A School of Fish: Reel-world BYU climate research in Alaska

A School of Fish: Reel-world BYU climate research in Alaska


For the past four days, we’ve been in Pybus
Lodge, it’s south of Juneau about 50 miles. We’ve been coming here with students for five
consecutive years now because you have all of this wonderful stuff through here and it’s a great outdoor classroom and laboratory for us. One of the things that we would love to know
and that we’re actually getting some data on is how climate affects growth of rockfishes. Fishing doesn’t seem like it’s much work but
in this case it is work. Oh gracious! Holy mackerel! It’s just been so fun even though it’s been
really tiring. My arms are tired. I don’t know if I can! I’ll kick your halibut
Oh good fish. That might be bigger than mine
Every night on the dock we sort them out. We’ve taken a two-pronged approach. We designed a long-term project about climate
change and then year that we come we try to design some research that can be done in the
short term. This year we’re focusing on the incidence
of a particular parasite. This is the parasite queen right here! I think field work is super exciting and getting
to be out in nature and I think we can make a big difference especially for the fisheries
out here. We’re catching those fish, the rock fish,
and then we’re pulling out those parasites so that we can take them back to BYU for further
analysis. And so we have the long-term data and that
involves looking at the position of these species of rock fishes in the food web and
how that might change through time. We’re on the cusp of a big change but we need
to document how things are right now so that we can look at patterns over time. One of the things that we’re hoping to do
is to be able to tie growth rates to long-term changes in climate. There are bones in the head of fishes called
otoliths and we can pull those out and we can get a growth record of the fish from that
bone. You can see one otolith sitting right there. So this fish will be 20-25 years old. It produces rings. It’s kind of like tree rings. It gives us a climate record and we can go
back in time and see how that climate affected growth compared to how this climate affects
growth. With climate change the problem is that we
don’t perceive the changes as being something that is really hitting us significantly and
we’re not going to see that until it may be too late. The key is it’s not just that climate’s changing. It’s the rate at which it is changing. And if you don’t believe that climate is changing,
move to Alaska because they see evidence right here. Last summer there was a warm water event and
it may only raise the average water temperature a few degrees but organisms are very finely
tuned to the temperature that normally occurs in their environment. And so their growth rates can decline, that
cascades through the system, until you have affects up at the top level. You know you get the most frustrated when
you think this makes me so mad and I can’t do anything about it. And the only redemption from that is to think
“But I can do something about it. I can teach students that and things will
change through time.” I think that we can work with these students
and really give them an experience that they would not have otherwise in their education. I’ve learned a great deal about research works,
and how important research. By taking these trips, we’re discovering more
about the world around us and we’re answering questions that have never been answered before. Good fish! Look at this right here. That is an advanced jaw right there. This trip really has given me a lot of inspiration
to widen my horizons. That’s huge! As Cody can attest, if you get one of those
through your boot it really hurts… It’s so important to do what you want to do
in life. That’s a perfect fish. Can I keep it? You can definitely keep it. Oh yeah! And I’m so so glad I came. I’ve just loved being here, being outside,
seeing all the different wildlife. The people here have been amazing. If I can be out doing research and hopefully
making a difference in the world, I think I’ll take this with me my whole life. Out of all places that you could teach hands-on,
this has got to be one of the best. The good halibut award for today
That’s why I came here and Samantha gets the double rockfish award. Oh yeah.
which is almost as highly coveted as the good halibut award.

4 thoughts on “A School of Fish: Reel-world BYU climate research in Alaska

  1. The climate has changed since the beginning of time. The idea that man is causing climate change is fantastical. Glaciers covered almost all of Canada, parts of the northern United States, and carved what are now the Great Lakes only a few thousands of years ago. If man can change the climate we should endeavor to make it warmer. Global cooling is a far greater threat to mankind than warming ever will be.

  2. Awesome! Good work BYU guys! Great scenery, beautiful fish, great study. From the MTC, Bogota, Colombia (And Go Cougs!)

  3. While it is interesting to study and determine how different climate patterns can affect fish growth, I am unclear what the desired end result of this project is. Humans have never had the ability to change their climate, weather they engaged in dancing for rain, or blood sacrifices (human or animal), or political stress, humans have never been smarter than God and been able to permanently alter the climate. So, is this project designed to help fishermen forecast the kind of harvests they can anticipate, and when the best breeding conditions are?
    Thank you.

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