Erin Kunisch » Members
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PhD project title:
Biological responses in Arctic marine fauna: life cycles, resource use, and trophic links during a period of sea ice decline.
PhD project description:
The overarching goal of this thesis is to investigate how organisms respond to changing environmental conditions. How important are ice-derived food sources in Arctic food webs? Are ice-associated amphipods always reliant on sea ice for their life history strategies?
To answer these questions, a fatty acid and lipid biomarker approach will first be used to track ice algae (an early ice-associated food source) and pelagic phytoplankton to secondary zooplankton consumers. This approach will further investigate how these food sources are mirrored in higher trophic level consumers such as polar cod (Boreogadus saida), ice seals, and sea birds. Second, it has been suggested that the ice-associated Arctic amphipods (species living within or directly under sea ice) may use the deeper Arctic Ocean currents as part of their life history strategy, in order to survive time periods where sea ice is absent. Pelagic catch records of these ice-associated amphipods were collected on a pan-Arctic scale in order to further investigate this hypothesis and seek out any empirical evidence of pelagic distribution and abundance.
In the face of wide-scale ecosystem changes in the Arctic Ocean, it is imperative to better understand how ice-associated species may potentially adapt to variable and changing ice conditions. Investigating how Arctic sea ice matters biologically during this time of ecosystem change will further support what is already known about this complex polar ecosystem.
Start date: May 2016
Planned submission date: May 2020
Bodil Bluhm (UiT, Tromsø, Norway)
Øystein Varpe (UNIS, Tromsø, Norway)
Rolf Gradinger (UiT, Tromsø, Norway)
Relevant scientific publications:
- Wilson, K., Fritz, L., Kunisch, E., Chumbley, K. and Johnson, D. (2012), Effects of research disturbance on the behavior and abundance of Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) at two rookeries in Alaska. Marine Mammal Science, 28: E58–E74.