Update: In case you missed it, an archive is now available of Rebecca's live PolarConnect event aboard the Norseman II. You can view it on the PolarConnect Archives page.

What Are They Doing?

Ice algae in the northern Chukchi Sea.
Ice algae in the northern Chukchi Sea. Photo by Sandra Thornton.
As ocean temperatures warm, in particular the shallow Chukchi Sea, many organisms may spread into Arctic waters. Some of these present significant threats to human and ecosystem health, such as harmful algal bloom (HAB) species (commonly called red tides). The potent neurotoxins that these species produce can affect marine mammals, seabirds, and other resources critical to subsistence harvesters.

At the same time, little is known about the present and future risk from toxic algae to humans in the Pacific Arctic region. This study will be the first to document the current distribution of highly toxic HAB species over large spatial scales within the Alaskan Arctic and will provide estimates of areas at high risk of toxicity now and in a warming future. The hypothesis underlying this project is that HABs in Alaskan Arctic waters are not only transported from the south through Bering Strait but are now originating locally on the Chukchi shelf due to warming temperatures, circulation dynamics, and water mass structure. These factors influence bloom magnitude, duration, toxicity, and recurrence. This will be addressed through a joint physical-biological field and laboratory program to study the relationship between HAB species distribution/dynamics and the physical environment of the Chukchi Sea region.

The distribution of HAB species on the Chukchi shelf will be mapped in relation to hydrography and circulation, including a comprehensive survey of the Alaskan Coastal Current which transports the warmest water in the Chukchi Sea. A range of molecular and physiological tools will be used to investigate the origin, connectivity, and fate of HAB populations in the region. Sediment profiling will establish a historical record of blooms along the major transport pathways to the western Arctic. This information will be used to generate conceptual models of the origin, transport, and fate of HABs in the Chukchi Sea region.

Where Are They?

Sunset in the Bering Strait, aboard the USCGC Healy in the Chukchi Sea.
Sunset in the Bering Strait, aboard the USCGC Healy in the Chukchi Sea. Photo by Bill Schmoker.
The expedition is ship-based and will include sampling in the Bering, Chukchi, and Beaufort Seas. The science party will embark and disembark the vessel in Nome, AK.

Latest Journals

Visiting Brevig It’s only been a couple of months since the cruise, but it already feels like ages ago! Since disembarking the ship, we’ve all been very busy catching up with life, analyzing data (me), starting a whole new school year (Rebecca). And now I’m back in Alaska visiting Rebecca at her…
Demob We used the crane to load and unload some very large pieces of equipment. Here, Tony and Casey are helping to transfer a frame to hold an incubator onboard. We docked in Nome at 9:00 am (0900 hours on a ship) on Monday, August 15, 2022. Things immediately got really busy. The scientists…
Sea State: one foot seas Sea Surface Temperature: 53 F Wild Weather The storm continued all night and into the morning. The pitching of the ship tossed us around in our bunks all night. Walking around required grabbing walls and furniture for balance. With waves reaching ten feet, the crew asked…
Sea State: 6-10 foot seas Sea Surface Tempeature: 42 F Stormy Seas Around 3:00 this morning I heard the engines changing as we came to a station. They were able to quickly squeeze in the CTD and a sediment grab, but since then it has been too rough. As I write this we are crossing the northern…
Ship-based in the Bering, Chukchi, and Beaufort Seas
Project Funded Title
Origin and Fate of Harmful Algal Blooms in the Warming Chukchi Sea
Eric Filardi - Educator
Anderson School

Eric is a high school English and Engineering teacher at Nenana City Public School (9th through 12th grade). He holds degrees in English, Theater, and Business Administration, and enjoys working with children to help them reach their dreams through education. As an English teacher, and a finalist for the 2017 Alaska State Teacher of the Year, Eric wants his students to be able to examine critically the relationship between man and nature, and debate the juxtaposition of knowledge and instinct. As a lover of the outdoors, Eric has considerable instructional background in the sustainability of natural environments and experience applying technology and mixed-media to enhance student learning. In his teaching duties, he enjoys educating students and community about parks wildlife and environmental issues. In that regard, Eric has been involved in the design of informational and educational materials for distribution to the public and forming educational partnerships with our community.

Rebecca Siegel - Educator
Brevig Mission School

Rebecca teaches 8th-12th grade science on Inupiaq land at Brevig Mission School in Sitaisaq (Brevig Mission), Alaska. She believes in teaching science that is relevant and meaningful to her students’ lives and in empowering her students to solve problems. Outside of school, Rebecca can be found exploring the tundra and waters around Brevig Mission. She particularly enjoys skiing on the sea ice, sea kayaking, and berry picking.

Donald Anderson - Researcher
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Don Anderson is a Senior Scientist in the Biology Department of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. He earned three degrees from MIT – a BS in Mechanical Engineering in 1970, and a MS (1975) and PhD in Civil and Environmental Engineering in 1977. He joined the scientific staff at WHOI in 1978. Anderson is the former director of WHOI’s Coastal Ocean Institute (COI), and presently serves as Director of the Cooperative Institute for North Atlantic Research (CINAR). Anderson also serves as Director of the U.S. National Office for Harmful Algal Blooms.

Anderson’s research focus is on toxic or harmful algal blooms (HABs), commonly called “red tides”. His research ranges from molecular and physiological studies of growth, sexuality, and toxin production to the large-scale oceanography and ecology of the “blooms” of these microorganisms, including numerical modeling, forecasting, and a range of monitoring and management strategies, many reliant on novel instrumentation and biosensors. Anderson is heavily involved in national and international program development for research, monitoring, and management of red tides, marine biotoxins, and HABs. He has testified nine times before Congressional committees, and has been actively involved in legislation and appropriations related to HABs and hypoxia.

Anderson is the author, co-author, or editor of over 330 scientific papers and 14 books.

Robert Pickart - Researcher
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Robert Pickart is a senior scientist in the Physical Oceanography Department at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. His research focuses on high latitude processes, including air-sea interaction, deep convection, and shelf-basin exchange. He does fieldwork in both the Atlantic and Pacific sectors of the Arctic Ocean using a variety of techniques. Over the years he has led dozens of research expeditions, often with an outreach component for school children and the lay public.

Leah McRaven - Researcher
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Leah McRaven is a research associate in the Physical Oceanography Department at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Her work focuses on technical and research support for shipboard-based research programs. Leah is an expert in the collection and analysis of physical oceanographic measurements made at using ships and moorings (ocean temperature, salinity, and velocity). She regularly leads teams while in the field and has a passion for working through the challenges of the harsh Arctic environment. Over the years, she has sailed on 15 long-term research cruises that have taken her to locations ranging from the Equator to the Arctic.

Evie Fachon - Researcher
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Evie Fachon is a research assistant in the Anderson Laboratory at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. She supports projects related to harmful algal bloom (HAB) distribution and dynamics, and first traveled to the Arctic in August 2018 to sample for toxic algal species aboard the US Coast Guard Cutter Healy. Since then, she has returned to Alaska two more times to continue this research, and has trained volunteers in HAB sampling for other expeditions. Back in the laboratory, she uses techniques such as fluorescence microscopy, culturing, and molecular analysis to learn more about the organisms that cause harmful blooms.

Harmful Algal Blooms in Arctic Waters Resources


How do we know what kind of phytoplankton are in the water? The Imaging FlowCytobot (IFCB) is a robot that scientists use to image phytoplankton in the water. One IFCB can take up to 30,000 pictures per hour! The IFCB can be used in the field to detect plankton blooms in real time. In this activity, students will practice

About 1 period
Middle School and Up
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The PolarTREC Field Experience

From July 19, 2022, to August 15, 2022, I participated in the Harmful Algal Blooms in Arctic Waters research cruise on the R/V Norseman II. The Chief Scientist was Dr. Robert Pickart from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), and the research team included scientists from WHOI, Oregon State University, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation

Middle School and Up
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This event with teacher Rebecca Siegel was broadcast live on 4 August 2022 from the Norseman II in Arctic waters. Rebecca is joined by team members from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute working on Harmful Algal Blooms in Arctic Waters.

All Aged
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