July is prime time for fledgling rhinoceros auklets in Puget Sound. You can listen to the sounds of these puffin-like birds on PRI’s Living on Earth this week. The recording was made on Protection Island in collaboration with the Encyclopedia of Puget Sound.
What do the following facts have in common?
- The coastline around Puget Sound is 1,332 miles long—2500 if you include the entire watershed. It would take about 18 days to walk the whole shoreline if it were passable (or legal) everywhere.
- Up to half of all the freshwater flowing into Puget Sound comes from the Skagit River.
- The rougheye rockfish in Puget Sound can live to be 205 years old.
- The giant Pacific octopus can weigh up to 600 pounds.
- The Puget Sound region is expected to grow by as many as 2 million people over the next 25 years.
These are just a few highlights from a recent collaboration with the Puget Sound Partnership and the Encyclopedia of Puget Sound. For the past couple of months, we have been working with a team of researchers and writers to put together what might be described as a “factbook” for Puget Sound communicators and policymakers. Ever wonder how big Puget Sound is by volume (168 km3)? Or how many state “species of concern” live in the watershed (90)? We’re on it.
These facts offer key statistics: the who, what, when and where. But our goal is to provide a foundation for Puget Sound’s story. Figures like population growth, numbers of species or even the depth of Puget Sound are all plot points that help us understand how the ecosystem connects. Did you know that an estimated 2,800 creeks and rivers flow into Puget Sound? Now you do.
The hope isn’t just for more scintillating discussions at cocktail parties, although the weight of an octopus is a great opening line. It’s pretty simple, like the facts themselves. The more we know about Puget Sound, the more we can make good decisions to protect it. The naturalist Rachel Carson wrote, “The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.” Stay tuned as we bring you some of those “wonders and realities.”
The University of Washington Tacoma News & Information website features PSI’s lead ecologist Tessa Francis and her work at the Ocean Modeling Forum.
POSTED BY: John Burkhardt
June 23, 2015
Tessa Francis at Center for Urban Waters Co-leads Ocean Effort
UW Tacoma research scientist Tessa Francis has been named the managing director of the Ocean Modeling Forum, a collaborative effort meant to improve understanding of the world’s oceans.
Tessa Francis, research scientist and lead ecosystem ecologist at UW Tacoma’s Puget Sound Institute, is serving as the managing director of a new international, interagency effort to improve advice for managing the world’s oceans.
One of our collaborators made news this week for his pilot study quantifying marijuana use in Seattle and Tacoma. Dan Burgard, a chemist at the University of Puget Sound, is analyzing wastewater from sewage treatment plants to identify levels of metabolized THC. The study is designed to determine if new recreational marijuana laws are leading to an increase in marijuana use. It will also look at trends over time, and how the legal trade of marijuana compares with the black market. Burgard is using analytical equipment at the Center for Urban Waters for his study.
Puget Sound Institute lead ecologist Tessa Francis is co-chair of an upcoming summit to examine the human dimensions of Pacific herring fisheries in the Salish Sea. The forum brings together “social and natural scientists, tribes and First Nations, and federal and state managers” to identify new approaches to ecosystem-based management, including the use of traditional ecologic knowledge and social networks.
The summit will be held from June 8-10 in British Columbia. Read more at the Ocean Modeling Forum website.
Related article (UW Today): Ocean Modeling Forum to bring human element to herring fishery, others
A Seattle Times story features a recent paper in the Marine Ecology Press Series about shifting baselines in the Puget Sound food web. Forty years of data from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife reveals a trend toward more jellyfish and less of some forage fish species in the region. High amounts of jellyfish can mean a decline in ecosystem productivity, according to scientists. The original paper was based on some of the same data used by Puget Sound Institute researchers looking at trends for Puget Sound’s Pacific herring populations.
The 2016 Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference is now accepting proposals for special sessions. This year’s conference theme is “Strengthening Connections around Changing Times,” and the deadline for proposals June 30, 2015.
The conference will be held in Vancouver, B.C. from April 13-15, 2016.
The Salish Sea: Jewel of the Pacific Northwest brings together more than 230 extraordinary images of the Salish Sea. But don’t call it a coffee table book. Its lush photos are backed by a serious scientific perspective on this complex and fragile ecosystem.
The Puget Sound Science Panel speaker series continues April 23rd at the University of Washington Tacoma campus. Wayne Landis addresses “Wicked problems, black swans and managing the future of Puget Sound,” while Katharine Wellman looks at shellfish aquaculture.
Where: UW Tacoma, Dugan 201
When: 4:30 PM – 6:00 PM
In the early days of Puget Sound conservation, it seemed like the polluters were easier to spot. There were the usual suspects—industrial pipes pumped toxic chemicals into the water; dams blocked the way for salmon; natural resources were over-harvested. Those problems still persist, but ecosystem management has become increasingly complicated since the 1970s and 1980s.
Scientists now recognize that what happens on the land is intricately tied to the health of the water. We face climate change and unprecedented population growth, and scientists have identified thousands of different human-caused pressures on the ecosystem. The headlines include new threats like stormwater, emerging contaminants and widespread declines in species and habitats. Given limited resources, how can managers and policymakers make informed decisions about where to focus their recovery efforts?
That was one of the questions behind the 2014 Puget Sound Pressures Assessment. The document, prepared by scientists in cooperation with the Puget Sound Science Panel, identified and ranked some of the greatest threats to the ecosystem. It is expected to provide a blueprint for future recovery efforts, and University of Washington Puget Sound Institute researcher Nick Georgiadis has written a non-technical summary for scientists and policymakers.
The Environmental Protection Agency announced today a new model for distributing National Estuary Program funds for Puget Sound recovery. The framework is effective in 2016 and is driven by the Puget Sound Action Agenda, while emphasizing habitats, shellfish and stormwater. Funds from the program totaled $117 million dollars from 2009-2015.
According to EPA, the framework will strengthen the role of the Puget Sound Partnership as “the Backbone Organization for [Puget Sound] Recovery,” and gives a greater voice to Puget Sound area tribes with more consideration of Treaty Rights at Risk in funding allocations.