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  • Pacific herring juvenile winter survival and recruitment in Prince William Sound

    Sewall, Fletcher; Norcross, Brenda; Mueter, Franz; Kruse, Gordon; Heintz, Ron; Hopcroft, Russ (2020-05)
    Small pelagic fish abundances can vary widely over space and time making them difficult to forecast, partially due to large changes in the number of individuals that annually recruit to the spawning population. Recruitment fluctuations are largely driven by variable early life stage survival, particularly through the first winter for cold temperate fishes. Winter survival may be influenced by juvenile fish size, energy stores, and other factors that are often poorly documented, which may hamper understanding recruitment processes for economically and ecologically important marine species. The goal of this research was to improve understanding of recruitment of Pacific herring (Clupea pallasii) within Prince William Sound (PWS) through recruitment modeling and by identifying factors influencing winter survival of young-of-the-year (YOY) herring. Towards this end, my dissertation addresses three specific objectives: 1) incorporate oceanographic and biological variables into a herring recruitment model, 2) describe patterns in growth and condition of PWS YOY herring and their relationship to winter mortality risks, and 3) compare the growth, condition, swimming performance, and mortality of YOY herring that experience different winter feeding levels. In the recruitment modeling study, annual mean numbers of PWS herring recruits-per-spawner were positively correlated with YOY walleye pollock (Gadus chalcogrammus) abundance in the Gulf of Alaska, hence including a YOY pollock index within a standard Ricker model improved herring recruitment estimates. Synchrony of juvenile herring and pollock survival persisted through the three-decade study period, including the herring stock collapse in the early 1990s. While the specific mechanism determining survival is speculative, size-based tradeoffs in growth and energy storage in PWS YOY herring indicated herring must reach a critical size before winter, presumably to reduce size-dependent predation. Large herring switched from growth to storing energy, and ate more high-quality euphausiid prey, which would delay the depletion of lipid stores that compelled lean herring to forage. Lipid stores were highest in the coldest year of the seven-year field study, rather than the year with the best diets. With diets controlled in a laboratory setting, spring re-feeding following restricted winter diets promoted maintenance of size and swimming ability, but had little effect on mortality rates compared to fish continued on restricted rations. Declines in gut mass, even among fully fed herring, and low growth potential suggest limited benefits to winter feeding. Mortalities due to food restriction compounded by disease were highest among herring that fasted through winter months, and among small herring regardless of feeding level. Taken together, these findings illustrate the importance of achieving a critical size and high lipid stores in the critical period before winter to promote YOY herring winter survival and ultimately recruitment.
  • Diversity and community structure of eukaryotic phototrophs in the Bering and Chukchi seas

    Lekanoff, Rachel M.; Collins, R. Eric; McDonnell, Andrew M.P.; Danielson, Seth L. (2020-05)
    The phytoplankton of the Bering and Chukchi seas support highly productive ecosystems characterized by tight benthic-pelagic coupling. In this study, we focus on the northern Bering and Chukchi seas, considering them as one ecosystem. This community has historically been dominated by diatoms; however, climate change and accompanying warming ocean temperatures may alter primary producer communities. Using metabarcoding, we present the first synoptic, high-throughput molecular phylogenetic investigation of phytoplankton diversity in the Bering and Chukchi seas based on hundreds of samples collected from June to September in 2017. We identify the major and minor taxonomic groups of diatoms and picophytoplankton, relative abundances of genera, exact sequence variants (201 for diatoms and 227 for picophytoplankton), and describe their biogeography. These phylogenetic insights and environmental data are used to characterize preferred temperature ranges, offering insight into which specific phytoplankton (Chaetoceros, Pseudo−nitzschia, Micromonas, Phaeocystis) may be most affected as the region warms. Finally, we investigated the likelihood of using shipboard CTD data alone as predictive variables for which members of phytoplankton communities may be present. We found that the suite of environmental data collected from a shipboard CTD is a poor predictor of community composition, explaining only 12.6% of variability within diatom genera and 14.2% variability within picophytoplankton genera. Clustering these communities by similarity of samples did improve predictability (43.6% for diatoms and 32.5% for picophytoplankton). However, our analyses succeeded in identifying temperature as a key driver for certain taxa found commonly throughout the region, offering a key insight into which common phytoplankton community members may be affected first as the Alaskan Arctic continues to warm.
  • Carbon flux and particle-associated microbial remineralization rates in the northern Bering and southern Chukchi seas

    O'Daly, Stephanie Hicks; McDonnell, Andrew M. P.; Hardy, Sarah M.; Johnson, Mark A. (2019-12)
    It has been hypothesized that climate change will reduce the strength and episodic nature of vernal phytoplankton blooms, increase heterotrophy of microbes and zooplankton, and weaken the tight coupling between pelagic and benthic production that is characteristic of Arctic continental shelves. As a part of the Arctic Shelf Growth, Advection, Respiration, and Deposition rates measurement (ASGARD) project, I quantified sinking particle fluxes and incubated sinking particles to measure the rate of microbial respiration associated with those particles. These measurements were used to characterize the strength of the pelagic-benthic connection. After a record-breaking year of warm temperatures and low-ice conditions in the northern Bering and southern Chukchi Seas, we observed massive vernal fluxes of sinking particulate organic carbon, ranking amongst the highest observed in the global oceans. Moreover, low rates of particle-associated microbial respiration indicate negligible recycling of sinking organic matter within the water column. These results suggest that the strength of the biological carbon pump may be maintained or enhanced in a warming Arctic, supporting strong benthic and upper trophic level productivity and carbon export.
  • Numerical investigations of the hydrography, dynamics, and ice distributions of Chukchi Sea shelf

    Lu, Kofan; Danielson, Seth; Weingartner, Thomas; Hedstrom, Kate; Shimada, Koji; Winsor, Peter (2019-08)
    Warm, moderately salty Bering Sea Water (BSW) carried into the Chukchi Sea through Bering Strait provides an oceanic heat flux for melting sea ice comparable to that of the solar heat flux. Intrusions of BSW transport heat and nutrients via intrapycnocline eddies vertically beneath the sea ice and laterally across structural fronts near the ice edge, setting up hydrographic features important to ice edge communities and the seasonal evolution of the ice melt-back. However, the intrapycnocline eddy dynamics and associated hydrography near the fronts have not previously been well described or characterized. Three numerical models using the Regional Ocean Model System (ROMS) are integrated to systematically investigate the importance of the intrapycnocline eddy field and the factors that affect its dynamics. The models suggest that the heat transported by eddies depends on frontal stratification, which is influenced primarily by the Bering Strait inflow discharge and salinity. The eddy field is also indirectly modified by the sea surface height, which varies with strong winds. Two frontal zones near the ice edge are identified according to the model-derived hydrographic structures and eddy dynamics: the Shelf Water Transition Zone (SWTZ) and the Melt Water Transition Zone (MWTZ). Improved understanding of these frontal zones will benefit future research of the ice edge ecosystem. Our models show a noticeable effect of strong wind events on ice edge displacement and vertical transports, both of which may be important to primary production in the frontal zones. Changing winds associated with increasing sea surface temperatures could alter the manifestation of the processes highlighted in this study.
  • Particles in the Pacific: how productivity and zooplankton relate to particles in the deep sea

    Pretty, Jessica L.; McDonnell, Andrew; Johnson, Mark; Hopcroft, Russ (2019-05)
    The magnitude and spatio-temporal patterns of particulate material flux from the surface ocean through mesopelagic and bathypelagic depths determines sequestration of atmospheric carbon and the food supplied to deep-dwelling ocean life. The factors that influence how and where this organic material is exported from euphotic depths are poorly understood. Zooplankton are thought to play a key role in modulating the transport of surface-produced particles to depths through consumption, fragmentation, active diel vertical migration, and fecal pellet production, thus it is important to study both particulate matter and zooplankton in tandem. In this study, I use an in-situ optical instrument, the Underwater Video Profiler 5 (UVP5), to describe broad scale patterns of large (> 100 μm) particles and zooplankton across a longitudinal transect of the Pacific Ocean during April to June 2015. Satellite-derived surface chlorophyll-a was employed to describe the timescales over which particles arrive in meso- and bathypelagic depths after a productivity peak. High abundances and volumes of particles are noticeable beyond the euphotic zone across the Equator, transition zone, and the sub-arctic Pacific, indicating increased export in these high-nutrient low-chlorophyll (HNLC) areas. In two of these areas, the Equator and transition zone, large abundances and volumes of particles extend into bathypelagic depths. High abundances of zooplankton were seen in all areas where high abundances of particles are seen in bathypelagic waters. Rhizaria were revealed to be pervasive across all biogeographic regions, and appear to play a role in particle attenuation in the sub-arctic Pacific. The insight into patterns between particles, zooplankton, and productivity identify HNLC regions as deserving more detailed examination in future studies of biological pump efficiency.
  • Circulation and dynamics on the Northeastern Chukchi Sea Shelf

    Fang, Ying-Chih; Weingartner, Thomas J.; Winsor, Peter; Kowalik, Zygmunt; McDonnell, Andrew; Williams, William J. (2017-12)
    The circulation on the northeastern Chukchi Sea shelf is controlled by the poleward pressure gradient between the Pacific and Arctic Oceans. Local winds modulate the upper ocean and can rapidly alter the flow field. Present understanding of the circulation is largely based on subsurface measurements, but the response of near-surface currents to the slowly-varying secular pressure gradient and rapidly-varying local winds has not been addressed. I analyzed surface current data, extending more ~150 km offshore in the northeastern Chukchi Sea, collected from shore-based high-frequency radar systems (HFR) during the open water season. I find three wind-induced circulation regimes. Two of these are related to strong northeasterly winds when wind speeds approach or exceed 6 m s⁻¹ and the third results from infrequent northwesterly winds at >~6 m s⁻¹ . I find two dynamically different regions separated along ~71.5°N associated with hydrographic changes. North of 71.5°N the water column is strongly stratified due to cold and dilute ice meltwaters, whereas the water column to the south is much less stratified. These differences are reflected in the current response to the winds. I also adapted and refined an HFR data processing technique and developed an economical way to assess HFR-derived data quality, which is beneficial when using HFR data collected from networks having suboptimal coverage. I investigated the poorly understood circulation around Hanna Shoal. North of the Shoal there is a zonal gradient in the thermohaline and flow fields. The eastern side of the Shoal is strongly stratified year-round and vertically sheared unlike the western side, where the flow is steadily northeastward over the water column. Dense bottom waters flow clockwise around Hanna Shoal, but zonal convergence is implied in the upper water column north of the Shoal. The circulation is influenced by the distribution of late summer sea ice and by clockwise-propagating topographic waves.
  • Trace metals in Arctic fast ice

    Domena, Vincent; Aguilar-Islas, Ana; Rember, Robert; McDonnell, Andrew (2017-12)
    Trace metals in the marine environment are found in trace amounts, but are important tracers of oceanographic processes, and bioactive trace metals can impact ocean biogeochemistry through their nutrient or toxic influence of microbial populations. Sea ice is an intrinsic feature of the Arctic Ocean that likely plays a key role in the cycling of trace metals, given that this substrate can concentrate, alter, and transport these elements. Warming conditions in the Arctic have decreased sea ice cover over the past decades and the loss of sea ice threatens to drastically change the Arctic ecosystem, but the implications are not entirely understood. The scarcity of studies on Arctic sea ice entrained trace metals is due in part to the lack of commercially available sampling equipment capable of collecting sea ice without introducing contamination, and in part to the logistic and economic difficulties in accessing remote Arctic sea ice sites. Natural heterogeneity related to large sediment loads incorporated in uneven patches across Arctic fast ice poses a challenge when designing observational studies of trace metals in sea ice. The scope of this thesis is on the study of trace metals in Alaskan Beaufort Sea fast ice environment. The study includes snow, sea ice and seawater under the ice. Analysis of dissolved (Mn, Fe, Cu and Zn) and particulate (Al, Mn, Fe, Cu and Zn) phases was carried out from 50 ice cores collected with a trace metal clean ice corer developed at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. The results of this study indicated that the ice corer developed at UAF was able to collect uncontaminated samples. Highly variable and elevated concentrations of particulate (> 0.2 μm) trace elements were observed due to the notable variability in the amount of sediment incorporated within ice cores, but surprisingly dissolved (< 0.2 μm) metal concentrations were relatively low and consistent. The observed low dissolved metal concentrations, along with low bulk salinity and low percent leachable particulate trace metal fractions, suggest that desalination removed reactive metals from the ice matrix prior to sampling. Spatial variability of dissolved and particulate trace metals was statistically analyzed and indicated generally negligible variability on the meter scale, but significant variability on the kilometer scale, for both size classes. These results emphasize that future studies of trace metals in sea ice should include temporal and spatial considerations.