In this issue: SeaDoc’s forage fish science makes a difference, study shows recreational surf smelt harvest can be measured accurately, give the gift of the Salish Sea, Science Prize nominations due December 18, Why I give, Dr. Gene Helfman talks on sharks for family night lecture.
Our goal is to ensure that SeaDoc science makes a difference, but does it? And if so, how? Check out this sweet new video on forage fish (above) by Friends of Skagit Beaches and the Department of Ecology.
We’re pleased Joe Gaydos gets a cameo talking about how important forage fish are, but we really want you to check out what Senator Rolfes has to say. She sponsored forage fish legislation in 2015 that funded two important studies to help the Department of Fish and Wildlife implement their forage fish management plan from the1990s, which was conceptually way ahead of its time but never adequately funded.
In the video, Senator Rolfes says she was inspired to take action by an op-ed in the Seattle Times that directly linked the decline in marine birds to the decline in forage fish.
This op-ed drew heavily on another article, this one by Craig Welch, that focused on SeaDoc’s groundbreaking marine bird population study, in which SeaDoc’s Dr. Ignacio Vilchis and collaborators were able to show that diving birds that depend on forage fish were many times more likely to be in decline than other bird species.
While the course of events varies from case to case, the take home message here is that focused, well-targeted science, like that which SeaDoc promotes, does make a difference. It’s also important to remember is that Dr. Vilchis’ large and complex 2-year science project and publication was funded by a SeaDoc supporter’s (Stephanie Wagner) legacy bequest.
So don’t forget, SeaDoc science does make a difference and real credit for change belongs to the generous donors like you who make it possible.
In this issue: SeaDoc goes to South Africa for seabird conference, call for nominations for Salish Sea Science Prize, new grant for crab gear recovery, spread the word about new fish in the Salish Sea, Kirsten Gilardi honored by AAZV, thanks to outgoing board members, Chadsey joins Science Advisors, Dierauf to talk on climate change.
At its annual meeting in October 2015, The American Association of Zoo Veterinarians awarded Dr. Kirsten Gilardi the Emil Dolensek Award. Some people have called this “The Nobel Prize in Medicine for Veterinarians,” and we couldn’t be more proud of Kirsten and her long list of accomplishments that made her so deserving of this award.
Kirsten earned her DVM from UC Davis in 1993 and was a veterinary resident and then veterinary fellow at the California National Primate Research Center. She then was one of the first veterinarians to achieve Board Certification by the American College of Zoological Medicine, with an emphasis on Wildlife Medicine.
Kirsten’s work at the Karen C. Drayer Wildlife Health Center at UC Davis began in 1998 when she was instrumental in laying the foundation for California’s now world-famous Oiled Wildlife Care Network. Her work included setting up facilities and helping create a model program for the statewide response to oiled wildlife emergencies.
In 2000, Kirsten took on the role of executive director for the SeaDoc Society, shaping the vision for what has evolved into a unique marine ecosystem health program. In just 15 years, this organization has become a key player in marine conservation in the Salish Sea, filling a glaring gap in the environmental sector – caring for the health of the wild animals, from shellfish to killer whales.
Since 2009, Kirsten has been the Co-Director of Gorilla Doctors, which is a partnership between UC Davis and the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project. Gorilla Doctors’ efforts ensure the long-term health and survival of critically endangered wild eastern gorillas and the human and animal communities that share their habitat. The 15 Gorilla Doctors on the ground in Africa, all but one of whom are African veterinarians, monitor the health of and provide life saving treatment for injured and ill eastern gorillas living in Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The team works hard to conserve eastern gorillas one gorilla at a time, and has become an international model of One Health in action.
Under Kirsten’s leadership, Gorilla Doctors also manages the USAID Emerging Pandemic Threat PREDICT program in Uganda and Rwanda, through which laboratory capacity in both countries has been vastly improved, and a number of newly discovered viruses have been described.
As an offshoot of her work at SeaDoc, Kirsten founded and has led a program to remove derelict fishing gear, which entangles and injures crabs, birds, and whales, from the west coast of the United States. In the crab fishing fleet, this program is on its way to become a self-sustaining program run by the fishermen themselves.
In addition to all these activities, Kirsten is a researcher, teacher and mentor.
In 2014 she was named Co-Director of the Karen C. Drayer Wildlife Health Center, where she leads a large team dedicated to solving wildlife and conservation problems using a One Health perspective.
Kirsten has had a truly positive impact on wildlife around the world, and we’re proud of her recognition by the American Association of Zoo Veterinarians.
Dragons and Vipers and Opahs, Oh My!
The Salish Sea’s famed salmon have a lot of interesting company beneath the surface. From the gumdrop-size spiny lumpsucker to the world’s second-largest fish, the basking shark, we’ve long known our inland sea was home to an amazing range of fish species. However, it wasn’t until an exhaustive new SeaDoc-funded study set out to document every species of local fish that we fully understood the diversity of these rich waters.
The study, by Ted Pietsch and Jay Orr, revealed more than three dozen fish species not previously known to inhabit the Salish Sea, adding such notables as the leopard shark, Pacific hagfish and lowcrest hatchetfish, and raising the number of local fish species to 253. Another “new” native, the opah, is a freckled orbicular oddity and one of the only known warm-blooded fish.
Beyond the wonder of knowing we share our Salish Sea with the opah and other fantastical creatures like the ribbonfish and daggertooth, and that our abyssal depths twinkle with such bioluminescent stars as the flashlight fish and viperfish, we now have a definitive list that allows us to more accurately choose which fishes best serve as indicator species — the canaries in the aquatic coal mine — to track the health of the entire ecosystem. It will also tell us when invasive species invade, and if any native fishes disappear.
This important paper proves once again that when it comes to restoring the Salish Sea, good science and SeaDoc donors really count.
Download the paper
The PDF includes about a dozen incredible drawings of local fish.
More details about the study
This study is part of a long-term effort by SeaDoc to document the fish and wildlife that inhabit the Salish Sea.
In 2011, Joe Gaydos and Scott Pearson published “Birds and Mammals that Depend on the Salish Sea: A Compilation” in Northwestern Naturalist. That paper established a baseline list of species, and has been cited numerous times in both peer-reviewed and technical papers.
Now we have a complete list of fishes. At some point we hope to take on the daunting task of cataloging the 3,000+ species of macro-invertebrates.
Knowing which species use an ecosystem and how they make their living is fundamental to restoring it.
Why is this so important? With this list, scientists will be able to document the occurrence of new species and the disappearance of existing ones. The list will be a key baseline for Salish Sea recovery. At the same time it will help scientists select particular species as indicators of ecosystem health, and it will provide a basis for identifying the mechanisms responsible for marine fish declines.
Funded by private citizens
Like many SeaDoc projects, this one was funded by individuals with a commitment to the health of the Salish Sea. Thanks to our forward-thinking donors for understanding the importance of this effort and making it possible.
The fish list has been featured in the Seattle Times, Victoria Times Colonist, Skagit Valley Herald, phys.org, Science Daily, The Stranger, the Parksville Qualicum Beach News, the Fish Site, Nature World News, and the Vancouver Sun, among others.
The new list of Fishes of the Salish Sea published by Ted Pietsch and Jay Orr, and funded by the SeaDoc Society, has been featured in several news outlets around the Salish Sea.
The Victoria Times Colonist noted in particular that Pietsch and Orr used the Royal B.C. Museum as one of their sources.
The Skagit Valley Herald focused on some of the species that inhabit shorelines in Skagit County, like red Irish lords, queenfish, and smallhead eelpout.
And then The Stranger picked it up. Which fish will inhabit your nightmares? Which one looks like Keith Haring painted it? You’ll have to read the article to find out…
In December, reporter Jessi Loerch wrote about the paper in the Everett Herald. She focused particularly on the striking illustrations, and interviewed illustrator Joseph Tomelleri about his drawing process.
In this issue: Harbor porpoise questions answered, “Are sea stars recovering?” Divers needed for economic impact study, UC Davis gets high rankings, WDFW seeking comments from citizens, call for abstracts for Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference, Timothy Dwyer to speak on ocean exploration.
Are the sea stars coming back?
That’s the question most people ask when they learn that SeaDoc just completed another 100 survey dives in our multi-year collaboration with REEF.
Video of diver doing survey (10 seconds)
Each fall, trained citizen scientist SCUBA divers conduct 100 surveys of fish and invertebrates at locations throughout the San Juan Islands. The results are almost immediately accessible on the national REEF database. For example, here’s a link to species sighted at Bell Island West between 2013 and 2015 on the REEF.org website. REEF’s database is used by citizens and scientists the world over.
Video of rockfish observed during dive (10 seconds)
While we just completed this year’s series of dives, and the data hasn’t been analyzed yet, we can tell you a few things:
- Divers look for 4 different species of sea stars. They saw healthy specimens of vermillion, blood, and leather stars.
- They saw no sunflower sea stars. Before the sea star die-off it would have been typical to see 20-30 sunflower sea stars on a single survey dive.
- Divers observed many beautiful fish and invertebrates, some of which are pictured below.
- This is a long-term project, and the real payoff will come after many more years of surveys.
This project is made possible thanks to collaborations with REEF, numerous volunteer divers and of course the SeaDoc donors who got the program started, including Jeanne Luce, Steve Alboucq, Loren Ceder, Chuck Curry & Molly Davenport, Martha Wyckoff in honor of Lee Rolfe, and one other anonymous donor. Major support for this year’s dives came from the Seattle Aquarium. Thank you!
This year’s divers include Laurel LaFever, Janna Nichols, David Todd, Joe Gaydos, Todd Cliff, Carol Cline, Gregg Cline, Josh Sera, Rhoda Green, Margaret Bangs, Randall Tyle, Taylor Frierson, Chuck Curry, Phil Green, and Jen Olson. And special thanks to Friday Harbor Labs for housing the volunteer divers and to Bandito Charters for doing such a great job of running the charter boat.
All photos by J. Gaydos.
In this issue: Searching for newborn rockfish, wooden hats for harbor seals, thanks to our hardworking interns, make an automatic monthly donation, harbor porpoise spotting days.