The College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences conducts a broad range of research in fisheries, oceanography and marine biology. Our projects range from hypothesis-driven studies to long-term monitoring time series to large integrative projects. Much of our research focuses on the Arctic and North Pacific regions, but also extends well beyond Alaskan waters.
Faculty and research scientists in the Department of Marine Biology are leaders in high-latitude ecosystem studies and climate change research, with expertise that includes benthic community structure to carbon source contributions, trophic ecology in Arctic and subarctic food webs, seabird and marine mammal ecology and physiology, and ocean acidification to mariculture. Marine biology research is focused on endangered and protected species and animals of critical importance to Alaska Native subsistence communities, as well as economically and ecologically important taxa. Alaska’s economy is largely natural resource–based, and marine biology faculty are important contributors to setting the research agenda and policy of marine biology–related issues, especially in high-latitude ecosystems, by serving on national and international science boards and panels.
Oceanographers study how physics and chemistry impact the production of the basal elements of the ocean’s food web and, in particular, how a changing climate may lead to altered ecosystems that will ultimately impact the quantity of resources we depend on from the sea. Faculty and research scientists in the Department of Oceanography are international experts on high-latitude ecosystems who contribute to many high-profile reports, panels, committees and steering groups. These various research and policy efforts prepare oceanographers for a future with ever-increasing needs from the oceanographic community. CFOS oceanography faculty are widely recognized for conducting diverse ocean sciences research, including long-term time series, a broad range of observational programs, and modeling studies. Oceanography faculty and alumni work closely with state and federal agencies to help manage our ocean resources from regional to global scales.
Research conducted by faculty and research scientists in the Department of Fisheries contributes significantly to fisheries and the fishing industry in Alaska. The fishing industry is the state’s largest private employer, with an average of approximately 60,000 workers in the seafood industry, including roughly 32,000 fishermen (annual average over 2013–2014). Fisheries is also the primary economic driver for many rural coastal communities, with an ex-vessel value of $1.8 billion in 2018 (processing to wholesale products typically doubles this value). Alaska’s fisheries represent about 60% of US production, and these fisheries are widely regarded as among the best managed in the world. Fisheries research conducted at CFOS is essential to maintaining this critical resource in the face of shifting environmental forces such as climate change. Fisheries faculty and alumni are intimately integrated into these marine and inland fisheries through management, training, technical workforce and supportive research.