitats of caribou on the North Slope of Alaska. Research began in May 2011, and data collection on abiotic and biotic components of summer habitat has occurred every 2 weeks from early May to late September and will continue through 2013.
Anchorage, AK, (907) 786-7435
USGS Alaska Science Center biologists Vanessa von Biela and Christian Zimmerman recently co-authored a new paper on the use of lake trout (Salvelinus namaycus) otolith chronologies to investigate climate driven changes in Arctic freshwater ecosystems. Methods developed for tree-ring studies in terrestrial ecosystems were applied to the annual growth increments in the otoliths (ear stones) of lake trout, a top predator in Arctic lakes across North America. Warmer August air temperatures were associated with increased lake trout growth over the study period (1964 - 1984). Additional lake trout otolith chronologies will be developed in future studies to examine responses between freshwater ecosystems and environmental variability across a range of lakes in Arctic and sub-Arctic Alaska. The paper was recently published online in Polar Biology at: http://www.springerlink.com/content/nrv3667780545r70/fulltext.pdf.
Black, B. A., V. R. von Biela, Zimmerman, C. E., and Brown, R. J. In press. Lake trout otolith chronologies as multidecadal indicators of high-latitude freshwater ecosystems. Polar Biology. doi: 10.1007/s00300-012-1245-9
Vanessa von Biela
Anchorage, AK, (907) 786-7073
USGS Alaska Science Center Wildlife Biologist Courtney Amundson, with collaborators in Minnesota, Louisiana, and Ontario, recently published a paper examining the benefits of predator removal to production and population change of mallards (Anas platyrhynchos) in the Prairie Pothole Region. In 1994, Delta Waterfowl Foundation began trapping mammalian meso-predators in North Dakota during the breeding season in an attempt to increase waterfowl nest success and enhance recruitment into the fall flight and subsequent breeding population. Multiple studies on these sites demonstrated that removing predators results in near doubling of nest success, which previous simulation modeling suggested was the most critical vital rate influencing population growth rate of mid-continent mallards. The authors presented an assessment of the impact of predator removal on mallard production using population models and vital rates mostly derived in the same place and time. The study suggests that waterfowl managers should assess multiple vital rates to determine the likelihood that management actions focused on a single parameter, such as nest success, will yield desired population level effects. This paper presents work that was part of Amundson's Ph.D. dissertation at the University of Minnesota.
Amundson, C. L., M. R. Pieron, T. W. Arnold, and L. A. Beaudoin. 2012. The effects of predator removal on mallard production and population change in northeastern North Dakota. Journal of Wildlife Management DOI: 10.1002/jwmg.438
Anchorage, AK, (907) 786-7062
A new report by USGS Alaska Science Center hydrologist Janet Curran presents estimated daily discharge values for ungaged periods at 11 streamgages in the Susitna River Basin. Planning and review of the proposed Susitna-Watana hydroelectric project generated a need for better estimates of streamflow throughout the basin. Regression equations developed from discharge values measured at concurrent USGS streamgages provided a means to extend streamflow records to ungaged periods during 1950-2010 on the basis of records at long-record index stations.
Curran, J.H., 2012, Streamflow record extension for selected streams in the Susitna River Basin, Alaska: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2012–5210, 36 p.
Anchorage, AK, (907) 786-7128
A new paper soon to be published in the Journal of Geophysical Research estimates coseismic slip on the southern Cascadia megathrust using computer tsunami simulations and prehistoric tsunami deposits in Bradley Lake, Oregon. The megathrust is the principal fault within the 1,100-km long Cascadia subduction zone where the Juan de Fuca plate descends beneath North America. Researchers tested hypothetical tsunami scenarios against a 4,600-year record of sandy deposits in a coastal lake that offer minimum inundation limits for prehistoric tsunamis. USGS Alaska Science Center scientist Rob Witter is the lead author of the paper entitled "Coseismic slip on the southern Cascadia megathrust implied by tsunami deposits in an Oregon lake and earthquake-triggered marine turbidites." The paper presents work done while Witter was at the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries. For an early "in press" viewing please visit: http://www.agu.org/journals/jb/papersinpress.shtml#id2012JB009404
Witter, R. C., Y. J. Zhang, K. Wang, C. Goldfinger, G. R. Priest, and J. C. Allan (2012), Coseismic slip on the southern Cascadia megathrust implied by tsunami deposits in an Oregon lake and earthquake-triggered marine turbidites. J. Geophys. Res., doi:10.1029/2012JB009404, In press. http://www.agu.org/journals/jb/papersinpress.shtml#id2012JB009404
Anchorage, AK, (907) 786-7404
II. Press Inquiries/Media
Research Wildlife Biologist Paul Flint was interviewed on October 3rd by journalist Michelle Theriault with the Anchorage Daily News (Alaska) regarding the recent finding of a king eider with a metal leg band on St. Paul Island, Alaska. The bird was originally marked by biologists in February of 1996 when oiled eiders were captured and rehabilitated following the MV Citrus spill of an unknown amount of bunker oil off St. Paul Island. Following the spill USGS biologists estimated that thousands of wintering king eiders were impacted by the oil spill. A total of 165 oiled eiders were sent to Anchorage for rehabilitation and subsequent release back to the wild off St. Paul Island. It is one of these rehabilitated birds that was found, now 16 years later.
Anchorage, AK, (907) 786-7183
On September 28, Karen Oakley and Chad Jay talked to Ben Anderson with Alaska Dispatch about the current status of walrus fall movements along the Chukchi Sea coast. The article includes quotes and photos from USGS biologists and links to the USGS Alaska Science Center animation site that displays tracking data used to describe walrus movements, foraging areas and sea ice habitats in the Chikchi Sea. The article "What Arctic ice scarcity means for walrus of Alaska" may be found at: http://www.alaskadispatch.com/article/what-arctic-ice-scarcity-means-walruses-alaska.
Anchorage, AK, (907) 786-7076