Fishy history

In October, MESAS student Elizabeth Figus and I attended the annual conference for the Alaska Historical Society in beautiful Seward! This joint meeting with Museums Alaska was the perfect interdisciplinary venue for presenting the historical component of our dissertation research.

Taking a break to enjoy the sun on the way to Seward

Taking a break to enjoy the sun on the way to Seward

We presented as part of a session on the historical and contemporary importance of the Alaska halibut fishery. I presented a talk titled ethnohistory of halibut fishing in Southeast Alaska, based on my independent study with Dr. Dan Monteith at the University of Alaska Southeast. Elizabeth presented a talk titled historical perspectives of halibut fishing in Southeast Alaska, focusing on Petersburg and Ketchikan.

Elizabeth Figus, Dan Monteith, and I before our session.

Elizabeth Figus, Dan Monteith, and I before our halibut session

Elizabeth was one of two 2014 recipients of the Alaska Historical Society student travel scholarship. I was fortunate enough to receive a student travel grant from the University of Alaska Fairbanks graduate school. In addition to these great funding sources, we were also helped out by the MESAS small grants program. We are very grateful to our funding sources for giving us this opportunity to participate in this great conference.

During the meeting, we had a chance to meet up with Leah Sloan, a fellow MESAS student, who conducts research on a parasitic barnacle (Briarosaccus callosis) that infects king crabs.


Posing with one of Leah’s study subjects

The parasitic barnacle can affect crab behavior and reproduction, essentially creating a crab “zombie”!

The reproductive structure of the parasite where the crab would normally hold it's eggs

The reproductive structure of the parasite where the crab would normally hold it’s eggs

In summary, it was a fabulous sunny week in Seward.

Enjoying Seward to the fullest!

Enjoying Seward to the fullest


From Juneau to San Antonio

As we are getting ready to greet winter weather in Alaska, it’s hard to imagine what 90 degrees F and sunny would be like. Luckily for some of us, this was a reality two weeks ago when we had the opportunity to travel to San Antonio, Texas to attend annual conference of the Society for Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS).


Representing University of Alaska Southeast was Mr. Jasper Nelson, an undergraduate student majoring in biology. From University of Alaska Fairbanks were Ms. Sonia Ibarra and myself, both graduate students in fisheries and MESAS cohort 2012.


Photo: Jasper, Sonia and myself at a SACNAS dinner

This year, 2013, is the 40th anniversary of SACNAS, an organization that is committed to empowering and inspiring underrepresented groups to pursue education and careers in science. At this year’s conference, we experienced the SACNAS commitment through programming tailored towards students in all stages of their education, ranging from programs that focus on cultural diversity at the postdoctoral level to summer internships for Native American students. Best of all, the opportunity to network and meet with individuals committed to diversity in science was inspiring and encouraging!

Some Highlights:

  • We had the chance to attend a geology field trip organized by SACNAS.


Photo: Hydraulic fracking site

  • Sonia and I presented our posters at the graduate student poster session.


Photo: Sonia, deep in conversation


Photo: Posing at my poster

  • The 2013 PowWow. We aren’t posting pictures here but trust me, we represented Alaska well.
  • Exhausted trip home:


Photo: Jasper and I comparing legroom (Jasper is 6’3” and I am 5’2”)


Photo: Rainbow in Ketchikan!

Thank you SACNAS for the generous travel scholarships and MESAS for funding conference registration!

March 2013 was spring break, deadlines and Denver!

Three weeks ago, I attended the SfAA (Society for Applied Anthropology) annual meeting in Denver, Colorado. The 2013 meeting was the 73rd annual meeting for an organization whose history traces that of modern anthropology, with notable anthropologists such as Margaret Mead serving as a former president (1949-1950).


The theme of the 2013 meeting was “Natural Resource Distribution and Development in the 21st Century” and I was at the meeting to learn about how this relates to fisheries. There were great fisheries talks such as a NOAA scientist presenting on community indicators to predict vulnerability and a presentation by the Division of Subsistence on the subsistence herring egg harvest in Sitka, Alaska. There was a strong Alaska presence with professors and graduate students there from UAS, UAF and UAA, and also folks from the Division of Subsistence from Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Additionally, there were also folks from Sea Grant offices across the country and researchers from different universities working on coastal issues directly transferable to Alaska, such as marine spatial planning, stakeholder engagement and marine co-management.

Denver 2013 005

Presenting my poster at the student poster session.

Part of SfAA’s mission is the “promotion of interdisciplinary scientific investigation of the principles controlling the relations of human beings to one another.” As no surprise, SfAA spans a wide range of disciplines and I had the opportunity to meet urban planners, social scientists, filmmakers, geographers and of course, anthropologists.

There is always talk of social vs. natural sciences and while it’s certainly different, the point of SfAA and applied anthropology is to promote interdisciplinary research in solutions to human problems. Considering that I don’t have a strong background in anthropology, I felt welcomed in my interactions with other conference attendees and appreciated for the diversity I brought to conversations I was engaged it. I would highly recommend this conference for those of us who want to learn more about interdisciplinary and social sciences but may not want to jump into social theory right away.

The 2014 meeting will be in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Leave your Ricker curves as home and I hope to see you there!

Thank you to MESAS small grant for funding my conference attendance.

For more information, please visit the SfAA website at: http://www.sfaa.net/


MESAS Cohort 1 fellow Catherine Chambers and her advisor Courtney Carothers were featured on the American Anthropological Association’s “Anthropology and Environment Society” website. Their paper, entitled “Fisheries privatization and the remaking of fishery systems,” was a runner-up in the AAA’s junior scholar prize.

Check out the feature here!

Squid boats with light lures in Hakodate.

Squid boats with light lures in Hakodate.

For fish nerds from Alaska, Japan is like a long lost cousin we know we should really go visit. We share so much in common in terms of fisheries and yet seem so far away. Being able to travel to Japan to take part of the ESSAS conference has been one of my favorite experiences as a MESAS fellow so far.

The ESSAS (Ecosystem Studies of the Sub-Arctic Seas) program is funded through the Research Council of Norway and the Institute of Marine Research in Bergen Norway. Its goal is to compare, quantify and predict the impact of climate variability on the productivity and sustainability of Sub-Arctic marine ecosystems. ESSAS sponsors an Annual Science Meeting that rotates location around the Sub-Arctic. Read more about ESSAS here: http://www.imr.no/essas/en

ESSAS has always been interested in having a human dimensions working group and hosting related social science workshops. I was one of four people asked to attend the conference to present current research and help develop a human dimensions working group task and implementation plan. It was great to present my dissertation work (grounded mostly in anthropology) to a group that wasn’t very familiar with social sciences. The rest of the ESSAS members are excited about having us as part of the group, and plans for the human dimensions working group are well underway. We would like to publish a collection of articles focused on human responses to regime shifts as a special issue of a journal. We’ve got some pretty big names interested in joining us!

Ikutaru Shimizu is one of the four founding members of the working group, and he invited me to spend a day visiting the Fisheries Research Agency in Yokohama after the conference. He is part of the Research Center for Fisheries Economics and Business Administration. It was great to learn more about his research on salmon markets, and he also took me to the fish market and a great local seafood restaurant (and ordered for me, of course!)

Outside the Agency with Ikutaro-san.

Outside the Agency with Ikutaro-san.

Model of bluefin tuna inside the Agency.

Model of bluefin tuna inside the Agency.

The Agency's outreach and education room, with biological and gastronomic info on different species.

The Agency’s outreach and education room, with biological and gastronomic info on different species.

Bluefin tuna in the market.
Bluefin tuna in the market.
The famous lethal pufferfish Fugu outside a restaurant. No, I didn't try it!

The famous lethal pufferfish Fugu outside a restaurant. No, I didn’t try it!

The abundant Pacific salmon and steelhead of Alaska are powerful symbols of the interconnectedness of ecosystems. In their anadromy, salmon and steelhead unite marine and terrestrial systems, fulfilling the promise of their life history by delivering rich marine nutrients back to the watersheds in which they were born. The people of Alaska are as much a part of this wide ecological web as the fish, or bears, or forest. As these people depend on fish for their livelihoods and subsistence, so do the fish depend on people to protect critical habitat and manage fisheries in a sustainable way.

Here is a quick introduction to my research on Alaskan steelhead, this work is being completed in close collaboration with ADF&G to help inform current steelhead management and investigate how changing ocean conditions may impact anadromous fish.

Me and U.S. Ambassador to Iceland Luis E. Arreaga. Photo courtesy U.S. Embassy.

I had an amazing opportunity to present my research at the U.S. Embassy in Iceland last week. It felt great to be back on American soil again! I had a small audience with the Ambassador, the Deputy Chief of Mission, and two officers from the Economic & Environmental Affairs section of the Embassy. I told them about my ongoing research through the MESAS program, and we has a great chat about fisheries sustainability, small scale fishing livelihoods, and the importance of interdisciplinary work.

Check out the Ambassador’s blog about my visit here: