Are the sea stars coming back? That's the question most people ask when they learn that SeaDoc just completed another 100 survey dives in our multi-year collaboration with REEF.
Video of diver doing survey (10 seconds)
Each fall, trained citizen scientist SCUBA divers conduct 100 surveys of fish and invertebrates at locations throughout the San Juan Islands. The results are almost immediately accessible on the national REEF database. For example, here's a link to species sighted at Bell Island West between 2013 and 2015 on the REEF.org website. REEF's database is used by citizens and scientists the world over.
Video of rockfish observed during dive (10 seconds)
While we just completed this year's series of dives, and the data hasn't been analyzed yet, we can tell you a few things:
- Divers look for 4 different species of sea stars. They saw healthy specimens of vermillion, blood, and leather stars.
- They saw no sunflower sea stars. Before the sea star die-off it would have been typical to see 20-30 sunflower sea stars on a single survey dive.
- Divers observed many beautiful fish and invertebrates, some of which are pictured below.
- This is a long-term project, and the real payoff will come after many more years of surveys.
This project is made possible thanks to collaborations with REEF, numerous volunteer divers and of course the SeaDoc donors who got the program started, including Jeanne Luce, Steve Alboucq, Loren Ceder, Chuck Curry & Molly Davenport, Martha Wyckoff in honor of Lee Rolfe, and one other anonymous donor. Major support for this year's dives came from the Seattle Aquarium. Thank you!
This year's divers include Laurel LaFever, Janna Nichols, David Todd, Joe Gaydos, Todd Cliff, Carol Cline, Gregg Cline, Josh Sera, Rhoda Green, Margaret Bangs, Randall Tyle, Taylor Frierson, Chuck Curry, Phil Green, and Jen Olson. And special thanks to Friday Harbor Labs for housing the volunteer divers and to Bandito Charters for doing such a great job of running the charter boat.
All photos by J. Gaydos.