NOAA Kodiak Lab equipped to analyze incoming seawater and community samples

The NOAA Lab in Kodiak is a 25,000 sqare foot facility operated by the Alaska Fisheries Science Center, and home to numerous research projects.

The effort to study ocean acidification in the Kodiak Archipelego got a large boost this year with the addition of a Burke-o-Lator at the NOAA Fisheries Kodiak Laboratory. Developed by Professor Burke Hales at Oregon State University, the Burke-o-Lator measures real time carbonate chemistry in seawater to assess the suitability of ocean water for shell-forming creatures like crab and clams.  Kodiak’s Burke-o-Lator is the fourth in Alaska, joining Seward’s Alutiiq Pride Shellfish Hatchery, the Ketchikan’s OceansAlaska Hatchery, and the Sitka Tribe lab in Sitka.

The effort in Kodiak is a partnership among NOAA Fisheries Kodiak Laboratory, other regional marine laboratories, rural village communities, and local environmental coordinators from Alaska Native Tribes to monitor nearshore marine waters in the Kodiak Archipelago. The goal of the partnership is to support a regional backbone of ocean chemistry data and to support local nearshore research on ocean acidification, harmful algal blooms, and mariculture opportunities.

The “Burke-o-Lator” measures the total and partial pressure of carbon dioxide to monitor carbonate chemistry continuously or from discrete water samples.

While extremely valuable for studying ocean acidification, Burke-o-Lators are complex systems that require significant care and feeding. The Kodiak Burke-o-Lator is currently being operated by Dr. Switgard Duesterloh, a contractor with NOAA Fisheries, and much of the past six months were spent installing and working through the procedures for measuring dissolved inorganic carbon and carbon dioxide partial pressure. A new seawater line was added to the NOAA Fisheries laboratory to pump seawater from 15 meter deep wells, up the hill to the seawater laboratory and directly to the Burke-o-Lator. The instrument is paired with a thermosalinograph to monitor continuous temperature and salinity at the same time as the carbonate chemistry.

Researchers at the NOAA Fisheries Kodiak Laboratory conduct multi-year experiments on the response of crab species under different ocean acidification scenarios.

In addition to continuous monitoring of carbonate chemistry, the Burke-o-Lator can also be used to measure discrete samples in support of laboratory research. In 2018 to 2020, researchers at the Kodiak Laboratory will continue to assess the physiological response of early life history stages of commercial crab species while estimating the potential for acclimation and adaptation to the marine chemistry changes expected with ocean acidification. This is done through multi-year exposure experiments on multiple crab life stages. The seawater chemistry is manipulated to represent current and expected future conditions in Alaska. Being able to measure water samples in real time and with a higher frequency will provide researchers with immediate feedback about their experimental conditions without the need to send water samples to laboratories off-island.

Cassey Pagett from the Kodiak Laboratory demonstrates local collections of seawater using a Niskin bottle and a YSI multi-meter to provide spatial water chemistry data from throughout the Kodiak Archipelego.


Adequate monitoring of nearshore oceanography requires an assessment of regional and fine scale variability. To provide spatial context to the continuous data collection, water samples and direct measurements will be made at several sites in the Kodiak Archipelago to characterize the seasonal and interannual oceanographic environment. Multi-parameter instruments will measure vertical profiles of temperature, salinity, turbidity, and pH. Water samples taken at each site by local residents will be transported back to the Kodiak Laboratory to measure nutrient and carbonate parameters. All of these data will be applied to better understand ocean acidification processes, as well as local environmental variability to inform research and mariculture opportunities in the Kodiak Archipelago nearshore areas.

For more information, contact Kodiak Laboratory director Bob Foy,

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