Latest stories

Posted 12/04/2022 by Christopher Dunagan

Microscopic view of diatoms in various shapes and sizes.

Tiny plankton play a mighty role in the health of Puget Sound

Diverse communities of microscopic organisms called phytoplankton make up the base of the aquatic food web. In that role, they are an essential to the tiny animals that eat them, but phytoplankton are not dependent on others. Thanks to chlorophyl, these tiny organisms can generate their own energy from nutrients and sunlight. Despite their essential role to a great diversity of sea life in Puget Sound, phytoplankton can also contribute to low-oxygen conditions, and some can be harmful in other ways.

Posted 11/21/2022 by Jeff Rice

View of turbulent ocean water with rain clouds on the horizon and land to the north and south

What drives Puget Sound's 'underwater Amazon'?

In a new series we are calling Ask a Scientist we interview local researchers to get their thoughts on some of the important but lesser-known scientific facts about the Puget Sound ecosystem. Today, we speak with University of Washington oceanographer Parker MacCready about Puget Sound’s “underwater Amazon” and why it has profound implications for Puget Sound science and policy. It all begins, he says, with the mixing of fresh and salt water and something called the estuarine exchange flow.

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About the magazine

Welcome to Salish Sea Currents, an online magazine founded in 2014 featuring stories about the science of ecosystem recovery. We are published by the University of Washington Puget Sound Institute (PSI) with major funding from the Environmental Protection Agency. To be notified of new stories, subscribe to the PSI eNews list.


Read Salish Sea Currents

Welcome to the 2020 edition of Salish Sea Currents magazine. This is the fourth issue of the magazine, and the first one dedicated to a single theme. All of the stories in this report address the impact of climate change on the Salish Sea ecosystem. Request a hard copy at psiweb@uw.edu.

Thumbnail image of Salish Sea Currents print magazine

Browse series:

Themes from the 2022 Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference

Stories exploring major research themes presented during the virtual 2022 Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference.

Themes from the 2018 Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference

Stories exploring major research themes presented during the 2018 Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference in Seattle, WA.

SSEC16 snapshots

Brief reports from the 2016 Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference in Vancouver, BC. Complements the more in-depth stories in Themes from the 2016 Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference.

Disease as an ecological force

A main story and two vignettes on impacts of disease in the ecosystem. Sponsored by U.S. EPA.

In the third series of Salish Sea Currents, we present a main story and two vignettes on impacts of disease in the ecosystem. [View printable PDF of this series]

Invasive species in Puget Sound

A main story and 3 vignettes on the sources, impacts, and regulation of non-native species entering local waters. Sponsored by U.S. EPA and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Nearly half of the invasive species in Puget Sound's marine waters have been found within the last 20 years. Among the most common pathways for invaders are ships and boats that may carry thousands of tiny hitchhikers. Our series looks at this growing threat and some of the species of top concern.  To be notified of new Salish Sea Currents stories, subscribe to the Puget Sound Institute eNews.

Returning home: The Elwha's genetic legacy

Following dam removal, migratory salmon and other anadromous fish have been free to swim into the upper Elwha for the first time in 100 years. Their actual behaviors and reproductive success may well be driven by changes in their genetic makeup.

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.

Themes from the 2016 Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference

A series covering major science themes presented at SSEC16 in Vancouver, BC. Sponsored by U.S. EPA and the Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference.

Stories exploring major research themes presented during the 2016 Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference in Vancouver, BC.  See also complementary reports in SSEC16 snapshots.

Booklet: 2016-17 special report for Puget Sound policymakers (PDF)

About the booklet

Rethinking shoreline armoring

An in-depth series on issues related to shoreline armoring in the Puget Sound region. Sponsored by U.S. EPA and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Salish Sea Currents presents an in-depth series focusing on shoreline armoring in the Puget Sound region. Close to a third of Puget Sound's shoreline is classified as armored with bulkheads and other structures meant to hold back storm surge and erosion. But new studies reveal the often significant toll this is taking on the environment. To be notified of new Salish Sea Currents stories, subscribe to the Puget Sound Institute eNews.

Themes from the 2014 Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference

A 10-story series covering major science themes presented at SSEC14 in Seattle, WA. Sponsored by U.S. EPA and the Puget Sound Partnership.

In this first Salish Sea Currents series, we offer 10 stories exploring major research themes presented during the 2014 Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference.

2014 special report for Puget Sound policymakers (PDF)

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Implementation Strategies

New EPA-funded Implementation Strategies are designed to target Puget Sound recovery in the most direct and coordinated way ever conducted by state and federal agencies. We report on how these strategies will affect Puget Sound’s Vital Signs for years to come, and why you should care (a lot).