No salmon left behind: The importance of early growth and freshwater restoration

Traditionally, salmon restoration has focused heavily on spawning habitat in streams and rivers, but scientists say that may no longer be enough. New research presented at the 2014 Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference suggests that conserving and increasing high-quality habitat for juvenile salmon could be just as vital. Read the article by Emily Davis in the Salish Sea Currents series. 



Leadership Council to vote on science priorities Sept. 11-12 in Seattle

The Puget Sound Partnership’s Leadership Council meets on September 11th and 12th to vote on current science priorities for Puget Sound recovery. Items under consideration include the 2014-2016 Biennial Science Work Plan, prepared by the Puget Sound Institute’s Nick Georgiadis in cooperation with the Puget Sound Partnership and the Puget Sound Science Panel. The plan identifies potential focus areas for scientific research that may guide regional recovery efforts. The council will also vote on new funding measures and the addition of several “Near Term Actions” outlining goals and priorities for the Puget Sound Partnership.

The meeting will be held at the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce. Read the full agenda at:

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Shedding new light on eelgrass recovery

Inside the Eelgrass beds. Photo: Eric Heupel (CC BY-NC 2.0) - See more at:

Inside the Eelgrass beds. Photo: Eric Heupel (CC BY-NC 2.0)

One of the goals set by the state’s Puget Sound Action Agenda is to add 20 percent more eelgrass to the region by 2020. But three years into the effort, there’s been little or no progress, and growing perplexity. Studies show that some eelgrass beds are increasing while others are in decline. Scientists met at the 2014 Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference to share new research and possible new directions for recovery efforts.

Read the article by Katie Harrington in the new Salish Sea Currents series. 


New online series features Puget Sound science

SSECLogoSalish Sea Currents is a new online series featuring the latest science from the 2014 Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference. Join us as we report on some of the key issues driving Puget Sound recovery.

The magazine-style series is housed on the Encyclopedia of Puget Sound and is developed in collaboration with the Puget Sound Partnership with funding from the EPA.

Eric Wagner kicks off the series with a story on the region’s declining seabird populations. Close to a third of the birds in the Salish Sea are classified as species of concern, and some scientists believe this may hold clues to the overall health of the ecosystem. Later, in August, we’ll have reports on why so many of Puget Sound’s salmon are dying young, as well as a look at current efforts to restore the region’s eelgrass. Each month through December, we’ll bring you new stories, along with related media and interviews with leading scientists.

Read more.


Developing Human Wellbeing Indicators for the Puyallup Watershed

A "medicine wheel" graphic that will be used to showcase HWB indicators; copyright Biedenweg et al.

A “medicine wheel” graphic that will be used to showcase HWB indicators; copyright Biedenweg et al.

How does a healthy environment translate into human health? What do aesthetic concepts like natural beauty or even feelings like happiness mean to ecosystem recovery? These are some of the central questions behind the research of Puget Sound Institute’s Lead Social Scientist Kelly Biedenweg.

Biedenweg has been working closely with the Puget Sound Partnership and organizations like The Nature Conservancy to identify what are termed “human wellbeing indicators.” In essence, she wants to understand how human happiness can translate into cleaner water or healthier salmon and vise versa.

Biedenweg points out that understanding how people relate to Puget Sound’s natural environment is an important part of ecosystem recovery. People tend to engage more in positive, less destructive behaviors when they feel that they are receiving a benefit, she says. Studies show that a healthy environment also leads to healthier—and happier—citizens.

Recently Biedenweg collaborated with the Puyallup Watershed Initiative (PWI) to
develop a process for selecting human wellbeing indicators relevant to natural resource
management in the Puyallup Watershed.

Indicators were divided into five domains: physical, psychological, governance, cultural and economic. These domains were in turn divided into attributes and indicators related to factors like access to natural areas or how often people experience what they consider to be “the beauty of nature.”

The July 2014 report was prepared by Biedenweg and Haley Harguth of the Puget Sound Partnership.

Download the full report.



PSI Visiting Scientist receives honorary doctorate

Marc Mangel receiving an honorary doctorate last month at the University of Guelph.

PSI Visiting Scientist Marc Mangel receiving an honorary doctorate last month at the University of Guelph.

Congratulations to Puget Sound Institute Visiting Scientist Marc Mangel for his recent honorary doctorate from the University of Guelph. Mangel was presented with the honor last month in Ontario in recognition for his “significant academic contributions combining mathematics and statistics with theoretical ecology and evolutionary biology.”

The presenters wrote: “You have profoundly influenced an entire generation of ecologists, environmental scientists and applied mathematicians on how to solve important practical problems and make the world a better place.”

Dr. Mangel was awarded the Doctor of Science, honoris causa. He is currently working at the Puget Sound Institute to apply mathematical principles to the population dynamics of Puget Sound forage fish and other species. Read an interview with Dr. Mangel about some of this work.


Shoreline armoring forum now available on video

Shoreline armoring along railroad. Photo: NOAA.

Shoreline armoring along railroad. Photo: NOAA.

More than 125 planners and scientists gathered for a May 20th forum focusing on the latest scientific studies of shoreline armoring in Puget Sound. A video of forum presentations is now available online (below).

“Armoring” refers to hardened structures designed to protect shorelines against natural processes like erosion and storm surge, and it is common throughout the region. Almost 30% of the Puget Sound shoreline—about 700 miles total—is now classified as armored, and the figure grows by a mile or more per year.

Some shoreline residents would say that is a good thing. They argue that they need it to protect their property, but scientists have been wondering for some time how this trend is affecting the ecology of Puget Sound. The Puget Sound Partnership has made reduction of armoring one of the centerpieces of its recovery efforts, and studies are increasingly pointing to armoring’s negative effects. The science, however, has not always been definitive. That was the motivation behind the recent Salish Sea Shoreline Forum at South Seattle Community College where scientists and planners gathered to discuss their research.

Salish Sea Nearshore Conference #3 from Salish Sea Shoreline Forum Video on Vimeo.

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SSEC14 by the numbers

SalishSea_small_iconThe Salish Sea’s premier science conference concluded last month in Seattle, and judging strictly by the numbers (or the theme music—”We are the Champions” blared from the auditorium speakers after the closing plenary) it was one of the most successful in conference history.

The 2014 Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference, or #SSEC14 as it came to be known in various social media, featured several significant firsts. It was the largest in its history with more than 1200 attendees. Overall, there were 450 science talks, 150 posters, eight discussion panels and numerous featured speakers, proving that the region’s scientists aren’t shy or standing idle.

It was also the first time the conference had its own mobile app, giving attendees the option of going paperless. The Puget Sound Institute provided the app with funding from the Puget Sound Partnership, and a survey by the SSEC (n=400) showed that nearly half of the respondents used it, strongly suggesting that future conferences will also go this route.

In fact, conference-goers turned out to be a fairly digitally savvy group. A separate poll by the Encyclopedia of Puget Sound (n=62) showed that more than 83% of all respondents rated the Web as their most important or second most important source for retrieving scientific information, rating it as either a 4 or 5 on a 5-point scale. Those numbers are likely skewed considering it was a web-based survey, but there was one surprising note. Despite their high reliance on the Web, survey participants didn’t think much of social media. Almost 80% of the respondents said they “don’t use” Twitter.

Other survey results from the SSEC:

  • Respondents were generally favorable in their opinion of the conference format, the mix of science and policy at the event, the relevance of content to ecosystem recovery and management (4 out of 5 average rating).
  • The aspect of the conference most commonly noted as “best” was the diversity of topics and presenters, followed by networking opportunities, learning opportunities, and the quality of presentations.
  • The aspect of the conference most commonly noted as “least favorite” was the structure of the lunchtime activities, followed by length of oral presentations (too short), and the amount of time for networking and discussion (not enough).
  • Survey demographics: 20% non-profit, 8% tribe/first nation, 14% local government, 14% state/provincial government, 14% federal government, 11% private sector, 24% academic. And according to registration figures, 12.5% of attendees were from Canada, 85.5% from USA, 0.3% from other countries and 1.6% came from parts unknown.

(Results of the SSEC survey are based upon a ~33% response rate out of a total of ~1200 conference participants.)

See you at SSEC16 in Vancouver.


New benthos list on EoPS


Amphipholis squamata (Phylum Echinodermata, Class Ophiuroidea) – This is a brittle star, commonly known as the “brooding snake star”. (Sandra Weakland, Brooke McIntyre photo)

Amphipholis squamata (Phylum Echinodermata, Class Ophiuroidea) – This is a brittle star, commonly known as the “brooding snake star”. (Sandra Weakland, Brooke McIntyre photo)

Ever wonder what is wriggling around in the sediment at the bottom of Puget Sound? Dip into a list of over 1800 benthic invertebrates prepared as part of the Washington State Department of Ecology’s Marine Sediment Monitoring Program. Now available with links to species accounts and habitat classifications on the Encyclopedia of Puget Sound.