Crows may learn lessons from death, UW research shows – Seattle Times

It seems that we are constantly reminded of how little we actually know about the natural world. Between a lack of communication with whales and dolphins, to really understanding what crows are able to do.

In recent years, a peculiar sort of public performance has taken place periodically on the sidewalks of Seattle. It begins with a woman named Kaeli N. Swift sprinkling peanuts and cheese puffs on the ground. Crows swoop in to feed on the snacks. While Swift observes the birds from a distance, notebook in hand, another person walks up to the birds, wearing a latex mask and a sign that reads “UW CROW STUDY.” In the accomplice’s hands is a taxidermied crow, presented like a tray of hors d’oeuvres. This performance is not surreal street theater, but an experiment designed to explore a deep biological question: What do crows understand about death? Carl Zimmer reports. (Seattle Times)

http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/science/crows-may-learn-lessons-from-death-uw-research-shows/

Using Fish Ear Bones To Track Salmon – KUOW

New research for fish tracking.

If you were to catch a salmon in Puget Sound, chances are you won’t be able to say exactly where that fish came from. That’s because salmon spawn in rivers and streams and then swim hundreds or even thousands of miles to the ocean to mature. Some new research could help fisheries managers better protect salmon by studying their ear bones – that’s right, ear bones. They’re called otoliths and they help fish with balance and hearing. They come in different shapes and sizes, depending on the type of fish, but they share a common, very cool, growth pattern. Each year, the otolith adds a ring, just like a tree trunk. Those rings are incredibly valuable to scientists like Sean Brennan because they reveal where the fish spent time over the course of that year. Ashley Ahearn reports. (KUOW)

http://kuow.org/post/using-fish-ear-bones-track-salmon

Stealing Fish To Study Seabirds- Earthfix

As anyone who has bird watched around these parts in the last 20 years can tell, it’s pretty clear we have lost seabird populations. Now some new scientific data has come out on the problem.

Seabird populations in Puget Sound have declined since the 1970s and scientists believe pollution is partially to blame. But how do you prove that? Study what the seabirds are eating. A new paper [http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0025326X14004226] published in the journal Marine Pollution Bulletin found that seabirds in Puget Sound are eating fish that are two to four times more contaminated than fish on Washington’s outer coast. Ashley Ahearn reports. (EarthFix)

http://earthfix.kcts9.org/flora-and-fauna/article/stealing-fish-to-study-seabirds/

Report from the Front: Herring Country Safari – UW Blogs

Herring Country Safari

Puget Sound Institute lead ecosystem ecologist Tessa Francis writes: “Hood Canal never disappoints me. We’re in year 2 of our herring habitat study, asking whether Puget Sound herring populations are limited by the availability of spawning habitat…. Substrate type doesn’t matter. What does matter, we found, is where that substrate occurs. We found greater differences in egg mortality among spawning sites — Elliott Bay versus, say, Hood Canal — than among spawning habitat within sites. This year, we’re looking closely at why herring egg survival varies among spawning sites….”

It all goes to show that more research into the Salish Sea is needed to better understand the processes and root causes of their success or failures.

http://blogs.uw.edu/tessa/2014/03/15/herring-country-safari/

Scientific Study Shows Effects of Geoduck Farming on Beaches

In 2007, the Washington Legislature, at the prompting of environmental organizations such as People For Puget Sound, and the shellfish industry, funded a long term study of the effects on geoduck aquaculture on beaches. This highly politicized issue, due to the expansion of  long term geoduck farming on ever increasing locations in the South Sound in particular, was viewed as the best way to resolve the bitter disputes over the industry. Some environmentalists were hoping this would be a ‘smoking gun’ of the issues that the industry is having, while the industry assumed it would vindicate them. It appears that the results do not do either, but do point to concerns that need to be researched over a much longer period in time, and about the trade offs in expanding this industry while attempting to save eelgrass beds for salmon habitat. This is the first real long term study ever attempted here in Puget Sound. Fifteen scientists took part in the study over a six year period.

The short conclusion to the data was that it appeared that there was no immediate concern that geoduck farming is distinctly doing long term negative affects on the ecosystem. Concerns were raised over possible effects that were longer than the scope of this project, and recommendations for further research on these were stated.

There were six priorities to investigate, as mandated by the Legislature:

1. the effects of structures commonly used in the aquaculture industry to protect juvenile geoducks from predation;

2. the effects of commercial harvesting of geoducks from intertidal geoduck beds, focusing on current prevalent harvesting techniques, including a review of the recovery rates for benthic communities after harvest;

3. the extent to which geoducks in standard aquaculture tracts alter the ecological characteristics of overlying waters while the tracts are submerged, including impacts on species diversity and the abundance of other organisms;

4. baseline information regarding naturally existing parasites and diseases in wild and cultured geoducks, including whether and to what extent commercial intertidal geoduck aquaculture practices impact the baseline;

5. genetic interactions between cultured and wild geoducks, including measurement of differences between cultured and wild geoducks in term of genetics and reproductive status; and

6. the impact of the use of sterile triploid geoducks and whether triploid animals diminish the genetic interactions between wild and cultured geoducks.

Conclusions of the study indicated that the farms do impact eelgrass while the farms are in place, but that the grass recovers when they are removed.  But more research on the effects is needed they added. 

Effects of harvest on the benthic layer showed little negative impact, but there are a variety of other issues around this topic that need further study, such as spatial and temporal cumulative effects, the report added.

Effects of Nitrogen and Phosphorus accumulation was ‘mixed’ but did not show any kind of damning evidence that would be cause for immediate action. It appears that the beds do lead to a small increase in both these elements.

Disease issues included finding of several previously unreported parasites in geoducks. However, this data only creates a baseline for future studies. There was no conclusion as to the long term negative effects and whether the farms are contributing in any signficant way to the parasites presence.

Issues related to destruction of eelgrass beds showed that the long term effects seemed minimal, but the short term effects were significant. This raises the issue, given the efforts to recover and protect eelgrass beds, that there is a trade off on a yearly basis between salmon habitat and geoduck planting. There is no conclusion as to how significant this is. More research is needed on this topic, the report stated.

More research was recommended on cumulative effects longer time frames, water column effects, disease identification tools and prevalence in farmed populations, contribution of issues of reproductive effects on natural populations, and genetic effects on native stocks.

The entire report can be viewed at:

http://wsg.washington.edu/research/geoduck/

2013 NW Straits: Alexis Valauir -Ocean Acidification Effects on Global Communities

From the 2013 NW Straits Annual Conference, a most interesting talk:

Alexis Valauri-Orton recently completed a year-long Watson Fellowship investigating human narratives of ocean acidification in Norway, Hong Kong, Thailand, New Zealand, the Cook Islands and Peru. Over the year, she traded her lab coat for a pair of gum boots, experiencing firsthand the role marine resources play in coastal communities. Investigating narratives of acidification in such diverse communities, she discovered the importance of understanding and navigating the social structures that shape our vulnerabilities and responses to environmental issues. She holds a degree in Biology and Environmental Studies from Davidson College, in North Carolina, and now lives in her hometown of Seattle. She believes increasing scientific literacy and public awareness on issues like ocean acidification is the key to creating a sustainable future.

The Powerpoints of her talk are found at the NW Straits web site:

http://www.nwstraits.org/Whats-New/Meetings-Events/2013-MRC-Conference.aspx

or directly here (This downloads the presentation to your computer)

http://www.nwstraits.org/uploads/pdf/Meeting%20and%20Events/Conference/2013/Valauri-Orton-OA.pdf

You can download this for use on a device like an ipod or iphone, or just listen to it right here on your computer.

 

 

WSU offers 9th to 12 Grade Research Projects- Cash Prizes!

Here is a really cool opportunity for PNW 9th-12th graders to participate in team-based research for cash prizes. Yes, cash prizes for winners and their schools!

This year’s theme is energy sustainability. Please help spread the word to students, teachers, and anyone you think may be interested in helping to form a team in our area.

Imagine Tomorrow challenges 9th through 12th graders to seek new ways to support the transition to alternative energy sources. Students research complex topics related to renewable energy, then innovate technologies, designs, or plans to mobilize behavior. They forge connections in their communities and create positive change. In this energy competition, as in life, solutions are limited only by imagination.

More info is at the website is imagine.wsu.edu
Especially look at the Topics and Challenges page.

You can get posters and flyers for distribution if you would like any to put up in your schools or community centers- contact clea.rome@wsu.edu

Thanks!

Clea Rome

WSU Clallam County Extension Director

360-417-2280

clea.rome@wsu.edu

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