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Milestones: Auke Bay Laboratories (ABL)

The "A Team" Retires with 92 Years of Federal Service! 

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The "A team": (from left to right) Pat Harris, John Thedinga, and Scott Johnson of Auke Bay Lab's Nearshore Habitat Project.  

Scott Johnson, John Thedinga, and Pat Harris of Auke Bay Labs' Nearshore Habitat Project worked as a team. Affectionately known as the "A-team" with a combined total of 92 years of federal service, Scott, JT, and Pat each retired 31 December 2012.

Scott, JT, and Pat spent their careers in this nearshore zone despite the fierce insect infestations, rogue waves, uncharted rocks, inclement weather, sink holes, and other massive logistical difficulties. They manually hauled in over a thousand beach seines: identifying and measuring tiny immature fish without killing them, assessing eelgrass beds in unforgiving rising tides, and dealing with skiffs determined to go high and dry.

Their passion for knowledge in Alaska's shallow nearshore has resulted in several key manuscripts detailing essential fish habitat where virtually no information previously existed. They even went one step further by developing an online database known as the Alaska Nearshore Fish Atlas available to the public, researchers, resource managers, and educators for which they received a NOAA Bronze award. Their body of work will be the number one "go-to resource" for future nearshore studies of essential fish habitat in Alaska.

We wish them each the very best in retirement.

Scott Johnson Retires with 33 Years of Service

Scott Johnson.

Scott Johnson, Team Lead for the Auke Bay Laboratory's Nearshore Habitat Project, retired 31 December 2012 with 33 years of federal service.

Scott began his career at Auke Bay Laboratories in June 1982 as a fisheries biologist in the Habitat Investigations Program studying the impact of logging on salmon. This research firmly established the critical importance of buffer strips around salmon streams. In subsequent years Scott was often the first choice to lead any new Habitat survey, always bringing a "can-do" attitude, dogged persistence, and a dedication to publishing the results to each new endeavor. Scott led the marine debris program to enumerate fishing gear washed up on Alaskan beaches.

Since 2000, Scott led research on forage fish habitat utilization of the coastal nearshore throughout Alaska including the Aleutians and Arctic. His 50 publications spanned such diverse subjects as the effects of logging, marine debris, mine tailings, Pacific herring and salmonid ecology, rockfish behavior, forage fish distribution, and eelgrass habitat.

Scott was born in Prescott, Arizona, obtaining his B.S. in zoology in 1974 from San Diego State University. Upon graduation he worked as a medical research technician at Scripps in La Jolla, California, for several years. He took his first job with NOAA in 1977 as a fisheries biological technician in the Tuna-Porpoise program at the Southwest Fisheries Center in Sand Diego and spent almost an entire year at sea. In 1979 he began his graduate research in Arcata, at the Salmonid Wastewater Aquaculture Facility. In 1981 he received his M.S. degree in Natural Resources from Humboldt State University. The title of his master's thesis was "Length frequency, relative abundance, and catch-age analysis of sablefish in the Gulf of Alaska."

During his 30 years at the lab, Scott's skills in the outdoors, his witty banter and wacky nicknames for colleagues made him a warm personality to work with in the field. In his retirement, Scott will have more time to enjoy his hobbies, including snowshoeing, traveling, hiking, hunting and fishing, and enjoying a good brandy ice.

John Thedinga Retires with 34 Years of Service

John Thedinga.

John Thedinga retired on 31 December 2012 with 37 years as a fishery biologist (34 with the AFSC) and 45 publications. His combination of unfailing good humor, clever solutions to thorny logistic problems, and physical agility meant that JT, as he was affectionately known, was the researcher everyone wanted on their team.

JT was born in Menomonie, Wisconsin. He studied Fish and Wildlife Management at the University of North Dakota, during which time he spent his summers assisting in stream and lake surveys in Wisconsin and North Dakota. In 1975 he received his B.S. from Univeristy of North Dakota.

JT began work at Auke Bay Labs in December 1978 as a fishery biologist studying the effects of timber harvest on salmonids, after assisting with research and management of Cook Inlet sockeye salmon from 1976 to 1977. While working at ABL, JT went on to obtain his M.S. in Fisheries at the University of Alaska, Juneau in 1985. His M.S. thesis was titled "Smolt scale characteristics and yield of coho salmon Oncorhynchus kisutch, smolts and adults from Procupine Creek, southeastern Alaska." In addition to his extensive work on the utilization of nearshore habitat by fishes, JT worked on the effects of mechanical shock on incubating salmon eggs, salmonid ecology (notably homing and habitat use), the impact of glacial flooding, kelp and eelgrass distribution, and salinity tolerance of salmon smolts.

JT is an avid and skilled gardener, likes to fish and hunt, and has completed more laps around the cross-country track than most of us in Juneau.

Pat Harris Retires with 25 Years of Service

  pat harris
  Pat Harris.

Pat Harris retired on 31 December 2012 after 25 years of federal service.

Pat Harris grew up in Fairbanks, Alaska, then lived in Whitehorse, obtained a degree in zoology, and eventually migrated to the coast where she discovered marine habitats. Pat began work at Auke Bay Labs as a parasitologist in May 1987, inventorying the distribution of brain myxosporidians in salmon watersheds. Following the 1989 Exxon Valdez Oil Spill in Prince William Sound, Pat's study focus changed to the effects of oil in the nearshore environment. In a fish-centric environment, Pat became an expert in marine vegetation and invertebrates. Her expertise with eelgrass beds has taken her all over Alaska, including Izenbek Lagoon in the Aleutian Islands, which is the largest eelgrass bed in the world.

Pat has a comprehensive knowledge of the distribution of eelgrass beds throughout the City and Borough of Juneau, much of the rest of Southeast Alaska, and Prince William Sound. The importance of this critical habitat as nursery areas for juvenile fishes is only now being fully appreciated. Most recently, Pat worked on baseline monitoring associated with the development of the Kensington Gold Mine near Juneau, Alaska.

Pat's giving nature and ability to communicate complicated science into easily-understood concepts for the public has made her a wonderful mentor for many students. She has been a huge proponent of ABL's recycling program. In her spare time, she is an avid gardener and volunteer extraordinaire.

By Mandy Lindeberg


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