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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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October 2014 SeaDoc Society Update

Annual subtidal dive monitoring yields early results

REEF dives by Janna Nichols

The subtidal area is one of the least known parts of the Salish Sea. It's a fantastically colorful and complex place seen only by SCUBA divers and scientists. This is why we partnered with Reef Environmental Education Foundation ( last year to use trained volunteer divers to keep an eye on what is happening below the water.

So how long does it take to see dramatic changes in subtidal areas?

Turns out a year is enough.

When we first started this subtidal monitoring project in 2013 we anticipated we might have enough data to see changes after 8 or 10 years.

But last October our dives took place just before the now-infamous sea star die-off. At some of the sites where we collected data, divers might have seen on average 20-30 sunflower sea stars. When we re-visited these sites last week, they were mostly gone. Seeing just one was cause for conversation, especially if it was healthy.

Of course, not all the changes were so pronounced, but that doesn't mean the data aren't valuable. Our goal is not only to study changes, but also to document current conditions so that future scientists will have a scientifically-rigorous baseline for understanding potential future shifts in our local environment. Wouldn't it be nice if we had this kind of data from the 1960s?

This year, our team of REEF-trained Advance Assessment Team expert divers returned to 7 sites we surveyed last year, and added 3 new sites. By the end of ten years, we'll have long-term data on up to 20 representative sites around the region. Super cool!

Ever want to get a glimpse of the cool creatures that make the Salish Sea a world-wide mecca for cold water divers? Check out more pictures on the REEF Facebook page.

Photos: Janna Nichols

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Power to the puffins!

puffin by bill briare

It's been a long time coming, but Washington State is in the final stage of deciding whether or not to list the Tufted puffin as a state endangered species.

Tufted puffins used to breed at 43 different nesting colonies in Washington State. Now they are found at only 19, and the state's population is 1/10th of what it was in 1984.

Tufted puffins have been candidates for listing in Washington State since 1998. But you can't move from candidate to listed species without a formal scientific status review. Since the Department of Fish and Wildlife didn't have the resources to write the status review, nothing happened for a long time.

Then SeaDoc stepped in. We knew it was important to get the status review written so that the State could eventually create a recovery plan for puffins. So in 2010 we raised money from private individuals, with gifts ranging from $100 to $23,000. (Crowdfunding before crowdfunding was cool.)

With that money we hired scientist Thor Hanson (familiar to many of you as the author of the award-winning book, Feathers) to draft the status review. Since completion several years ago the report has undergone further editing and refinement by WDFW scientist Gary Wiles, and has been externally reviewed by scientists.

Now it's time for the public to comment.

Please read the status review (it's fascinating and you'll learn a lot about Tufted puffins) and send a comment to the Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Written comments should be sent to or to

Penny Becker
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
600 Capitol Way N
Olympia, WA 98501-1091

Comments are due December 11, 2014.

While you're commenting on the Tufted puffin status review, note that WDFW is also taking comments on another species, Steller sea lions. But this time the proposal is to take them OFF the threatened species list because they've made a strong recovery. Get the full story:

Want to learn more about threatened and endangered species in the Salish Sea? Every two years SeaDoc tallies all the species in the Salish Sea that are threatened, endangered, or are candidates for listing by Canada, British Columbia, the USA, or Washington State. See the most recent list here:

Photo by Bill Briare via Flickr cc

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October marine science lecture: oceanographer Paul Dayton

paul dayton and pig

Renown oceanographer Paul Dayton comes to Orcas Island on Tuesday, October 14 to kick off our annual Marine Science Lecture Series.

In a 44 year career at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Dayton has studied kelp forests, sea urchins, sea otters, pollution, fisheries collapse, and ecosystem-level disturbances in Washington, California, and Antarctica.

Dayton is considered one of the founders of the field of ecology, and has been described as having an "overwhelming resolve to direct science toward sustaining and conserving marine ecosystems."

His colleague, Enric Sala, says, "Paul Dayton is one of the last true naturalists, a scientist who thinks broadly, a poet of science... Paul knows how ecosystems function from the Arctic to the Antarctic, from coral reefs to kelp forests, from the Sierras to the desert."

When he comes to Orcas he will be speaking about his decades of research in the Antarctic ocean.

Location: Parish Hall at Emmanuel Episcopal Church, Eastsound.

As always, the talk is free and starts at 7pm. Coffee, tea and treats will be provided by YMCA Camp Orkila.

Photo courtesy UC San Diego.

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Thanks to the people who make our lecture series possible

We are proud that for over a decade we have been able to offer an annual Marine Science Lecture Series, co-sponsored with the crucial help of YMCA Camp Orkila. This wouldn't be possible without donations from the people and companies who support the lecture series.

This year we'd like to thank:

Tom Averna / Deer Harbor Charters
Barbara Brown
Emmanuel Episcopal Church
Bryce and Sue Rhodes
Dean and Audrey Stupke
West Sound Marina
Martha Wyckoff in honor of Lee Rolfe

Donations from our sponsors help us cover speaker travel and an honorarium and also allow us to hire a professional video team to record the lectures for people who can't be there in person.

You can find a list of all the videos we've published on our YouTube channel.

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SeaDoc in the News

crab gear justin cox

The California Lost Fishing Gear Recovery Project (a self-sustaining project of the SeaDoc Society that operates without any donated funds), got a nice write-up in the Del Norte Triplicate.

Kirsten Gilardi, SeaDoc's executive director, and Jen Renzullo, the field manager for the lost gear project, were featured for their innovative work where north coast crab fishermen are actually recovering lost crab pots and turning a profit by selling the pots back to their original owners.

More details here:

Or watch a short video about crabbing gear recovery:

SeaDoc has been involved in derelict gear recovery from the Salish Sea all the way to Southern California. We've conducted scientific studies to quantify the damage done by derelict gear and have worked to create self-sustaining gear recovery programs. Lost commercial and recreational fishing gear is a significant cause of mortality for marine mammals, fish, diving birds, and invertebrates, including many threatened and endangered species.

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Upcoming Events


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.

Tuesday, November 11, 7pm: Jared Towers, a research scientist with the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans and a director of the Marine Education and Research Society, will speak on minke whales. Location: Emmanuel Episcopal Church parish hall, Eastsound, WA.

Tuesday, December 9, 5:30pm: Family Night lecture at Camp Orkila. Free dinner starts at 5:30. Lecture at 7pm. Kit Rawson will give a talk titled "Salmon Management in the 21st Century: have we learned anything yet?" Location: Larry Norman Hall at YMCA Camp Orkila, Orcas Island.

Tuesday, January 13, 7pm: University of Washington professor Terrie Klinger, the Director of the School of Marine and Environmental Affairs, will talk about ocean acidification. Location: Emmanuel Episcopal Church parish hall, Eastsound, WA.

Tuesday, February 10, 7pm: Writer Jonathan White will speak about tides, the subject of his forthcoming book. 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. Our work focuses on the Salish Sea, one of the most ecologically productive inland seas in the world. The Salish Sea extends from Olympia, Washington to Campbell River, BC., and is home to over 8 million people.

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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