Salish Sea

VIDEO: Joe Shares SeaDoc's New Kids' Book on New Day Northwest

As you may already know, our Science Director Joe Gaydos co-wrote a kids’ book to engage the young people who will inherit the Salish Sea. He went live on KING5’s New Day Northwest Tuesday to talk about the book and the wonder of the Salish Sea as a whole. Learn more about the book and how you can help inspire the next generation at

Filled with beautiful photography and engaging stories, Explore the Salish Sea: A Nature Guide for Kids inspires children to explore the unique marine ecosystem that encompasses the coastal waters from Seattle’s Puget Sound up to the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Georgia Strait of British Columbia.

Discover the Salish Sea and learn about its vibrant ecosystem in this engaging non-fiction narrative that inspires outdoor exploration. Filled with full-color photography, this book covers wildlife habitats, geodiversity, intertidal and subtidal sea life, and highlights what is unique to this Pacific Northwest ecosystem. The book was written by SeaDoc Science Director Joe Gaydos and board member Audrey Benedict.

Buy SeaDoc's Kids Book for a Child in Need

The SeaDoc Society will soon publish a book for young readers titled Explore the Salish Sea: A Nature Guide for Kids. This week we launched an Indiegogo campaign that allows you to buy a copy of the book for a child who might not otherwise be able to afford it.

Our goal is to make the book available to every 5th and 6th grader in the Salish Sea regardless of their ability to pay. (SeaDoc will distribute the purchased books). It’s a great opportunity for SeaDoc supporters to invest in the next generation!

Low-income families are disproportionately affected by environmental degradation. We want to make sure every kid has the opportunity to fall in love with the Salish Sea, because its health depends on the next generation.

Please consider supporting the Indiegogo campaign today and help us spread the word! Visit the Indiegogo page:

The book, written by SeaDoc Science Director Joe Gaydos and board member Audrey Benedict, is filled with beautiful photos and compelling stories about this unique inland sea. It will be in stores and Amazon on April 17!

In the meantime, let’s gift them to the next generation! Learn more on our Indiegogo page.

Dollars and the Senses: The Economics of Wildlife Watching

By Bob Friel

Half a century into the Digital Age it sometimes feels like we’re evolving from animals to house plants, rooted to our chairs and sustained only by the light of glowing screens. Americans, though, are traditionally outdoorsy types, and the latest survey from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) proves that omnipresent electronic devices have not killed our desire to get outside.

USFWS’s National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation is completed every five years to gauge the economic impact of certain outdoor activities. The most recent figures show that 35.8 million Americans over the age of 16 fished, and 11.5 million of them hunted in 2016. Those are impressive numbers, and hunters and fishers have long done a good job of using their economic clout to lobby for laws and regulations that benefit their pursuits—and, often, to protect the natural areas they use.

Less organized are those who fall under the “Wildlife-Associated Recreation” segment. The survey doesn’t tally anyone under this column if they’re headed outside to bike or run or kayak or camp; it counts only those Americans who say they specifically go out to find and observe wildlife.

These are the birdwatchers, whale watchers, bug lovers, tide poolers, scuba diving fish watchers, wildlife photographers and other critter hounds among us. And whether we’re simply enjoying backyard hummingbirds, watching orcas from a rocky bluff, or off on a bucketlisted trek up a salmon stream to see grizzlies, there are a whole lot of us out there.

The USFWS reports that, in 2016, 86 million Americans ventured out to look for wildlife (the cutoff at age 16 means that’s certainly an undercount). And those wildlife voyeurs spent $75.9 billion just to watch, which is almost three times what hunters spent and nearly $30 billion more than recreational fishers.

Perhaps even more surprising to find out, in today’s digital parlance, wildlife watching is trending! Since the last study, overall participation is up 20% and expenditures are up 28%.

As SeaDoc’s recent study on the money generated locally just by our Salish Sea scuba divers shows, the monetary value of having functional ecosystems filled with watchable wildlife is enormous.

Billions of dollars and thousands of supported jobs aside, wildlife watching is proven to benefit—mentally and physically—anyone willing to uproot and unplug for a dose of the outdoors. People living around the Salish Sea normally cite the region’s natural attractions as a primary benefit of living here.

However, not everyone calculates value the same way. Some might say it’s not worth saving a wild salmon run when there are farmed fish at the market. Others might think a pipeline or refinery is worth more than the increased risk of extinction to our Southern Resident Killer Whales. For the folks motivated by dollars and cents, the USFWS reports that there are at least 75.9 billion reasons to protect wildlife in the United States.

Here at SeaDoc, we and our supporters like you understand that even if the value of a healthy Salish Sea can be counted in dollars, it’s better measured with the senses. The well-being, the quality of life, the effects on human health, the satisfaction of being part of a vibrant and vital ecosystem are all priceless.

Besides, we like to watch.



Banner photo courtesy of Joe Gaydos.

SeaDoc Requests Scientific Proposals for Needed Research

Not only does SeaDoc conduct important conservation-focused research, but we also fund other prominent scientists to conduct needed studies. This year we request proposals in two topic areas:

  • Deep sea research that needs a submersible platform for data collection
  • Research that will provide objective science on pressing wildlife and ecosystem health issues to inform and guide policy and management

Download the full Request for Proposals (PDF)

Deep Sea Research:

In partnership with OceanGate Foundation, SeaDoc will bring a submersible to the San Juan Island sub-basin of the Salish Sea in fall 2018 for 5 days of data collection. This platform will be available for scientists to collect data that cannot be gathered by other research methodologies such as scuba or remotely operated vehicle.

Science needed to address pressing wildlife and ecosystem health issues:

This year the SeaDoc Society requests proposals only for projects that scientifically address one of the four priority topics below. We anticipate funding one meritorious project in each topic area.

1. Disease

Infectious diseases (like viruses, bacteria, parasites, and fungi) and non-infectious diseases (such as those caused by contaminants, trauma, allergens, and biotoxins) have the capacity to affect population health and hinder species and ecosystem recovery. Despite the important role that disease can play in hindering Salish Sea recovery, it is understudied.

2. Ocean Noise

Human-caused underwater noise can create a wide range of negative effects on a variety of taxa and is a problem in the Salish Sea and worldwide. We seek projects that work to better understand (i) the individual and population-level effects of non-injurious noise on species of concern or (ii) scientifically evaluate solutions to increased underwater noise. Of special concern are diving marine birds, teleost fish and marine invertebrates due to scarcity of data about the effect of noise on these taxa.

3. One Health

One health is the concept that human health, wildlife health, and ecosystem health are intimately connected. We are looking for research that addresses health using an interdisciplinary approach that goes beyond pathogens and parasites and includes other contributing factors such as habitat loss, globalization of trade, land-use pressure, ocean acidification, contaminants, and climate change.

4. Social Science

Salish Sea recovery requires the integration of social and biophysical science to better understand drivers of change and tradeoffs among strategic recovery opportunities. We seek social science projects that help identify and prioritize ecosystem recovery strategies and actions.

Download the full Request for Proposals (PDF)

Proposal Due Date

Email your proposal as a single document (PDF) to Dr. Joseph K. Gaydos at no later than 5:00 pm (PST) January 12, 2018



Banner photo: Cyclops on submerged MSLARS preparing for lift off. Courtesy of OceanGate.

Calling for 2018 Salish Sea Science Prize Nominations

Photo by  Ingrid Taylar

Photo by Ingrid Taylar

Every two years, the SeaDoc Society Awards the Salish Sea Science Prize to a prominent scientist or team of scientists whose work has resulted in the marked improvement of management or policy related to the conservation of marine wildlife and the Salish Sea marine ecosystem.

Non-scientists who have used science in a substantial way to improve management or policy related to healing the Salish Sea also will be considered. This is the only award of its kind. The recipient(s) do not need to be a resident of Washington or British Columbia as long as their scientific efforts or use of science have led to measurable impacts on the Salish Sea ecosystem. The $2,000 prize comes with no strings attached and is designed to highlight the importance of science in providing a foundation for designing a healthy Salish Sea ecosystem. This award is given in recognition of and to honor Stephanie Wagner, who loved the region and its wildlife.

2018 Salish Sea Science Prize Call for Nominations and Timeline (PDF)

Past Winners

In 2009, the SeaDoc Society awarded the first ever Salish Sea Science Prize to Ken Balcomb for his research on the population dynamics of southern resident killer whales. His annual census work was the basis for the population assessments that ultimately led to the Canadian and US listing of the southern resident killer whale community as endangered and served as a foundation for our understanding of resident killer whale longevity, toxics loading, and the implications of disease on the long-term viability of this population.

In 2011, the Salish Sea Science Prize was awarded to John Elliott for his work documenting the high levels of forest industry derived pollutants, dioxins and furans, in marine birds as well for his work documenting the deleterious effects of these toxins on reproduction and embryonic development in multiple bird species. In countless meetings and presentations, Elliott worked with industry and regulators to communicate this science and in so doing, influenced subsequent national and international regulations that halted the use of molecular chlorine bleaching, and restricted the use of chlorophenolic wood preservatives and anti-sap stains.

In 2014 the Northwest Straits Foundation received the prize for scientifically quantifying the impact of derelict fishing gear and the benefit of removal. A peer-reviewed manuscript demonstrated the importance of escape cord for reducing Dungeness crab mortality, which spurred Marine Resource Committees to increase efforts to educate recreational crabbers on this topic. Another manuscript quantified the impact of lost nets on marine species helping funders and policy makers to further support net removal. The additional scientific documentation of drop out and decomposition rates showed that early impact figures were actually gross underestimations as they did not account for the short life of carcasses in a net and the sometimes decades of killing that many of these nets had done prior to removal. Moreover, that same work documented a cost-benefitratio for net removal at 1:14.5, demonstrating that derelict net removal not only benefits marine species, but also is cost-effective.

In 2016 the prize went to a group of NOAA scientists (Drs. Jenifer McIntyre, David Baldwin, and Nathaniel Scholz) who's research on copper and its affect on salmon was instrumental in the passage of landmark legislation in Washington State to phase out the use of copper and other metals in motor vehicle brake pads.

This action will benefit salmon recovery and reduce the loadings of toxic metals to the Salish Sea by hundreds of thousands of pounds each year.

Nominations The SeaDoc Society requests that members of the community nominate highly deserving award candidates. All nominations must be sent electronically to SeaDoc Science Director Joe Gaydos ( by December 20, 2017.


Nominations must be in the form of a narrative (2 pages or less, Times New Roman 12 point font) describing the nominee’s work and the impact of that work. Please provide the nominee’s affiliation, address, email address and phone number. Be sure to describe how the scientist’s (or team of scientists’) efforts have resulted in tangible improvements in management or policy related to the conservation of marine wildlife and the Salish Sea ecosystem. Or, if you are nominating a citizen or group who has used science in a substantial way, be sure to describe what science they used and how it led to improved management or policy. Specific reference to peer-reviewed manuscripts or studies conducted that produced the important and pivotal information must be cited. Please also include the names and contact information for two external referees who can vouch for the role that this scientific work played in effecting positive ecosystem change or the use of scientific work to improve Salish Sea management or policy.

Selection Criteria

The SeaDoc Society will consider all nominees and select a prizewinner. This is not a lifetime achievement award. Selection will be based on the nominee’s production of valuable science that informed management or policy - or - for using science to improve management or policy related to the conservation of marine wildlife and the Salish Sea marine ecosystem. The decision will be made public when the Prize is awarded. The Salish Sea Science Prize will be given at the April 2018 Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference in Seattle, WA (


  • October 30, 2017 – Call for Nominations
  • December 20, 2017 – Nominations Due
  • April 2018 – Prize awarded at the Salish Sea Conference in Seattle, WA

About the SeaDoc Society

The SeaDoc Society is a program of the Karen C. Drayer Wildlife Health Center, a center of excellence at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. We fund and conduct research and work to ensure that managers and policy makers use science to improve the health of the region’s marine wildlife and ecosystem. Since 2000, the SeaDoc Society has had a regional focus on designing a healthy Salish Sea. For more information or to sign up for free SeaDoc monthly updates, Wildlife Posts, and calls for proposals visit

Harbor Seal Stranding Response in the Salish Sea (VIDEO)

Every year, the SeaDoc Society hosts interns for the summer in collaboration with The Whale Museum and the San Juan County Marine Mammal Stranding Network. In this video, two of our interns respond to a call about a harbor seal pup on Orcas Island. One of our 2016 interns, Megan Mangini, a student at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, explains how the response network works and what she gained from her experience as a summer intern. SeaDoc is part of the Karen C. Drayer Wildlife Health Center, which is part of the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.

Big thanks to the Hoglund family for supporting the SeaDoc Society and generously donating lodging to the interns each summer. We deeply appreciate it! Stay tuned for some darting practice footage from our 2017 interns next month!

Note: The pup in the video above was re-sighted in the wild once after being tagged, but specifics beyond that are unknown. 

First Guardians to Future Scientists: New Board Members Expand SeaDoc's Reach

Connections to the Salish Sea run deep for the SeaDoc Society’s two newest board members.

Ardi Kveven

Ardi Kveven

“My grandparents had a cabin out on Lummi Island,” says Ardi Kveven, who was born and raised in Everson, WA. “Growing up, I spent time every summer exploring the beaches and experiencing all that the Salish Sea has to offer.”

Those early adventures sparked Ardi’s life-long interest in marine science and her passion for sharing what she learned with others. Earning a biology degree from University of Washington and a Masters in Science Education from Western Washington U, she embarked on a career teaching oceanography to high school and college students.

In 2003, Ardi founded the Ocean Research College Academy (ORCA), the only program of its kind in the US. Along with core classes, ORCA students receive an intensive, hands-on, college-level marine science education that enables them to graduate with both their high school diploma and an associate degree from Everett Community College.

Working with grants from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the National Science Foundation, Ardi has developed ORCA into a world-class educational program complete with a waterfront lab and its own research vessel.

“Exposing our young people to the Salish Sea provides a connection to the place they live,” says Ardi, who’s excited about the chance to foster close connections between her students and the SeaDoc Society.

“Powerful programs are about the passion of the individuals who choose to be a part of them,” she says. “I appreciate the passionate people who choose to be part of SeaDoc, and I applaud their enthusiastic efforts to save the Salish Sea. I look forward to strengthening the opportunity for our students to join those efforts and to feel empowered to make a difference.”

In recent years, some of the most powerful and effective groups making a difference in the Salish Sea’s health have been the Coast Salish tribes and First Nations. And another new SeaDoc board member we’re thrilled to have join the team, Larry W. Campbell, Sr., is a distinguished elder of one of those tribes, the Swinomish.

arry Campbell

arry Campbell

Larry, whose tribal name is Wanaseah, is currently the Community Health Specialist For Climate Change in the Swinomish Environmental Health Program.

"Ninety percent of our tribal land borders the water," says Larry. "So we're very sensitive to changes in sea level and chemistry that will effect everything from our economy and health to our salmon runs and ancestral sites."

Before beginning his three decades of service as a Swinomish government and cultural leader, Larry made his living out on the water as a salmon fisherman. He first worked with SeaDoc several years ago on a project to evaluate the impact of increased energy development in the Salish Sea region.

“We know how to measure impacts and classify threats to wildlife,” says Joe Gaydos, SeaDoc’s Science Director, “but Larry helped us identify the species that were of particular economic, cultural, and spiritual value to the Coast Salish tribes and First Nations.”

Since the tribes are co-managers of Salish Sea natural resources, concerns for species important to their way of life carry extra weight when it comes to management decisions, and can often determine whether impactful projects like coal ports move forward.

The Coast Salish philosophy that every species and element of the ecosystem are important and interconnected meshes perfectly with the SeaDoc Society’s scientific beliefs, just as Ardi Kveven’s dedication to educating young people meshes with our belief that SeaDoc's work is pointless if we don’t engage those who will continue the mission into the future.

“We’re so fortunate to add these two new board members,” says SeaDoc Director Markus Naugle. “Ardi connects the society to the next generation of marine scientists and conservationists, while Larry further bonds us to the very first guardians of the Salish Sea. We look forward to calling on their ideas, guidance and wisdom in the years to come.”

Please join us in welcoming Ardi and Larry aboard!

A Conversation with Markus Naugle, SeaDoc's New Regional Director (AUDIO)


I had the pleasure of sitting down with Markus Naugle, SeaDoc's new Regional Director, during his recent trip to the Karen C. Drayer Wildlife Health Center at UC Davis. We had a great conversation about his move to Orcas Island after 10 years of running an educational immersion program in Guatemala, as well as his new role at SeaDoc Society at a time when the organization is aiming to double its scientific impact in the Salish Sea. You can hear our conversation below!

Taking Care of the Little Things

By Bob Friel

Everybody loves the Salish Sea’s killer whales, playful porpoise, and puppy-like seals. Birders flock here to see such feathered favorites as rhinoceros auklets, tufted puffins, and marbled murrelets. And no fish anywhere is as exalted as our Chinook, the king salmon, appreciated as sport fish, table fare, and cultural icon.

But where’s the love for the sand lance? Who here is a herring hugger?

Forage fish are the Rodney Dangerfields of the sea—they get no respect. Even that catchall name for the many different species of small schooling fish suggests they exist only to serve as self-propelled snacks. However, without these little fish that feed at the base of the food web, converting plankton into silvery packets of energy, there wouldn’t be any of those other more charismatic critters. No auklets, no puffins, and no king salmon. And without king salmon, of course, the Southern Resident Killer Whales disappear.

It’s impossible to exaggerate the importance of forage fish to the overall health of the Salish Sea. Unfortunately the research and, where needed, recovery work on these vital species hasn’t been commensurate with their value. So SeaDoc is investing in forage fish by funding two new projects, one on sand lance and the other on herring.

With everything from seabirds to sea lions hunting them, Pacific sand lance (Ammodytes personatus) have evolved an ingenious survival strategy. Whenever they’re not grazing on plankton in the water column, they tuck themselves into the sandy seabed to hide from predators and wait for their next feeding opportunity.

We know that Pacific sand lance nourish myriad crucial Salish Sea species, and a recent Northwest Straits Initiative / SeaDoc study showed smaller sand lance are widely distributed in our near shore waters year round, with population peaks in the summer. But we still don’t know the answers to some basic questions about these fascinating little fish, such as: Where exactly do they like to hide? How many of them are there? And, are their populations stable?

Now, we’re funding a new project that will use underwater video and a bottom-biting oceanographic tool called a Van Veen Sampler to ascertain the exact types of sea floor where the sand lance prefer to bury (too silty and they can’t breathe; too gravelly and they can injure themselves while tunneling). Co-investigators Drs. Cliff Robinson (Pacific Wildlife Foundation / University of Victoria) and Doug Bertram (Environment and Climate Change Canada) and their team will precisely map those habitats, build an improved model for predicting seafloor use by sand lance, and re-sample study sites monthly to look at population health and seasonal variability.

Compared to our knowledge base on sand lance, we know quite a bit about Salish Sea herring. As the foundational forage fish—the energy source that spins a huge part of our food web—healthy herring populations are considered so critical that the Puget Sound Partnership lists them as one of our “vital signs.” Simply checking the dwindling numbers of many herring stocks on the Washington State side of the Salish Sea, tells you that the ecosystem is in trouble.

The herring stock that spawns at Cherry Point, site of the state’s largest oil refinery, was once the most prolific in all of Puget Sound. Since 1973, the Cherry Point population has crashed by more than 93 percent. While this stock and others on the U.S. side are faltering, in British Columbia's Strait of Georgia they’re currently booming. With your support, our research is designed to find out reasons why some stocks are hurting and how to recover them as soon as possible.

Helping herring will never be as sexy as salmon conservation, but it’s every bit as important to the health of our ecosystem. So SeaDoc is jumpstarting the recovery process for Puget Sound herring by funding a joint US / Canadian team co-led by Drs. Tessa Francis (Puget Sound Institute, UW Tacoma) and Dayv Lowry (WA Department of Fish and Wildlife) that will act as the nexus for relevant data and expertise. This project will determine the specific threats harming the southern herring populations, assess all of the stocks, and evaluate the state of the science, policies, and ongoing recovery efforts in order to ultimately produce a comprehensive Salish Sea herring conservation and management plan.

Thanks to your support, both new projects continue the SeaDoc Society’s mission to provide the science that’s helping to heal our Salish Sea.

This holiday season, show some love to the lowly forage fish. Go ahead: hug a herring.



Banner photo: Rhinocerus auklet with sand lance. Courtesy of Phil Green, from The Nature Conservancy.

Scientists who showed how copper damages salmon’s sense of smell receive prestigious award

It’s always beautiful when scientific discovery leads directly to concrete changes in environmental policy.

Such was the case with a team of scientists who will be honored by the SeaDoc Society on Friday for having demonstrated how copper damages salmon’s sense of smell. Their work led to legislation that removed copper from car brake pads in Washington State.

The team, led by NOAA scientists Drs. Jenifer McIntyre, David Baldwin, and Nathaniel Scholz, helped pave the way for the legislation, which will benefit salmon recovery by reducing the loadings of toxic metals to the Salish Sea by hundreds of thousands of pounds each year.

The award will be presented at the Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference, which starts April 13 in Vancouver, B.C. Close to 1,000 scientists and conservationists from both sides of the U.S.-Canada border are expected to convene for three days to discuss recovery of the Salish Sea.

Copper is a major constituent of conventional brake pads and is released with other metals in a fine dusting each time a car slows. This metal is then washed into streams, rivers and the Salish Sea by rainfall. Copper has long been known to disrupt the sense of smell in fish, but the consequences of transient, low-level copper exposures for salmon were unknown when the NOAA team began studying this problem in the early 2000s.

The prize-winning scientists and their colleagues first showed that copper blocks salmon's ability to smell well during the short length of a typical stormwater runoff event.

The team then demonstrated that copper-caused damage to the olfactory (smell) system actually made juvenile salmon more vulnerable to predators. Salmon attacked by predators release a smell from torn skin, which acts as an alarm signal for other salmon to evade attack. Salmon exposed to copper at levels expected during a storm event failed to respond to this alarm cue, causing higher rates of mortality in predator-prey encounters.

The scientists addressed several other natural resource management concerns, including the applicability of the new findings across salmon species and how different water conditions influence how much copper is available to injure the salmon's olfactory system.

The SeaDoc Society's Salish Sea Science Prize comes with a $2,000 cash prize. It is bestowed biennially to recognize a scientist or group of scientists whose work has resulted in the demonstrated improved health of fish and wildlife populations in the Salish Sea. It is given in recognition of, and to honor the spirit of the late Stephanie Wagner, who loved the region and its wildlife.

The SeaDoc Society is about people and science healing the sea. It funds and conducts marine science and uses science to improve management and conservation in the Salish Sea. It is a program of the Karen C. Drayer Wildlife Health Center, a center of excellence at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.