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Fisheries, Aquatic Science and Technology (FAST) Laboratory

Students in an Ichthyology class

Students in an Ichthyology class remove heart samples from Pacific halibut to test for disease while on a field excursion to the Kenai Peninsula.

Mission: Improve our understanding of the of fisheries ecology through rigorous life history, age and growth, mortality, recruitment and species-habitat relationship studies and train solution-oriented fisheries scientists by immersing students in research which directly serves local, state, national and international needs through cooperative partnerships with industry, governmental and non-governmental organizations.

The FAST Lab merges APU’s unique blend of intensive and traditional coursework with applied research to engage students in fisheries and aquatic science.  Our work addresses current issues in fisheries research through cooperative projects.  We partner with a broad range of State, Federal, Academic, and Private groups including the Alaska Department of Fish & Game, US Fish &Wildlife Service, NOAA Fisheries, US Geological Survey, the University of Massachusetts, the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, and Pollock Conservation Cooperative.

As director of the FAST Lab, Professor Harris, draws on his unique prospective as a born and raised Alaskan and former fisherman . Prior to becoming a professor he commercially fished salmon in Prince William Sound and Upper Cook Inlet, worked aboard the AK Dept of Fish & Game Research Vessel Pandalus, and captained an oil spill response vessel in the Beaufort Sea.  He received his M.Sc. and Ph.D. in Fisheries Oceanography from the University of Massachusetts Graduate School of Marine Science in New Bedford, Massachusetts, where he researched sea scallop habitat off George’s Bank.

Alaskan waters yield the greatest quantity of seafood harvest (5.34 million lbs – 2012) in the United States, worth ($1.69 billion), making this an ideal location to study fisheries and aquatic sciences.  Current research projects in the FAST Lab focus on issues in fisheries science and management throughout Alaska.  Some recent project highlights include:

  • Assessment of the benthic impacts of raised groundgear for the Eastern Bering Sea pollock fishery: this project included travel to Denmark for work at the SINTEF flume tank in Hirtshals and to the Bering Sea to test gear modifications with the NOAA Alaska Fisheries Science Center.
  • Annual stock assessment of Pacific razor clams at Ninilchik Pt: every year, the FAST Lab sends a team of students to Ninilchik for a week to work with AK Department of Fish & Game on their annual razor clam survey.  This trip is a true test of endurance for everyone involved and proof that hard work and cooperative research can be impactful in fisheries management.
  • Estimating brown bear induced mortality rates on McNeil River chum salmon using video observations: countless hours of video monitoring allowed students to safely observe up to 80 foraging grizzly bears at a time and provided the opportunity for a visit to the field station in Katmai National Park.
  • Classifying age and growth rates in Bathyraja abyssicola, deepsea skate: this project is in collaboration with NOAA, Pacific Shark Research Center and with AK Department of Fish & Game and included work at Moss Landing Marine Lab (CA), Auke Bay Lab (AK) and Narragansett Laboratory (RI) as part of training in shark and skate aging techniques.
  • Spatiotemporal assessment of prevalence and intensity of shell boring worms in weathervane scallops (Patinopecten caurinus) from Kamishak Bay:  Professor Harris loves his scallops.  Students imaged and processed several thousand scallops from AK Department of Fish & Game surveys to assess the intensity of shell boring worms.  We also had opportunities to work aboard the ADFG research vessel in Kamishak Bay to assess discard mortality.

In addition to Professor Harris, the FAST Lab currently has a distinguished  Scholar in Residence (Dr. Suresh Sethi), and 11 graduate and 14 undergraduate student researchers.  We are always looking for highly motivated individuals to join our team!