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Three Minute Thesis Accolades

Congratulations to NGA graduate student, Emily Stidham! Emily won both Second Place and Most Improved Speaker Award in the University of Alaska Fairbanks Graduate School’s Three Minute Thesis competition with her presentation Chasing the Carbon. Well done, Emily!

Photo downloaded from UAF Graduate School and Interdisciplinary Studies
Photo downloaded from UAF Graduate School and Interdisciplinary Studies


2022 Field Season Comes to a Close

Charles Cousins and Hannah Kepner work on the ISIIS-DPI system on the deck of the R/V Sikuliaq before the start of the spring cruise.

That’s a wrap on the 2022 NGA LTER field season! In late April the season started with a chilly expedition aboard the R/V Sikuliaq. Although storms battered our efforts, the weather cooperated enough for us to complete all of our sampling lines, as well as deployment of the Gulf of Alaska Ecosystem Observatory moorings. These moorings allow for collection of in-situ data.



Sierra, Ana and Emily
Sierra Lloyd, Ana Aguilar-Islas and Emily Ortega sampled water chemistry parameters during the summer cruise. Photo courtesy of Emily Ortega.

The summer Sikuliaq cruise forged ahead, despite weather and COVID challenges. Scientists expanded upon regular grid sampling by conducting more in-depth examinations of the role of the Copper River’s freshwater input to the NGA. This included small-boat operations around the mouth of the Copper River.


The fall expedition aboard the R/V Tiglax began right on schedule. Luckily this was immediately after a major storm event passed through the Gulf. The science team was able to keep on pace, and completed all sampling along the Seward Line and into Prince William Sound.

Rainbow over the Gulf of Alaska, captured from the stern of the R/V Tiglax.

Many fall cruise participants departed straight from the ship to meet colleagues at the 2022 LTER All Scientists’ Meeting. The meeting was held September 19-23 in Asilomar, CA. After a long time apart, it was great to join together with members from other LTER network sites.

Our NGA LTER team will gather again in Fairbanks in December. The goal will be to share recent findings, and plan ahead for 2023 and beyond.

New Funding for PhytoCLAS (Culture, Language, Art, and Science)

Katie Gavenus, our Education and Outreach Coordinator, has been successful in securing funding for a new project titled PhytoCLAS (Culture, Language, Art, and Science). This is a North Pacific Research Board funded project learning about phytoplankton in the Gulf of Alaska through culture, language, art, and science. There are two complementary components to this project: (1) working with local language speakers to highlight or develop local Native words for plankton and (2) creating opportunities for youth in coastal communities around the Northern Gulf of Alaska to learn about phytoplankton through outdoor sampling, microscope labs, art, presentations, and language.

We are looking forward to working with a variety of partners on this project, including the Alutiiq Museum and Archaeological Repository and Chugachmiut Heritage Preservation Program, as well as school districts, youth groups, and informal learning programs from Kodiak Island to Cordova!

Student Interviews Describe NGA LTER Science

We’ve posted a new video in the NGA LTER YouTube channel. In it, some of our graduate students (and one post-doc) describe what inspires them about working on NGA LTER science. Through these student interviews, you get glimpses of our fieldwork and what makes life aboard R/V Sikuliaq so special.

Michele Hoffman Trotter and her team collected these interviews while sailing on our Summer 2021 Sikuliaq cruise. They were also able to film the nets, instruments, and water samples that we use to investigate the NGA ecosystem. We played the video for our Site Reviewers in August, and now you get to see it too. Enjoy!

NGA LTER Women in Oceanography Featured in Network Article

Megan O'Hara
NGA LTER graduate student Megan O’Hara.

Western Washington University graduate student Megan O’Hara wrote an article for the LTER Communication Network, which was featured in November’s LTER Network News. The article Women in Oceanography: Highly Accomplished but Still Underrepresented features the NGA LTER‘s own Suzanne Strom, Kelley Bright and Ana Aguilar-Islas.

Megan is a master’s student studying phytoplankton in the NGA. Her thesis is titled “Cryptophytes in the Northern Gulf of Alaska: an analysis of distribution and regulation of mixotrophy.”

Link to the article.

Article my Megan O'Hara
LTER Network Communications.

Science Nugget – Spring Bloom, 2021

more planktonic organisms spring 2021

Massive, early spring bloom in the northern Gulf of Alaska, April-May 2021

Satellite measurements

Some of the highest chlorophyll concentrations recorded during the 24-year occupation of the Seward Line were seen in late April – early May 2021, in association with a massive spring bloom of diatoms. As an illustration, satellite imagery from NASA’s VIIRS (Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite) shows the bloom developing rapidly between April 18th and 25th.

Chlorophyll-a April 18 2021
Satellite measurements of Chlorophyll-a in the Gulf of Alaska, April 18, 2021 [Credit: Rachel Potter from NASA VIIRS data]
Chlorophyll-a April 25 2021
Satellite measurements of Chlorophyll-a in the Gulf of Alaska, April 25, 2021 [Credit: Rachel Potter from NASA VIIRS data]

Field sampling provided details

Our field sampling from R/V Sikuliaq coincided with this bloom. We found relatively cool ocean temperatures and, in places, fresher conditions than usual, as shown below for the GAK line. High chlorophyll was mostly confined to the upper 20 m of the water column (as seen in the fluorescence section below). Likely, this bloom was a response to intermittent sunny days and light winds. Late April chlorophyll-a concentrations reached almost 30 μg liter-1 on the inner MID line. In contrast, in some springs the peak concentrations are only one-tenth this level. Surface macronutrients (nitrate and silicic acid) had been drawn down to levels usually observed in summer (<1 μM liter-1).

temperature and salinity plot
Anomalies of temperature and salinity along the Seward Line, spring 2021 [Credit: Seth Danielson]
fluorescence plot
Fluorescence along the Seward Line, spring 2021 [Credit: Russ Hopcroft]

Microscopy conducted on board showed a diverse mixture of chain diatoms and colonial Phaeocystis comprising the bloom phytoplankton community. Concurrently, late-stage juveniles of the spring dominant Neocalanus copepod community had large amounts of lipid stores. At some stations, these copepods were already beginning their seasonal descent to deep diapause depths. Conversely, seabird abundances were some of the lowest ever observed during the >20-year time series, and few marine mammals were sighted.

The early, intense bloom of large, lipid-rich phytoplankton bodes well for survival and growth of krill and larval fish in 2021.

Planktonic organisms
Planktonic organisms in the Gulf of Alaska, Spring 2021

For further information contact Russ Hopcroft (rrhopcroft@alaska.edu) or Suzanne Strom (stroms@wwu.edu)

Short Course in Oceanographic Fieldwork Announcement

In August, 2021, the University of Alaska’s College of Fisheries and Ocean Science is offering a short course in oceanographic fieldwork for subarctic environments.

MSL425/625 Augustmester class flyer [credit: Will Burt]

UAF’s AUGUSTmester courses are intense, three-credit courses that meet for only ten weekdays.
All students must be in good academic standing to take an AUGUSTmester course.

2021 Alaska Native REU

Students and scientists

Spring 2021 to Fall 2021

Students and scientists
Students and scientists in Prince William Sound, Alaska. Photo courtesy of Hana Busse.

The Northern Gulf of Alaska Long Term Ecological Research (NGA LTER) project invites Alaska Native undergraduate students to participate in our interdisciplinary project during 2021. 

Timing options for student involvement:

  1. Spring and Summer 2021
  2. Summer 2021 only
  3. Summer and Fall 2021
  4. Spring and Fall 2021

Any of the first three options include an opportunity to participate in a research expedition (dates to be determined as sea activities may be subject to quarantines, personnel reductions, and other restrictions due to COVID-19).

NGA LTER is one site within the national LTER network. Our research team investigates the features, mechanisms, and processes that drive NGA ecosystem production and foster its resilience. Scientists conduct ship-based observations and experiments, do research in land-based laboratories, run computer models of the ocean, and communicate findings to  students and the public through education and outreach partners.

We seek a Alaska Native undergraduate student with interest in the Northern Gulf of Alaska to work with our University of Alaska Fairbanks team. Student research will integrate with work currently being done on the NGA LTER ecosystem. The time period of this REU position could includes our summer expedition aboard R/V Sikuliaq, so participation in ship-board research activities is possible, as is work that fosters partnerships with other disciplines. Research themes include biogeochemical cycling, microplankton ecology, physical oceanography, chemical oceanography, zooplankton ecology and molecular studies. 

This REU opportunity is not limited strictly to oceanographic research, but can be a project that promotes partnership between marine science  and other disciplines. Projects can be related to fields including but not limited to visual arts, music, education, engineering, communication. Participation could include joining a research  expedition to the Northern Gulf of Alaska onboard  R/V Sikuliaq, or it could be carried out fully at the UAF campus. The student will present their work to the UAF LTER community when the project is completed.



  • Stipend of $5760 for a position that requires 480 total working hours.
  • Additional  funds may be available to offset housing and transportation costs.



  • Alaska Native heritage

Preference will be given to applicants whose resume indicate:

  • Desire to work in a team setting.
  • Communication skills.
  • Organizational skills.
  • An interest in science.
  • Self-motivation.
  • Enrolled in the UA system.
  • Upper division status in a bachelor’s program.

How to Apply

Annie filtering nutrients
Filtering nutrient samples aboard the R/V Sikuliaq.

Applicants must be citizens or permanent residents of the U.S. and its possessions and must be enrolled in a 2- or 4-year institution of higher education. Students who have received a bachelor’s degree before the start date of the program are ineligible. 

To apply, email each of the following:

  1. Cover letter
  2. Resume

Make sure your resume includes:

  • Contact information: email address and telephone number
  • Previous work and academic experience
  • Anticipated graduation date
  1. Transcripts

Unofficial transcripts are acceptable.

  1. One letter of reference

Questions? Please contact projectmanager.ngalter@gmail.com