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A rusty radiator and other debris in sediment of the Duwamish River at low tide.

Revised toxic-cleanup rules will increase focus on environmental justice

An update to state rules regarding the cleanup of toxic pollution is expected to bring more attention to factors like race, ethnicity and income within populations that live near contaminated sites.

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RECENT ARTICLES

Historic map of Seattle showing areas in different colors.
4/12/2021

Why is so much pollution found in disadvantaged communities?

Researchers are looking at the forces of discrimination that worsen the environmental health risks for some communities.

Brightly painted canoes on river shore with construction cranes in background.
4/12/2021

Diverse populations benefit from targeted efforts to improve environmental justice

Years of struggle have led to reduced pollution and a stronger sense of community in the Duwamish Valley. As cleanup efforts there continue, environmental justice has come front and center for the area's diverse populations.

Timber pike seawall below a house along the shoreline.
3/30/2021

Is shoreline armoring becoming a relic of the past?

Close to 30% of Puget Sound's shoreline is armored with seawalls and other structures meant to protect beaches against rising tides and erosion. But science increasingly shows that these structures are ineffective and cause significant harm to salmon and other creatures. State and federal agencies have been encouraging private property owners to remove armoring in a race to improve habitat, but why did so much of it start appearing in the first place?

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3/22/2021

Eyes Over Puget Sound: Surface Conditions Report - March 11, 2021

We are in a weakening La Niña, coastal downwelling has lessened and we are getting out of a cold and wet stretch, hurray. In March, rivers have almost returned to normal and carry clear water. It’s a good time to go diving if you don’t mind cold water. The productive season has only started in some places and patches of jellyfish are visible. Have a look at this edition and marvel about the secrets of the dead, or mysterious sediment clouds and the oil sheen spotted near Lummi Bay.

Waves crashing in front of a house. Photo: James Kinney
3/22/2021

Residential shoreline loan program feasibility study: Developing a new Shore Friendly incentive to help Puget Sound homeowners finance beach restoration and sea level rise adaptation

The 2018 Shoreline Armoring Implementation Strategy identified development of new financial incentives as a near-term priority. This study, funded by the Habitat Strategic Initiative, assesses the feasibility of developing a Shore Friendly residential shoreline loan program.

An image from the LiveOcean model showing Salish Sea circulation patterns.
3/10/2021

Estuarine circulation, mixing, and residence times in the Salish Sea

A 2021 article in the journal JGR Oceans describes circulation and mixing in the Salish Sea. The findings are based on simulations produced by the LiveOcean computer model.

A group of southern resident killer whales swimming together near San Juan Island. Photo: Katy Foster/NOAA Fisheries, under permit 18786
2/26/2021

Killer whale CSI

Collisions with boats and other interactions with humans are "significant" causes of death for killer whales in the northeastern Pacific, a recent study says. The findings come from one of the most comprehensive looks at killer whale pathology to date, but scientists say determining how a killer whale may have died is often notoriously difficult.

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2/25/2021

Benthic Index of Biotic Integrity (B-IBI) Implementation Strategy

The Benthic Index of Biotic Integrity (B-IBI) Implementation Strategy is designed to improve freshwater quality by analyzing the health and diversity of invertebrate populations in Puget Sound area streams.

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2/17/2021

Eyes Over Puget Sound: Surface Conditions Report - February 3, 2021

Rivers are flowing higher than normal since 2020. Winter weather has been warmer and wetter. In marine waters, temperatures have become too cool for Northern Pacific anchovies to tolerate in North Sound. From patches of jellyfish and snow geese, to sediment and early blooms, there is more happening in the winter than you might expect. Puget Sound has many species worth showcasing such as the heart crab – a shy critter that wears its heart on its shell.

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2/12/2021

Priority science to support Puget Sound recovery: A Science work plan for 2020-2024

Priority Science to Support Recovery of the Puget Sound Ecosystem: A Science Work Plan for 2020-2024 (SWP for 2020-2024) describes the information, learning, and interaction needed to support the coordinated efforts to recover, protect, and improve the resilience of the Puget Sound ecosystem.

Puget Sound shoreline at sunset. Photo by Jeff Rice. All rights reserved.
1/25/2021

Sensing liminal landscapes in Puget Sound

Puget Sound's shorelines are "liminal landscapes" that can inspire senses of "escape, transformation, and human creativity," according to a 2021 paper in GeoJournal. That may have regional policy implications as coastal researchers increasingly recognize the need to incorporate community inclusion and 'sense of place' in management decisions. The paper includes findings from a 12-county survey aimed at gauging residents’ sense of place for Puget Sound’s liminal shorelines.

Harbor seal in Puget Sound. Photo courtesy of NOAA.
1/25/2021

Antibiotic resistance of bacteria in two marine mammal species, harbor seals and harbor porpoises, living in an urban marine ecosystem, the Salish Sea, Washington State, USA

Harbor seals and harbor porpoises in the Salish Sea are showing a relatively high presence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. A 2021 paper in the journal Oceans suggests that these findings may indicate a wider problem among other species in the region.

Eyes Over Puget Sound report cover
1/14/2021

Eyes Over Puget Sound - 2020 Year in Review

The Washington State Department of Ecology has prepared a summary review of its Eyes Over Puget Sound surface condition reports from 2020.

The Elwha River, Washington. Photo: Tom Collins https://flic.kr/p/SUgCYk (CC BY-ND 2.0)
1/5/2021

Puget Sound National Estuary Program: Tribal implementation final report

This report details the outcomes, successes, and reflections of the final two years (2014-15) of an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) National Estuary Program award dedicated to tribal restoration and protection projects in the Puget Sound watershed.

A woman standing on a rock in a river holding a long pole with a net on the end. Photo: Rachael Mallon
12/15/2020

Once hearty 'hooligans' declining in the Salish Sea

A river spawning species of forage fish known as the longfin smelt is rare and getting rarer in the Salish Sea. Biologists are looking into the mysterious decline of the ‘hooligans’ of the Nooksack.

Tidal marsh at the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge in Puget Sound. Photo courtesy of USFWS.
12/14/2020

Types of estuaries in Puget Sound

An estuary is a place where saltwater from the ocean mixes with freshwater from rivers and streams. Technically, this defines all of Puget Sound, but scientists have identified several types of "sub-estuaries" within the water body. These include pocket estuaries (or embayments), tidally-influenced rivers and wetlands and other areas near the shoreline connected with freshwater sources. This summary provides descriptions of these estuaries from the Washington State Department of Natural Resources, the Puget Sound Nearshore Partnership and other sources.  

Two southern resident killer whales. Photo courtesy of NOAA.
12/4/2020

Pathology findings and correlation with body condition index in stranded killer whales (Orcinus orca) in the northeastern Pacific and Hawaii from 2004 to 2013

A 2020 study of pathology reports for 53 stranded killer whales in the northeastern Pacific and Hawaii showed that deaths related to human interaction were found in every age class. Vessel strikes accounted for the deaths of four of the nine endangered southern resident killer whales identified in the study. The findings were published Dec. 2 in the journal PLOS ONE.

Jenifer McIntyre (left), an assistant professor at WSU's School of the Environment based in Puyallup; and Zhenyu Tian (right), a research scientist at the Center for Urban Waters at UW Tacoma, are at Longfellow Creek, an urban creek in the Seattle area. Photo: Mark Stone/University of Washington
12/3/2020

Timeline: The search to find a chemical that kills coho salmon in urban streams

The search for why large numbers of spawning coho salmon have been dying in Puget Sound's urban streams goes as far back as the 1980s and culminated this year with the discovery of a previously unidentified chemical related to automobile tires. We offer a detailed timeline for the discovery. 

A returning Coho Salmon at the Suquamish Tribe's Grovers Creek Hatchery. Photos: K. King/USFWS (CC BY-NC 2.0)
12/3/2020

Scientists hunt down deadly chemical that kills coho salmon

Environmental engineers and chemists at the University of Washington Tacoma have identified a mysterious compound implicated in the deaths of large numbers of coho salmon in Puget Sound. The chemical is linked with a rubber additive commonly used in tires and is thought to kill more than half of the spawning coho that enter the region's urban streams every year. 

Stacked tires. Photo: Kool Cats Photography. https://flic.kr/p/ChFgxf (CC BY-NC 2.0)
12/2/2020

The history and chemistry of tires

Modern automobile tires are a complex mixture of chemicals, all used together in different ways to give tires their structure and properties, including riding comfort, safety and long life. Chemicals from tire wear particles are now thought to be responsible for the deaths of large numbers of coho salmon returning to spawn in Puget Sound streams. 

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12/2/2020

2019 Puget Sound Marine Waters Overview

A new report from the Puget Sound Ecosystem Monitoring Program details the effects of a changing climate on Puget Sound in 2019, and documents how these changes moved through the ecosystem to affect marine life and seafood consumers.

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11/13/2020

Eyes Over Puget Sound: Surface Conditions Report - October 26, 2020

After a relatively warm summer and fall, and La Niña forming in the tropics, stream flows in the Puget Sound region are now relatively normal. Summer in Puget Sound produced lots of algal and organic material in the water and on beaches, which by October have disappeared. Kelp beds look strong in northern Puget Sound and the Straits; and the harvest of the annual chum salmon run is in full swing in Hood Canal. Jellyfish aggregations are visible in Budd and Sinclair Inlets — and some of the jellyfish might conceal a beast of another kind within. Oil sheens on the water are currently numerous.

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11/6/2020

Puget Sound National Estuary Program land development and cover base program analysis

A 2020 Base Program Analysis from the University of Washington Puget Sound Institute presents an overview of the programs, policies and initiatives that support the Puget Sound Partnership’s Land Development and Cover Implementation Strategy.

Close up of a stonefly larva on river rocks.
10/23/2020

Combining bugs and chemistry in Soos Creek stormwater study

Many creeks and waterbodies in Puget Sound may look pristine, but most face serious threats from stormwater pollution. A new study at Soos Creek shows how mud-dwelling bugs, traditional chemistry and digital "heatmaps" can be used to track stormwater impacts and identify the most polluted areas. Scientists and planners hope that this may one day lower the price tag on costly stormwater fixes. 

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10/9/2020

Eyes Over Puget Sound: Surface Conditions Report - September 28, 2020

A warm and dry summer ended with a smoky September due to massive wildfires that were followed by strong rain. As a consequence, muddy river plumes in Puget Sound are very visible, especially near the Nooksack River. During summer, many wonderful citizen contributions documented the large formation of organic material in Central Sound and helped us cover the gap in EOPS flight from April-September. By September when we started flying again, a few bays still had red-brown blooms. Nevertheless, schools of fish are abundant, and jellyfish are sparse, which is good news. Meet our new ocean acidification experts.

Adult harbor seal with pup. Photo: Mark Ahlness (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
9/14/2020

Interannual differences in postrelease movements of rehabilitated harbor seal pups (Phoca vitulina richardii) in the Salish Sea

A study published in Marine Mammal Science in June 2020 followed the movements and behavior of rehabilitated harbor seal pups after being released into the Salish Sea. The results suggest that although their movements differ from wild pups that have been weaned, the rehabilitated pups do successfully make the transition.

A tributary of the Nooksack River. Photo courtesy NOAA Fisheries.
9/10/2020

Nooksack River Transboundary Technical Collaboration Group 2019-2020 annual report

The Nooksack River watershed spans part of the border between British Columbia and the State of Washington. In August 2018, the international, multi-agency Nooksack River Transboundary Technical Collaboration Group (TCG) was established to implement a three-year work plan to reduce fecal bacteria concentrations in the Nooksack River watershed. This 2019-2020 TCG annual report summarizes second year project activities and focuses on three of the watershed's transborder sub-basins.

A harbor seal skull in a box
9/8/2020

History of food web found in harbor seal skulls

Tiny bone samples show that seals alter their diets as conditions change. The findings could help scientists understand whether seals are contributing to local salmon declines.

Harbor seal photographed by Andreas Trepte. Available through a Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 2.5 license.
9/8/2020

Probing for answers to control seal populations

Last month's federal authorization to kill more than 700 sea lions to protect salmon runs along the Columbia River is prompting discussions of similar actions for harbor seals in Puget Sound. But experts say the situations are very different with many unanswered questions. 

Otter crossing street sign. Photo: Joe Gaydos
8/26/2020

Causes of mortality in marine-foraging river otters

North American river otters (Lontra canadensis) inhabit inland freshwater environments; however, from Alaska to California they also occur in coastal marine waters where they forage on a variety of marine fish and invertebrates. Little is known about mortality factors in marine-foraging river otters. Among 30 otter carcasses collected in San Juan County, Washington, analysis indicates that car collisions and gunshots were the most common causes of mortality.

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