Tuesday, 01 May 2012 00:00 The Arctic Scientist
Written by Ava

Bodil Bluhm, a Research Associate Professor in Biological Oceanography, Marine Biology, and Marine Invertebrates at the University of Alaska Fairbanks calls the school a hub of Arctic research. While Alaska is not for everyone, she warns, she loves taking part in these kinds of studies, so for her, it's home.

Professor Bluhm's research focuses on energy flow patterns with polar benthic systems, meaning she looks for similarities and trends among the energy flow on the sea floor of Arctic regions like Alaska.  

Other projects include research on sea ice algae in the Bering Sea Ecosystem, marine biodiversity research in the Arctic Ocean, and other sea-ice projects.  

Bluhm was kind enough to give us a bit of insight into her daily studies and what it means to research in an Arctic region.  

How did you get involved in your marine and Arctic research?

I studied marine biology in Kiel, Germany, and had the opportunity to participate in many marine field classes that really captured my interest.

After my masters, I got the opportunity to go to the Arctic for field sampling - and I was hooked!

Expand on your marine specialties.

Marine biodiversity, sea ice and benthic ecology, invertebrate population dynamics, food web

What are some of your current research projects?

Bering Sea Ecosystem Study: the role of sea ice for pelagic and benthic herbivores (part of a large Bering Sea study that looks at the role of seaice in this sub-Arctic sea), Arctic Ocean Diversity Census of Marine Life (a pan-Arctic biodiversity study with about 100 participants as part of the Census that has 2000 participants)

Russian-American Long-Term Census of the Arctic: epibenthic megafauna composition, standing stock and diversity; and food web structure in different water masses (part of a bi-national long-term study in the Chukchi Sea)

What appeals to you about researching in the Arctic?

Personally, I find the Arctic a magic place. Even after 13 years of working up there, I never get bored of staring at sea ice. Scientifically, it is an interesting area because there are so many gaps in knowledge and climate change makes a lot of questions/answers particularly urgent.

Are there ways that people at home (not research scientists) can help with marine conservation, even in the Arctic?

Yes, increase their and other people's awareness that the Arctic climate affects us all, not 'just' the people that live in the Arctic. Learn about
what lives in the Arctic beyond polar bears, e.g. at http://www.arcodiv.org.
Why continue your research as a Reearch Associate Professor in the University of Alaska?

University of Alaska is a hub for Arctic research and that is exactly what I am doing.

Tell me something we would be surprised to know about the Arctic or marine life in the Arctic.

If I already knew, I would not be surprised :-)

What is a polar benthic system? What trends have you noticed about the growth and production of benthic invertebrate populations?

Hard to put in one sentence. Benthic means relating to the sea floor. Generally, in the Arctic (and Antarctic), animals are restricted by food
more than by water temperature, because the ARctic is such a highly seasonal system. Invertebrates (those that are not fish, mammals or
microbes) tend to grow slowly there and are long lived, often many years or decades. As water warms, southern species will move north and replace
Arctic species.

Do you think people who own aquariums can consider themselves marine conservationists?

Not really.

Would you recommend the University of Alaska to just anyone or do you have to have a special affinity for the Arctic?
What do you tell scientists/students who want to get into this area of study?

You need to have good reasons to want to live in Alaska - then it is just the right place. For big city people, this is not the right place.

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