Most recent

View all Encyclopedia articles sorted by date posted.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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.

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.

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/

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

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

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.