CRWP will present at AMSS on citizen scientists

Data gathered is added to ADF&G’s Anadromous Waters Catalog

Students, educators, and rowers in front of an escaped fish wheel along the banks of the Copper River. Back row, from left: Elias Hanson, Arctic Buchanan, John Appleton, Ria Smyke, Anika Witsoe, Nikki Friendshuh and Alexis Hutchinson; Front row, from left: Scott Hickox, Flynn Milligan, Eric Lutz, Glenn Hart, Akilena Veach, Helen Laird, Lauren Bien, Zoe Russin, Barry Whitehill, Kate Morse, Faith Collins, Thomas Abraham, Carolyn Venner, Luke Wassink, Ryan Chalker and Tim Skiba. Photo courtesy Flynn Milligan

Efforts to train some 400 citizen scientists in researching salmon habitat in the Copper River watershed will be in the spotlight on Jan. 23, during the Gulf of Alaska day at the Alaska Marine Science Symposium in Anchorage.

Kristin Carpenter, executive director of the Copper River Watershed Project, will deliver a presentation prepared by CRWP program director Kate Morse on how CRWP trained elementary and high school students, plus adults from the Cordova area in documenting salmon habitat in the watershed.

Hers is one of some two dozen presentations to be delivered on Gulf of Alaska marine topics ranging from climate and oceanography to fish habitat. On the following two days, a series of similar presentations on the Bering sea/Aleutian Islands, and the Arctic are on the agenda, which is posted online at

The annual symposium, led by organizers from the North Pacific Research Board, brings together scientists, educators, resource managers, students and interested public to discuss the latest marine research being conducted in Alaska waters.

CRWP organized its citizen training program several years ago after concluding that there was a data gap in Copper River watershed salmon habitat information that could be filled creatively.

Using funds from the North Pacific Research Board and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation funds from Wells Fargo, CRWP taught students as young as the fifth grade, as well as high school students and adults in the community how to collect data on places in the watershed where salmon are being reared.


“We used baited minnow traps to track juvenile fish,” Morse said. While a lot of people knew where spawning occurred, the question was where they were being reared. They used salmon eggs to bait the minnow traps and gathered data on the size and number of fish caught in salmon rearing areas. Data gathered is added to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s Anadromous Waters Catalog, helping to fill the gap created by the state government’s diminishing financial resources.

The training and research continues, but to a lesser degree right now, because of the cost and logistics of getting these citizen scientists to more remote sites, using helicopters and river rafts.

CRWP’s focus is promoting a salmon-rich, intact watershed by forming partnerships with culturally diverse communities for watershed scale planning and projects.

CRWP’s watershed education programs take students from grades kindergarten through their senior year in high school on field trips, as well as classroom sessions on aquatic habitat, storm water pollution, the lifecycle of salmon and watershed science. CRWP has completed several habitat restoration and monitoring project in the watershed to improve fish passage, re-vegetate and stabilize habitats for spawning and rearing.

The Alaska Marine Science Symposium begins on Jan. 22 with four keynote speeches. Those presenters include Chris Linder, a research associate at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Woods Hole, MA; Rear Adm. Timothy Gallaudet Ret., now assistant Secretary of Commerce for oceans and atmosphere for NOAA; Rick Thoman, climate sciences and services manager for the National Weather Service-Alaska Region; and Lis Lindall Jorgensen, senior scientist with the Institute of Marine Research, Bergen, Norway.