Thursday, October 22, 2015


JANICE MATHISEN of the Seattle Aquairum sent this email update on SSWD:

Update on Sea star wasting from Seattle Aquarium research:

In response to inquiries from staff, volunteers and visitors, Dr. Lesanna Lahner put together the following SSWD update, which will also be posted to our blog this week.

Sea star wasting disease continues to be a problem for sea stars along the west coast of North America. Since it was first observed two years ago, many strides have been made in understanding the disease including the isolation of a virus, termed sea star-associated densovirus SSaDV, that may be associated with it. More work is being done to understand the role this virus might play in the disease process and the Seattle Aquarium is collaborating with Dr. Ian Hewson from Cornell on this topic.

Other research directed at better understanding SSWD has been done recently at the Seattle Aquarium, with generous support from The Boeing Company. This past summer, three interns worked with me on a variety of sea-star-related projects including 1) the effects of ocean acidification conditions on the general health of sea stars and on SSWD progression; 2) better understanding the coelomic fluid of healthy and diseased sea stars; and 3) radiographic evaluations of healthy and SSWD-affected stars. Evaluating coelomic fluid is like doing blood work on a mammal. It tells us a lot about what is going on inside the sea star on a physiologic level. The radiographic studies included fascinating diagnostics like plain film radiographs (x-rays), computed tomography (CT scan), and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of both healthy and diseased sea stars. These radiographic studies gave us new insight into what's normal for sea stars and what's happening in live stars affected with sea star wasting disease. These valuable coelomic fluid and radiographic studies were made possible due to generous support from collaborators including Dr. Nicole Stacy at The University of Florida School of Veterinary Medicine and Dr. Tori McKlveen at the VCA Specialty Clinic of Seattle.

The Seattle Aquarium recently co-funded a dive survey of the San Juan Islands with the SeaDoc Society and Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF) to look at the population impacts of SSWD. Over 100 dives were done as part of this survey by highly trained scientific divers. Before SSWD, between 20 and 30 sunflower sea stars would be seen on a single dive. Unfortunately, the findings were quite grim and not a single sunflower sea star could be found. Other areas are reporting very low numbers of sea stars and increasing numbers of urchins. The recruitment of young sea stars in most regions has been reported as low by collaborators.

The Seattle Aquarium continues to collaborate with many other institutions on SSWD research and is dedicated to understanding SSWD for the conservation of our marine environment. We will be hosting an international workshop in January of 2016 of sea star disease researchers to identify priorities for SSWD research moving forward. Stay tuned for more updates!​

 Janice Mathisen
Seattle Aquarium
Seattle WA

Wednesday, October 21, 2015


The latest survey by NOAA and Vancouver Aquarium, with a camera drone, has shown that the Southern Resident Orcas appear to in good health following a good year of Chinook Salmon runs, their prime food.  See more at this link:

Friday, October 16, 2015


October 16th is not a day you would expect 70 degree temperatures at Sunrise Park at Mt. Rainier N.P.   But that's just what is was.  We had expected much cooler temp. at 7,000 feet so in a great oversight we brought no beer for lunch.  Some of us even brought no water.  Luckily the hike is only 5.6 miles round trip with an elevation gain of 800 feet...this is a little misleading since there is some up and down that likely makes the elevation gain and loss more than 800 feet, but it's still a rather easy hike.  The hike is in sub alpine and alpine mostly above treeline.  Views of Mt. Rainier are very close and jaw dropping.  On the way to the lookout we passed Frozen Lake (not frozen) which is the water supply for Sunrise facility.  Due to a low snow pack and very dry, hot summer the lake level is very low.  Within a 1/4 mile of the lookout we spotted a group of 14 Mountain Goats just below the trail so we plopped down and had lunch there completely passing on the short hike over to the lookout.  The goats were resting in the meadow but quickly rushed off  when something disturbed them...not humans.
They soon settled down again allowing another session on goat watching.   Again I have posted another non-marine item....well my excuse is "it's in the Puget Sound watershed".

Noelle and Mt. Rainier

Mt. Rainier and Burrows Mt.

Mt. Goats

Noelle on Fremont lookout trail

Noelle and Fremont Lookout trail

Mt. Goats

Mt. Goats

Fremont Lookout

Mt. Goats

Mt. Goats
What happens to a Pepsi bottle when it moves down from 7,000 feet to sea level

Wednesday, October 14, 2015


The Whale Trail lecture series with Erich Hoyt came to an end last night with a lecture on Deep Sea Creatures, Ants, and Orcas.  That's a lot to cover in one lecture.  
He mentioned that during the World Ocean Census that certain areas of the deep ocean bottom seem to be dominated by species of sea cucumbers.  Sea cucumbers always get me thinking of just where we stand in the whole scheme of intelligent life...and why some people have such oversize egos.  If you study development of animals from egg to adult you may find reason to keep your ego in check.  The following will explain it all to you.



1.   There are, among the animal kingdom two main ways animals develop.
2.   As the fertilized egg develops into a small ball of cells (bastula) there begins a small invagination that will grow into either the mouth or the anus.
3.   In protostomes (mouth first) this invagination becomes the animal’s mouth.  (example; the octopus)
4.   In deuterostomes (mouth second) the invagination becomes the anus (or more crudely the asshole). Example; sea cucumbers and HUMANS.
5.   So the sad truth is we are more closely related to the brainless sea cucumber than to the brainy octopus.
6.   And before we got our big mouths we were all just a bunch of little assholes.
7.   And lastly…some people’s personalities develop very early in life…which explains why some people become politicians and others suicide bombers.

Friday, October 9, 2015


I have added a PowerPoint presentation to the list under Puget Sound Marine Life in the right hand column. "Puget Sound Marine Life"
Also added are a number of new links under the Links heading also in the right hand column of the blog.  You can find a great deal of up to date information on the happenings in Puget Sound by checking these links.
Looks like the rainy season is upon us.......just means more rainbows....


Wednesday, October 7, 2015


The latest survey has turned up some new fish species living in the Salish Sea.  Check this link for more information:

Link to NOAA report on fish species in Salish Sea


The Whale Trail will present 3 lectures in Washington State by Erich Hoyt.  Dr. Hoyt is author of books on subjects ranging from deep ocean creatures, ants to whales.  His lecture schedule can be found on The Whale Trail website:
On Saturday Dr. Hoyt presented his lecture on Creatures of the Deep, from his book of the same title, on Saturna Island in British Columbia, Canada.
Saturna Island residents filled the hall for the presentation....and that meant many of the island's population of 305 were in the same location at one time. Saturna Island is one of the Southern Gulf Islands located just west, north and east of the U.S.A. Canadian border.  Yes I did mean west, north and east of the U.S.A.  If you are confused by this location just look at a map that inculdes the U.S. San Juan Islands along with Saturna.  Saturna is located on the west side of Georgia Strait as its location guarantees abundant marine life can be found in its waters.
Orca whales pass close to the southern shore of the island when Chinook salmon are returning to the Fraser River.  East Point is a common spot for Orca watchers to gather for a close up view as the whales pass. 
Many thanks to: SIMRES who hosted Erich's presentation for The Whale Trail, and treated The Whale Trail staff royally. SIMRES is a volunteer, non-profit organization bringing marine research and educational programs to Saturna Island. We encourage science and stewardship for a deeper understanding of our fragile marine ecosystem.
A special thanks to Jude and Marueen for a wonderful stay on Saturna Island.
Gretchen at East Point Saturna Is.

Black Oystercatcher Saturna Is.

East Point Saturna Island

Mt. Baker form Saturna Island

Hippo rock with fish Saturna Is.

East Point Saturna Island

East Point Saturna Is..

Sunrise from Saturna Island

B.C. Ferry to Saturna Island

Near Boat Pass Saturna Is.

Boat Pass Saturna Island

Saturna Island ferry dock - Great Pub here.

Orcas near Saturna Island