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Alaska Harmful Algal Bloom Phytoplankton Monitoring

Submitted by David Zelenka on . Posted in Members Blog

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Washing down plankton netThe Alaska Harmful Algal Bloom Monitoring Partnership is composed of shellfish farmers, shellfish fishermen, tribal groups, state and federal agencies, educators and the University of Alaska working together as a volunteer-based Phytoplankton Monitoring Network (PMN) program in Alaska. AHAB's objective is to provide data on the timing and distribution of harmful algae along with measurements of environmental conditions and to analyze indicators and potential mechanisms for toxic algal bloom formation to develop the capacity to predict HAB events. The effort was sponsored by the University of Alaska Southeast and Fairbanks, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

In late-April 2008, Jim Beard, Fish Biologist, Thorne Bay Ranger District and Megan Fitzpatrick, EcoVan Coordinator, Southeast Island School District, attended the initial 2-day workshop on phytoplankton monitoring for harmful algal blooms (HAB). The workshop taught HAB identification and techniques for sampling and reporting HABs. The effort was sponsored by the University of Alaska Southeast and Fairbanks, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Student with plankton netSampling took place twice in May 2008 in Coffman Cove, and a couple of times during the 2008-2009 school year in Thorne Bay.  Students in upper elementary school and middle school participated in these sampling efforts. Students enjoyed sampling and plankton identification. However, enumeration of plankton samples for reporting purposes was both tedious and very time consuming and proper enumeration protocol had to be abandoned due to educational time constraints. Further, Mrs. Fitzpatrick changed jobs, and both Mrs. Fitzpatrick's and Mr. Beard's workload increased, limiting the time for the proper enumeration protocol to take place. It was subsequently decided to sample plankton periodically when time allowed, do a quick identification for the students, abandon the enumeration portion, and use this as an educational tool rather than a reporting tool of HAB's.

In late-April 2009, Mrs. Fitzpatrick attended a 2-day follow-up HAB workshop. It was learned at this workshop that the enumeration protocol had been significantly streamlined. During the 2009-2010 school year, Mrs. Fitzpatrick and Mr. Beard plan to use the streamlined enumeration protocol so that sampling efforts in Thorne Bay will be viable to use as a tool in the AHAB PMN.