For students immersed in Alaska Pacific University’s marine biology research programs in Anchorage, it may be a long trek to class and their biggest textbook won’t fit in their backpacks.
That’s because their classroom is likely a real beach, far from the Anchorage campus, and that textbook is the ocean.
Just ask graduate student Sarah Webster, who is engaged in Pacific halibut research on the Kenai Peninsula, or Danielle Verna, who is studying ballast tanks in oil tankers in Valdez.
The whole idea, says Brad Harris, assistant professor of marine biology at APU, is to get students directly involved in research projects that directly serve local, state, national and international research needs.
“We work primarily on fishery species life history, stock assessment, age and growth, mortality and recruitment, habitat assessment and fishing gear performance,” said Harris. “We assess the interactions of fisheries regulations on fishing communities and on fishery by-catch conflicts.”
The work of students and faculty at APU’s Applied Fisheries Science Laboratory is supported through a variety of federal, state and private industry grants and partnerships, Harris said. At present these include grants from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the At-Sea Processors Association and partnerships with a broad range of state, federal, academic and private groups, he said. These include the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, NOAA Fisheries, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the University of Massachusetts and the Smithsonian Institute.
The faculty reaches out to build relationships with private industry and government agencies, while teaching students to try to think out how to develop a principle-based framework for research before conflict arises, he said.
APU’s Applied Fisheries Science Laboratory is currently engaged in more than a dozen research projects, partnered with federal and state agencies and other universities.
More information about the APU fisheries program is at http://www.alaskapacific.edu/academics/environment/marine-biology