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Cherry Point Forum 2016: Warming climates, ocean acidification, sea stars, citizen science, and forage fish

posted Dec 5, 2016, 2:04 PM by RE Sources for Sustainable Communities   [ updated Dec 5, 2016, 2:17 PM ]
Here's a short wrap-up about the presentations and speakers at the Cherry Point Forum 2016:

"Warming Climates in the Pacific Northwest: Are We Experiencing a Dress Rehearsal of the New Normal?" by Nick Bond 

(View the presentation and video)

Nick Bond is the climatologist for the state of Washington and a research scientist with the Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean (JISAO) at the University of Washington.

Nick Bond coined the term “the blob” to describe the warmest (2.5 degree Celsius above normal) temperature ever recorded in the ocean off the West Coast starting in 2013. His presentation addressed whether this and other environmental changes were isolated incidents or whether it was a harbinger of the new normal. 

During his informative, and at times humorous, presentation, he implicated "the blob" as a cause for the massive algal bloom that resulted in the closure of clam and crab fisheries and the unprecedented die-off the seabird Cassin’s auklets.

Some of the effects of climate change Dr. Bond discussed:
  • Effects on human health: Higher humidity, more heat waves 
  • Wetter winters and more frequent major floods 
  • Drier summers and more heat waves 
  • Diseases that might migrate to Washington (Chikungunya, Valley fever) 

"Large-scale Impacts of Sea Star Wasting Disease on Pisaster Ochraceus, Recent Recruitment, and Implications for Recovery" by Melissa Miner 

(View the presentation and video)

Melissa Miner works in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department at University of California, Santa Cruz, and is the data manager for the Multi-Agency Rocky Intertidal Network (MARINe). 

Melissa Miner gave an overview of ochre star population trends before, during and after the 2013-2014 wasting syndrome event along the West Coast. MARINe has long-term data sets at many California and Oregon sites beginning as early as 2000, with sites in Washington and Alaska added in 2008-2010. All show the 2013 crash in sea star numbers, with uneven and somewhat uncertain recovery. The longer-term data present more uncertainty: Some show populations decreasing before the 2013 El Nino warm water event that may have contributed to the disease, and several sites show similar losses (unexplained) around the year 2000 followed by recovery. 

Melissa Miner discusses the continuing uncertainty about the disease’s possible causes and contributing factors, and demonstrates how to access data and graphic interpretations on MARINe’s website. Results from citizen science population survey efforts initiated during the wasting disease event — including two sites within the Cherry Point Aquatic Reserve — are being added to the website. The Q&A session includes some discussion about possible effects on other intertidal species.

"Intertidal Monitoring at Cherry Point: A Look into Citizen Science" by Eleanor Hines

(View the presentation and video)

Eleanor Hines is the lead scientist at RE Sources for Sustainable Communities. She provides staff support for the Cherry Point Aquatic Reserve Citizen Stewardship Committee and leads intertidal monitoring and citizen science programs.

The intertidal monitoring program started in 2013 at Cherry Point and Fidalgo Bay Aquatic Reserves, adapted from a similar citizen science program in Island County. 

Eleanor Hines highlighted the importance of citizen science to fill data gaps and better inform management plans for the Aquatic Reserves. She also explains while the intertidal monitoring program has a lot of strengths, there have been a lot of lessons learned over the years to make it as strong as it is today. 

"Stuck in the Middle: The Ecology, Knowledge Gaps or Misunderstandings, and Issues Surrounding Forage Fish" by Evelyn Brown 

(View the presentation and video)

Dr. Evelyn Brown is a fisheries analyst with Lummi Nation's Natural Resources Department. 

Dr. Brown shared her extensive knowledge and expertise on forage fish, explaining the myths and pitfalls of some common misunderstandings in forage fish management. There is a lot of information packed into this presentation, but if you wanted to dive deeper into the world of forage fish, this is a great place to start. 

Dr. Brown shared some wonderful photos of her past research and you can see just how thick some of the forage fish egg spawn on the beach once was in areas. She mainly covered herring, but covered some of the lesser known forage fish too. Some of the main highlights include: 
  • The marine trophic structure is dynamic and is NOT always a triangle, as ecology text books often present 
  • Fluctuations between high and low populations are normal, and presents a challenge for managing these (and other) fisheries 
  • There are certain stages of the forage fish life cycle that if focused on and properly managed, can help support better fisheries, while other life stages when managed will have less impact on the overall populations 
  • These fish are hard to study, but interesting studies are underway 

"Ocean Acidification in Nearshore Habitats of Washington State" by Micah Horwith

(View the presentation and video)

Micah Horwith is a coastal scientist at the Washington State Department of Natural Resources, Aquatic Resources Division. He leads investigations of ocean acidification for the Aquatics Assessment and Monitoring Team.

Micah presented the latest information about increased acidification in the ocean. He brought the topic closer to home with a glimpse at how local plants and organisms are being affected or may be able to provide refuge as ocean acidification increases. 

Even non-scientists will find this information very accessible and the insight into research protocol quite interesting and educational.