Video: SeaDoc in High-Definition

By Bob Friel

Using a high-definition “Deep Blue” camera and special face masks, SeaDoc divers can feed live video and narration to topside audiences who get to enjoy all the underwater action while staying warm and dry.

SeaDoc has performed these extremely popular “virtual dives” for several years using borrowed video gear, but thanks to a generous donation from the Benedict Family Foundation, we now have our own upgraded camera equipment that we’ve modified to better showcase and record marine creatures big and small. The next step is to acquire the capability to stream our virtual dives over the internet to reach even larger audiences for education, research, and fundraising opportunities.

If you think you have the right setting—waterfront home, marina, or large boat—and an audience that wants to support SeaDoc’s work and see the wonders beneath the Salish Sea without getting wet, ask us about organizing a virtual dive.



Underwater video by Bob Friel

Case study: how SeaDoc makes a difference

Forage Fish of the Salish Sea from Friends of Skagit Beaches on Vimeo.

Our goal is to ensure that SeaDoc science makes a difference, but does it? And if so, how? Check out this sweet new video on forage fish (above) by Friends of Skagit Beaches and the Department of Ecology.

We're pleased Joe Gaydos gets a cameo talking about how important forage fish are, but we really want you to check out what Senator Rolfes has to say. She sponsored forage fish legislation in 2015 that funded two important studies to help the Department of Fish and Wildlife implement their forage fish management plan from the1990s, which was conceptually way ahead of its time but never adequately funded.

In the video, Senator Rolfes says she was inspired to take action by an op-ed in the Seattle Times that directly linked the decline in marine birds to the decline in forage fish.

This op-ed drew heavily on another article, this one by Craig Welch, that focused on SeaDoc's groundbreaking marine bird population study, in which SeaDoc's Dr. Ignacio Vilchis and collaborators were able to show that diving birds that depend on forage fish were many times more likely to be in decline than other bird species.

While the course of events varies from case to case, the take home message here is that focused, well-targeted science, like that which SeaDoc promotes, does make a difference. It's also important to remember is that Dr. Vilchis' large and complex 2-year science project and publication was funded by a SeaDoc supporter's (Stephanie Wagner) legacy bequest.

So don't forget, SeaDoc science does make a difference and real credit for change belongs to the generous donors like you who make it possible.

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 structure, their habitat use, and their vocal repertoire.

Jared Towers is a cetacean expert with the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Research Director at MERS, the Marine Education and Research Society, a non-profit that studies whales and dolphins in BC and around the world.

Video: Robyn du Pre on derelict gear removal

On Tuesday, February 11, 2014, Robyn du Pre of the Northwest Straits Foundation came to Orcas to talk about how the local effort to remove lost fishing nets and crabbing gear has strengthened our local economy and helped recover marine wildlife populations.

Over the last decade, the Northwest Straits Initiative has removed 4,605 nets from shallow waters in the Salish Sea, saving the lives of more than 3.5 million marine animals that would have otherwise been entrapped and killed by these nets each year.

And guess what, it's cost-effective. A joint Northwest Straits - SeaDoc Society study revealed that while removing a net cost $1,358, every net removed saves $1,965 each year in Dungeness crab alone, not to mention the salmon, lingcod, birds, and mammals that would have been killed by that net.

Video: John Calambokidis on Harbor Porpoise and other cetaceans in the Salish Sea

Although the harbor porpoise is the most abundant and widely dispersed cetacean species in the Salish Sea, its probably one of the least well known. Believe it or not, we still know very little about their habitat preferences in the Salish Sea, if the population is increasing, decreasing or stable, how they are related to harbor porpoise outside of the Salish Sea, and even when and where they have their young.

We do know that Harbor porpoise are among the smallest of the cetaceans, reaching an average size of about 5 feet and 120 pounds. They can dive deep, more than 655 feet, but usually stay near the surface, coming up regularly to breathe with a distinctive puffing noise that resembles a sneeze.

On January 14th, 2014, John Calambokidis, a Senior Research Biologist at Cascadia Research Collective, shed new light on harbor porpoise in the Salish Sea. Calambokidis is a well-respected marine mammal biologist and has authored two books on marine mammals as well as more than 150 scientific publications. His work has been covered by the Discovery Channel and National Geographic TV specials.

The 2013-14 Marine Science Lecture Series is designed to inspire the general public and to highlight the amazing fish and wildlife of our region. Lectures are free.

The Lecture Series is presented by program partners The SeaDoc Society and YMCA Camp Orkila. It has been made possible through generous sponsorship by Tom Averna (Deer Harbor Charters), Barbara Brown, Audrey and Dean Stupke and West Sound Marina. Co- sponsors Barbara Bentley and Glenn Prestwich, Emmanuel Episcopal and Bill Patterson (Chimayo/Sazio).

Video: Julie Stein on archaeology and early coastal settlement patterns

From the press release:

Have you ever wondered how people lived in the San Juan Islands thousands of years ago? What resources did they depend upon? Did they always eat salmon? What about elk? Where did they live?

Dr. Julie Stein, author of “Exploring Coast Salish Prehistory,” will share the stories that archaeology tells about life in the San Juan Islands before recorded history. A professor of Anthropology at the University of Washington and the director of the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, Dr. Stein has made her career studying adaptations of coastal prehistoric peoples, particularly in the Northwest Coast.

Dr. Stein has identified important cultural sites in the San Juan Islands, has made discoveries about summer and winter village sites, and has studied tools found at the sites to deduce what early residents ate and how they engaged in art and fishing. Come learn how archaeologists learn about the people who first inhabited our region. The lecture is free to the public.

The Lecture Series is presented by program partners The SeaDoc Society and YMCA Camp Orkila. It has been made possible through generous sponsorship by Tom Averna (Deer Harbor Charters), Barbara Brown, Audrey and Dean Stupke and West Sound Marina as well as co-sponsorship by Barbara Bentley and Glenn Prestwich and Bill Patterson (Chimayo/Sazio).

Video: Gary Greene on Exploring the Salish Seafloor

You don’t go looking for lions on the Arctic tundra or for grizzly bears in the tropical rainforest – that is if you hope to find them. The topside world presents a wide variety of biomes inhabited by plants and animals adapted to survive in each special place. Our underwater world is no different. However, for people working to recover the Salish Sea, it’s been harder to protect threatened marine creatures and their critical underwater habitats simply because it’s so difficult to find them.

Beneath the surface of the Salish Sea lie a dazzling variety of habitats. We all know about kelp forests and eelgrass meadows and the riot of life they support, but did you know that we have huge “sand waves” that shelter vast schools of sand lance and provide foraging environment for birds like Tufted Puffins and Rhinoceros Auklets? Or that all of the various bottom features scientists have identified – glacial moraines, earthquake-generated rock piles, vertical ice-cut rock walls and mud-filled bays and sounds – each support their own collection of animals?

SeaDoc’s exciting new Tombolo Seafloor Mapping Laboratory is addressing real-time conservation needs by pinpointing Salish Sea habitats. When your goal is to protect important marine creatures like our threatened rockfish species, you can’t get there without a map.

Video: Milton Love on Fishes of the Pacific Coast

Video: Milton Love on Fishes of the Pacific Coast

On Tuesday, March 12, 2013, the irreverent Dr. Milton Love graced Orcas Island with an in-depth look at some of the fascinating fishes of the Salish Sea. Milton Love is the author of the 672-page book, Certainly More Than You Want to Know About the Fishes of the Pacific Coast, and has published over 90 scientific publications on the fishes of the Pacific Coast. He will discuss highlights from this book and will entertain the audience with amazing facts and stories about fishes.

Bears and Barnacles: The Land - Sea Connection

bear cub eating barnacles-Jim Braswell



Why make a list of all the birds and mammals that depend on the Salish Sea? Joe Gaydos explains. (1:18)


Part 2: Why has this never been done before?


In Part 3, Joe talks about:

  • the challenges in assembling the list,
  • how it can help scientists (including SeaDoc's own Dr. Nacho Vilchis),
  • how the list indicates when and how heavily different species use the ecosystem,
  • how they tracked down citations for each and every species, and how fox and beaver have been shown to use the intertidal zones.

At about minute 4:30 Joe talks about how the tidal marsh beavers not only use the marine resources, but also contribute to the health of salmon populations. Pretty interesting stuff.

Click to see a picture of a beaver dam in the Skagit River delta.

Get the Checklist

We've created a printable checklist of all the bird and mammal species that depend on the Salish Sea.

Download a copy

You can print the checklist on two sides of a single sheet of paper and take it with you on your travels.

Read the scientific paper

Click here to go to the citation page where you can find a link to the scientific paper.

The Photographer

Big thanks to Jim Braswell for sharing his extraordinary images. Please visit Jim's nature photography site at where you can see more of his photographs and learn about his photography & photo editing workshops. 

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