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The Science

IMG_2631Scientific research is a major component of Inian Islands Institute’s mission.  For researchers wishing to conduct ecological studies, we will provide a base with unprecedented access to the neighboring protected lands and rich waters.  Long-term moorings and observational plots will provide timeseries data elucidating environmental change.  Most importantly, under the tutelage of our staff and visiting professors, students coming to Inian Islands Institute will undertake their own self-designed research projects, from intertidal ecology to marine mammal monitoring to riparian diversity.  Through these projects students will acquire tangible skills in asking research questions, fieldwork savvy, and data interpretation.

In the remarkably rich setting of the Inian Islands, there are dozens of research questions awaiting bright students to pursue them.  The intact temperate rainforests and Pacific fjords provide a gorgeous natural laboratory, where questions of ecology can be asked without the burden of a thousand human-made degradations to the ecosystem.  It’s the sort of place where researchers from the California coast come to see what salmon streams looked like before they were dammed, polluted, warmed and emptied of fish.

By providing a research base, establishing long-term monitoring studies, and engaging students with questions of the local ecology, Inian Islands Institute will broaden the scope of research in Southeast Alaska, which is overwhelmingly dominated by fisheries science.

A few examples of possible projects in the region include:

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The effects of swelling populations of marine mammals.  After being hunted to local extinction by 1900, sea otters were re-introduced to Southeast Alaska in the 1960s, and their populations have skyrocketed.  Humpback whales and Steller sea lion populations are also increasing.  What effect will these voracious feeders have on the local ecology?

Status and trends of Brachyramphus spp.  The area surrounding the Hobbit Hole provides a refuge for many threatened and endangered species.  Two of these are the marbled and Kittlitz’s murrelets, which can be observed in great numbers, but about which little is known.

Ocean acidification.  The North Pacific is inherently vulnerable to the effects of ocean acidification, because its waters are relatively “old” and contain high amounts of CO2.  Jeremy Mathis, a researcher at NOAA, has instituted a program to observe the effects of acidification in nearby Glacier Bay National Park.

IMG_9418Climate Change and Yellow Cedar death.  Inian Islands Institute’s very own Lauren Oakes conducts her research on yellow cedars in this region.  With their shallow root systems, yellow cedars are especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change: a declining snow-pack allows cold snaps to freeze yellow cedar roots, killing the trees.  What will be the effects on forest ecology and the local communities?










One Comment Post a comment
  1. Nicole Tolliver #

    This site is great!

    October 25, 2017

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