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Life on the EdgeAcre for acre, streams of the coastal temperate rainforest along the Gulf of Alaska export 36 times as much dissolved organic carbon as the world average. Dissolved organic carbon derived from soils has a large biodegradable component, making it an important food source for freshwater and marine food webs. In the Tongass National Forest alone, there are 14,000 streams exporting these high-value nutrients to the estuaries that support Alaska’s $5 billion fishing industry.

Life on the Edge: Carbon Fluxes from Wetland to Ocean Along Alaska's Coastal Temperate Rain Forest

Jason at Herbert Glacier

Current Research

Jason Fellman, Research Assistant Professor at UAS, is involved with several carbon projects. His research goals are to understand how the ecology and biogeochemistry of proglacial streams may change as receding glaciers are replaced by forested ecosystems (and as glaciers contribute less meltwater to streamflow); and to determine how climate warming is affecting wetland carbon dynamics and the export of organic carbon to freshwater and coastal marine ecosytems.

 Jason's current glacial stream projects include studies of atmospheric deposition and glacial organic carbon export to determine if byproducts from fossil fuel combustion are the main source of carbon within (and exported from) glacial ecosystems. He and his collaborators are also conducting a series of laboratory bioassays to determine if glacial organic carbon, which they hypothesize is mainly from deposition of fossil fuel combustion byproducts, is highly available to aquatic organisms. These laboratory bioassays are paired with a stream food web study to determine if proglacial stream food webs are sustained by old but bioavailable organic carbon released from glacial ecosystems. High resolution sampling of glacial outflow streams and watersheds of varying glacial coverage are also being conducted to assess how changes in watershed glaciation influence the cycling and exchange of organic matter between terrestrial, freshwater and coastal marine ecosystems.

Jason's current wetland carbon projects with Dave D'Amore (USFS PNW) and Eran Hood (UAS) include a soil laboratory incubation experiment to determine the potential vulnerability of wetland soil carbon stocks to projected changes in climate warming, as well as a high resolution field sampling campaign to quantify fluxes of organic and inorganic to coastal marine waters. They are also planning to initiate an in situ soil manipulation experiment where we will transplant wetland soil cores along an elevational transect to determine how changes in temperature and precipitation influence soil carbon dynamics. This team is particularly focused on determining how climate change will impact organic carbon delivery to aquatic ecosystems.


Glacier Workshop  •  March 5-6, 2013

The goal of this workshop (sponsored by the Alaska Climate Science Center) was to develop a comprehensive scientific framework for studying how climate-driven changes in glacier mass loss and turnover will impact coastal ecosystems spanning the icefield-to-ocean continuum in Alaska and British Columbia. We wanted to identify specific information needs and science priorities for connected terrestrial-marine ecosystems that are impacted by glacial runoff; develop an interdisciplinary conceptual model that can guide the science needed to evaluate physical and ecological impacts of glaciers on coastal ecosystems in Alaska and Canada; and consider the immediate and long-term information needs of resource managers.

Group photo outside

"From Icefield to Ocean" Publication Now Available

Icefield to Estuaries

"From Icefield to Ocean: Explore the many ways that glaciers influence Alaska's coastal ecosystems" is a 4-page publication that describes  glacier dynamics and ecology, the role that glaciers play in ocean processes, and the impacts of climate change on this dominant feature of Alaska's coastal ecosystems. This publication is product of the March 2013 Juneau Glacier Workshop, an interdisciplinary effort to establish a better understanding of the icefield to ocean system and identify key research and management questions to address in the future.

"Voices of Glacier Bay" Project 

"As the sounds of a ferocious spring storm roars past all our windows, the sounds of Glacier Bay are beginning to reach into the ears of folks around the country."  ACRC is collaborating with Richard Nelson and Hank Lentfer on a research project in Glacier Bay National Park, outside Gustavus, Alaska.  The goal of the project is to catalog the majestic sounds of Glacier Bay, and make them available to the public.  Richard and Hank have been recording in Glacier Bay for many weeks now. They come out of the field once a week to download audio, restock their supplies, and recharge (themselves and their batteries).  Some of their recordings are available below.  At the end of the project, all the audio they collect will be given to Cornell University, where a team of technicians will clean, edit, archive, and host the recordings for public listening.

While Richard and Hank are leading this project, their work is being supported by other individuals working in and around Glacier Bay.  Christine Gabriele, a wildlife biologist who studies underwater acoustics in Glacier Bay, has been helping them coordinate some of their outreach efforts.  She has also assisted with administrative tasks and elements of their study design.  Her help has been a great asset to the project and we all would like to thank her for her continuing contributions.

If you are interested in this project and would like to learn more, please listen to the audio clips below and visit Hank’s blog: Sounds from Alaska  and  Richard’s blog: Encounters

From the Field

Night Sounds

The first strands of music and fledging utterances of language stirred in the minds of early humans whose lives were embedded in the deeply complex soundscape of the natural world. Distilled from that complexity is the small suite of sounds endlessly re-combined to form presidential speeches, Inuit riddles, Tibetan prayers, and conversations unfolding around tables and campfires the world round. Also winnowed from the diversity of whistles, howls, and hoots of the natural world are the twelve familiar notes that we continuously re-arrange to create everything from low-down blues to high-flying rock and roll, from foot-tapping Irish reels to angelic choirs. Read More >>

- Hank Lentfer

Wet, Wild, and Weird

This sound is as wet, wild, and weird as a voice can get. It was picked up by a hydrophone anchored to the bottom of Glacier Bay. Five miles of cable snakes past bathtub-sized halibut, colorful starfish, fluorescent sea pens, clacking crabs, snapping shrimp, and clam siphons the size of your wrist, and eventually plugs into a set of speakers continually spilling sound into the little corner office of my friend and neighbor Chris Gabriele—who, as a scientist for the Park Service, has devoted her life to trying to fathom what motivates humpback whales to do all the bizarre things they do. That’s a lot of cable out there, I say. For a whale, explains Chris, it’s all about sound; the acoustic habitat is like a tree to a robin, a rock to a barnacle.  Read More >>

- Hank Lentfer

Sea-Side Chorus

There’s a chunk of bedrock rising from the cold waters of Glacier Bay to form a little scrap of an island topped with a tuft of spruce trees. The rock has not always been in Glacier Bay. In fact, a mere 400 million years ago it was not a rock at all but a growing blanket of broken shrimp legs and abandoned clam shells settling into the mud and muck of a tropical backwater lagoon. Read More >>

- Hank Lentfer

The Hermit and the Humpback

What does a furtive, feathered, woodland creature with a pea-sized heart have in common with a deep-water behemoth with nostrils big enough to put your head into?

I’m not sure either. But I do know that last week at twilight, while sleeping in a tent pitched along the beach of a wooded island, I was lifted from sleep by the cathedral of sounds pouring from a hermit thrush and then slapped fully awake by the explosion of breath roaring from the giant nostrils of a humpback whale.

I lay there, eyes wide in the early twilight, adrift in clouds of sounds more evocative, riveting, sensual, surprising, and soothing than the sweetest dream. Eventually the whale swam on, the thrush quit singing, and I went back to sleep, but I can’t say what happened when or why. I can say it feels like a stunning stroke of grand good fortune to share a planet with such splendid noise makers and a bonus piece of good luck to have gone to sleep where they’d wake me up.

- Hank Lentfer

Thunder Thrush

Thunder, for us Alaska-born-and-bred types, is a hang-up-the-phone-run-out-the-door-whoop-and-gawk experience that happens once every couple of years. I was, fortunately, already outside, recorder in hand, when a storm cracked and rumbled and rolled overhead last week. Headphones clamped to my head, microphone held high, I was surprised to hear that the warblers and thrushes kept right on whistling and tweeting and chipping away, just as they were before the sky let loose its avalanche of sound.

Then I remembered that those tiny, feathered beings spend most of their lives in thunder-rattled regions of Texas and Tucson, Mexico and Guatemala. Business as usual for these guys. If they had grins only half as crazed as the one I was wearing, there is no way they could have kept singing.

- Hank Lentfer

Front Yard Wolf

Peanut butter and jelly for quick lunches, bars for quicker wee-morning snacks, tents and tarps, recorders and microphones, binocs and cameras, coffee and cream, extra hat and dry socks, spare paddle and worn life vest, books without time to read—it all starts jumbled on the porch, barely unpacked from the last trip. It gets re-tucked into totes and stuffed back into bags, hauled in a garden cart down the worn trail to the truck, slid from truck bed to creosote dock to waiting boat. Heading out for two days or ten, doesn’t matter, the pile of gear is always too much and sometimes it feels like all we do is move it around, schlepping it down and up slick beaches, heaving it in and out of the boat. So sometimes we don’t. Read More >>

- Hank Lentfer

Kittiwakes and Ice

Last week I parked my boat in front of several gazillion tons of cracking, cascading, craggy ice, all of it spitting and popping and plunging bergs into the sea. Not your everyday sights and sounds. But, a mere 10,000 years ago, the sounds of groaning glacial ice (mixed with bellowing mammoths) stretched from Puget Sound to Manhattan Island. While the glacier in front of my vessel was just a tiny shard of its continental ancestor, it was big and rowdy enough to make a guy and his boat feel really, really small. Read More >>

- Hank Lentfer

For more information regarding this project, please contact Hank Lentfer at or visit Lentfer's blog.


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