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International scientists gather at UAF to discuss Arctic Ocean biodiversity

Submitted by Doug Schneider
Phone: 907-474-7449


FAIRBANKS, Alaska--Scientists have long believed that biodiversity decreases as you move toward the poles. But that assumption is proving incorrect as scientists make new discoveries in the Arctic and Antarctic. Beginning this Friday, marine researchers from throughout the Circumpolar North will gather in Fairbanks to discuss the present state of scientific knowledge of marine life in the Arctic Ocean and adjacent Bering Sea.

The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation is sponsoring the April 11-14 Census of Marine Life workshop that will draw participants from Canada, Denmark, England, Germany, Japan, Norway, Russia, Scotland, and the United States. The Census of Marine Life is a major international research program that studies the diversity, distribution, and abundance of marine organisms throughout the world's oceans.

The meeting will be held beginning at 9am each day in conference room 401 of the International Arctic Research Center (IARC) building on the UAF campus West Ridge.

Marine scientists Katrin Iken and Brenda Konar of the University of Alaska Fairbanks School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences are organizing the workshop, and are currently involved in a multi-year Census of Marine Life survey of marine biodiversity from the Arctic to the Antarctic. http://www.sfos.uaf.edu/news/2002/1211nagisa.html

"A key focus of this workshop is to determine what is already known about the Arctic Ocean and Bering Sea, as well as what is yet unknown and what may be unknowable," Konar said.

During the workshop researchers will discuss an international effort to conduct a survey of species biodiversity across the Arctic Ocean.

"We hope that one of the major outcomes of the workshop will be an international proposal to conduct coordinated and shared research to inventory life in the Arctic Ocean," Iken said.

Konar and Iken said that an Arctic Ocean survey could provide substantial evidence to support the belief that marine biodiversity is much greater than once thought in high latitudes. The survey also would help to better understand the long-term impact of climatic changes on marine communities.

Organizers also hope to further develop plans to conduct a series of short nearshore biodiversity surveys around the Bering Sea. The nearshore program is called NaGISA, which is the Japanese word that describes the narrow zone where the land impacts the sea. NaGISA is a research effort funded by the Census of Marine Life. The Bering Sea surveys will provide valuable information about species distribution patterns, current and future range extensions of key species, and the presence and significance of biogeographical breaks, or locations where species composition and diversity change suddenly.

Reporters Note: This meeting will be held in conference room 401 of the International Arctic Research Center (IARC) building on the UAF campus West Ridge. Some of the meetings occur over the weekend, a time when building entrances are normally locked. Journalists wish to attend these meetings are asked to enter the building through the main front public entrance at 9am on Saturday and Sunday.

On the Web:

Census of Marine Life http://www.coml.org

Alfred P. Sloan Foundation http://www.sloan.org/main.shtml

ANaGISA (Alaska Nagisa) http://www.westnurc.uaf.edu/anagisa.html

SFOS News Release: Researchers to begin pole-to-pole marine survey (11/02) http://www.sfos.uaf.edu./news/2002/1211nagisa.html


Dr. Katrin Iken, Assistant Professor of Marine Biology
School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences
Institute of Marine Science
Room 227 O'Neill
University of Alaska Fairbanks
Fairbanks, Alaska 99775-7220
Phone: 907-474-5192
Email: iken@ims.uaf.edu
Web: http://www.sfos.uaf.edu./directory/faculty/iken/

Dr. Brenda Konar, Assistant Professor of Marine Science
School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences
Global Undersea Research Unit
Room 225 O'Neill
University of Alaska Fairbanks
Fairbanks, Alaska 99775-7220
Phone: 907-474-5028
Email: bkonar@ims.uaf.edu
Web: http://www.sfos.uaf.edu./directory/faculty/konar/