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The SeaDoc Society is a program of the Karen C. Drayer Wildlife Health Center at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.

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August 2014 SeaDoc Society Update

Learning more about stranded killer whales

whale ingrid taylar

Recently SeaDoc and collaborators from the University of British Columbia and SeaWorld released a revised killer whale necropsy protocol.

The original protocol, written in 2004, helped to increase the number of complete examinations performed on stranded killer whales around the world by 20-fold.

The new protocol further standardizes sample collection, identifies current researchers that can help analyze samples, and provides detailed directions for doing things like examining killer whale ears for impacts of sound (as seen with sonar or other acoustic trauma).

Veterinary pathologist Dr. Steve Raverty, a faculty member at the UBC Marine Mammal Research Unit, says, "Thanks to research over the last decade, we now have a better understanding of how sound can damage whale ear structure and this data has informed the protocol. When we examine a dead whale, we now have better tools to determine if it got stranded because of a blast or a sonar incident."

Killer whale strandings are as rare as hen's teeth, so every killer whale stranding represents an opportunity for researchers to learn more about the species. The new necropsy protocol improves our ability to capture as much information as possible from each killer whale stranding event.

The new protocol will be critical in helping understand how disease might impact the recovery of small declining killer whale populations, such as the southern resident killer whales.

Collaborator Dr. Judy St. Leger notes, "Data from systematic evaluations provides a window into the world of killer whales. We can compare results and identify ways to positively impact populations."

View the protocol here:

Photo: Members of K pod by Ingrid Taylar via Flickr Creative Commons 2.0

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Marine bird declines featured in the news

western grebe by j gaydos

The waters of the Salish Sea used to be the winter home of most of the world's Western Grebes. But no longer. For every 20 birds that used to winter here, only 1 still does.

Grebes and other declining seabirds are the focus of two recent articles on marine bird declines in the Salish Sea: one in the new online magazine, Salish Sea Currents, published by the Encyclopedia of Puget Sound,  the other on the front page of the Seattle Times.

Both articles feature work done by SeaDoc on forage fish as well as marine birds, including work that former SeaDoc postdoctoral researcher Dr. Nacho Vilchis presented at the 2014 Salish Sea Ecosystem conference.

Read the Salish Sea Currents article here:

Read the Seattle Times article here:

Photo: Western grebe by J. Gaydos

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Thank you for supporting SeaDoc

2014 auction bidders

jim and joeThank you to everyone who helped make our recent Wine and Sea auction a tremendous success.

The funds raised will help us keep doing the science needed to help the Salish Sea.

Our gratitude goes to Rochelle and Cory Severson for hosting an amazing party and putting such an incredible effort into making it fun and memorable, to Compass Wines for their 7th year of sponsoring the event and working hard to make sure we have a great selection of wines to auction, to all the volunteers who gave up their evening to help make the event run smoothly, and to Jim Donald for his inimitable performance as Master of Ceremonies.

We especially want to thank all of you who came to the event and supported SeaDoc so generously. You are an amazing group of people and we're thrilled to be able to work on your behalf to heal the Salish Sea.

Next year's auction is Saturday, July 11, 2015. Save the date in your calendar. You want to be there!

Photos: J. Brunner

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Salish Sea Book update

Have you heard about the book that Joe Gaydos and SeaDoc Board member Audrey Benedict are writing?

The Salish Sea, Jewel of the Pacific Northwest, will be published next spring by Sasquatch Books.

Filled with stunning photographs and a narrative that explores the ecosystem's natural history and amazing inhabitants, this book reveals the sometimes hidden wonders of the Salish Sea and will remind us all why we need to make sure it is here for our kids and grandkids to enjoy.

Final edits are currently being made to the text. Like Marjory Stoneman Douglas's book, The Everglades: River of Grass, we think it will be a game-changer that will help people appreciate the Salish Sea as an international treasure and an ecosystem worthy of saving.

Look for it in the spring (but don't worry, we'll tell you how to get a copy when the time comes).

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Join SeaDoc for a once-in-a-lifetime Salish Sea trip


How would you like to spend a week on a restored classic 76-foot wooden boat, cruising the San Juan Islands and immersing yourself in the wildlife and natural history of the region?

Board member Audrey Benedict, the founder and director of Cloud Ridge Naturalists, has put together a special Salish Sea Conservation in Focus trip on the M/V Catalyst from September 28 through October 5, starting and ending in Friday Harbor.

Trip staff includes professional photographers, artists and naturalists. Guest experts will include Joe Gaydos and some of SeaDoc's Science Advisors.

If you'd like to sign up for or learn more about this special trip, or if you have friends who might be interested, please visit Cloud Ridge at

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Looking for coastal cutthroat trout


SeaDoc recently funded Long Live the Kings to conduct a study of coastal cutthroat trout in the San Juan Islands. With collaborators from the Wild Fish Conservancy, Kwiáht, and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, they've been in the field this summer looking for these rare fish.

Photographer Chris Linder joined them for a day in the creek, and came back with beautiful images.

We've put them in a slideshow. Take a look!

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SeaDoc presents on wildlife diseases

Joe Gaydos and Kirsten Gilardi are just back from the International Conference of the Wildlife Disease Association, where Joe presented findings on causes of mortality in river otters and co-authored a presentation on sea star wasting disease. Kirsten presented research on pathogens that spread from humans to eastern lowland gorillas (in addition to being co-director of the Wildlife Health Center and executive director of SeaDoc, Kirsten also is co-director of the Gorilla Doctors program).

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SeaDoc in the news

As mentioned above, SeaDoc was featured on front page of Seattle Times in Craig Welch's article on the loss of marine birds over recent decades.

SeaDoc was asked by the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation to provide a non-biased third party review of the Vancouver Aquarium's captive cetacean program as well as data on legislation, an overview of accrediting agencies, and policies and trends regarding the capture and display of cetaceans around the world. The report and presentation to the Board were widely covered.

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Upcoming Events

September 28 - October 5: SeaDoc Salish Sea Conservation in Focus trip on the M/V Catalyst. More info at (Please call SeaDoc if you have any questions about the trip.)

Tuesday, October 14, 7pm: Our annual free Marine Science Lecture Series kicks off with renown oceanographer Paul Dayton from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Location: Emmanuel Episcopal Church parish hall, Eastsound, WA.


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About SeaDoc

The SeaDoc Society uses science to find solutions to the problems facing marine ecosystems. We are a program of the Karen C. Drayer Wildlife Health Center, a center of excellence at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.

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