How to tag a fish? APU’s Ashline explains for award-winning TV show

credit: US Fish & Wildlife Service

credit: US Fish & Wildlife Service

APU graduate student Joshua Ashline is featured in a segment of Aqua Kids, a nationally televised series aimed at motivating young people to take part in preserving marine life and habitat.

Ashline, a biologist in training with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service in Anchorage, is seen in a segment focusing on Alaska salmon and filmed at Fish Creek in the Mat-Su Valley.

Aqua Kids follows a cast of high school- and college-age actors as they travel the world to explain marine research and conservation for television audiences nationwide.

“The kids and producers were well informed,” said Ashline, a master’s degree student in APU’s environmental science program. “It was my first time being filmed. I enjoyed doing it, and my family back East enjoyed seeing it.”

As a field crew leader with the Fish & Wildlife Service, Ashline’s work includes training seasonal staff on use of the tiny, coded markers known as PIT tags – for passive integrated transponders. Tags are injected into individual fish to collect and relay data on growth, movement patterns and survival, among other things.

“My role was to show how tagging works with juvenile coho,” Ashline said. In addition to explaining how large fish must be before they’re tagged and why tagging doesn’t hurt the fish, Ashline also described benefits of PIT technology.

For instance, tagging provides greater insight into the life history of coho salmon and increases potential for science-based decisions about fish passage and habitat.

A student in the Applied Fisheries Lab overseen by APU Assistant Professor Brad Harris, Ashline’s master’s thesis is an extension of his in-the-field demonstration for Aqua Kids. His research topic is habitat use, survival and growth rate of juvenile coho salmon overwintering in the Big Lake watershed, about 65 miles north of Anchorage.

Harris says Ashline’s dedication to data-driven fisheries management comes through in his Aqua Kids appearance.

“Josh is a great example of the professionalism that MSES students bring to their work inside and outside of the classroom,” Harris said. “It’s really fun to see how well he did in front of the camera.”

Ashline said he chose Alaska Pacific University over other Alaska universities because it permitted him to continue working with the Fish & Wildlife Service and study with Harris. “I didn’t connect with my potential academic advisers the way I did with Brad,” Ashline said.

Ashline is a University of Vermont graduate with degrees in fisheries biology and business administration. He anticipates graduating from APU as soon as 2014.

Emmy-award winning Aqua Kids airs on CBS and Fox affiliates in Anchorage and Fairbanks, respectively.