Prevention of disease in domestic animals is an important tool in wildlife health

lion with distempter

Did you know that diseases like canine distemper virus can spread from domestic dogs to wildlife? It's a problem around the world, with infections in lions, tigers, hyenas, ferrets, North American river otters, raccoons, bears, and more. Two seal species, Bailal and Caspian seals, have also experienced distemper outbreaks. In January 2015, Joe Gaydos presented a paper titled Canine Distemper in Wildlife: How Private Practitioners Can Help at the North American Veterinary Conference in Orlando, Florida. Proper vaccination of domestic animals can help contain outbreaks. A similar virus, … [Read more...]

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Canine teeth comparison – Steller sea lion to harbor seal

Adult harbor seal canine tool vs Steller sea lion canine tooth. Photo: J. Gaydos

Did you know that seals, sea lions and other animals put down annular growth rings on their teeth? This means that you can age an animal that has died by counting the growth rings on a sectioned tooth much like you can do for a tree that has been cut down. We were pulling teeth to age some stranded animals as part of our collaborative work with the Whale Museum and San Juan County Marine Mammal Stranding Network and were once again amazed at how large Steller sea lions are. Check out this shot comparing lower canines of an adult harbor seal and a Steller sea lion! … [Read more...]

January 2015 update

Bull kelp

In this issue: New project to investigate toxins in edible seaweeds, tufted puffin listing progress, thank you to donors and supporters, Seattle Aquarium octopus census, marine science lecture update … [Read more...]

Video: Jared Towers on minke whales in the Salish Sea


In November of 2014, Jared Towers of MERS, the Marine Education and Research Society, spoke about his research on minke whales. Minkes are the smallest baleen whales in the North Pacific Ocean, averaging 26 to 29 feet in length, but also one of the fastest of all the whales and dolphins. They are estimated to live for 30-60 years, are normally solitary, and prefer to spend time in very specific habitats where they forage on small schooling fishes. Jared Towers is involved in several cutting edge research projects with minke whales, including investigations into their population … [Read more...]

Studying contaminants in edible seaweed from the Salish Sea

Bull kelp

How safe is wild-harvested seaweed to eat? Seaweeds are a nutritious source of protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals. The harvest and consumption of various species of seaweed has historically been, and continues to be, important for the Coast Salish, and is gaining in popularity with non-tribal citizens interested in wild foraging. Unfortunately very little data are available on the levels of contaminants in local seaweeds, leaving native and non-native consumers of this food source in the dark about whether they are harvesting healthy nutritious food or are being exposed to potentially … [Read more...]

Growing up underwater: harbor porpoise muscle development

Harbor porpoise by Florian Graner. Used by permission.

Peer-reviewed publication: Noren, S. R., D. P. Noren, and J. K. Gaydos. 2014. Living in the fast lane: rapid development of the locomotor muscle in immature harbor porpoises (Phocoena phocoena). Journal of Comparative Physiology B. December 2014, Volume 184, Issue 8, pp 1065-1076. This study -- based on harbor porpoise tissue samples collected from strandings, fishery bycatch, or observed killings by killer whales -- looked at muscle development in juvenile harbor porpoises to understand how fast they mature into physically competent adults. This is important because it shows that … [Read more...]

December 2014 Update


In this issue: SeaDoc helps tie a virus to sea star wasting disease; Holiday giving made easy; Money talks: new project to study economic benefits of no-take marine reserves; Two new Science Advisors join SeaDoc; Kit Rawson on salmon recovery successes; Killer whales in the deep freeze? ; Reminder: Tufted puffin status review comments due December 11; Fire retardant levels in Salish Sea birds … [Read more...]

Billie Swalla and Jim West join Science Advisors

Billie Swalla

Two new scientists have come on board as SeaDoc Science Advisors. Since our inception, this important group has help prioritize and guide our scientific investigations. We’d like to extend a big welcome to Billie Swalla (Director, UW Friday Harbor Labs) and Jim West (Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife)! Billie Swalla is the Director of the University of Washington’s Friday Harbor Laboratories, and joins the Science Advisors to bring the expertise of the Labs to the table. Swalla is an expert in the evolution of chordates (species with a central nervous system on their back sides … [Read more...]

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Economic benefits of SCUBA diving in no-take marine reserves

fish by janna nichols

There’s convincing science that no-take marine reserves help recover rockfish, abalone, and other threatened or endangered species that call these rocky habitats home. But what are the economic costs and benefits of marine reserves? Most of the existing data is about the costs of marine reserves. For example, marine reserves limit fishing, and therefore have a negative effect on the commercial and recreational fishing industry. But very little is known about the economic benefits of no-take marine reserves. A new SeaDoc project will quantify the economic benefit of appropriately … [Read more...]

Gulls switch to trash-diet as fish stocks run low

gull with sea star

Joe Gaydos was quoted in a New Scientist article about the implications of diet changes for gulls. In a recently published paper (find a link to it in the New Scientist article, below), UBC's Louise Blight and collaborators looked at feather samples to understand how gull diets have changed over the past 149 years. The results show that as the birds' diets have changed from fish to more garbage, the result has been population declines and lower fertility in glaucous-winged gulls. Overfishing has meant that one of the gulls' favourite fish species, the highly nutritious eulachon, is now … [Read more...]