Undergraduate Research at UAS: Henry Masters

Undergraduate Research at UAS: Henry Masters


My name’s Henry Masters. I’m studying
biology at the University of Alaska Southeast. I was born and raised in
Alaska and I’m part Alaska Native too. This is Salmon Creek Reservoir. I grew up
exploring places like this with my camera and fly rod. These help distill a
deep curiosity for the natural world around me. I’m always amazed at the
beauty and how much life there is around water. There’s so much you can learn. I forgot my flies and I learned you have
to improvise sometimes. Paper clips and grass help me figure that one out. I wanted to learn to fly-fish when I was
young because let’s face it it just looks really cool. Over the years I
changed why I fly fish. First, it was to catch a ton of fish and then it was to
find the really big fish. But as I get older, I just love to learn about fish. If
they’ll take a bug over a salmon egg. I love learning about the riparian
habitats and how they change with their environment. What things stayed the same though I
still lose some fish. The beauty of biology is that you have
to make real world observations and test them. I’ve been able to recruit my skills
in fly fishing, photography, biology, and my knowledge of Juneau to design a
research project funded with a URECA grant. Every fish I catch I start by
seeing if I’ve caught it before by checking behind the left eye where I
inject a pink elastomer that fluoresces under UV light. I anesthetize each fish
ensuring their relaxed for their safety and for ease of handling. Once they’re
relaxed I take them behind the left eye with that pink elastomer. Then I take
detailed photographs of all their fins and body glands. These fish were planted
in the early 19th century and two different isolated populations behind
the dam and the streams below. I’m working directly with UAS professor
Carolyn Bergstrom to analyze all of the data that I’ve collected. I’m using these
photos to develop a 3D visual representation of a birkie from the
stream and a brookie from the lake. Then I can compare any morphological changes
that have taken place over the hundred or so years since they were planted here. My time at UAS and a URECA grant have
given me the unique opportunity to conduct research as an undergraduate. I’m
excited to see what I can fish for next.

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