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Phytoplankton Workshops Hope to Grow Shellfish Industry

UAS Ketchikan provides series of phytoplankton collection and monitoring workshops for regional shellfish growers.

Workshop PhotoThe University of Alaska Southeast Ketchikan Fisheries Technology program is holding a series of a phytoplankton collection and monitoring workshops for regional shellfish growers. The first was held April 25-26, 2008 at the UAS Ketchikan Technical Center.

The two day workshop provided training to shellfish growers on collection, sampling and identification of phytoplankton, including those species that cause harmful and eventually toxic algal blooms that can lead to paralytic shellfish poisoning, or red tide. Appropriately collecting, sampling and identifying these microscopic organisms can help shellfish farmers better understand bloom dynamics as they relate to shellfish production. Relatively little is known about harmful algal bloom dynamics in Southeast Alaska and increased knowledge may provide useful information to shellfish growers and harvesters.

Ketchikan is partnering with groups or individuals willing to collect water samples on a regular basis to monitor for phytoplankton blooms. UAS Ketchikan will provide equipment to growers. This pilot monitoring programSoutheast Alaska Harmful Algal Bloom (SEAHAB) Monitoring Partnership, will provide continuing resources for monitoring as well as assess phytoplankton on a continuous basis to gain a better understanding of HAB events in the region. The ultimate goal is to better develop a regional shellfish industry.

UA President Mark Hamilton is excited by the possibilities. At the Board of Regents meeting in Ketchikan April 16-18, he said, “The confluence of leading edge academic research combined with the commitment to share the emerging knowledge is the essence of University contribution to the economy.  Knowing the threats to shell fish and understanding the ideal conditions for shipment both protect the product and add to its value by arriving at market healthy and alive.  These are top notch scientists who seek advice and observations from the people who are involved in the shell fish industry on a daily basis.  We are very proud of the faculty at Ketchikan campus.”

Two nationally recognized researchers in phytoplankton monitoring presented at the workshop.  Steve Morton Ph.D., is from NOAA’s National Center for Coastal Ocean Science Center for Coastal Environmental Health and Biomolecular Research in Charleston, South Carolina and Vera Trainer Ph.D., is the Director of the Harmful Algal Bloom Program at NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center.

In addition, Allison Sill, the Program Coordinator for the Phytoplankton Monitoring Network (PMN) and Keri Baugh, a Fisheries Biologist in the Marine Biotoxins Program at the Northwest Fisheries Science Center (NWFSC) assisted with the workshop.

UAS Ketchikan Assistant Professor of Fisheries Technology Kate Sullivan and UAS Juneau Associate Professor of Biology Ginny Eckert are co-hosting the phytoplankton workshops. Sullivan has been the primary faculty member for the Fisheries Technology program for UAS Ketchikan since 2004.  Currently the Fisheries Technology Program has twelve students enrolled in the Associate of Applied Science degree program.  Previously, Sullivan and Morton collaborated on a similar phytoplankton monitoring project in Maine.


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