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Weekly Highlights for 8-11-2011

Departmental/Bureau News

Walrus Tracking and Sea Ice Decline in the Chukchi Sea
USGS researchers, in cooperation with the Native Village of Point Lay, will attach 35 satellite radio-tags to walruses on the coast of northwestern Alaska in August. Walruses are coming ashore to rest because of a lack of offshore sea ice, which is normally used to rest upon between food searches; similar onshore hauling out behavior has occurred during the last several years. The tracking study is part of the USGS Changing Arctic Ecosystems program to better understand how walruses are responding to reduced sea ice conditions in late summer and fall. The USGS is collecting data on walrus foraging behavior and movements throughout areas of the Chukchi Sea during periods when sea ice is present and when sea ice is absent over the continental shelf. The Western States Office of Communications has developed a communications plan that includes a news release, social media strategy, press conference, and partner coordination and participation on these products as appropriate. For preliminary tracking results throughout the summer and early fall, visit
Contact: Chadwick Jay Anchorage, AK, (907) 786-7414

New Publication on Endangered Ancient Salmon Species Migration
A new publication published in the journal of Environmental Biology of Fishes examines diversity of migration in Sakhalin Taimen of the Russian Far East. Working with researchers from the United States, Japan, and Russia, USGS Alaska Science Center Research Fish Biologist Christian Zimmerman recently published a paper examining the migratory behaviors of Sakhalin taimen in the Russian Far East and the island of Hokkaido in Japan. Taimen are classified as one of the most endangered fish in the salmon family and little is known about their behavior or ecology. Using otoliths, Zimmerman and his colleagues were able to reconstruct the migratory history of taimen between freshwater rivers and the ocean. Contrary to expectation, some very large taimen from one Russian river were found to be freshwater residents. This unexpected behavior may be explained by the highly productive fish community within this watershed that provides a high quality prey base for taimen and precludes any need to migrate to sea. The paper "Migration of Sakhalin taimen (Parahucho perryi): evidence of freshwater resident life history types" and abstract can be found at:

Christian E. Zimmerman, Peter S. Rand, Michio Fukushima, and Segei F. Zolotukhin. 2011. Migration and growth of Sakhalin taimen (Parahucho perryi): evidence of freshwater resident life history types. Environmental Biology of Fishes.
Contact: Christian Zimmerman Anchorage, AK, (907) 786-7071

USGS Scientist Presents at Annual Meeting of the Western Field Ornithologists
USGS Alaska Science Center research wildlife biologist Robert Gill will give two talks at the 36th annual meeting of the Western Field Ornithologists (WFO) in Sierra Vista, Arizona. The meeting will be held August 17-21 to discuss research results that strive to increase knowledge, appreciation, and protection of birds and their habitats throughout western North America including Hawaii, the northeastern Pacific Ocean, and Western Mexico. The first talk entitled "The Yellow Sea as a functional ecosystem: Why the North American conservation community should be concerned and involved" will discuss the unprecedented scope and rate of loss of intertidal habitats throughout the Yellow Sea and how this affects migratory waterbirds, particularly shorebirds. Specifically, the talk will discuss a new, multi-faceted effort involving coordinated science, outreach and education, enforcement of international agreements, and diplomatic intervention that will hopefully result in effective conservation actions. The second talk entitled "Wayward youth: The occurrence and migration of juvenile Sharp-tailed Sandpipers" will discuss a unique age-related migration strategy among birds and describe a 7100- to 9800-km-long nonstop migration by this small sandpiper from Alaska directly across the Pacific to wintering areas in Australasia. In addition, Gill is a member of the WFO Board and the editorial staff of Western Birds, the WFO quarterly publication, and will attend respective meetings of each while at the conference. Further information can be found at
Contact: Robert Gill Jr. Anchorage, AK, (907) 786-7184

USGS to Co-sponsor Western Hemisphere Shorebird Group Meeting
USGS Alaska Science Center research biologist Daniel Ruthrauff will present at the 4th Western Hemisphere Shorebird Group Meeting August 11-15. The meeting held at Simon Fraser University, in Burnaby, British Columbia will bring together shorebird biologists and educators who study shorebirds from their breeding grounds in the arctic to their wintering grounds in South America. The purpose of this meeting is to share research findings and ideas in order to promote shorebird conservation in the western hemisphere. The talk entitled "Subspecific comparison of Rock Sandpiper metabolic rates: response to temperature and implications for non-breeding distributions" will discuss Ruthrauff's PhD work looking at the physiological foundation of two subspecies of Rock Sandpiper to see if their distinct non-breeding distributions are reflected in basic metabolic parameters. This study was conducted with collaborators in the Netherlands. Further information can be found at
Contact: Daniel Ruthrauff Anchorage, AK, (907) 786-7162

Interdisciplinary Studies on Ecosystem Effects of 2008 Kasatochi Eruption Continue
Scientists from the USGS Alaska Science Center, Alaska Volcano Observatory, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the University of Alaska, and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas will visit Kasatochi Volcano in the central Aleutian Islands from August 15-17 to continue their interdisciplinary studies of geology, geomorphology, and ecosystem recovery following the catastrophic eruption of the volcano in August 2008. Despite the prominence of volcanoes in southwestern Alaska, particularly in the Aleutian Islands, the role they play in shaping terrestrial and nearshore ecosystems in this area is poorly studied. Kasatochi Volcano is remote and uninhabitable, and access is difficult. The science team will fly to Adak, a remote Aleut community in the central Aleutians and then board the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's M/V Tiglax on which they will live while conducting their studies.
Contact: Anthony (Tony) DeGange, (907) 786-7000

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