The Alaska Octopus Project is the major research focus of the Behavior & Benthic Ecology Laboratory (BBEL) at Alaska Pacific University.The BBEL addresses basic and applied questions about marine organism behavior, and the effects of behavior on ecology, populations and communities of marine benthic habitats. The long-term emphasis of this lab has been an investigation of the giant Pacific octopus in Alaska, an on-going effort of almost two decades. The Alaska Octopus Project focuses on harvest and related issues understood through study of behavior and ecology of octopuses in benthic habitats. The range of the giant Pacific octopus extends around the Pacific Rim from California to Korea. The species comprises the largest component of by-catch in Alaska pot fisheries and is an important subsistence resource. The giant Pacific octopus is a model marine invertebrate for behaviors most often understood in a vertebrate or terrestrial context, as well as a charismatic species that appeal to students and the public. Our investigations of the giant Pacific octopus in Alaska include aspects of octopus diet and prey choice, habitat association and habitat selection, individual movements, population trends, population genetics and variability, assessment of stress and viability, cognition, animal husbandry and captive care, and interactions with fisheries; as well as factors influencing octopus habitat and success, such as diseases and escape responses of octopus prey, and the interactions of octopuses with benthic communities.
Since 2000, this lab has conducted research in a teaching context, and is integrated into the APU Marine Biology curriculum in a variety of ways from the care of captive octopuses in the University aquarium lab through field courses and annual, student-focused research expeditions in the field. This web site, created by students, showcases student work on this fascinating species, and the complex intertidal and benthic marine biological communities with which it interacts.