Bering Ecosystem Change

What Are They Doing?

A diverse team of researchers participated in the first of three research cruises in the spring and summer of 2008, aboard the USCGC Healy in support of the Bering Sea Ecosystem Study (BEST) and the Bering Sea Integrated Ecosystem Research Program (BSIERP).

Scientists on board the ship documented late winter ocean conditions, studying the biological communities found in sea ice, examining the early spring plankton bloom, and investigating light penetration through open water and ice cover. Additionally, researchers examined the benthic communities living on the seafloor as well as observed an important benthic predator, the walrus. The region of the Bering Sea where the team was working is biologically rich and supports highly productive ecological communities of bivalves, gastropods, and polychaetes. These benthic communities have been changing over the past several decades, perhaps as a result of competing fish species moving north as waters warm.

Where Are They?

The team traveled on the USCGC Healy to a sampling area in the northern Bering Sea. The Bering Sea lies to the west of Alaska and to the east of Russia. The team departed from and returned to the port of Dutch Harbor, Alaska, which is in the Aleutian Islands. During the cruise they sampled the biologically diverse waters as they moved northward toward Saint Lawrence Island.

Expedition Map


We are on our way into Dutch Harbor. The winds have been blowing consistently out of the north for the duration of our trip. This creates the polynya (area of open water and thin ice) in the leeward sides of the islands and peninsula. The ice is dynamic - it flows with the wind direction much like a glacier or river flows with gravity. The ice flowing southward stacks up on the northside of the island and flows to the outside edges. At the outside edges of the islands, the ice forms ridges. The ridges are formed when two ice floes are pushed together, pushed upward and downward forming a...
We were within sight of St Matthew Island yesterday. Tony Fishbach, USGS biologist with the Alaska Science Center, wanted one more shot at tagging a walrus in the polynya south of St Matthew. He had a tag that he wanted to place in the southern end of the Bering Sea Ecosystem study area. Lee Cooper, chief scientist with the science expedition, agreed to give him time to look for walrus in helicopter. It would give Dr. Cooper time to experiment with his underwater camera system that was having problems earlier in the cruise. It had warmed up to 10F with only 25 mph winds. One of the lasers...
Wow! Lobsters in the Bering Sea! Who would have known that we would come across a relative to the Maine Lobster on the Healy! And Angus cattle! Actually, it is Easter Sunday, so the Coast Guard opened up the rations and found some steak and lobster for dinner. A great meal was had by all of the science and US Coast Guard crew. This morning started out with a terrific sunrise, actually the sunrise in past couple of days has been nothing short of spectacular. Today was special. There were two sundogs equidistant from the sun. It was near zero degrees Fahrenheit with wind speeds approaching...
Dr. Sue Moore, NOAA/ Alaska Fisheries Science Center, National Marine Mammal Laboratory, is conducting research with acoustic sonobouys, hydrophones, and qualitative observations of marine mammal distributions. The use of acoustic sonobouys has become a reliable tool in detecting the distinctive calls of large whales in offshore waters, such as the Bering Sea. The sonobouys are deployed over the side of the ship approximately 1-2 miles from the Healy, to minimize ship noise, as it approaches a sampling station. A hydrophone is deployed through a hole in the ice when the scientific teams are...
Bingo! Researcher Jim Lovvorn of the University of Wyoming saw two Spectacled Eiders (Somateria fisheri) flying low to the Northeast. I was with Dr. Lovvorn in a Bell Ranger helicopter flying on a Spectacled Eider survey south of St. Lawrence Island in the north Bering Sea on Wednesday, March 19, 2008. We were on our last transect of the night. We followed the birds for about a half-mile, until they dipped down lower to a large open lead. We lost them in the background of the open water. Even though we lost track of the two birds, our spirits were high. Spectacled Eiders south of St....

Expedition Resources

Project Information

Dates: 11 March 2008 to 28 March 2008
Location: Bering Sea
Project Funded Title: Bering Ecosystem Change

Meet the Team

Craig Kasemodel's picture
Central Middle School of Science
Anchorage, AK
United States

Craig Kasemodel is a science and technology teacher at the Central Middle School of Science in Anchorage, Alaska. Mr. Kasemodel attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Montana State University and holds degrees in Economics, International Relations, and Fish & Wildlife Management, and spent several years conducting wildlife biology research in rural Alaska and Montana. Mr. Kasemodel enjoys teaching other teachers how to incorporate technology in their classrooms and introducing students to science. He is active with the ALISON Project and recently developed a freshwater science class for students to conduct water quality and stream assessments. In his spare time, he enjoys building computers and websites, fly-fishing, hiking, skiing, and spending time outdoors with his wife and chocolate lab. He is excited to be part of PolarTREC and to joined the crew on the Healy with the hope of increasing awareness of climate change and polar science.

Nora Deans's picture
North Pacific Research Board
Anchorage, AK
United States

Nora Deans is the Senior Outreach Manager for the North Pacific Research Board in Anchorage, Alaska. Nora joined the research team as an observer aboard the USCGC Healy. The North Pacific Research Board provided some funding for Craig Kasemodel to join the expediton.