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Report cover

A 2019 report from Oregon State University examines how community members, including non-property owners, value shorelines in Puget Sound. The report emphasizes the impacts of shoreline armoring on survey respondents' sense of place in the region.


Sheryl and Todd Ramsey with Gretchen Waymen-Palmer in the wood zone of Point No Point beach. Photo: Eric Wagner

Volunteer researchers are tracking the plastic and other debris washing up on Puget Sound's beaches. They hope the data can be used to protect sea creatures from the growing amounts of trash littering the world's oceans. [A version of this article first appeared in the COASST blog.]


Eugene and Dorothy Collias.  Photo courtesy of Collias estate

Notes and biography about the history of the department of oceanography at the University of Washington (1903-1980) as reported by UW oceanagrapher Eugene Collias. Report courtesy of the Collias estate.


Report cover

This year, air temperatures were warmer than in previous years, and this pattern is predicted to continue. Precipitation was low and is now improving, yet river flows remain low. By August, Puget Sound surface water temperatures were 0.6 °C warmer across all regions; this could have shifted the timing of optimal temperatures for some marine organisms. In September, blooms are limited to inlets. Jellyfish are abundant in Sinclair Inlet, and anchovies reside in Eld Inlet. Macroalgae are still plentiful. Learn about the benefits of beach wrack and a DNA barcoding project supported by Ecology.


Caption: Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) swimming upstream. Photo: Ingrid Taylar (CC BY-NC 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/dmbyre

Spring and fall Chinook salmon were thought to be alike until researchers discovered a gene for early migration. Now, federal biologists and legal experts are struggling to decide if spring Chinook should be granted their own legal protection under the Endangered Species Act.


Fishes of the Salish Sea book cover

The first comprehensive guide to the fishes of the Salish Sea is the culmination of more than 40 years of research by University of Washington authors Ted Pietsch and Jay Orr. The new, three-volume set includes descriptions and illustrations for every fish species known to have been documented within the Salish Sea, all gathered from an exhaustive search of libraries, aquariums, fish collections and even one restaurant.


Freshwater habitat in King County. Photo by Jeff Rice. All rights reserved.

Freshwater habitat in the Puget Sound region consists of rivers, marshes, streams, lakes and ponds that do not have any saltwater input. Many species depend on these freshwater resources, including salmon, salamanders, frogs, and beavers.


A 2019 story map produced by the University of Washington Puget Sound Institute in collaboration with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife shows how shoreline armoring can often be replaced by softer, shore-friendly features.


Eyes Over Puget Sound report cover

In July, the recent trends of warm, dry conditions lessened; however, river flows remain low. Extensive macroalgae drifted through South and Central Sound and washed up on beaches. Macroalgae growth is fueled by excessive nutrients and sunshine. When it washes onto the beach, it is called beach wrack, and it can be a health risk to beachgoers because of bacteria it can harbor. From our aerial photography, we saw that Southern Hood Canal looks tropical because of a bloom of coccolithophores coloring the water turquoise. Schools of fish congregate in South Sound and southern Hood Canal. Jellyfish are abundant in Quartermaster Harbor.


Herring fishing boats in the Strait of Georgia, BC

Scientists believe that herring have been a staple of Salish Sea food and culture since humans first arrived here at least 12,500 years ago. That importance has continued into modern times, even as herring numbers have declined in parts of the region. 


Predicted annual average Δ in surface temperature and salinity over (a) the entire Salish Sea domain, as well as (b) in the nearshore intertidal regions of the Snohomish River estuary (see Khangaonkar et al. 2019 for details).  Image courtesy of Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans.

A 2019 paper in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans outlines how the Salish Sea Model describes the impacts of climate change, sea level rise and nutrient loads on the region's nearshore environment.


Pigeon guillemot taking flight over water. Photo: Patty McGann (CC BY-NC 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/opywhG

Pigeon guillemots have attracted relatively little scientific attention compared to other seabirds in Puget Sound. That may be because their population is generally stable, but a group of citizen scientists is helping to put guillemots on the conservation radar. They hope the birds can be used as an indicator of Puget Sound health.


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

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. 


Eyes Over Puget Sound report cover

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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)

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

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'

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

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!