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Education activities review: August 20 – 24

August 23, 2012

Science collaborative project

Last Saturday’s community monitoring day in the Fox River Flats went really well, with all plots finished up and muddy, happy monitors heading back up the switchback via 4-wheelers, horses, and bikes by mid-afternoon. We experienced all sorts of weather – brilliant sunshine, flat calm, gusting wind, and rain…thankfully the rain started only as we headed back up the bluff at the end of the day. While documenting the plant communities (very different from what we found in the Sadie Cove marsh), our 6 teams saw Northern Harriers hunting shorebirds, Sandhill Cranes flying along the bluff, and a few wolf tracks out on the flats – plus LOTS of cow and horse tracks and live cattle. Catie’s team even had a young cow walk to within 10 feet of them while lunching!

Pre-K through 12th grade coastal science education

All 24 available 2013 Discovery Lab programs have now been booked, as well as 10 Estuary Hikes in April and May 2013.

KBRR visitors & science outreach

This week we enjoyed a visit with Nina Garfield, program specialist for NOAA / ERD and liaison for all of the Pacific Northwest Research Reserves, from Silver Springs, Maryland. KBRR staff, George Matz, Steve Lewis, and Savannah Lewis joined Nina and her daughter Bella for an Estuary Hike in Beluga Slough. Under sparkling clear skies, the group saw Sandhill Cranes, chatted about various research projects, discussed the value of monitoring events (like our 2008 BioBlitz and 2011 Science Collaborative vegetation survey in Beluga Slough) and contributions to science by local youth, and met a group of visitors from China exploring the boardwalk with their local guide (an avid supporter, we found out, of our summer Estuary Hikes!). While in Homer, Nina met with our staff and some of our community partners. She also joined our staff in the field for several days to experience some of our project work in the China Poot salt marsh and along the Anchor River.

In case you missed Catie’s interview with Marcia Lynn on the radio (KBBI) last week regarding the spruce needle rust, here’s a link to that story: Red Film Spotted On Waters Around Kachemak Bay.

In addition to solving the mystery of the red coloration on local waters, Reserve staff have recently been challenged with identifying several interesting fish found locally.

The fish above, in a photo provided by oyster farmers Steve and Cheryl Rykaczewski, is a crested sculpin (Blepsias bilobus). This is a juvenile; adults get to be about 10 inches long. Crested sculpins are found off most of Alaska’s coast at depths less than 120 meters. One distinguishing feature for identifying this fish is the pectoral fin (the one on the side), which reaches very far back. The Rykaczewskis reported that they are finding this fish in their oyster gear and don’t remember seeing it before. This species has not been recorded in Kachemak Bay to date – so the Rykaczewskis’ close observations have led to another new fish being added to the Reserve’s annotated fish checklist.

Also, while working in the Sadie Cove salt marsh 2 weeks ago, during a Science Collaborative project field day, KBRR staff ran across some amazingly bright green fish.

KBRR staff member & salmon researcher Tammy Hoem sent photos to the University of Fairbanks for identification, and we got this response from Thaddaeus Buser with the School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences:

“The fish is a sharpnose sculpin, Clinocottus acuticeps…commonly found in intertidal areas with freshwater inputs. In fact, it can even be found up to a hundred meters upstream in creeks that do not already host specialist freshwater sculpins (i.e., members of the genus Cottus). The sharpnose sculpin is one of two species that I know of that can turn that brilliant green color. The other species doesn’t range this far north.”

Catie is going to have to add a page to her sculpin guide, as neither of these fish are included on the current version.

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