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A plane releases chemical dispersant to break up an oil slick on the water surface below. Photo courtesy of the National Commission on the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling.

Oil dispersant effectiveness and ecological consequences in San Juan County marine waters

A 2017 report from the University of Washington summarizes current scientific knowledge on chemical oil spill dispersants and their potential impacts on shoreline habitats in San Juan County, Washington. 

RECENT ARTICLES

GIS is used to illustrate sea-level rise scenarios in downtown Olympia. Story map by City of Olympia: https://arcg.is/LSyOO
10/17/2017

Local governments begin to plan for higher tides

Planning for rising seawater in Puget Sound has often focused on public property such as roads, buildings and utilities. Now local governments are looking more closely at private property despite development regulations based on traditional flooding history.

Ptilosarcus gurneyi (with a striped  nudibranch) off Whidbey Island, WA;  photo by Jan Kocian.
10/3/2017

The Orange Sea Pen

The Orange Sea Pen, also called the Fleshy Sea Pen or Gurney’s Sea Pen, resembles a colorful autumn tree waving in the “breeze” of moving water currents. Article courtesy of the Washington Department of Ecology's Eyes Under Puget Sound series. 

Image of tidal motion in SSM (72 hr animation, April 06); Exaggerated vertical scale to visualize SSM domain-wide tidal motion
9/27/2017

The Salish Sea Model

The Salish Sea Model is used to predict spatial and temporal patterns in the Salish Sea related to factors such as phytoplankton, nutrients and Dissolved Oxygen. It is a collaborative effort between the Pacific Northwest National Lab, the Washington State Department of Ecology and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Fragile shell. Joe Doe (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/47104521@N08/4590994484/
9/21/2017

Using mineralogy and higher-level taxonomy as indicators of species sensitivity to pH: A case-study of Puget Sound

Scientists from NOAA's Northwest Fisheries Science Center (NWFSC) developed publicly searchable database of nearly 3,000 Puget Sound species to study whether species having calcium carbonate shells are more or less vulnerable to ocean acidification. Their findings published in the journal Elementa question previous assumptions that shell-building organisms are more vulnerable.

Report cover
9/6/2017

Water sampling and testing for formaldehyde at Northwest fish hatcheries

Formaldehyde is often used to control parasites on hatchery salmon and trout. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Washington State Department of Ecology conducted a joint study of formaldehyde concentrations in effluent from hatcheries in the Pacific Northwest. 

English Sole (Parophrys vetulus) in Puget Sound. Photo: biodiversityguy https://biodiversityguy.smugmug.com/Underwater/Reference-List-Photos-of/i-3GgD5hB/A
8/25/2017

PCBs in fish remain steady while other toxics decline

A new study shows a surprising decline in some toxic chemicals in Puget Sound fish, while levels of PCBs increased in some cases. Scientists say the study shows that banning toxic chemicals can work, but old contaminants remain a challenge as they continue to wash into Puget Sound.

WDFW biologists sorting and measuring fish from PSEMP's index sites in the Duwamish River and near the Seattle Waterfront. Photo: WDFW
8/25/2017

Monitoring helps to reveal hidden dangers in the food web

Toxic chemicals have been showing up in Puget Sound fish for more than a century, but consistent testing over the past 30 years has helped to reveal some unusual patterns of pollution.

Screenshot of archived SSEC 2016 website at http://www.wwu.edu/salishseaconference/archived/2016/
8/10/2017

2016 Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference

The 2016 Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference took place April 13-15 at the Westin Bayshore in Vancouver BC. Over 1100 scientists and policy experts attended.

Dean Toba, a scientific technician with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, operates the agency’s screw trap on the Skagit River. The trap helps biologists estimate the number of juvenile salmon leaving the river each year. Photo: Christopher Dunagan, PSI
8/4/2017

Are we making progress on salmon recovery?

In recent decades, hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent to restore habitat for Puget Sound salmon. In this article, we look at how scientists are gauging their progress. Are environmental conditions improving or getting worse? The answer may depend on where you look and who you ask.

Salmon smolts. Photo courtesy of Governor's Salmon Recovery Office
7/20/2017

State of the salmon in watersheds 2016

A biennial report produced by the Governor's Salmon Recovery Office provides stories and data about salmon, habitat, and salmon recovery in Washington, including Puget Sound.

Spiny Dogfish (Squalus acanthias), a species typically found in Puget Sound marine waters. Image courtesy of NOAA.
7/18/2017

The pelagic (open water) food web

The marine habitat of Puget Sound can be divided up into nearshore, benthic (associated with the sea floor), and pelagic (open water) habitats. This article focuses on the pelagic habitat within the Puget Sound. This article was prepared as part of the 2015 Puget Sound Fact Book produced by the University of Washington Puget Sound Institute. 

Dead salmon. Photo: Boris Mann (CC BY-NC 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/boris/3037705761
7/14/2017

The nearshore food web: Detritus

Detritus, or dying or decaying matter, is a central component of the nearshore food web in Puget Sound. This article was prepared as part of the 2015 Puget Sound Fact Book produced by the University of Washington Puget Sound Institute. 

Anna Smith Park, Bremerton WA – May 2017
7/12/2017

Kitsap Regional Shoreline Restoration Program final report

The Kitsap Regional Shoreline Restoration Program is an effort to protect and restore the Puget Sound nearshore by supporting willing landowners who wish to remove bulkheads on their shorelines. The Kitsap Regional Shoreline Restoration Program was funded by Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Puget Sound Watershed Assistance Program, Grant #PO-00J08501-0.

Eelgrass Data Viewer
6/20/2017

Puget Sound Eelgrass Monitoring Data Viewer

An interactive map created by the Washington Department of Natural Resources provides access to eelgrass monitoring data collected between 2000 and 2015 at selected sites in Puget Sound. 
Eelgrass at Alki Beach, Seattle. Report cover photo: Lisa Ferrier
6/15/2017

Eelgrass declines pose a mystery

Scientists want to know why eelgrass is on the decline in some areas of Puget Sound and not others. The answer will affect future strategies for protecting one of the ecosystem’s most critical saltwater plants.

The Qwuloolt estuary hydrology restored by breaching a century old levee. WRP easement land in the foreground. Photo: USDA
5/26/2017

Saving the last estuaries

When rivers spill into Puget Sound, they provide some of the most productive habitat in the ecosystem. The ebb and flow of the tides creates a perfect mix of fresh and salt water critical for young salmon. But over the past 100 years, the region’s tidal wetlands have declined by more than 75%. Now a coalition of state and federal agencies has a plan to bring them back.

The University of Washington Tacoma has spurred sustainable urban development including re-purposing of historic buildings, new housing, a museum and retail district, multi-use trails, and light rail transit. Photo courtesy: UW Tacoma
5/2/2017

Urban lifestyles help to protect the Puget Sound ecosystem

The state of Washington estimates that the Puget Sound area will grow by more than 1.5 million residents within the next two decades. That is expected to have profound effects on the environment as more and more people move to undeveloped areas. The race is on to protect this critical rural habitat, but planners say what happens in the cities may be just as important.

Noise from ocean-going ships can harm marine life. Photo courtesy of NOAA.
4/19/2017

A key to quieter seas: Half of ship noise comes from 15% of the fleet

A 2017 article in the online journal Authorea reports that a comparatively small portion of ships produce much of the ocean's underwater noise.

2016 aerial view of completed Calistoga Reach levee project in Orting, WA. Image courtesy: CSI Drone Solutions and Washington Rock Quarries, Inc. Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2H_NK6U2_zw
4/12/2017

Floodplain projects open doors to fewer floods and more salmon

A new approach to flood control is taking hold across Puget Sound. Rivers, scientists say, can be contained by setting them free. Conservationists hope this is good news for salmon recovery.

Harbor seals at haulout site. Photo courtesy of WDFW: http://wdfw.wa.gov/wildwatch/sealcam/.
4/10/2017

Harbor seal (Phoca vitulina) tolerance to vessels under different levels of boat traffic

Vessel traffic is increasing in the Puget Sound region. A 2017 article in the journal Aquatic Mammals looks at the potential impacts that increasing vessel disturbance may have on resident harbor seal populations and how future management decisions may need to look at variable buffer zones related to level of human activity.

Fir Island Farms habitat restoration monitoring in Skagit County. Project provides rearing habitat for young threatened Chinook salmon along with other wildlife. Copyright: Bob Friel
3/31/2017

Finding a strategy to accelerate Chinook recovery

As threatened Chinook populations in Puget Sound continue to lose ground, the state is looking to new strategies to reverse the trend. In the Skagit watershed, the scientists — and the fish — are among those leading the way. 

A screenshot of the online story
3/19/2017

Finding common ground in a world of environmental change

A 2017 course at the UW Jackson School of International Studies examined how to create alliances between the Tulalip Tribes and non-tribal millennials through improved intercultural communication. The students in the course produced a multi-media story describing their experiences. 

Celebrating a community harvest at Drayton Harbor. Photo: Jack Kintner
3/7/2017

Bringing the shellfish back: How Drayton Harbor overcame a legacy of pollution

After a long struggle with pollution, Drayton Harbor has reopened to year-round commercial oyster harvesting for the first time in 22 years. Here’s how the community cleaned up its act, potentially showing the way for shellfish recovery throughout Puget Sound.

Image courtesy of Nisqually Indian Tribe
3/1/2017

Final report for Nisqually Indian Tribe EPA capacity project

This report describes how funding from the Environmental Protection Agency's National Estuary Program provided fiscal support to allow the Nisqually Indian Tribe to participate in all aspects of the Puget Sound Management Conference. Activities included participation on the region's Ecosystem Coordination Board, The Puget Sound Salmon Recovery Council, a local South Sound LIO (AHSS), Treaty Rights at Risk efforts and various committees and meetings to support the outcomes of the Puget Sound Action Agenda.

Map image of Puget Sound and surroundings. Courtesy of USGS.
2/6/2017

Puget Sound's physical environment

The Puget Sound ecosystem is shaped by its physical environment. This article looks at Puget Sound's geologic history as well as dynamic factors such as the flow of its rivers and currents.

Sea lion sunbathing between meals in Seattle's Eliott Bay. Photo: Johnny Mumbles (CC BY 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/mumbles/3283168713
1/25/2017

Study says predators may play major role in chinook salmon declines

A new study shows that increased populations of seals and sea lions are eating far more of Puget Sound’s threatened chinook than previously known, potentially hampering recovery efforts for both salmon and endangered killer whales. 

Benthic invertebrates range in size from those easily seen with the naked eye to those that cannot be spotted without the use of a microscope. Photo: Christopher Dunagan
1/17/2017

Healthy stream, healthy bugs

Many groups have been formed around the goal of saving salmon, but few people talk about a concerted effort to save microscopic creatures. Whether or not a pro-bug movement catches on, future strategies to save salmon are likely to incorporate ideas for restoring streambound creatures known as benthic invertebrates.

An eelgrass bed near Bainbridge Island, Washington. David Ayers/USGS
1/6/2017

Eelgrass in Puget Sound is stable overall, but some local beaches suffering

Eelgrass, a marine plant crucial to the success of migrating juvenile salmon and spawning Pacific herring, is stable and flourishing in Puget Sound, despite a doubling of the region’s human population and significant shoreline development over the past several decades. [Story reprinted from UW Today.]

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