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Ongoing and Recent Research Projects

Additional research and projects at KSMSC are summarized here: research/archive .

  • Replacing Ethoxyquin in Fishmeal: Is it possible?
  • Improving Energy Efficiency of Alaska Seafood Processing Plants
  • Fisheries to School
  • Economic Feasibility of Alaskan Oyster Farms
  • Extraction and characterization of oil extracted from Cod liver over a commercial harvesting season
  • Freeze-dried salmon: Omega-3 rich space food from Alaskan waters
  • Benthic lower trophic level food webs in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas - baselines and relevance of sea ice algal production
  • Effects of diet on maternal investment in California sea cucumbers (Parastichopus californicus): Potential implications for egg and larval resilience to bioremediation chemicals
  • Examining maternal investment in Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) using fatty acids from milk
  • Spatial and temporal variation in fatty acid signature of three Arctic prey species
  • Nutritional content of Big (Raja binoculata) and Longnose (R. rhina) Skates in the Gulf of Alaska
  • Evaluation of the Abraxis Saxitoxin Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay (ELISA) for Testing Subsistence Alaska Shellfish
  • Enhanced High School Education in Seafood Science and Technology to Fulfill Skilled Employee Requirements of the Sector
  • Gulf Apex Predator-prey Project (GAP)

  • Replacing Ethoxyquin in Fishmeal: Is it possible?

    PIs: Alexandra Oliveira, Brennan Smith, Charles Crapo

    Ethoxyquin is a common antioxidant used to stabilize fishmeal. While it has been used successfully for several decades, its safety has been called into question. Aquaculture users of fishmeal are often required to withdraw feeds two weeks before harvest to purge ethoxyquin from edible tissues. Dog foods virtually ban the use of ethoxyquin in their manufacture effectively excluding Alaska fishmeal with ethoxyquin added from being an ingredient source. The goal of this project is to compare the effectiveness of natural antioxidant blends against the industry's standard use of ethoxyquin in Alaska whitefish meal produced at sea. Oliveira, Brennan and Crapo will compare lipid and protein oxidation rates, over several months of storage, of commercial fishmeal (with ethoxyquin) and test fishmeal produced with natural antioxidants. This strategy will allow them to select an adequate natural blend of antioxidants for the targeted application and further determine its optimum application dosage.

    Improving Energy Efficiency of Alaska Seafood Processing Plants

    PIs: Chuck Crapo, Torie Baker, Rich Weis and Ron Johnson
    Funder: Alaska Energy Authority
    Duration: 2010-2012

    Project synopsis:
    After labor costs, utility bills often are the second biggest expense for a seafood processor. For food processing, it has been estimated that 65% of power consumption are motors. Lighting, where energy efficiency can be easily achieved, is frequently less than 15% of the total energy picture. This project developed two programs to help Alaska seafood processors monitor and evaluate their energy usage with the objective of improving efficiency and reducing operating costs:

    1. An "energy audit kit" that used by small and medium processors to measure power consumption of production line equipment and provide data so as to evaluate line efficiency and product form production costs,
    2. An energy audit service funded by the Alaska Energy Authority for larger processors,
    3. An energy efficiency page within the MAP website to provide project results, energy conservation ideas and links to the large energy conservation databases

    Energy audits were done in nine seafood processing plants Ketchikan, Petersburg, Cordova, Kodiak, King Cove and Dutch Harbor. These audits helped processors identify motor efficiency issues, energy loss through poor freezer door and wall insulation, power quality problems and provided cost data for making decisions.
    Four DIY energy audit kits were developed and used by only 3 small processors. While the kits were thought to be a good idea, their use was limited. Kit complexity and the need for a trained individual to conduct the audits were barriers to better usage.

    Fisheries to School

    PIs: Andrea Bersamin (UAF), Brett Luick (UAF), Betty Izumi (Portland State), Cathy Xu (Cal State Fresno), Quentin Fong (UAF)
    Funder: USDA
    Duration: 2011-2014

    Project Synopsis:
    Hunger and food insecurity in Alaska are significant and growing problems that are exacerbated by the state's geographic isolation and extreme climate1,2. Alaska Native and other rural residents are most severely impacted. In 2008, 19% of Alaska Natives and 22% of rural residents were food insecure. Per capita income is less than half of the national average in rural communities and residents suffer from high energy costs, high unemployment rates – about 16% – and limited local economies. These factors, coupled with the region's short growing season, severely limit rural residents' access to healthy and affordable foods. The long-term goals of this community-based participatory research project are to increase food security and improve dietary quality in Alaskan communities and to strengthen local and regional markets for sustainably harvested fish by implementing a model fisheries-to-schools program that builds upon the successes and lessons learned from farm-to-school programs. Specifically, the team will find out what type of fish students and school food providers prefer and how best to serve it. They also will talk with Native-, local- or regionally-owned fish businesses to find out what fish products could be purchased for school menus. The team will also develop standardized recipes that could easily be used in schools no matter what kitchen facilities they have.


    • Ongoing

    Economic Feasibility of Alaskan Oyster Farms

    PIs: Quentin S.W. Fong, Ray RaLonde, Glenn Haight (Past)
    Funder: USDA CSREES, Alaska Sea Grant
    Duration: 2004, 2006, 2010 to Present

    Since the early 1990s, the Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program (MAP) actively supported the aquaculture industry with hiring of an aquaculture specialist. By 2010, the industry grew to 67 farms located in Kachemak Bay near Anchorage, Prince William Sound, and Southeastern Alaska, but only 25 farms regularly supply shellfish to the seafood market. Currently farms produce only about 10% of potential capacity, and the total state production has been level for the past five years, averaging about $500,000 total sales annually.

    In 2004, the Alaskan Shellfish Growers Association (ASGA) developed a list of priorities for the oyster industry. One is to examine the market conditions for the oysters in the U.S. Second is to incorporate findings from the market study to determine the profitability of oyster farms in the state of Alaska. The market part of the project was conducted by surveying distributors of oysters in terms of prices paid, optimal sizes of products, and distributional attributes. Then the results of the market survey were incorporated into an oyster farm economic model. Specifically, projections of financial performance of a small-scale Pacific oyster farm using lantern nets, with a maximum production of 605,625 oysters was conducted to determine economic efficiency. Estimates of initial capital investment and annual operating costs were formulated, an annual cash flow and enterprise budget were developed. Results show that the largest costs contributing to annual operating expenses were labor including farm owner's opportunity cost (39.15%), freight for harvested oysters (21.98%), and seed cost (12.48%). Net returns over a 20-year farm horizon based on an 8% discount rate indicate a positive Net Present Value of $44,836.40, with a suboptimal Internal Rate of Return of 9.58%. Currently, Fong and RaLonde are conducting economic feasibility analysis of the oyster farms using new production techniques – bags and trays culture.


    • In order to increase profitability for the Alaskan oyster industry, stakeholders are in the process of adopting business cluster development strategy, examining the development of cooperatives, and explore/adopt new production techniques to reduce costs.
    • The oyster farm economic model was used as a basis to teach oyster farmers in business and financial management.
    • 1 MSc Degree completed, 1 in progress

    Extraction and characterization of oil extracted from Cod liver over a commercial harvesting season

    PI: Alexandra Oliveira
    Co-PI: Peter Bechtel
    Funder: Alaska Leader Fisheries and Aleutian Spray Fisheries
    Duration: July 2011 - February 2013

    Project synopsis:
    In Alaska large quantities of fishery byproducts are used for production of fishmeal and fish oil. However, most fish oil produced is crude or unrefined. Unrefined fish oils are typically used as an ingredient for animal feeds. If the fish oil is to be used as a food ingredient, further processing steps are necessary to purify the product to meet specifications for human use. The first research goal was to quantify monthly changes in composition of Pacific cod livers. The second research goal was to use short-path distillation (SPD) to purify oils rendered from livers having the lowest (March) and highest (December) lipid content within a one-year harvest season.

    Total lipids were remarkably different between seasons. From August to December lipid content was consistently above 50% w/w, while a drop in lipids was observed after January with lowest values occurring in March (35%). From March to July (45% w/w) lipid content increased, and during May liver lipids showed the highest increment from 40 to 48% w/w. Purification of cod liver oils with SPD resulted in significant decreases in water content, free fatty acid values, peroxide values and p-Anisidine values. Crude cod liver oils can be easily purified to nutraceutical-grade using SPD. Main advantages of SPD, as compared to the traditional four-step refinement protocol, are that the process is quick and doesn't require use of chemicals. Project results have been summarized in three separate conference presentations and a peer-reviewed manuscript is in preparation.

    Freeze-dried salmon: Omega-3 rich space food from Alaskan waters

    PI: Alexandra Oliveira
    Co-PI: Brian Himelbloom
    Funder: Alaska Space Grant Program (EPSCOR)
    Duration: August 2011 - June 2013

    Project synopsis:
    Naturally flavored freeze-dried cubes made from Alaska sockeye salmon fillets were produced and tested by a consumer panel for acceptability in the UAF campus. The cubes, upon rehydration and brief thermal treatment, are suggested as a nutrient- and energy-dense food suitable for astronauts on extended space missions. Sensory test included comparison of three products that varied in salt content and degree of spiciness. A total of 105 participants tasted the products and provided their opinion using questionnaires. An eight-month accelerated storage stability study (35oC) was conducted for assessment of chemical and microbial stability of the products.

    Project results are being statistically analyzed a report will be sent to the funding agency in May of 2013. Overall, our preliminary assessment of the results indicates the products are shelf-stable and the lipids and fatty acids did not change over the storage period. We anticipate one peer-review publication will be generated from this study.

    Benthic lower trophic level food webs in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas – baselines and relevance of sea ice algal production

    PI: Katrin Iken
    Co-PIs: Bodil Bhlum and Alex Oliveira
    Funder: North Pacific Research Board
    Duration: August 2012 - January 2015

    Project synopsis:
    The project fills current gaps in our existing knowledge of Arctic benthic lower trophic food webs with two main objectives: Firstly, we will establish a baseline of the benthic lower trophic food web structure across the poorly investigated Beaufort Sea shelf, against which future changes in food web structure can be assessed. Secondly, we will measure the contribution of sea ice algae to the diet of two benthic invertebrate feeding guilds, filter-feeding bivalves and omnivore crabs, specifically the snow crab Chionoecetes opilio. These invertebrates will be collected along a latitudinal gradient of sea ice cover in the Chukchi Sea, using this gradient as a proxy of conditions of increasing sea ice loss. These measurements will allow predictions about how energy flow through various benthic feeding types might be affected by future changes in sea ice conditions.
    Specific project objectives are:

    • To analyze lower trophic level benthic food web structure across the Alaskan Beaufort Sea shelf using stable isotope analysis.
    • To analyze contribution of sea ice algal production to benthic consumers using fatty acid-specific stable isotope analysis, across a gradient of sea ice cover in the Chukchi Sea as a proxy for increasing loss of sea ice cover due to climate change.

    Tanja Schollmeyer was recruited by PI and enrolled the M.S. in Marine Biology at SFOS in Fall 2012. The student has worked in Kodiak 2 weeks in Nav-Dec. of 2012 and is schedule to return to Kodiak sometime in April of 2013 for a period of four weeks to continue biochemical analysis of samples.

    Oliveira's participation in other projects for which she does not receive direct funding:

    Effects of diet on maternal investment in California sea cucumbers (Parastichopus californicus): Potential implications for egg and larval resilience to bioremediation chemicals

    PI: Sarah Hardy
    Graduate Student: Charlotte Regula-Whitefield (Ph.D. Marine Biology, SFOS).
    Funder: Funding has been provided to the graduate student by Southeast Alaska Regional Dive Fisheries Association, the Kodiak Divers Association and more recently Rasmussen Foundation (student stipend and tuition). Alex Oliveira serves as graduate committee member and student is conducting biochemical analysis at KSMSC.
    Duration: Student is in the third year of her graduate studies.

    Examining maternal investment in Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) using fatty acids from milk

    PI: Lori Polasek
    Funder: Unfunded
    Graduate Student: Carly Miller (M.S. Marine Biology, SFOS). Alex Oliveira serves as graduate committee member and student has conducted biochemical analysis at KSMSC during 3 months in 2012.
    Duration: Student is scheduled to defend her thesis in Fall of 2013.

    Spatial and temporal variation in fatty acid signature of three Arctic prey species

    PI: Sarah Hardy
    Graduate Student: Julia Dissen (M.S. Marine Biology, SFOS). Alex Oliveira serves as graduate committee member and student has just started conducting biochemical analysis at KSMSC.
    Funder: Alex Oliveira is not part of the funded project but Dr. Hardy is providing funds to support chemical analysis.
    Duration: Student commenced her degree in Fall of 2012.

    Nutritional content of Big (Raja binoculata) and Longnose (R. rhina) Skates in the Gulf of Alaska

    Graduate Student: Thomas Farugia, PhD Candidate Fisheries (SFOS). Student is scheduled to be at KSMSC for a few weeks in April to conduct biochemical analysis in skate samples from fish procured in Kodiak in October of 2012.
    Funder: Unfunded
    Duration: Unknown

    Evaluation of the Abraxis Saxitoxin Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay (ELISA) for Testing Subsistence Alaska Shellfish

    PIs: Brian Himelbloom, Julie Matweyou, and Ray RaLonde
    Funder: North Pacific Research Board
    Duration: June 2012 - February 2014

    Project Synopsis:
    Paralytic shellfish toxin is a pervasive severe public health problem, particularly for coastal Alaska Native shellfish harvesters who suffer illnesses and fatalities on a regular occurrence. Protection of public health requires a practical, logistically feasible and less expensive method to test for paralytic shellfish toxin. A promising new analytical approach is the Abraxis Saxitoxin Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay (ELISA), currently being considered for shipboard use as a biotoxin screening tool by the Food and Drug Administration and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration. Shellfish samples have been collected for the 2012 summer season and archived for this year's analytical tests. The Abraxis laboratory is set up and running preliminary samples toward development of standard operating procedures. The ADEC laboratory has received a subcontract to test shellfish extracts by HPLC for determining saxitoxin analog compositions. A three-day workshop, February 26-28, 2013 was held at the ADEC lab to provide Abraxis PST ELISA training to laboratory personnel for expanding the capabilities of the State's regulatory agency. We will expand our personnel base by hiring a half-time research technician to run the Abraxis assays and for sending split extracts to ADEC. The recruitment process has been initiated through the Human Resources Coordinator of the School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences.


    • Himelbloom, B.H., Matweyou, J.A., and RaLonde, R. 2013. Evaluation of the Abraxis saxitoxin enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay for testing subsistence Alaska shellfish. 12th Alaska Marine Science Symposium, January 20-25, Anchorage, AK (poster).

    Enhanced High School Education in Seafood Science and Technology to Fulfill Skilled Employee Requirements of the Sector

    PIs: Brian Himelbloom, Alexandra Oliveira
    Funder: USDA Secondary Education, Two-Year Postsecondary Education, and Agriculture in the K-12 Classroom Challenge Grants Program
    Duration: September 2010 - August 2013

    Project Synopsis:
    A seafood science course has been developed for Kodiak High School. The year-long course was taught by Mr. Kevin Lauscher during the 2011-2012. Plans are being made to provide the curriculum to all school districts in Alaska via online.

    • Himelbloom, B. 2013. Ocean to brain: seafood science for K-16 Alaskan students. Alaska Society for Technology in Education, 38th Annual Meeting, Feb. 23-26, Anchorage, AK (PowerPoint).
    • Himelbloom, B., Oliveira, A., Lauscher, K. and Sannito, C. 2011. Science of Alaska seafood for high schools: an interdisciplinary educational approach. American Association for the Advancement of Science - Arctic Science Division, 62nd Annual Conference, Sept. 21-23, Dillingham, AK (PowerPoint).

    Gulf Apex Predator-prey Project (GAP)

    PIs: Kate Wynne, C. Loren Buck (Past), Robert Foy (Past), & Briana Witteveen
    Funder: NOAA/NMFS
    Duration: 1999 - Present

    Project synopsis:
    The Gulf Apex Predator-prey Project (GAP) was initiated in 1999 by UAF faculty Kate Wynne and Loren Buck. GAP was designed to address questions of immediate biologic and economic concern triggered by the precipitous decline of the western stock of Steller sea lions. GAP represents a series of interrelated studies designed to broadly assess the degree of temporal variability and dietary overlap among Kodiak's sympatric apex predators. Since its inception through 2006, GAP studies involved a multi-taxa approach, collecting synchronous data on fish, seabird and marine mammal diets, abundance and distribution while also exploring the population dynamics of available prey resources. Beginning in 2007, GAP studies have shifted focus to document the distribution, identity, foraging patters and prey use of Kodiak's marine mammals.

    Select project highlights:

    • 7 MSc degrees completed; one in progress
    • 2 PhD degrees
    • 32 peer reviewed publications (and counting)
    • 31 oral or poster presentations (and counting)
    • Online database of GAP metadata
    • Humpback whale by-catch mitigation through acoustic deterrents
    • Gulf of Alaska stable isotope clearinghouse
    • Model exploring top-down impacts of balaentoperid whales and other consumers on the nearshore marine ecosystem that includes waters of Kodiak and the western Gulf of Alaska
    • GAP data synthesis to include:
      • Humpback whale sighting histories and abundance estimation
      • Fin whale abundance estimation
      • Fin and humpback whale foraging behaviors
      • Dietary prey use and overlap between Steller sea lions and harbor seals
      • Prey distribution patterns tin relation to the diet of Kodiak's Steller sea lions
      • Fatty acid composition of primary prey species