ANCHORAGE - Scientists are gathered this week in Anchorage for an ambitious ocean research conference that will provide data on killer whales, sea lions, fisheries, salmon stocks, climate change and the oceanography of the Gulf of Alaska.
More than 150 reports and workshops will be presented as part of the Marine Science in the Northeast Pacific symposium.
The overall focus will be broad, highlighting results from three major research efforts into the northeast Pacific Ocean. The five-day conference runs today through Friday.
The Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustees Council staff organized the event with sponsorship from the U.S. Global Change Research Program, the National Marine Fisheries Service, the North Pacific Research Board, North Pacific Marine Research Institute and Pollock Conservation Cooperative Studies.
"I think this may be the largest gathering of marine scientists that's ever happened," said conference coordinator Molly McCammon, executive director of the trustee council. "It's going to be really exciting because it's going to showcase all the Steller sea lion work and the (global ocean climate change) work."
Nearly 500 attendees have registered, but the public should feel free to drop in, McCammon said, especially during a series of 12 presentations aimed partly at nonscientists.
"For the first day and a half, we've told people to use English. English for the public," McCammon said.
Those early talks will often take the big-picture approach: the connection between global climate and the Gulf of Alaska, the lives and migrations of pink salmon, and the need for researchers to reach out to local residents.
Later Tuesday, four days of technical presentations and workshops will begin, starting with talks about killer whales and sharks, how lingering oil from the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill may be harming animals, how salmon can be tracked with radio tags, and changing ocean conditions.
One major goal is to bring together scientists from different areas, McCammon said. Oceanographers will meet with salmon experts, and climate specialists will talk to whale watchers.
"It just expands the base of knowledge exponentially," McCammon said. "It's just incredible."