Marine Science Lecture November 13! Nacho Vilchis on massive marine bird declines (details below)

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November 2012 SeaDoc Society Update

Factors Behind Massive Marine Bird Declines Revealed

tufted puffin

SeaDoc Postdoctoral Fellow Dr. Nacho Vilchis has spent the past 2 years elucidating the factors causing declines in multiple species of birds in the Salish Sea. He is preparing a manuscript for publication and on November 13th will share his findings at our Marine Science Lecture.

This landmark study combined decades of marine bird status and trend data from the US and Canada as well as from annual Christmas Bird Counts. Nacho's findings should galvanize efforts to recover multiple declining species simultaneously.

Come hear the details at 7pm on November 13 at the Emmanuel Episcopal Parish Hall in Eastsound, or look for it on video once the manuscript has been published.

Photo: Tufted Puffin by B. Hoglund

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When Your Dinner Can Kill You...

ratfish

For almost a decade, SeaDoc and the Whale Museum have partnered in a real-life version of Wildlife CSI. All dead marine mammals that strand in the area in good postmortem condition are necropsied to determine the cause of death. This gives us important information about diseases that can impact marine mammal health and even diseases that can infect humans or domestic animals. A recently published paper by Andrianne Akmajian, SeaDoc and collaborators, details the discovery that the lowly spotted ratfish can kill harbor seals if the ratfish's poisonous dorsal spine penetrates the esophagus, stomach or intestinal tract.

So why was this never documented before? Though ratfish are mostly unknown to human Salish Sea residents, pound for pound there's more ratfish in the water here than there is of any other fish species. Could seals be trying out a new diet of ratfish because other prey isn't available? Or is it because ratfish are so abundant? This study is an important first step in understanding a possible change in the local food web.

The paper, Mortality Related to Spotted Ratfish (Hydrolagus colliei) in Pacific Harbor Seals (Phoca vitulina) in Washington State, by Akmajian, Lambourn, Lance, Raverty & Gaydos, was published in the Journal of Wildlife Diseases. See the citation and abstract online. Or request a copy of the full manuscript by emailing seadoc@seadocsociety.org.

Curious about ratfish? Sandi Doughton of the Seattle Times wrote a nice article about them back in 2010: Rise of the Ratfish in Puget Sound.

Photo: N. Brown

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Joe Gaydos Recognized For His Contributions To Health Of Our Region

How cool is this? Through their Power of 10 Campaign, the Sustainable Path Foundation is celebrating its 10-year anniversary by honoring 10 outstanding individuals who have made a positive impact on the health of our region.

The way it works is that each recipient gets to "pass it forward" by nominating the next honoree. The first award winner, SeaDoc Board member Nan McKay, nominated Ginny Broadhurst, Director of the Northwest Straits Initiative. Ginny nominated Joe, saying among other things that he was one of the few scientists she knew "that could get people excited about the natural world and increase their stewardship because of that."

Joe has moved the award and recognition firmly onto land by honoring Warren Moon, Director of the Wilderness Awareness School for his inspiring work to increase people's appreciation of nature so that they can become better stewards their community and the world.

Read more about why Joe was chosen to win this award.

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Map Of The Month: Earthquakes, Tsunamis And Rockfish Habitat?

map

You probably already know that the Salish Sea region is a hotbed of seismic activity (at least on a geologic time scale). Our November Map of the Month shows an area off the northwest side of Orcas Island where seismic activity has shaped both the island and the underwater habitat.

The image above is just a portion of the map: download the map to see it full size. (2.6MB PDF)

You can see a "cookie bite" taken out of the edge of Orcas. This is a landslide that was most probably triggered by a shaking event. The material from that landslide left a clear pile on the seafloor, visible in the half-moon shape on the map.

This landslide would have triggered an impact tsunami that propagated toward Barnes and Clark Islands. Most likely it completely inundated the two islands.

In the map you can also see the landslide apron all along the edge of Orcas where material has fallen into the sea. Depending how this happened, it may also have created tsunamis. These rocky areas are prime rockfish habitat, as are the rocky areas around Barnes & Clark Islands.

In the map you can also see areas of soft sediments that may be good habitat for sand lance, one of the important forage fishes in the Salish Sea.

The map was developed by John Aschoff, Gary Greene, and Kassandra Hishida. It's a composite of multi-beam bathymetry, aerial image, and bare earth Lidar.

Here's another view of the same data:

map

Download a full-size version (1.1MB PDF).

videoBonus Video: Dr. Gary Greene explains what you're seeing in this Map of the Month.

(Video opens in a new window.)

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How Human Actions Have Unintended Consequences

movie

Last month Dr. Peter Arcece gave a fascinating presentation on the pervasive and often unintended effects of human actions. For example, by removing apex predators like cougars and wolves, humans have dramatically affected the diversity of bird and plant species. How? It's all about the deer. Watch this clip to see the difference between forests with deer and forests without. Or watch Peter's entire lecture.

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Bears to Barnacles in Anacortes

Our Bears to Barnacles event in Bellingham was a smashing success, with a standing room only crowd of well over 100 people that pushed the legal capacity limits of the room.

We're doing it again in Anacortes on November 9 in a free "Trail Tales" event co-sponsored by Friends of Skagit Beaches and the WSU Beachwatchers. The event is at the Anacortes Public Library and starts at 6:30pm. If you're in Skagit County we'd love to see you there. Come early as the publicity crew is blanketing the County with posters and we're pretty sure the room will fill up.

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SeaDoc in the News

Sharon Wootton of the Everett Herald did a nice piece on SeaDoc and biggest and best creatures of the Salish Sea. Read it here.

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Upcoming Events

Friday, November 9. Joe Gaydos presents Bears to Barnacles at the Anacortes Public Library at 6:30pm. Free.

Tuesday, November 13. Nacho Vilchis on marine bird declines. Emmanuel Parish Hall, Eastsound. 7pm. Free.

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