Summer field work resumes

We are pleased to have resumed field activities this summer after being unable to do so over the past two years due to COVID travel restrictions. First on the list is updating coastal imagery and habitat information along the outer Kenai Peninsula. This area was originally surveyed in 2002 and was one of the earliest ShoreZone surveys in Alaska. We were anxious to update this area using improved imaging technology that has been used for other, more recent surveys.

Aerial image from June 2022 ShoreZone survey along outer Kenai Peninsula coast.

Initially planned for May 2020, the delayed schedule for the updated survey allowed us to leverage funds from the National Park Service (NPS) to extend the survey area to include the entire shoreline of the Kenai Fjords National Park. The survey was finally conducted in June 2022, and captured high resolution digital video and photos between Windy Bay and Cape Resurrection. CIRCAC contractors from Coastal and Ocean Resources (CORI) led the survey and CIRCAC’s Science Director, Sue Saupe, rotated in as one of the coastal imaging biologists during the survey.

Once processed, the new imagery will be served on National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Alaska Ocean Observing System (AOOS) ShoreZone data portals. These tools will provide access to much higher-resolution imagery than is currently available for oil spill planning and response in the area.

We will continue to seek funding partners to update “mapping” of the new imagery, which is when mappers interpret the imagery and audio narrations made by the helicopter survey team to record detailed information on biological habitat, geology, and morphology for each unique shore segment. We are also seeking partners to update the imagery and mapping along other shorelines in CIRCAC’s area of concern that would benefit from newer imaging technology. Our highest priority includes Kodiak Island and Alaska Peninsula areas that were initially surveyed in 2002 and 2003.

Though we anticipated we might see an expansion of Macrocystis (Giant) kelp in the survey area between 2002 and 2022, the team was still surprised at the extent that it had established in two new kelp beds. CIRCAC has a historical project that evaluated Macrocystis kelp in the Kodiak Island area in 2006 and 2009, and has included research funds in our current budget to continue monitoring its expansion in the western Gulf of Alaska.