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Science & Environment

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Science and environmental reporting on news and community topics. Science coverage is occasionally provided by community members.
  • 20210828_SWINLET_ATLAKE_ALGAEBLOOM.jpg
    Courtesy of Andy Dietrick
    /
    Aleutian Aerial LLC
    New data from drone surveys flown over Unalaska’s three road-system lakes last summer show low sockeye salmon counts. The counts total less than half of what they were in summer of 2020, according to data released in April by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. But Fish and Game biologist Tyler Lawson said the one-year drop isn’t too concerning. Escapement numbers often fluctuate and there’s more room for error in aerial surveys, he said. “We call them a ‘high error survey,’ which kind of sounds bad, but it's just because in comparison to the weir — which is a very precise tool — there's variability whenever you're up in the air, looking down and trying to count salmon,” he said. While the technology is still relatively new when it comes to counting salmon in Unalaska, Lawson said he’s hopeful that drones will play a key role in helping assess broader trends among salmon stocks in the region.
  • rat free aleutians 1
    Jennifer Pemberton
    /
    KTOO
    For millions of years, birds lived nearly predator free in the Aleutian Islands. The volcanic archipelago stretches westward for 1,200 miles from the Alaska Peninsula, dotting a border between the North Pacific Ocean and Bering Sea. Hundreds of bird species thrived here. But then came the rats. When a Japanese boat sank in the Western Aleutians around 1780, stowaway rats jumped ship and made it to one of the islands, wreaking havoc on the ecosystem.