In June 2022, Kaida Irvin, Chloe Lane, Cayenne Boe, Hoonah City Schools science teacher Darcy Higgins, and HIA Coastal Resilience Program Manager Sean Williams traveled to Glacier Bay National Park for 3 nights to partake in ocean monitoring with the National Park Service.
National Park Service Fisheries Biologist Craig Murdoch regularly involves the public on the park’s oceanographic monitoring of Glacier Bay. His day-long scientific oceanographic tours of the bay are an incredibly valuable opportunity for people to connect to the park and learn about the parks geologic history, wildlife, stewardship and conservation, and marine environment. Although Hoonah is located only 25 miles from the park, it is difficult for many Hoonah residents -especially youth- to travel to the park, making each and every trip a special opportunity.
The National Park Service tests for 3 fundamental factors that increase knowledge about the marine environment: temperature, conductivity, and density. These factors are helpful for scientists to understand salinity, depth, and temperature, and phytoplankton concentrations of marine waters, which tells us about the “health” of the ocean and its impacts on life.
Craig was surprised to see anomalously warm waters for June, and lower “layering” of freshwater and salt water in the upper arms of the bay near the glaciers. It is possible that upwelling – the convection of deep, nutrient dense ocean water to the surface – is responsible for a smaller freshwater lense on top of the water near glaciers. Upwelling is critically important for marine species such as whales and salmon, and its effects push freshwater down the bay away from the glaciers.
Hoonah students also participated in Environmental-DNA (EDNA) sampling of the park. EDNA is a scientific method that collects DNA (genetic material) that is shed by organisms into the environment. The DNA material is pumped into a small filter and sent to a laboratory for analysis. This passive collection method has allows for rapid, cost-effective, and standardized collection of data about species distribution and relative abundance, and has the potential to identify the presence of invasive species, endangered species.
The Hoonah Indian Association Coastal Resilience Program is working with the NPS to perform EDNA monitoring at ISP and the Hoonah Harbor, where phytoplankton sampling has been monitored by the IGAP program for several years. There are over 5,000 known species of phytoplankton, and scientists estimate that this is only a fraction of the species’ true diversity. EDNA sampling has the potential to efficiently and effectively identify far more species with less human error and mis-identification, which will improve our knowledge about marine ecosystems and phytoplankton, which can cause paralytic shellfish poisoning, red tides, and other processes that can impact fisheries. This pilot project between the National Park Service and the Hoonah Indian Association will ideally tell us about the presence of marine invasive species, marine endangered species, biodiversity, phytoplankton & harmful algal blooms that create paralytic shellfish poisoning, and much more.