TRAYLS Crew 2020 Monitors Impacts of Changing Oceanic Conditions in Southeast Alaska

The TRAYLS crew learns about population ecology, the scientific methods, and stratified random sampling while also contribution to regional climate change monitoring.

The 2020 TRAYLS crew put on their scientist hats and assisted Sean Williams, Hoonah Indian Association Coastal Program Manager, with monitoring the coast for the impacts of climate change. The TRAYLS crew members assisted with blue mussels monitoring in order to track the impacts of climate change on coastal resources.

Scientists use blue mussels as biological indicators of oceanic climate change. A bio-indicator is a living organism that can be used to indicate the condition or status of the environment. Blue mussels are used as bio-indicators because there is a relatively large body of scientific knowledge available, and because they have a very wide global range. By studying a blue mussel bed in Alaska, the TRAYLS crew contributed to the global scientific understanding of how climate change will impact the ocean and our livelihoods. Blue mussels are specifically vulnerable to ocean acidification, warming oceanic temperatures, and relative sea level change.

Understanding the distribution and abundance of blue mussels is important for understanding the long-term impacts of ocean acidification, increasing sea surface temperatures, and relative sea level rise. The TRAYLS crew evaluated the size and density of blue mussels in order to set a baseline for long term observations by recording the size of the community, its population size distribution, water and air temperature, and relative elevation of the shoreline.

The TRAYLS crew also assisted Sean with invasive species monitoring in Hoonah Harbor. The invasive species monitoring program, Plate Watch, is a citizen science initiative managed by the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center. The team installed 10 passive monitoring plates, and a water temperature sensor on the transient dock in Hoonah Harbor. In September 2020, we will pull the plates in order to check to see if any invasive species are present.

Invasive species can disturb natural food webs and cause costly harm to vessels and equipment. Whiting Harbor in Sitka has been closed since 2010 due to an invasive tunicate Didemnum vexillum that fouls marine vessels and eradicates native marine life.

Check out the Blue Mussel Monitoring Protocol here

Be sure to stay tuned to the HIA Environmental Facebook page for updates on our coastal monitoring.

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