KBRR Gets High-Tech in Watching Kachemak Bay

Shady Grove Oliver

     The quarterly meeting of the Kachemak Bay Research Reserve community council was held last week. It discussed a number of recent and seasonal projects on the reserve, including the System-Wide Monitoring Program.

     Research Coordinator Angie Doroff says the program is more exciting than its name. She says there is a collection of buoys, instruments, stations, and sondes strategically placed around Kachemak Bay. She describes a sonde as a fantastic instrument that, at $18,000 a piece, might be more expensive than your car.

     "That's the super duper model," says Doroff. "They have a series of probes for water temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, turbidity ... and then we've been adding chlorophyll probes because we want to measure that productivity indicator." 

All of this technology is distributed around three sites. They make a rough line from the calmer head of the bay to the more oceanic conditions of Seldovia. 

     So, there’s a buoy collecting data in Bear Cove. At the end of the Homer Spit and in the Seldovia harbor, there are two sets of instruments each - one for the top layer of water and one for the bottom.

     "And that's because we're a glacial melt system," says Doroff. "You've got freshwater influences more strongly on the surface waters (and) you've got denser, more saline waters deeper."

     So, salt on the bottom, fresh on top. That’s why there’s a need for vertically stacked measurements. There’s also a weather station in Anchor Point that gathers meteorological data.  

      Doroff says the information provides a baseline for the bay. That standard helps scientists understand what’s going on when things change.

     In a nutshell, the system-wide monitoring program is just what its name says - technology that paints a scientific picture of Kachemak Bay to help people better understand their environment and the things that affect it.