FEATURED

Sunflower star (Pycnopodia helianthoides). Photo: JBrew (CC BY-SA 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/Jag9sr

Disease epidemic and a marine heat wave are associated with the continental-scale collapse of a pivotal predator (Pycnopodia helianthoides)

The sunflower sea star (Pycnopodia helianthoides) is highly susceptible to sea star wasting disease. The authors of a 2019 paper published in Science Advances document the rapid, widespread decline of sunflower stars and discuss the ecological implications of losing this imporant subtidal predator species.

RECENT ARTICLES

Interior shell of pinto abalone (Haliotis kamtschatkana). Photo: James St. John (CC BY 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/DNTsBV
3/14/2019

The survival of hatchery‐origin pinto abalone Haliotis kamtschatkana released into Washington waters

In Washington State, the pinto abalone (Haliotis kamtschatkana) has declined by 97 percent since 1992 and is unlikely to recover without intervention. A captive rearing and restocking pilot study shows promise for saving wild populations from local extinction.

Clockwise from top left: 1) Mountain gorillas. Photo: Andries3 (CC BY-NC 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/andriesoudshoorn 2) J pod Southern resident orcas – Photo: Miles Ritter (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/mrmritter/42903242165 3) Scientists collect orca breath samples. Photo: Pete Schroeder 4) Hawaiian monk seal. Photo: Karen Bryan/Hawaiian Institute of Marine Biology (CC BY-NC 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/papahanaumokuakea/38322932854
3/13/2019

The Orca Docs: Can medical interventions help?

This three-part series explores opportunities and challenges of using medical interventions to save Puget Sound's south resident orcas from extinction. Part 1 looks at how scientists might treat endangered southern resident orcas that face starvation and risks of disease; Part 2 considers how veterinarians have intervened with other animals in the wild, and how this might apply to orcas in Puget Sound; and Part 3 explores a federally approved vaccination program designed to ward of a deadly virus among endangered Hawaiian monk seals.

Report cover
3/4/2019

Eyes Over Puget Sound: Surface Conditions Report - February 21, 2019

Although fall and winter were warm, February brought cold snowy weather and low river flows. Despite colder air temperatures, the productive season has already started in Hood Canal and Holmes Harbor. Puget Sound waters were warmer than expected through January, and the warmest waters were in Hood Canal, possibly creating a thermal refuge for cold-sensitive species such as anchovies. We saw lots of sea lions feasting on anchovies in Case Inlet, and we may have captured some herring spawning activity. Unusual for mid-winter, we saw jellyfish patches in Eld and Budd inlets. See the new publication about ocean acidification featuring twenty-five years of our marine monitoring data!

Six-month-old Olympia oyster (Ostrea lurida) seed. Photo: Benjamin Drummond/benjandsara.com
2/20/2019

Return of a native: Olympia oysters are making a comeback

Puget Sound’s only native oysters were nearly wiped out in the 19th century from overharvesting. Now a network of scientists and advocates is working to restore them to their historical and cultural prominence.

Report cover
2/15/2019

The whales in our waters: The economic contribution of whale watching in San Juan County

A 2019 report from the non-profit group Earth Economics look at revenues and other economic activity resulting from whale watching in San Juan County, Washington.

A Hawaiian monk seal at Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. Photo by: Karen Bryan/Hawaiian Institute of Marine Biology (CC BY-NC 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/papahanaumokuakea/38322932854
2/5/2019

Vaccines now used to reduce the risk of extinction in Hawaiian monk seals

For critically endangered animal populations, experts worry that a highly infectious disease could be the final nail in the coffin, forcing the species into extinction. That’s one reason why federal authorities approved the development and deployment of a new vaccine to ward off the deadly morbillivirus among Hawaiian monk seals. The vaccination program raises the possibility of using vaccines to prevent disease among Puget Sound's southern resident killer whales, but no specific steps have been taken so far.

Left: mountain gorillas. Photo: Andries3 (CC BY-NC 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/andriesoudshoorn. Right: J pod southern resident orcas – Photo: Miles Ritter (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/mrmritter/42903242165
2/4/2019

Wildlife rescues may inform orca strategies

As the plight of Puget Sound’s southern resident orcas becomes increasingly desperate, with the population dropping from 98 to 75 in just 22 years, scientists are weighing the options of medical intervention. In part two of our two-part series The Orca Docs we look at how veterinarians have intervened with other animals in the wild, and how this might apply to the situation here in Puget Sound. [Part one, "When should medical experts intervene to save a killer whale?" is also available.]

Scientists in a boat use a long pole to capture the breath of an orca. Photo: Pete Schroeder
2/4/2019

When should medical experts intervene to save a killer whale?

The death of a young female orca in September has sparked a discussion of how and whether scientists should step in with medical care for distressed animals in the wild. Medical intervention has become routine for some endangered mammals, but scientists say Puget Sound’s resident orcas present a series of unique challenges and ethical questions. In part one of our two-part series The Orca Docs we look at how scientists are preparing to treat endangered southern resident orcas that face starvation and risks of disease.

Guide cover
1/27/2019

Responding to oil spills in Puget Sound: A guide for volunteers

This 2017 guide from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife provides information for volunteers in the event of an oil spill in Puget Sound. It was produced by the University of Washington Puget Sound Institute with support from the Environmental Protection Agency. 

Tidal forest as viewed from an inner waterway of Otter Island in the Snohomish River estuary. Photo: Jeff Rice/PSI
1/21/2019

Tidal forests offer hope for salmon

Can scientists bring back the lost tidal forests of Puget Sound? It could take generations, but restoring this rare habitat will pay big dividends for Puget Sound’s salmon.   

Eyes Over Puget Sound: 2018 Year in Review
1/11/2019

Eyes Over Puget Sound: 2018 Year in Review

In 2018, water temperatures were slightly warmer than normal. Aerial photos revealed many spawning herring and baitfish as well as algal blooms. We also saw abundant macro-algae, a persistent Noctiluca bloom, and countless red blooms. Were these observations related to the cool, wet spring followed by a warm, dry, and sunny summer? Or did the neutral boundary conditions in the Pacific Ocean also play a role? A full summary is available in the report. 

Report cover
1/10/2019

Shoreline Armoring Implementation Strategy: Reducing armor impacts on Puget Sound shorelines

A 2018 report published by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and Washington Department of Natural Resources describes a regional strategy to reduce shoreline armoring in the Puget Sound region.

Screenshot of Washington Geospatial Open Data Portal
1/3/2019

Ecoregion data from the Washington State Department of Ecology

Ecoregions by state were extracted from the seamless national shapefile. Ecoregions denote areas of general similarity in ecosystems and in the type, quality, and quantity of environmental resources. They are designed to serve as a spatial framework for the research, assessment, management, and monitoring of ecosystems and ecosystem components.

12/28/2018

The 2018/2022 Action Agenda for Puget Sound

The Puget Sound Action Agenda is a shared plan for Puget Sound recovery resulting from a collaboration by state and federal agencies, tribal governments, local governments, business and environmental groups, and others. 

Report cover
12/20/2018

2017 Puget Sound Marine Waters Overview

The Puget Sound Ecosystem Monitoring Program has released its seventh annual Marine Waters Overview. The report provides an assessment of marine conditions for the year 2017 and includes updates on water quality as well as status reports for select plankton, seabirds and fish.

Puget Sound herring eggs on seaweed. Margaret Siple/University of Washington
12/11/2018

Assessment and management of Salish Sea herring

A 2018 report published by the University of Washington Puget Sound Institute and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife brings together an assessment of key science and other knowledge related to herring recovery in the Salish Sea. The report was produced with support from the SeaDoc Society and received input from a cross-border team from state and federal agencies, universities and area tribes.

Water drop image courtesy of Bureau of Ocean Energy and Management
12/4/2018

Ten things to understand about the Clean Water Act

The federal Clean Water Act of 1972 was designed as a logical step-by-step approach to clean up the nation's waterways. Most people acknowledge that the law has been effective in reducing pollution, but industrial and environment groups tend to be on opposite sides when discussing whether regulations and permits adequately protect water quality. These 10 elements of the Clean Water Act (CWA) focus on how the law applies to Puget Sound.

Canary rockfish. Photo by Tippy Jackson, NOAA
11/30/2018

Respecting the rockfish of the Salish Sea

Puget Sound's rockfish have declined by 70% over the past few decades, prompting state and federal protection efforts. We look at some of the ways that scientists are working to reverse the fish's downward trend. 

Eyes Over Puget Sound: Surface Conditions Report - November 6, 2018
11/29/2018

Eyes Over Puget Sound: Surface Conditions Report - November 6, 2018

This fall, elevated air temperatures, lower precipitation, and lower river flows generally persisted; this aligned with fall and winter climate predictions. Following a warm summer, October water temperatures dropped back to optimal ranges for many fish. Puget Sound water has cleared and visibility has increased as the productive season ends making it easier to document jellyfish and schools of fish in the inlets of South Sound. While these flights generate a lot of attention, the majority of our monitoring in Puget Sound is now done via boat!

A screenshot of tidal fluctuations in Puget Sound. Image courtesy of University of Washington Coastal Modeling Group
11/15/2018

Puget Sound tides

This article provides a general overview of tidal patterns in Puget Sound. 

11/15/2018

LiveOcean: Pacific Northwest ocean and estuary forecasts

LiveOcean is a computer model simulating ocean water properties in Puget Sound and the Pacific Northwest. It is produced by the University of Washington Ocean Modeling Group and makes three-day forecasts of currents, temperature, salinity and many biogeochemical fields including harmful algal blooms.

This diagram shows how housing, health, transportation, environment and other factors interact in creating sustainable and equitable communities. Courtesy of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
11/15/2018

Environmental justice

Environmental justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.

Report cover
11/14/2018

Projected sea level rise for Washington State

A 2018 report from the Washington Coastal Resilience Project provides an updated assessment of projected sea level change for coastal Washington State and its relationship to coastal hazards such as flooding and erosion. 

Cassells Point, Duwamish River, WA, ca. 1891. View is to the east, with streetcar bridge crossing the Duwamish River near South Park in the background. Photo credit: University of Washington Special Collections, Frank Laroche Photograph Collection.
11/8/2018

Puget Sound River History Project

The Puget Sound River History Project at the University of Washington features historical topographic data for Puget Sound's river systems.  

Skeleton shrimp. Image courtesy of Dave Cowles, wallawalla.edu.
10/30/2018

Eyes Under Puget Sound: Critter of the month – the skeleton shrimp

There are more than a half dozen species of skeleton shrimp in Puget Sound. The Washington State Department of Ecology profiles this unusual crustacean in its Eyes Under Puget Sound series. 

A harbor porpoise surfing in a boat wake in Burrows Pass, off Fidalgo Island, WA. Photo: Copyright Cindy R. Elliser, Pacific Mammal Research http://pacmam.org/
10/22/2018

Harbor porpoises become increasing players in the Puget Sound food web

With a population growth of about 10 percent per year in inland waters, harbor porpoises are having an undetermined but growing effect on food dynamics in Puget Sound.

Southern resident killer whale breaching. Image courtesy of NOAA
10/16/2018

Sightings of southern resident killer whales in the Salish Sea 1976−2014: the importance of a long-term opportunistic dataset

A 2018 paper in the journal Endangered Species Research analyzes southern resident killer whale sightings in the Salish Sea between 1976 and 2014. 

An orca show at Miami Seaquarium featuring southern-resident orca Lolita. Photo by Marc Averette. Avaiable through a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Ported license. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Miamiseaquariumlolita.jpg
10/10/2018

Orca captures for aquariums

Between 1962 and 1973, at least 263 killer whales were caught or killed in the waters of British Columbia and Washington (Bigg and Wolman 1975). Twelve of these died during capture and fifty were kept for display in aquariums. The remainder of the captured animals escaped or were released. Twenty-seven of the whales kept as captive were taken from the population now designated as endangered southern-resident killer whales (Balcomb 2018). All but one of those, nicknamed Lolita, have since died. Lolita remains in captivity at the Miami Seaquarium.

Balcomb, Ken. (2018). Center for Whale Research. Personal correspondence. 

Bigg, M. A., & Wolman, A. A. (1975). Live-capture killer whale (Orcinus orca) fishery, British Columbia and Washington, 1962–73. Journal of the Fisheries Board of Canada, 32(7), 1213-1221.

A large river delta in Puget Sound. Photo courtesy of Puget Sound Nearshore Ecosystem Restoration Project
10/5/2018

The mosaic of deltas and other estuarine ecosystems in Puget Sound

The diversity and complexity of estuarine ecosystems is vital to the overall health of Puget Sound. This summary fact sheet focuses on the current state of estuarine ecosystems in Puget Sound—large river deltas, embayments, their interconnecting beaches, and rocky coasts—and the historical changes that have occurred since the development of the Puget Sound coastline. Additional emphasis is placed on the historical losses of tidal wetlands within these estuaries. 

Eyes Over Puget Sound: Surface Conditions Report - September 17, 2018
9/24/2018

Eyes Over Puget Sound: Surface Conditions Report - September 17, 2018

Air temperatures have remained high with precipitation and river flows below normal, extending the summer’s unusual conditions. Water temperatures were warmer in August, perhaps too warm for bull kelp and some salmon species in South Sound. In contrast, Hood Canal, North Sound, and the San Juan Islands provide optimal growth temperatures for herring and salmon. Many terminal inlets of Puget Sound are experiencing extensive red-brown blooms. Jellyfish patches are developing in South Sound finger Inlets and remnants of floating macroalgae occur in the nearshore areas of South Sound and in Useless Bay. At times floating organic material we see from the air ends up on the shoreline were our BEACH team documents it.

Find more articles