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Harbor seals, Lopez Island, WA. Photo: Bethany Weeks (CC BY-NC 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/6Mnq5k

Fine-scale variability in harbor seal foraging behavior

A 2014 paper in the journal PLoS ONE examines differences between foraging behavior of harbor seals based on haulout site locations, seasons, sexes and times of day. The authors hypothesize that these factors may help explain the variability in diet among harbor seals observed at different haul-out site groups in the Salish Sea. 

RECENT ARTICLES

Eyes Over Puget Sound report cover
6/13/2019

Eyes Over Puget Sound: Surface Conditions Report - May/June 2019

Warm and dry conditions this spring are predicted to persist into summer, resulting in saltier and warmer than normal Puget Sound water conditions. Early upwelling and a premature melt of the snowpack means nutrient-rich ocean water likely already entered Puget Sound. This sets the stage for a lot of biological activity. From the air, it is obvious that the productive season is in full swing. We saw large algae blooms in Central Sound along with abundant Noctiluca.  Huge numbers of anchovies were documented in Case Inlet and other finger inlets in South Sound, attracting hundreds of marine mammals.

An image from "Salish Sea Wild." Video courtesy of the SeaDoc Society.
6/7/2019

Video series features science and adventure in the Salish Sea

A new video series follows local scientists into the water, capturing the adventure behind the research. "Salish Sea Wild" is entering its second season and we interviewed the series host and producers. Among our burning questions: What's it like to have a Steller sea lion chew on your head? 

Glaucous-winged gulls in flight at Protection Island National Wildlife Refuge. Photo: Peter Davis/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
6/6/2019

Predator–prey dynamics of bald eagles and glaucous‐winged gulls

An unintended consequence of the recovery of bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) has been the impact on seabirds. The authors of a 2019 paper published in Ecology and Evolution suggest that the effects of bald eagle activity on a large glaucous-winged gull (Larus glaucescens) colony on Protection Island in the Strait of Juan de Fuca include the possibility of coexistence but also the possibility of gull colony extinction.

Jeff Gaeckle measures the length of eelgrass using a measuring stick and later records the information for a study on the rate of growth near Joemma Beach State Park in South Puget Sound. Photo: Aaron Barna
6/5/2019

Science in the spotlight: Eelgrass recovery

The Washington Department of Natural Resources is studying new ways of increasing ecologically important eelgrass habitat in Puget Sound. It is part of the state's effort to boost eelgrass 20% Sound-wide by 2020. So far, recovery of the species has fallen short of that goal, but transplanting efforts are showing promise. 

Fidalgo Bay Citizen's Stewardship Committee volunteers conduct intertidal monitoring surveys during low tide at Fidalgo Bay Aquatic Reserve. Photo: Erica Bleke/DNR
6/3/2019

State aquatic reserves lean heavily on citizen scientists

Eight aquatic reserves in Puget Sound are being studied by volunteers working under the direction of state experts. Washington Department of Natural Resources manages the reserves with guidance from nearby communities.

European green crab story map cover image
5/29/2019

Story map: European green crab in Puget Sound

A May 2019 story map shows how a broad collaboration of volunteers, agencies, and tribes is working together to keep invasive European green crabs at bay in Washington state. The story map was produced by the Encyclopedia of Puget Sound and the Puget Sound Institute in collaboration with the Washington Sea Grant Crab Team. 

Location of eight aquatic reserves in Washington. Map: WA DNR
5/24/2019

Washington state aquatic reserves

Eight aquatic reserves, managed by the Washington Department of Natural Resources, have been established to protect important ecosystems on state aquatic lands.

In most reserves, area residents work with state, local and tribal officials and nonprofit groups to develop and carry out management plans, including scientific research.

The aquatic reserves in the order they were established include: 

  • Maury Island 2004
  • Cypress Island  2007
  • Fidalgo Bay 2008
  • Cherry Point 2010
  • Protection Island 2010
  • Smith and Minor Islands 2010
  • Nisqually Reach 2011
  • Lake Kapowsin 2016
Salish Sea basin and water boundaries. The Salish Sea water boundary (blue) includes the Strait of Georgia, Desolation Sound, The Strait of Juan de Fuca, and Puget Sound. The larger watershed basin (green) is the area that drains into Salish Sea waters. WA Water Resource Inventory areas (WRIA) boundary lines are shown for reference. Map: Kris Symer. Data: Stefan Freelan; WAECY.
5/20/2019

Survey illustrates a lack of familiarity with the Salish Sea

Washington and British Columbia residents are largely unfamiliar with the Salish Sea. A recent study conducted by the SeaDoc Society and Oregon State University reveals a need to improve geographic literacy and familiarity with the Salish Sea among those communities who share and live alongside this integrated transboundary ecosystem. This summary was provided by two of the collaborators on the survey, David Trimbach of Oregon State University and Joe Gaydos, Science Director at the SeaDoc Society.

Derelict fishing gear with animal carasses found by the USFWS Puget Sound Coastal Program. Credit Joan Drinkwin/USFWS https://flic.kr/p/8TX8CQ (CC BY 2.0)
4/24/2019

Ghost nets still fishing in the deep waters of Puget Sound

New technology is helping to remove deadly “ghost nets” that have been lost in the depths of Puget Sound. It is part of an effort that saves millions of animals every year, but managers say better reporting of these lost nets by fishermen is still needed.    

Clouds of herring milt in the water seen during spawning season near Brinnon, WA on Hood Canal, March 2019. Photo: copyright John Gussman, with permission http://www.dcproductions.com
4/11/2019

The herring defenders

Each winter and spring, researchers survey the sometimes spectacular spawning events of Puget Sound's Pacific herring. They have found wide swings in the fish's population and an overall decline in herring numbers since the 1970s, but little is known about the cause or what this might mean for the health of the food web. We spent a day with a biologist spotting herring eggs and considering the future of one of our region's most ecologically and culturally important fish species. 

The Puget Sound Partnership's list of Puget Sound 'Vital Signs'
4/5/2019

Toxics in Fish Implementation Strategy

The Toxics in Fish Implementation Strategy is a recovery plan that will be used to guide funding and activities to reduce the impacts of toxics contaminants on marine fish and the humans that consume them. The plan is scheduled to be completed in 2019.

Report cover
4/2/2019

Eyes Over Puget Sound: Surface Conditions Report - March 26

Following a generally warmer and drier winter and then a cold spell in February, Puget Sound waters are cold for anchovies. The productive season is in full swing with algal blooms spotted in South Sound, Kitsap Peninsula, and Quartermaster Harbor. Jellyfish are abundant in some inlets, and Noctiluca stains the water orange in Hood Canal. We collect monthly data to keep you informed about the conditions around Puget Sound. Come into the lab and see how we assure the highest data quality from our field instruments!

A group of southern resident orcas swimming near San Juan Island. Photo: Rene Leubert (CC BY-NC 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/V4EERj
4/2/2019

Social networks a key to orca survival

Understanding the social networks and family bonds of Puget Sound's southern resident orcas may be critical to keeping the endangered whales from extinction. A healthy population is about more than numbers, scientists say. It's about connections.


Cover of 2018 Salish Sea Toxics Monitoring Synthesis: A Selection of Research
4/1/2019

2018 Salish Sea toxics monitoring synthesis: A selection of research

A 2019 report from the Puget Sound Ecosystem Monitoring Program presents an overview of selected recent monitoring and research activities focused on toxic contaminants in the Salish Sea. 

Armor-removal project at Cornet Bay State Park before and after site restoration. Photo courtesy of PSEMP
3/30/2019

Tracking the effectiveness of armor removal in Puget Sound

The removal of shoreline armoring has become a priority for the state's Puget Sound recovery efforts. The Puget Sound Ecosystem Monitoring Program (PSEMP) is providing details on the effectiveness of armor-removal projects at 49 study sites.

Close up of oil on water collected behind an oil boom. Photo: WA Department of Ecology (CC BY-NC 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/2f25AiG
3/20/2019

Risk of a major oil spill generates action in Olympia

Bills in the state legislature target oil spill threats to Puget Sound and its endangered killer whales.

Oil barge, SEASPAN 827, in Fildalgo Bay with tug boat, Rosario. Photo: DanaStyber (CC BY-ND 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/f2SYAB
3/20/2019

Oil spill risks by the numbers

An EPA-funded study of oil spill risks in Puget Sound forms the basis of new legislation to regulate vessel traffic in the region. We break down some of the numbers from the study and look at where the risks may be greatest.

Interior shell of pinto abalone (Haliotis kamtschatkana). Photo: James St. John (CC BY 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/DNTsBV
3/15/2019

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.

Sunflower star (Pycnopodia helianthoides). Photo: JBrew (CC BY-SA 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/Jag9sr
3/14/2019

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 important subtidal predator species.

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 southern 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
2/16/2019

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
2/5/2019

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.

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