photo courtesy Jude Isabella



Resilience Amidst a Sea of Change: The New Northern Gulf of Alaska LTER program

Suzanne Strom is a Senior Marine Scientist at Western Washington University’s Shannon Point Marine Center. She has spent three decades studying the biological oceanography of the Gulf of Alaska. Her primary interest is the diversity and activity of organisms at the base of the food web: phytoplankton and microzooplankton. Key questions include how the environment regulates the production and interaction of these organisms, and how their communities respond to long-term change. Dr. Strom also studies planktonic protists in the laboratory, asking how they communicate with and defend themselves against each other.  Over the years nearly 100 students have been directly involved with this research.


CANCELED: Peter haeussleR, ph.d., research Geologist, U.s. geological survey

Earthquakes and tsunamis of the southern Alaska margin and their relationship to the 30 November 2018 M7 Anchorage earthquake

The M7 Anchorage earthquake of 30 November 2018 served as a reminder that southern Alaska is situated above a tectonically active, earthquake-prone subduction zone. Subduction zone earthquakes, such as the 1964 M9.2 event, can produce strong shaking, and some may cause seafloor deformation that may in turn trigger tsunamis. The 2018 Anchorage earthquake occurred at a depth of about 45 km within the slab of ocean lithosphere that is subducting beneath the North American plate, thus it is referred to as an “intraslab” earthquake. The source mechanism of the earthquake indicates it was related to the slab being pulled apart as it sinks into the mantle. Smaller magnitude earthquakes of this type are common in the Anchorage region, but dramatically different in nature than the 1964 M9.2 earthquake, which remains the second largest ever recorded worldwide. The 1964 earthquake occurred on the shallow “megathrust” fault that marks the interface between converging tectonic plates. Slip on the fault caused large areas on- and offshore to uplift (to 10 m) and subside (to 2 m). In contrast, the 2018 earthquake resulted in subsidence (to 0.08 m) over a limited area onland in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley without an associated tsunami. In contrast, the 1964 earthquake produced large-scale change of the ocean bottom, because the megathrust ruptured the seafloor and generated shaking that lasted as long as 4-5 minutes. These effects dislodged blocks and resurfaced the bottom of many fjords, generating tsunamis that killed many people along the coastline as well as fish in the water column. Both types of earthquakes are inevitable consequences of a tectonically active plate boundary and they reflect different processes occurring at different depths along a subduction zone. Although these earthquakes vary in size and effects, they both show that Alaska needs to be prepared for, and resilient to, the effects of earthquakes and tsunamis.

Peter J. Haeussler is a Research Geologist at the U.S. Geological Survey in Anchorage, Alaska, where he has lived and worked for the last 26 years. His current research focuses on understanding active tectonic processes in southern Alaska, with studies on the frequency of earthquakes, the location and rate-of-movement of active faults, and mountain building. Other research efforts relate to submarine-landslides and their role in tsunami generation, as well as framework geology for energy and mineral resource assessments. He is author or co-author on more than 130 scientific publications. He completed his B.S. in Geology from Michigan State University, and his Ph.D at the University of California Santa Cruz.


Richard Thoman, Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy, Alaska Climate Specialist

One More Complication: Alaska’s Changing Oceans

The oceans around Alaska are vital to the state and the world. But the oceans are no longer passive players to be traveled upon, to be studied or holding resources to be exploited. Our oceans are changing: warming water  and decreasing sea ice are already generating cascading impacts to the biology and the larger climate and environmental system for which we have only a limited understanding. This talk will review some of the ongoing changes in the oceans around Alaska and present some challenges in moving forward.

Mr. Thoman has worked in Alaskan weather and climate for more than 30 years. He recently retired from the National Weather Service Alaska Region as the Climate Science and Services Manager and is spending his golden years working as a Climate Specialist with the Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy. 

Jeff Short Photo.jpg

jeff short, ph.d., retired, National oceanic & atmospheric administration

Opening our eyes to ecosystem change: the scientific legacy of the Exxon Valdez oil spill

Thirty years ago, the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill strongly perturbed the nearly-pristine marine ecosystem in Prince William Sound (PWS).  Occurring during oceanographic spring, the spill polluted thousands of square kilometers of sea surface just before the arrival of innumerable birds, mammals and fish to reproduce.  The affront to the nation released unprecedented resources to evaluate the effects, which were especially clear with the general absence of other contamination sources. State and federal agencies recognized the need to distinguish natural ecosystem change from responses attributable to the spill.  Supported with a $900M fund from the settlement, the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council (EVOSTC) was created to meet these challenges.  The administrative procedures of the EVOSTC were designed at the outset to ensure that funded studies met the highest scientific standards of evaluation, monitoring and review.  Funded research led to major discoveries regarding the effects of the spill, including the ecotoxicology of oil pollution, the persistence of oil, and long-term impairment of affected marine life populations.  These discoveries have informed damage assessments of every subsequent large oil spill worldwide.  Companion studies on the functioning and secular change of the marine ecosystems revealed previously unknown ecosystem processes and created long-term time-series of ecosystem behavior.  Direct benefits include early detection of abrupt ecosystem change such as oceanographic regime shifts, and the recent marine heat wave in the Gulf of Alaska (aka "the blob").  Moreover, recognition of the need for participating researchers to collaborate and share their findings led to the EVOSTC Oil Spill Symposium in January, 1993, which subsequently evolved into the Alaska Marine Science Symposium.  This visionary approach to integrated ecosystem research continues to provide Alaskans, the nation and the world with the knowledge needed to plan for an increasingly uncertain future.

Jeffrey Short retired from a 31-year career as a research chemist at the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, where he worked primarily on oil pollution and other contaminant issues.  He was the leading chemist for the governments of Alaska and the United States for the damage assessment and restoration phases of 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill, and did numerous studies on the distribution, persistence and effects of the oil on the marine ecosystem affected by it.  Dr. Short is the author of more than 70 scientific publications and has contributed to 3 books on oil pollution. Dr. Short now works as a consultant on oil pollution fate and effects, and has worked on projects and advised government agencies of Canada, China, Ecuador, Korea, Norway and the Russian Federation regarding issues related to oil spills and oil pollution.

photo by Mike Carlowicz

jude isabella, author, editor-in-chief of hakai magazine

The Origin of a Story

When I fell into journalism in the pre-internet age, I discovered that stories could inspire people to change their thinking, behavior, or situation. Narratives proved themselves to have power. And over the years it’s become apparent that the stories with the strongest impact on an audience are the ones that sweep away writers before they place their hands on a computer keyboard—they grab the scent of an idea and hunt for the elements that give it form.

It seems an act of wizardry to conjure 6,000 — or 50,000 — words out of what begins as a thought. But writers train themselves to recognize a story’s building blocks, to identify compelling characters, and to connect details incongruent on the surface. And that’s all so much easier if you pay attention to what sets your mind on fire, and to the thoughts that jab you at odd times again and again.

Jude Isabella has been a science journalist for over 25 years. She has a BA in political science and history from the University of Rhode Island, and an MA in writing and anthropology from the University of Victoria. As a journalist she has worked for newspapers and magazines on staff and as a freelancer. She spent a dozen years as managing editor of the award-winning YES Mag, Canada’s science magazine for kids, while also freelancing for science publications and writing the book, Salmon, a Scientific Memoir. After four years of research and field work, Jude created a narrative that offers readers an understanding of the salmon ecosystem through the different lenses.

In 2015, she launched Hakai Magazine, an online publication focused on coastal science and societies. Supported by the Tula Foundation, Hakai Magazine has made a name for itself in the science journalism world and won numerous awards. As rewarding as it is to edit and write long form science journalism, Jude continues to write for young readers. She’s written five books for kids, one of which won the prestigious American Institute of Physics award. Her latest book, about the wolves of Yellowstone National Park for Kids Can Press, is slated for publication in 2019.