March 3, 2014

NPRB supports Bering Sea Project student participation in the 2014 Ocean Sciences Meeting

Tags: Bering Sea Project

In recognition of the vital contribution that students have made to the Bering Sea Project, prinicipal investigators participating in the Bering Sea Open Science Meeting (BSOSM) were invited to nominate outstanding students to receive travel support to join them at the BSOSM.


Anna Syzmanski is pursing her MS in marine biology at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Anna works in Rolf Gradinger and Bodil Bluhm's lab where she helps Rolf and his team in identifying Bering Sea plankton and sea ice algae. Anna describes the experience as "bringing it all together": 

Last week people gathered from around the world for the 2014 Ocean Science Meeting in Honolulu, HI. In conjunction with this convention, Honolulu also hosted the Bering Sea Open Science Meeting (BSOSM), a two-day session dedicated to interdisciplinary work in the Bering Sea. For those in the Bering Sea Project, this represented the culmination of over six years of hard work and dedication. After being faced with the task of integrating the entire Bering Sea ecosystem – from physics to fish, and beyond—the result was a comprehensive picture of the Bering Sea.

As a graduate student at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, I was very fortunate to attend the conference. Prior to the BSOSM, my experience with the expansive Bering Sea Project consisted of a battered cardboard box full of brown bottles. At UAF I work with algal samples collected during project, studying the diversity of ice algae and their contribution to the phytoplankton. It is research that is intimately linked to many processes in the Bering Sea: ice conditions and surface currents, nutrient concentrations and temperature gradients, grazing rates and predation pressures. Without understanding these factors, my results are meaningless.  

The BSOSM encompassed all of this in two days of posters, presentations and conversation. Having so many of the Bering Sea Project participants present allowed for discussions that crossed disciplinary boundaries and incorporated all aspects of Bering Sea ecology. I was not onboard the BEST or BSIERP cruises; I didn't lower CTDs into the frigid water or estimate the sediment load in the ice as the ship churned through it. But thanks to the work of over one hundred people, at the BSOSM I was transported there. Through Phyllis Stabeno's nutrient data, Tom Weingartener's circulation maps, Lisa Eisner's phytoplankton studies and Diane Stoecker's work on micro-zooplankton (along with many others), I received a reconstructed glimpse of the Bering Sea environment. And beyond the rich context of this collected research, I was even more impressed by the support and dedication that the participants demonstrated, both towards each other's work and my own efforts. From describing unpublished work to offering me the use of personal samples, the people at the BSOSM were unfailingly supportive.

The Bering Sea Project has been recognized as a unique and successful venture in interdisciplinary science, and meetings like the BSOSM offer an unparalleled opportunity for collaborative work. I am grateful not only that I was able to participate in this year's meeting, but also that I have a chance to contribute one small piece to the mosaic of research that these exceptional people have created in the Bering Sea.


Jordan Watson is a PhD student at the University of Alaska Fairbanks' School of Fisheries and Ocean Science in Juneau. Advised by Franz Mueter and Alan Haynie, Jordan is working to better understand how commercial fishing is impacted by variation in climate and stock abundance.  In Jordan's words: 

The Bering Sea Open Science Meeting and the accompanying session during the 2014 Ocean Sciences Meeting were a great opportunity for perspective. These meetings provided a synthesis of the Bering Sea Project, which spanned both time and trophic levels. My dissertation is focused on fishing vessel behaviors in the North Pacific pollock and Pacific cod fleets and it is easy to get bogged down in the details of pollock and people, without stepping back and examining the breadth of ecosystem dynamics that drive the fleets. On a daily basis, I can easily neglect to focus on the plankton populations that ultimately drive pollock and subsequently, the fishing fleets. Similarly, it is easy to ignore how the marine mammals and sea birds may respond similarly or differently to fish population dynamics, as compared to the fishing fleets. But this meeting was a great opportunity for me to synthesize that information into a broader, ecosystem image of such trophic connectivity. Conversely, the opportunity to showcase my own work (in the form of a poster) yielded great feedback and insights from the multidisciplinary community that was present at the meeting, expanding not only each other’s perspectives, but the professional network of scientists working in the Bering Sea.

(click image to download Jordan's poster)