Fellowship: Epibenthic Communities in the Beaufort Sea
Fellowship: Epibenthic Communities in the Beaufort SeaAlexandra M. Ravelo, University of Alaska Fairbanks
Scope of Work:
This fellowship will support Alexandra Ravelo’s project studying epibenthic communities. The purpose of this study is to characterize the epibenthic communities in the central Beaufort Sea (between 147º and 150º west longitude) and compare these communities to the ones found in the adjacent Chukchi Sea. These goals will be accomplished by joining an existing cruise in summer 2011 that will be conducting epibenthic beam trawls for fishes in central Beaufort. At this time, very little is known about these soft-sediment epibenthic communities of the central Beaufort Sea. Considering the potential oil exploration that this area will be subject to, there are intrinsic needs to increase our knowledge of these communities to be able to monitor the changes caused by anthropogenic activities and better preserve our natural resources. An existing database of epibenthic communities in the Chukchi Sea surveyed in 2009 and 2010 using the same equipment will be used to make comparisons between the two seas. The central Beaufort Sea baseline data collected will include overall species composition and distribution and also abundance, biomass, size, and sex structure of targeted species. Multiple questions will be asked with these baseline epibenthic data, including 1. Are epibenthic communities distributed in patches or are all species evenly distributed throughout the study area? 2. Which species are most important in determining community structure as far as abundance and biomass? 3. What is the current population structure of the most important species as far as size frequency, abundance, biomass, and male to female sex ratio? 4. Does the community vary with any environmental (depth, grain size, temperature, salinity) or fish community parameters? The importance of this project is centered on the need for having a better understanding of the epibenthic community composition and the structuring environmental variables that take place.