Eyak Lake A Science & Memory Data Story

Eyak Lake 60 ° 33' 9.387" N 145 ° 40' 18.385" East of Cordova, Alaska

Science & Memory

is a project of the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication with a mission to tell complex stories of climate and environment throughout the Pacific Northwest and beyond. Faculty and students explore topics such as salmon and other species, human experience in a changing world, and environmental issues related to climate. Cordova, Alaska serves as a destination for some of this work.

Eyak Lake, a force of both life and prosperity for the organisms and culture of Cordova, is an important focal point of this project.

This Eyak Lake data story is organized in 3 parts:

  • Data of PLACE to offer context,
  • Data of LIFE from sky to water,
  • Data of ENVIRONMENTAL CHANGE to consider complexity.

CONTEXT OF LANDSCAPE AND SCOPE

13,000 acre feet = approximately 425 million gallons

Of the many sources that feed Eyak Lake, the largest single contributor is to the northeast via Scott Glacier, a 15-mile long glacier covering 25 square miles in the Chugach Mountains.

To the south, Eyak Lake drains into Eyak River which flows for six miles before entering the western Copper River Delta, eventually reaching the Gulf of Alaska.

Average annual temperature of Eyak Lake is 42ºF. Average annual rainfall is 148.37 inches. Average annual snowfall in the area is 100 inches.

The temperate rainforests surrounding Eyak Lake show the interchange between forest and ocean, and these natal coastal rainforest streams make an ideal spawning site for Pacific salmon. The path from Eyak River to Eyak Lake to Power Creek is the principal salmon spawning route of Eyak Lake.

1.4 million salmon harvested annually from the Copper River Delta area

Eyak Lake is home to plants, animals and ten key fish species. One of the most sought after natural resources is salmon. Eyak Lake serves as a vital salmon spawning site, with 1.4 million salmon harvested annually at the mouth of the Eyak River

11 Miles of Power Creek feeds Eyak Lake

Power Creek is an 11-mile stream fed by Scott Glacier that extends from the northeastern tip of Eyak Lake. Here, salmon both build the strength to survive in marine waters and eventually return to spawn. As snow and glaciers melt, the stream fills with sediment and turquoise water. This makes it challenging for fish to see their prey, meaning excess glacier runoff threatens the survival of salmon.

The Power Creek culverts, installed in 2008, facilitate the passage of fish and connect a variety of spawning and rearing habitats.

FROM SKY TO WATER

Flying into Cordova is the first introduction to the beauty of a place that is so full of connections. It's no wonder we use the term perspective to describe both a view and a mindset. Cordova and the Eyak Lake area can only be accessed via plane or boat; no roads lead to Cordova.

BIRDS AND WILDLIFE

Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus): The Alaskan bald eagle population is estimated at 30,000 birds. These birds of prey are the largest bird of prey in the state, with an average wingspan of up to 8 feet and weighing 8-14 pounds.

Trumpeter Swan (Olor buccinator): Approximately 10% of the world's trumpeter swans nest in the Copper River Delta area in the spring. About 100 swans winter over on Eyak Lake.

Dusky Canada Geese (Branta canadensis occidentalis): "Duskies" --in long term decline because of habitat changes--nest in the Copper River Delta and winter in the Willamette Valley area near Eugene, Oregon

Migratory Birds: Approximately 4.5-5 million use the Copper River Delta as a migratory stopover. Over 235 species of birds have been identified during this migration.

Scavenger Birds: data point on Scavenger birds

BEARS

BROWN BEARS info and context data point on numbers of bears in area

Black bears (Ursus americanus) in Alaska are the most common bear species in the state. In the Eyak Lake area, black bears hibernate approximately five months; longer in colder climes. Warming temperature trends affect hibernation and food availability, which in turn affect ability to mate and how long mothers rear young.

SITKA SPRUCE: data point on sitka

SALMONBERRY: data

FIREWEED: data

MOSS AND LICHEN

SALMON

5 TYPES OF SALMON

"Humpies"
Coho "Pinks"

Data on water temperature in eyak lake and salmon

Salmon live an average of 4 to 5 years, traveling from their nascent stream to the ocean, then back to spawn and die. As they return to Eyak Lake and find their way up Power Creek, HERE

DECAY

The humble Russian Black Slug works to decompose the corpse of a salmon.

Coastal temperate rainforests allow for dramatic reciprocity of forests and ocean. After salmon move through boreal forest streams to return to their nascent spawning ground, they die; their decomposing bodies become rich nutrients for new growth in the forest. Bears, eagles, ravens, crows, and gulls eat salmon and the carcasses and droppings from those species become part of the salmon-to-forest cycle. Research on Sitka spruce indicate salmon DNA in tree rings.

Reciprocity

Data point on decomposition/DNA in the trees

Something about the kinds of organisms that function in this important role of clean up and nutrient recycling.

GROUND AND WATER

data point on

NEED VIDEO OF SALMON UNDERWATER Maybe a 360 video would be ideal

RETREATING GLACIERS IN THE EYAK LAKE REGION

“How the climate has been changing over the past few decades of anthropogenic influence really has manifest itself quite well. It provides tangible evidence for how climate change is affecting the landscapes.”

Shad O'Neel, head of the glacier research program at the USGS Alaska Science Center on retreating Alaskan glaciers, in "Alaska's Glaciers are Retreating" Climate Wire September 30, 2016

NASA Landsat satellites found that over the past century permafrost in Alaska has warmed up to 7 degrees, and researchers from the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, say it could lose more than 60 percent of its current permafrost mass. http://www.joboneforhumanity.org/retreating_glaciers_a_sign_of_alaska_s_major_meltdown

RISING TEMPERATURES

rising temperatures and permafrost in alaska

WARMING WATERS

Inland lakes and temperature changes

ELODEA AND A CHANGING LAKE

data point

Mark has short video for this space

Elodea, commonly known as waterweed, is an invasive plant that was first spotted in Alaska in Eyak Lake in 1982. The plant has since spread to other parts of the state, threatening native plants species and altering habitats as it grows. The U.S. Forest Service uses both removal and herbicide to combat this process, but Elodea can proliferate from just a fragment of a plant.

video and statement

HUMANS AND EYAK LAKE

data point on numbers of fishing licenses in the area

Closing sentence here with maybe something on this photo...

CREDITS & SOURCES

Designed by Paige DePaepe

Written and organized by Deb Morrison

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