Homer Alaska - Outdoors

Story last updated at 4:01 PM on Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Science adrift: Have you seen these buoys?

By Tammy Hoem Neher
Kachemak Bay Research Reserve


Photo provided

Surface buoys, like the one pictured above, have been released into Kachemak Bay to help researchers learn more about the bay's currents. Deep-water buoys are deployed in boxes.

Scientists from Kachemak Bay Research Reserve and the University of Alaska Fairbanks have teamed up to learn more about the ocean currents of Kachemak Bay. Tracking the movements of drifting buoys will help answer questions like: What are the bay's main patterns of water movement? How does water enter/exit the smaller bays? How does freshwater input from glaciers change the bay's circulation patterns?

Two different kinds of buoys will be floating around the bay during the summer for the next few years transmitting ocean current information to satellites.

Why study the water movement of Kachemak Bay?

The data from this study combined with NOAA's detailed bathymetry will provide much needed information on how ocean water transports animals, sediment and nutrients around the bay and can help us better predict patterns of the tides and changes in erosion. This information also is important in helping us plan for emergency response situations such as oil spills and invasive species outbreaks.

There has not been a comprehensive ocean current study completed in Kachemak Bay since the late 1970s — and as many of you know, a lot has changed since then. The way that water moves around the bay changes from the surface to the bottom and seawater can move in different directions depending on our climate and the shape of the bay. We are measuring both surface and bottom currents with these small buoys that hold sensitive instruments transmitting their locations to satellites as they drift around the bay.

Your help keeping the buoys adrift is greatly appreciated. If you see a stranded buoy or ensnare a buoy while fishing, please release it back into deep (75 feet or more), open water near your location as soon as possible or contact me (907-226-4668 or tdhoem@alaska.edu) or the Kachemak Bay Research Reserve (907-226-4652).

Tammy Hoem Neher is a graduate research fellow and a fish and wildlife technician working with Kachemak Bay Research Reserve. One of the projects in which she is involved is a study of ocean currents in Kachemak Bay.