Jacqueline Ramsay manages the Alutiiq Pride Shellfish Hatchery’s Ocean Acidification & Research Laboratory in Seward. Formerly a researcher for UAF at the Seward Marine Center, she joined the hatchery in 2012 and maintains the constant monitoring system. Jacqueline runs and analyzes discreet seawater samples from villages and partners in the Chugach, North Slope and PWS areas, and serves on the AOOS Tribal Research Working Group.
Q: You work with a high tech machine called a Burke-o-Lator (BoL). Could you tell us about them?
Burke-o-Lators are systems that were invented by Professor Burke Hales of Oregon State University to measure the carbonate chemistry of seawater, in both gas and dissolved form. These systems are state of the art and unique in that they deliver real time raw data that hatcheries can use to determine the corrosivity of their incoming seawater with respect to the saturation state of shell forming carbonate minerals that shellfish larvae need to grow. The saturation state of these minerals is driven by water temperature and alkalinity which can fluctuate from a variety of environmental influences.
A great feature of the BoL is that it can also be used to analyze discreet seawater samples to assess the carbonate composition of a particular site, such as a specific hatchery tank where we are culturing oysters, or a beach for habitat assessment data.
Q: Why is it important to have a Burke-o-Lator at the hatchery in Seward?
The crashes in oyster cultivation along the west coast triggered us to begin monitoring our incoming seawater for baseline water chemistry trends here in Resurrection Bay. APSH supports a diversity of research at our facility as well as growing seed larvae for aquaculture needs, so monitoring for OA was a necessary step to protect our shellfish inventory and provide state of the art monitoring equipment for visiting researchers. The diversity of species that APSH produces in conjunction with the BoL gives the hatchery the capacity to expand research to include multi species saturation experiments. It’s a powerful tool which can allow us to adjust the mineral composition in our tanks appropriately.
Q: Through the Alutiiq Pride Shellfish Hatchery, you work with communities around the region. Can you tell us more about that?
The hatchery is a non-profit entity under the umbrella of the Chugach Regional Resources Commission whose mission is to assure stewardship of the natural resources in the Chugach region. To identify sites of concern and obtain baseline data of OA vulnerability, we developed a citizen science monitoring program through a BIA grant. Basically we developed a sampling kit with sampling protocols that can be used by individuals of all walks of life. We have a number of sites where partners are taking samples in their respective villages that I process here at APSH. The data is subsequently analyzed by Wiley Evans at the Hakai Institute.
Q: What have you learned so far through the community sampling program?
At times it can be difficult to coordinate the development of a long term data set, which is what we need to uncover trends for a particular locale. When we completed the analysis from Seldovia, a site with a long term data set, we found clear trends of increased saturation state in the summer months vs the winter months. This could influence management decisions for habitats of concern for Seldovia. The program has been an invaluable tool for engaging the villages with discussions about OA and in a broader context of climate change as it pertains to their subsistence way of life.
We also found that, as far as sample integrity with these kits, community sampling can work. That was an important validation.
Q: What do you find to be the biggest challenge in your job?
It’s a new science, and I’m relatively new to it , which is stimulating. However, I find conveying the seriousness of increased anthropogenic carbon in our atmosphere and more importantly, the timeframe with which it is happening, difficult. It’s a crucial subject as our world population grows, and our energy demands increase.
Q: Can you tell us about a memorable moment in your experience working with OA?
The OA lab here at the hatchery follows the protocols developed by distinguished scientists and pioneered by other labs such as Oregon State University, NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Lab and the Hakai Institute. It was a great moment when Wiley Evans confirmed through inter-lab comparisons that our data was on par with the accuracy of these laboratories.