Tunicates, also known as sea squirts, are innocuous-looking invertebrates that reproduce prolifically.
In the Salish Sea there are several species of invasive tunicates that have been brought here by accident on vessel hulls and through other transmission means. These invasive species can outcompete local species, taking over both space and food supplies.
Tunicates attach to boat hulls, docks, marinas, shellfish and shellfish-growing equipment. Invasive tunicates can be a major threat to shellfish aquaculture.
A SeaDoc-supported project, completed in 2011, investigated the effect of invasive tunicates on mussel growing operations in Puget Sound and whether invasive tunicates are impacting certain species of harpacticoid copepods and amphipods that are known to be important prey for juvenile salmon and other small fish.
The research was summarized in a poster displayed at the Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference in October 2011. Click here for a link to the PDF of the poster.
One of the Western Grebes that has been hanging out on San Francisco Bay for almost a year just jumped up and flew down to the coast of Southern California, down near San Diego.
Joe Gaydos, chief scientist for the SeaDoc Society, says, "We had no idea that these guys would move like this and used to think that once they settled in for the winter that was it."
See the rest of the grebe project at http://www.seadocsociety.org/grebe-tracking.
Update 12/15/11: The grebe flew back up to San Francisco! We don't really know what to think about this... Stay tuned.
In 2006–2007, an unusually high number of harbor porpoises (Phocoena phocoena) stranded along the Washington and Oregon coastlines.
Spatiotemporal analyses were used to examine their ability to detect clusters of porpoise strandings during an unusual mortality event (UME) in the Pacific Northwest using stranding location data.
Strandings were evaluated as two separate populations, outer coast and inland waters. The presence of global clustering was evaluated using the Knox spatiotem- poral test, and the presence of local clusters was investigated using a spatiotemporal scan statistic (space–time permutation). There was evidence of global clustering, but no local clustering, supporting the hypothesis that strandings were due to more varied etiologies instead of localized causes.
Further analyses at subregional levels, and concurrently assessing environmental factors, might reveal additional geographic distribution patterns. This article describes the spatial analytical tools applied in this study and how they can help elucidate the spatiotemporal epidemi- ology of other UMEs and assist in determining their causes. More than one spatial analytical technique should be used if the study objective is to detect and describe clustering in time and space and to generate hypotheses regarding causation of marine mammal disease and stranding events.
SeaDoc's Joe Gaydos is a co-author on the paper. Find it at http://www.seadocsociety.org/node/606
The application of GIS and spatiotemporal analyses to investigations of unusual marine mammal strandings and mortality events
What can you learn from digging into someone’s 1,000-year-old lunchbox?
By examining mussel shells from ancient middens of the Makah Nation, and then comparing them to shell samples taken in the 1970s and the 2000s, SeaDoc funded scientist Dr. Cathy Pfister and her colleagues found that there’s been an unprecedented change in the chemistry of shells from our local marine waters.
With ocean acidification a major concern, and our Northwest coast and Salish Sea among the most rapidly acidifying areas in the world, researchers have been closely monitoring the water’s pH.
What Dr. Pfister and colleagues determined by looking at isotope ratios in mussel shells is that the changes occurring are even greater than can be explained simply by the ocean’s absorption of increased atmospheric CO2, or by local upwelling, or by changes in nitrate and phosphate.
Everything from the oysters we eat to the plankton that feed the juvenile salmon that in turn feed orcas and us depend on surviving a changing ocean. So it’s critical we figure out precisely what’s going on. That’s why SeaDoc continues to fund important foundational work like this.
Download a copy of the manuscript, recently published in the acclaimed journal PLoS ONE, here.
To do this important work, Dr. Pfister and her team sectioned mussels, shown above, which enabled them to analyze differences in mussel growth and chemistry by year. This enabled them to evaluate changes over a decade looking at the sections of a ten year old mussel. Pretty cool. Check out the annular rings on the mussel photo above.
Pfister works closely with the Makah Nation, and her research was carried out with their permission and assistance.
Cathy Pfister is an associate professor in the department of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Chicago. Her work concentrates on rocky intertidal areas of Washington State. Her homepage has information on her research, and you can watch a short video featuring Cathy Pfister discussing her research interests (it's on the SeaDoc website, but the page may take a while to load if you're on a slow connection).
Status and Habitat Associations of the Threatened Northern Abalone: importance of kelp and coralline algae
On November 4, 2011, the Western Grebe we're tracking migrated back from Southern Oregon to San Francisco Bay.
To our knowledge, this is the first time anyone has tracked a complete migration of a Western Grebe. This is an exciting step in our ability to track these birds and, eventually, our ability to identify and manage the threats to their population.
In other news about this project, Joe Gaydos and colleagues recently published a paper about the surgical technique used in this study in the Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine. Take a look.
Love marine mammals? Why not have a harbor seal announce your incoming calls?
We created this ringtone from a recording Joe Gaydos made of a harbor seal.
Download the ringtone for iPhone.
(Right-Click on the link -- or Control-Click on a mac.)
Technical Note: Firefox handles the download properly. Safari on the Mac downloads a useless file. We're way beyond our geek threshold in terms of why this might be happening.
Click here to listen to the ringtone before downloading. (Works in most browsers.) That's an MP3 you can also download for use as a ringtone on Android.
This ringtone works on iPhones. It MIGHT work on Android and other phones. If you're an Android user and want to test it for us, let us know if it works. And if you're an Android guru and can help us create the right kind of file and write the installation instructions, definitely get in touch.
Here's how to install the ringtone on your iPhone:
- Download the file to your computer.
- Drag it onto your iTunes icon in the dock. iTunes will put it in the "ringtones" area.
- Sync your phone with your computer
- Go to Settings > Sound and choose the ringtone as your default ring, or add it to particular contacts.
- You can also use the ringtone as an alarm chime.
Unfortunately, we're not able to provide technical support for installing the ringtone. If you get stuck, try a Google search, as several websites have illustrated guides to adding ringtones to your phone.
Don't miss our killer whale ringtone.