CHS grad spends summer underwater


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Anne Benolkin, a 2009 Chugiak grad, poses with fellow student researcher Annie Thomson during their study of abalone in Washington this summer.

PAUL DINNEL

Anne Benolkin, a 2009 graduate of Chugiak High School who currently attends the University of Alaska Southeast, recently worked on a summer internship measuring the survival and growth of 1,200 juvenile abalone that were raised in a hatchery by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and planted in Skagit County (Wash.) marine waters two to four years ago. In 1998, WDFW determined that abalone populations had fallen so low that this once abundant animal would disappear from Washington waters without intervention, according to a press release issued by the Shannon Point Marine Center.

Benolkin’s work is part of a larger collaboration among Western Washington University’s Shannon Point Marine Center (SPMC), Puget Sound Restoration Fund, University of Washington and WDFW to eventually return numbers of this native gastropod to levels that will sustain recreational and tribal harvests.

“We are hoping to establish sites with densities greater than one abalone per six square meters (the minimum density required for successful egg fertilization). If we can accomplish this at these sites and others, then, through natural reproduction, the total number of abalone should continue to increase,” Benolkin said in the release.

Benolkin, was awarded a National Science Foundation-funded Research Experience for Undergraduates internship working with Shannon Point’s Paul Dinnel.

As a result of her work on the project, Benolkin recently received a travel grant to attend the American Academy of Underwater Sciences annual symposium in September.

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