Michelle Ridgway | Friday, 22 April 2011 - Friday, 29 April 2011

Date(s): 
22 April 2011 to 29 April 2011
Speaker: 
Michelle Ridgway

In conjunction with the annual Bering Sea Days, speaker Michelle Ridgway visited St. Paul Island, Alaska. Bering Sea Days is a week long event that focuses students attention on the marine science and ecological concerns of the Bering Sea. Ms. Ridgway has participated in the Bering Sea Days in the past and is a welcome addition to the community event. Please see below for a complete schedule of events.

22 April at 7:30 pm

COMMUNITY PRESENTATION at St. Paul School, videocast to St. George School

Pribilof Canyon Biodiversity in 3-D: Come "fly" with Submarine Pilot/Marine Ecologist Michelle Ridgway as she presents a new three-dimensional view of marine life within Pribilof Domain – from island shores to the bottom of Pribilof Canyon. Ridgway took the audience on a virtual cruise off the deep end – over the Beringian shelf edge, over undersea slides, into deep chasms showing "hotspots" for commercial fisheries species, gelatinous zooplankton, king crab, corals and exquisite marine life in the deep sea. Ridgway shared plans for the 2011 – 2013 deeper submarine research in Pribilof Canyon and described how local students and community members may participate in this work. All ages invited.

26 April at 7:00 pm

COMMUNITY PRESENTATION at St. Paul School

Michelle Ridgway joined several other marine scientists in an evening presentation to kick off the Annual Bering Sea Days Program sponsored by the Pribilof School District. Each speaker provided a brief overview of the science plans students will be engaged in during the week of marine science activities for K-12 grades at the St. Paul School. Ridgway presented a power point to the community on her ongoing Bering Sea Canyon research and upcoming week of events with Pribilof students. Following the presentation, Ridgway moved among three tables set up for community ocean science open house. Table 1: Marine Biodiversity of Pribilof Domain; Table 2: Discover zooplankton! Microscope stations for viewing live phytoplankton and zooplankton from the Bering Sea; Table 3: Local Ecological Knowledge mapping project – supported students interviewing elders to document local information on king crab ecology, sea ice patterns in Pribilof Domain and fish predation on crab.

26 – 29 April from 9 am – 3 pm Daily

Pribilof School District Bering Sea Days!

"St. George and St. Paul students joined forces once again to continue probing into life and times of sea creatures of the Bering Sea and other Pribilof Domain scientific phenomena during the Fourth Annual Bering Sea Days event last week. K-12 students carried out field missions to sample zooplankton, measure sea ice, identify local bird species and map coastal features of St. Paul Island by GPS. Their work in the science rooms led to identification of dozens of new invertebrates in the biodiversity project, making new maps of the island and surrounding marine environment, discovery of larval fishes, myriad crustaceans – including king crab larvae (!) and even microscopic worms in plankton tows, anatomical dissection of salmonid fish, and further work on king crab habitat mapping. Organized by the Tribal Governments of St. Paul and St. George with Pribilof School District, Bering Sea Days brings in scientists to work with students on research of local interest. This year experts in marine ecology, GIS mapping, Beringian Archeology, bird biology, and ocean tidal currents participated." There were 91 students, 13 teachers, and 60 community members that participated in the Bering Sea Days.

A highlight of the week included over a hundred baby sea stars were "born" right in the Pribilof School Science Room! St. Paul School second grade student, Justin Emanoff, discovered that the captive Leptasterias sea star was a mother, and she had over 100 babies about 2 millimeters in diameter, right in the petri dish in the science room! Ridgway's account of the event, "Moments later, observant second grade students watched as the sea star hunched up her central disc, then spread her long arms out, and something strange came out … dozens of tiny baby sea stars. The mother star had been cradling the baby stars in her tentacled embrace since they hatched – a behavior called 'brooding.' This surprising 'birth' in the Pribilof School science room was announced throughout the school – even Superintendent Jamie Stacks took the rare opportunity to see sea star embryos in their first moments of life in the … well, petri dish. Mother sea star and her wee offspring were released alive in calm waters at the new St. Paul Harbor boat ramp."

Program Modules Ridgway taught

Zooplankton Universe IV: Students traveled on foot to St. Paul dock to collect plankton samples using our standard 750 cm mouth 500 micron mesh plankton net. Students also collected physical ecological data: air temperature, seawater temperature, sea ice cover, cloud cover, bird and mammal observations. They returned to the school science room to sort and identify and photograph as many species of zooplankton as time allowed. Representative specimens of each species were preserved for the biodiversity catalog and ID confirmation if specimens could not be confirmed with resources available.

King Crab Ecology VI: Students used school's new ESRI ArcGIS system to compile existing data on king crab at all life history stages – data students have collected in past years, ADFG survey data, NOAA trawl survey data, and other information on life history of king crab in the Pribilof Domain. We developed maps allowing students to answer questions about most important habitats for king crab and develop a recommendation to the AKKRRAB program on best potential sites for studying juvenile king crab habitat and foraging needs.

Biodiversity: Using high definition images of species from the Pribilof Domain collected by submarine and by students in the nearshore areas, we organized marine life by standard taxonomic methods. Each age group focused upon facets of species similarities and connections among species in the evolutionary tree of life. We went to the field with some age groups to explore exposed marine environments and see if we could add new species to our records for the Pribilof Islands.

Sea Ice Physics: What is sea ice? What are the key properties of Arctic sea ice? How far does the Arctic ice edge travel in a single year to reach the southern maximum extent? How often does sea ice cover reach the Pribilof Islands and canyon? Using GINA satellite images from the University of Alaska and our own field observations, plus sea ice records from fur sea and harbor master data, we quantified how much sea ice directly influences the marine ecosystem in Pribilof Domain.

Fish Guts to Foodwebs VII: Students assembled dissection kits and databases! We studied external and internal anatomy of Bering Sea fishes, then excised stomachs for examination. Results of stomach content investigations will be added to our 4-year cumulative Bering Sea ecosystem food web developed using fish, seal and sea lion stomachs.
Life-long Alaskan Michelle Ridgway has engaged in marine ecological research and exploration in Alaskan Arctic and Subarctic waters for over 20 years. From coastal kelp forests to deep-sea habitats, Michelle has examined the role of physical and biogenic features in supporting the diversity and abundance of species in Alaskan seas. Recently focused on the unique role of submarine canyons, Michelle is studying continental margin geomorphology, biogeochemistry, and attempting to quantify chemosynthetically- derived carbon sources feeding into northern food webs. Diver, submarine pilot and ROV operator, Michelle continues to probe the depths of Alaskan marine waters using cutting edge technology to examine facets of some of the most productive ocean ecosystems in the world.