Collaborative Research: Community Based Phytoplankton Observatory for Northwestern Alaska Coastal Waters

Lead PI: Dr. Ajit Subramaniam , Alex Whiting, Edward J Carpenter,

Unit Affiliation: Biology and Paleo Environment, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO)

September 2023 - August 2028
Active
North America ; United States
Project Type: Research

DESCRIPTION: The Arctic is warming at more than twice the rate as the rest of the planet with subsequent changes to the microbial population. The coastal community of Kotzebue is located 30 miles north of the Arctic Circle on the eastern shore of Kotzebue Sound, an embayment of the southeast Chukchi Sea, in northwest Alaska. Kotzebue Sound is commercially important to the community, which harvests on average 230,000 chum salmon, and the fish and marine mammals from the Sound provide up to 70% by weight of their annual food harvest. But, as important as the Sound is to the local community, there have been few comprehensive studies of phytoplankton - the microbes that make up the base of the food web in the Sound. Thus, knowledge of phytoplankton populations including that of Harmful Algal Blooms that could impact food security is also of immediate importance to the people who live here. This proposal initiates a year-round long-term observational program of phytoplankton populations, relevant physical characteristics, and nutrient concentrations in the waters around Kotzebue. This project will measure water column hydrography, nutrient concentrations, and phytoplankton populations at six sites using boats during the ice-free season and at two locations through the ice in the winter. In addition, a YSI Exo 2 sonde will be deployed to make measurements every 10 minutes during the ice-free season. Information about interannual and annual changes in an estuarine system produced here is not currently available through large scale programs like the Distributed Biological Observatory or the offshore research projects occurring in the adjacent Chukchi Sea and thus this project fills an important scientific and societally relevant gap. This project to set up a sustained observation program has been co-conceived and co-designed with coPI Whiting, the Environmental Program Director for the Native Village of Kotzebue. Given the importance of knowledge about changes in phytoplankton populations and cyanotoxins to food security, findings from this project will be presented to the community in a variety of ways including: reports to the Tribal Council, radio interviews, newsletters delivered to residents, evening presentations at the community center, presentations at the middle and high school, as well as social media such as Facebook and Instagram pages. Findings will also be presented to Alaska Harmful Algae Bloom Network run through the Alaska Ocean Observing System. Kotzebue middle and high school students will be provided a Planktoscope and the teachers will be trained to set up class projects for sampling waters around Kotzebue for the students to learn about local plankton.

BROADER IMPACTS: This project to set up a sustained observation program has been co-conceived and co-designed with coPI Whiting, the Environmental Program Director for the NVOK. Given the importance of knowledge about cyanotoxins, findings from this project will be presented to the community in a variety of ways including: reports to the Tribal Council, radio interviews, newsletters delivered to residents, evening presentations at the community center, presentations at the middle and high school, as well as Facebook pages. Findings will also be presented to Alaska Harmful Algae Bloom Network run through the Alaska Ocean Observing System. Kotzebue middle and high school students will be provided a Planktoscope and the teachers will set up class projects for sampling waters around Kotzebue to learn about local plankton. In addition, these teachers will take part in the Earth2Class Teacher Training program at LDEO to develop and exchange lesson plans with other earth science teachers in the New York City region. Two graduate students, one each from SFSU and LDEO, will be trained on this project.

SPONSOR:

National Science Foundation

FUNDED AMOUNT:

$1,159,178

EXTERNAL COLLABORATORS:

San Francisco State University

WEBSITE:

https://www.nsf.gov/awardsearch/showAward?AWD_ID=2229121