Water/Weather

Saltmarshes

Invasives

Phytoplankton

Water Quality & Weather

As part of a nationally standardized monitoring program, the Kachemak Bay Research Reserve tracks short-term changes and long-term trends in weather and water quality.

We operate two monitoring platforms, each equipped with deep and surface stations. Since 2002, we’ve collected real-time, continuous data on metrics important to scientists and resource managers. These include water temperature, dissolved oxygen, salinity, turbidity, chlorophyll, and nutrients. This is complemented by the meteorological data we collect on water conditions and improves our understanding of the relationship between atmospheric and aquatic conditions.

After extensive quality assurance and quality control, this data—and similar data from around the Reserve System—is available at the Centralized Data Management Office. You can also find data about a changing Kachemak Bay at the Gulf of Alaska data integration portal.

Saltmarshes

Tidal marshes protect people and property against storm surges and flooding, improve water quality, create habitat for important fish and wildlife, and offer many opportunities for outdoor recreation. In 2010, the Kachemak Bay Research Reserve joined a national study to evaluate the ability of these important habitats to thrive as sea levels change. That led to four long-term saltmarsh stations in Kachemak Bay, each monitoring emergent vegetation, marsh surface elevation, water elevation, and soil temperature. 

Saltmarshes also support wildlife. In 2022, the Kachemak Bay Research Reserve joined 29 other sites in the National Estuarine Research System to conduct the first-ever North American inventory of coastal wetland wildlife. Using 140 cameras in 30 estuaries, the team captured thousands of images that collectively reveal the secret lives of estuary critters—from Alaska’s bears to Florida’s armadillos. This archive provides a unique foundation for addressing important wildlife science and management questions on our changing coasts.

Landscape of grass, a stream, and a snowcapped mountain in the distance.
Game camera photo of a bear walking away from the camera through a field.

Invasives

Invasive, or nonnative, species can cause great economic and environmental harm. Once established, they are extremely difficult or impossible to remove. The Kachemak Bay Research Reserve’s invasive species monitoring program is designed to determine which species are most likely to come to our area and where they are likely to settle. Our goal is to provide information to support early detection and increase the odds of eradication.

Invasive Tunicates: Invasive tunicates are marine fouling organisms that can grow on underwater infrastructure and are spread through bio-fouling. Due to their ability to reproduce asexually, invasive tunicates can spread thickly over rocks, reef, and shellfish habitats, smothering organisms underneath thick mats or covering boat hulls and fishing gear. We partner with the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center Plate Watch program to monitor for invasive tunicates in Kachemak Bay. We also have survey beaches at low tide, and heavily encrusted boats or marine infrastructure whenever possible.

European green crabs: This aggressive invader has been working its way up the West Coast, and unfortunately was spotted in the Metlakatla community in 2022. These voracious predators are known to disrupt habitats amd pose a serious threat to native crabs, shellfish, and salmon. In addition to monitoring for green crabs, we partner to improve community ability to respond when they are spotted.

You can help us keep these invaders at bay—here’s how.

The Reserve, as part of the Alaska Center for Conservation Science, hosts and maintains the Alaska Aquatic Invasive Species Clearinghouse (AKAqua) to track detection of both marine and freshwater invasive species populations statewide.

One person holding a crab while the other person measures it.

Video of EGC rapid response exercise created by Martin Media and funded by PSMFC. You can find the 508 compliant video here

Phytoplankton Monitoring

Harmful algal blooms (HABs) produce toxins that cause severe health effects and sometimes death for people, marine mammals, and birds. In 2015, Kachemak Bay experienced its first harmful algal bloom (HAB) in ten years. In response, the Reserve brought community partners together to improve local monitoring of HABs and protect public health.

Today, HABs Community Monitoring Program keeps tabs on toxic phytoplankton levels at 31 sites in Kachemak Bay, Lower Cook Inlet, the greater Resurrection Bay area, and Prince William Sound. This volunteer-supported program generates data and reports that support state managers, private and public organizations, oyster farmers, local harvesters, and tribal organizations. Learn how you can help.

Groundwater in Kachemak Bay
Groundwater in Kachemak Bay