Category Archives: People

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Swollen seas and a Tolkien tide

A Tolkien tide
Having been a fan of Tolkien’s faerie tales since I was chasing squirrels in the oaks and hickories of the heartland, it’s no surprise I’m excited to see the Hobbit. My dear Alejandra even bought me a ticket to the opening show at our local theater. Of course, that requires staying awake!

If you too have any intention staying up for a midnight cinematic premier, mother nature will provide a premier low tide (-3.6’ish) to fill the “I really should be going to bed now” hours with “Ooo’s” and “Ahh’s” in the beam of your light. For most of the inland Salish Sea, the tide will be in minus territory any time after 9:pm and bottoms out around around 11:pm. It’ll probably be wet and chilly, so dress well and feel free to share what cool things you see through comments or by  contacting me directly.

The wrack or debris line over this parking area indicates the peak of especially high storm tide in early December 2012. Photo: Jeff Adams

Swollen seas
‘Tis the season for storm surges.

The week before Thanksgiving, I saw the 12’ predicted high tide lapping on the beach as I walked off a ferry to West Seattle. A stream babbled north under the dock, well above the tide and buffered by large wood and another few feet of gravel/sand beach.

I traveled the same path a week later, when the predicted high tide was actually a few inches lower. However, the storm tide had swamped the beach logs and stream both, lapping in the vegetation of the recently restored shoreline. Numerous logs with cut ends had rolled and floated out into the bay – an example of the sub-par services cut logs provide when compared to their rooted and branched brethren.

You may also recall the heavy rain before Thanksgiving. Along with that came the surge that I observed and that you can see in the graph below. The actual water levels (red) pushed almost 2 feet higher than the predicted level (blue). The green shows the difference between the two. When predictions hold, the green line stays on zero.

Air pressure and predicted and actual water levels during 2012’s pre-Thanksgiving storms.
Air pressure and predicted and actual water levels at The Battery Station, New York City, during Hurricane Sandy.

Heaping on the water
Tides are predicted based primarily on the locations of the Earth, Moon and Sun. Those astronomical or predicted tides are the numbers we see in our tide tables, apps or calendars. We have a great deal of certainty as to where the heavenly bodies will be at any given time in the future, but back on our corner of the blue planet, long-range weather details are largely unknown. Consequently, we have no long-range ability to factor storm surges into our tidal predictions.

Storms, caused by the collision of colder northern air and warmer southern air, set our Pacific waters in motion. The warm air rises, lowering the pressure the atmosphere applies to the ocean and allowing the ocean to swell. That pressure-driven surge is accompanied by some level of  wind-driven surge, as the rising warm air also fosters stronger winds that pile the water up on the coastline.

Since our region is spared tropical cyclones (we seem satisfied with earthquakes and volcanoes), our storm surges are mild compared to what everyone watched the East Coast suffer during Hurricane Sandy (right). Still, it’s not unusual for our waters to surge 1 or 2 feet higher than expected during stormy seas.

Our strongest storms often strike in the winter, when we also have some of our highest predicted tides (see and be part of WA DOE’s King Tide photo initiative). Add 20 inches of storm surge to an already high tide, then throw in some high wind and waves… repairs to shoreline properties, roads, and utilities often follow. Factor in potential effects of climate change (a few inches of sea level rise, more intense storms), and the issue of storm surge becomes an important consideration with regards to shoreline infrastructure. Oh, and that kayak that you didn’t bother to tie up because it was 2 vertical feet above the highest predicted tide… (ouch!)

Our highest tide. Highest recorded water level at the Seattle, Puget Sound station.

Tide fun courtesy of NOAA
If you enjoy exploring graphs and numbers, you can have some fun through NOAA’s Tides & Currents portal. You can even check out sea level changes over time and historical extremes. The “Seattle, Puget Sound” station’s highest recorded water level was in January 1983 at +14.48 (right). Not too bad considering our recent big surges were about +14. Certainly nothing compared to the extra 10 feet piled onto the east coast shorelines.

When you’re playing with the numbers and graphs, remember the -8hr conversion from GMT and a -7.94 feet conversion from the extremes section to make them comparable to what we’re used to seeing (based on mean lower low water [MLLW] as 0.0, instead of the station standard that’s 7.94 feet below MLLW).

Have fun exploring NOAA’s online tidal treasures and our last lowest tide of the year! And if you fall asleep at work or school tomorrow… you didn’t read this.

Jeff Adams is a Washington Sea Grant Marine Water Quality Specialist, affiliated with the University of Washington’s College of the Environment, and based in Bremerton. You can follow his Sea Life blog, SalishSeaLife tweets, FaceBook and video posts, send email to or call at 360-337-4619.


Whale puke and beach cleanup

Flyer for September 15, 2012 beach cleanups on Sinclair Inlet (Port Orchard and Bremerton, WA). Click to see a larger version.

First of all, this Saturday (9/15/2012) is an opportunity for you and your family or friends to  join others all over the world as we put a dent in the garbage that litters our shorelines and impacts sea life when they eat it or get caught in or smothered by it. Even people may be in harms way from large, sharp or toxic debris.

Often you’ll find sea life living or in marine garbage. They may be happy, but their “home” also serves as an unnatural hazard to other sea life and ultimately may not suit their own needs. I once found a board floating on the beach. On the underside was a cluster of midshipman eggs. Daddy midshipman attracted a lady to lay eggs for him to guard… a tough job when his nest floats away. Now that the wood is gone, he’s more likely to find a nice stable boulder.

If you’re in the Bremerton/Port Orchard neighborhood or want to come over for a visit, check out this flyer image above for details on Sinclair Inlet cleanups.

You can also visit the Ocean Conservancy’s “Sign Up to Clean Up” website, enter your city/town, and find cleanups near you. You can also propose your own cleanup site.

Unfortunately, trash from enormous to miniscule is very abundant on beaches an in the water worldwide (explore NOAA’s Marine Debris Program). However, there are other gems that can be found on the beach.

Chunks of ambergris. Photo: Peter Kaminski

A young boy in the UK recently found a $60,000’ish chunk of “whale sick”… to use the British terminology. If you read and have a clear memory of chapter’s 91 and 92 of Melville’s Moby Dick,… well anyway, it tells of the procurement of a some ambergris from a sperm whale obtained by “unrighteous cunning” and says of ambergris  “Who would think, then, that such fine ladies and gentlemen should regale themselves with an essence found in the inglorious bowels of a sick whale! Yet so it is.”

Ambergris was historically used in the production of perfumes and still is in limited, but extremely expensive quantities. It was also used to flavor food. Ambergris eggs and muktuk? (A poor play on green eggs and ham… since ambergris eggs apparently don’t go well with pig).

The ambergris is produced in the intestines of sperm whales and typically passed out as feces. If it’s too large, then it may be puked up. It is described as starting with an distinct  aroma of feces (yum), but over months and years of floating on the ocean becomes uniquely sweet, marine and earthy… and edible.

Dig around for more information on this unique relationship between humans and a marine resources. Fascinating stuff! Ambergris is mostly found in the Atlantic Ocean and the Western Pacific, but as you’re cleaning the beach this weekend, keep an eye and nostril out for a waxy, gray rock that has an unusual aroma. You may find your own windfall of whale discharge.

Jeff Adams is a Washington Sea Grant Marine Water Quality Specialist, affiliated with the University of Washington’s College of the Environment, and based in Bremerton. You can follow his Sea Life blog, SalishSeaLife tweets, FaceBook and video posts, send email to or call at 360-337-4619.


“Ocean Frontiers”: Working together can really work!

Ocean Frontiers doesn’t have a dragonfly inspired alien or a mutant invasive snakehead fish (I love that stuff!), but it is an opportunity to see some inspiring examples of how stakeholders with very different interests can address issues in ocean conservation… to mutual benefit.

Ocean Frontiers logo courtesy of

After a brief introduction, the case studies begin with an amazing effort in Boston Harbor to understand why ships and whales are having unfortunate encounters. Really cool whale research follows that then informs decision making by shipping and energy companies. The results and the process are a model for better, more informed management of our marine environments.

Protection efforts in the Florida keys and off the Oregon Coast follow, but in the middle is an example that really came home to me. I grew up on a small farm along the Mississippi River. The Mississippi River Delta faces a number of ecological challenges, which in turn impact important fishery opportunities in the Gulf of Mexico. Who comes to the rescue? Iowa farmers.

I was really struck by the image of a bunch of Iowa farmers (could have easily been my childhood neighbors and friends) on a fishing charter in the Delta, 1000+ miles from their crops and cows. They were reeling in something other than bass, crappie and catfish while learning about the connections between their agricultural choices and the distant fisheries in the Gulf.

There are so many perspectives that come into play as we engage in efforts to rehabilitate and protect the Puget Sound (and all of the Salish Sea), while maintaining an economy, culture and lifestyle that is dependent on estuary’s watershed and resources. Ocean Frontiers provides examples of ocean management that can embolden us to imagine how our perspectives can work together to mutually beneficial ends.

If you missed the Bainbridge Island screening in early February and the Seattle screening last week, opportunities to catch the film (and ensuing discussions) remain. The Ocean Frontiers’ website’s find a screening page indicates a showing in Bellingham April 25 (umm, that would be shortly after I post this). Also looks like it will be screened in Olympia June 9th. Click on the pin drop for more details on that showing.

Tomorrow evening (April 26 @ 6:30PM) a Port Orchard screening is sponsored by Kitsap County Commissioner Charlotte Garrido and held at the Dragonfly Cinema in downtown Port Orchard at 822 Bay Street. A discussion will follow, lead by Washington Sea Grant’s Marine Habitat Specialist, Jim Brennan. Cost is only a suggested donation. I hope you can take advantage and join in an atmosphere of collaboration that can lead us into a future of healthy oceans and prosperous societies.

Jeff Adams is a Washington Sea Grant Marine Water Quality Specialist, affiliated with the University of Washington’s College of the Environment, and based in Bremerton. You can follow his Sea Life blog, SalishSeaLife tweets, FaceBook and video posts, send email to or call at 360-337-4619.

Express your inner scientist

  • Get home from a day’s labor, crack a beer, sit on the porch and appreciate a butterfly nectaring on a nearby flower and the evening summer sun that makes a dragonfly glow while it hunts with incredible speed and precision, eating on the fly.
  • Is that bush blooming already?
  • You just won a tough case and you’re doing your best Leonardo DiCaprio against the forward fence of the ferry observation deck, a smile on your face, the wind rushing by. You look into the water… SMACK! (no, not sea gull poop to the side of the head or a disgruntled defendant… we’re talkin’ jellies!).

What do these scenarios have in common? Citizen scientists. Elements of science may remain in an ivory tower, but in ever-increasing numbers and in very accessible ways, scientists and managers are harnessing the interests and time of every Tom, Dick and Jane to explore difficult issues like climate change, water quality and habitat loss. We can also add to the understanding of the what, where and when for our favorite groups of critters in ways we were never able to in the past.

All fair game for easy reporting by citizen scientists. Clockwise from top left: lion's mane jelly, hermit thrush, small magpie moth (non-native) and common whitetail dragonfly. Photos: Jeff Adams

There are lots of opportunities out there, but I’ll highlight a few of my favorites. Under the unofficial category of “report what you see, where you see it, when you want to”…

Don’t have experience in identifying critters? No worries. Some programs simply require you to know/report on a single species or, in the case of Sound Citizen, to collect and return a sample. For butterflies, birds, dragonflies and jellies, there are excellent physical and online guides and identification resources available. On top of that, people like me love to get the email with a subject line “what’s this?”.

I recently posted a YouTube video that should help with common jellyfish ID’s. With all the ferry riders, dock and beach visitors, boaters, divers, harvesters, anglers and shoreline homeowners in the Puget Sound and Salish Sea… we should be able to help scientists at better understand jellies and blooms in our region. It’s an area of increasing interest as our climate and ocean activities evolve.

The opportunistic reporting of the list above can give a scientist valuable information in part by sheer volume of data. Volunteers willing and able to put in more time can get involved in a project that typically includes some form of training and standardized protocols and reporting. Some excellent examples in our region include…

Bainbridge Beach Naturalists (part of the Kitsap Beach Naturalist program) conduct a profile assessment of the beach slope, substrate, plants and animals. Amazing what you see when you look close! Photo: Jeff Adams

Other programs like  Nature Mapping are geared toward schools, but also give individuals an opportunity to report findings. You can even explore lots of potential projects on your own at sites like and or like for projects geared specifically toward invasive species.

Washington Sea Grant will go live with a Washington-specific citizen science clearinghouse some time in the next year. Or you can just contact local organizations to explore opportunities. In Kitsap you might start with me at Washington Sea Grant (contact info below), or with organizations such WSU Beach Watchers or the Stillwaters Environmental Education Center.

The best of the citizen science networks provide something in return for our efforts. No, not a key chain or a shopping tote (although some provide those as well). We get maps and checklists and image collections and newsletters and data analysis and publications… All of which reflect our contributions to scientific exploration and the greater body of scientific knowledge. None of which would have happened without our participation.

COASST is an excellent example of providing feedback to volunteers. In return for their dead bird surveys, COASST volunteers receive a newsletter explaining some of the trends in the data and featuring natural history information about sea and shoreline birds. … Plus, volunteers get cool bird postcards (pictures tend to be of the live birds and a bit more attractive then the dead ones). A free COASST training will be hosted by Washington Sea Grant and WSU Kitsap Extension in Bremerton on July 28th (RSVP to Other dates and opportunities are available on the COASST calendar.

Thanks for your interest in contributing to the body of scientific knowledge that we need to make informed decisions and to effectively care for the Puget Sound, Salish Sea and beyond. … Oh, gotta go… I need to chase down a dragonfly!

Jeff Adams is a Washington Sea Grant Marine Water Quality Specialist, affiliated with the University of Washington’s College of the Environment, and based in Bremerton. You can follow his Sea Life blog, SalishSeaLife tweets and videos, email to or call at 360-337-4619.

Become a Kitsap Beach Naturalist!

Below is a plug for the upcoming Kitsap Beach Naturalist training. This program is a lot of fun, and you walk away having learned from some great speakers and carrying very helpful materials for identifying and understanding the creatures on our region’s beaches. You also get a great hat! Once you’ve completed the class, you can join as a Beach Naturalist on events coordinated during the summer daytime or winter nighttime low tides.

Explore & Learn, a Kitsap Beach Naturalist sign ready for action. Photo: Jeff Adams

Speaking of low tides… Today marks the first full day of spring AND the first daytime minus tides of 2011!

Bremerton minus tides
Monday (3/21) – 1:15PM, -0.7
Tuesday – 2:00PM, -1.3
Wednesday – 2:45PM, -1.4
Thursday – 3:30PM, -1.0
Friday – 4:30PM, -0.4

Join the Kitsap Beach Naturalist Class of 2011. Kitsap County has extraordinary beaches and a lot of people interested in enjoying and learning more about them. You can help while enriching your own experience. In the classroom and on field trips, Kitsap Beach Naturalist volunteers learn about seaweed, fish, invertebrates, clams, crabs, anemones, and friends). Marine riparian habitat and conservation, beach etiquette and beach walk coordination are also covered.

We ask that you attend 4 of the 5 classes and 3 of the 4 field trips to graduate (and receive your nifty KBN hat!) and give back 20 hours of related volunteer service to the community over the following year.

Kitsap Beach Naturalists sharing with beachgoers at Kitsap Memorial State Park. Photo: Jeff Adams

The Kitsap Beach Naturalists Program is coordinated by WSU Kitsap County Extension and Washington Sea Grant.

2011 Class schedule
When:   March 31;   April 7, 21, 28;   May 5
Time:  9:30a.m.-12:30a.m. OR 6p.m. – 9p.m.
Where:  Norm Dicks Government Center, Bremerton

2011 Field schedule
April  7 – Illahee State Park
April 9 – Kitsap Memorial
April 21 -Lions Park, Bremerton
April 23 – Silverdale Waterfront Park
May 21 – Fay Bainbridge

Cost:  $55 – to offset book and field guide costs

For more information on joining the training you can download the flyer or contact Peg Tillery 360-337-7224,

Thanks and happy spring!

Jeff Adams is a Washington Sea Grant Marine Water Quality Specialist, affiliated with the University of Washington’s College of the Environment, and based in Bremerton. You can follow his Sea Life blog, email to or call at 360-337-4619.

Great weather, great low tides and great events!

Foulweather Bluff Preserve looking north across expansive eelgrass beds. Photo: Jeff Adams

The new moon in June is upon us. Accompanying it are likely the lowest daytime tides of the year. Better yet, the forecast suggests we’re in the 70’s and sunny to partly sunny this weekend. What a great time to get out to the beaches!

Some planned events for Saturday (June 12th) are included below, but you can also plan your own adventure. It varies by your location, but the approximate tides and times are…

Kitsap Beach Naturalist volunteer Stephanie Lewis-Sandy (in the hat) approaches a child to explore her beach find. Photo: Jeff Adams

Friday, -2.3 @ 10:50AM
Saturday, -2.9 @ 11:30AM
Sunday, -3.2 @ 12:15PM
Monday, -3.1 @ 1:00PM
Tuesday, -2.5 @ 1:45PM

When the tide is this low on summer days, the plants and animals are stressed by the sun, wind, and heat, so please remember to tread lightly. Watch your feet and walk instead of running, wet your fingers before touching plants and animals, don’t turn over any rocks bigger than your head, and walk around the edges of the eelgrass or kelp beds. If you’re digging clams, don’t forget to fill your holes back in (don’t want to smother the next crop!).

A a really low tide, large geoduck siphons extend well above the sandy beach surface of the Foulweather Bluff Preserve. Photo: Jeff Adams

This Saturday (June 12th) you might want to join one of the following events…

–  From 10am-1pm, join me and the Kitsap Beach Naturalist volunteers as we enjoy and explore the Foulweather Bluff Nature Preserve (Hansville).

Beach Walk and shellfish harvest/cooking demonstrations at Twanoh State Park (Union) – led by the Puget Sound Mycological Society.

Water celebration (9am-2pm) and low-tide beach walk (late morning) at the Kingston Farmers Market – coordinated by the Stillwaters Environmental Education Center (scroll half way down the page).

A bit of gentle excavation of a cracked and raised area on the beach often revels large moon snails burrowed safely under the surface. Photo: Jeff Adams

Enjoy the beaches and feel free to send me notes, questions or images of what you experience this weekend. Cheers! JEff

Jeff Adams is a Washington Sea Grant Marine Water Quality Specialist, affiliated with the University of Washington’s College of the Ocean and Fishery Sciences, and based in Bremerton. You can follow his Sea-life blog, email to or call at 360-337-4619.

Diggin’ Ducks on the Prairie

Thanks in large part to this blog and to professional connections in the Sea Grant network, I had the amazing privilege of being a guest naturalist the April 3rd performance of the the nationally syndicated radio show A Prairie Home Companion. The show was broadcast live from the Paramount Theater in Seattle on April 3rd. I was referred as a potential guest for the show on Wednesday March 31, had a conversation with Garrison Keillor (host of Prairie Home Companion) on April Fools Day (the voice make and date prompted a double take) and on Saturday enjoyed a casual conversation about marine life in front of 4000 people and 4,000,000 listeners.

Jeff Adams and Geoduck with Nell Robinson of the Henriettas (second from left) and the Royal Academy of Radio Actors (others left to right) Sue Scott, Fred Newman and Tim Russell. Photo: A kind person holding Jeff's camera

You can listen to the show (I was in the third segment 01:21:37 into the show), and see a picture of Garrison Keillor, Geoduck and me.

It was a fabulous feeling and an honor. I have to admit though… I couldn’t help but be a bit nervous. In the past, my musical alter-ego has been on stages big and small, singing everything from country to opera. This was different. I was going to be talking about something I loved, both personally and professionally, with a master of wit and improvisation… with no real preparation. Eek!

However, after watching everyone else in the show, my nerves eased and it felt natural once the time came to step up to the mic. Oddly enough, the curtain call felt even more comfortable, when I could join in a chorus of Johnny Cash’s I Still Miss Someone.

One-year-old Cisco Adams-Tres with common reaction to a geoduck. Photo: Jeff Adams

Orcas, octopuses and geoducks were the sea life we spoke most about on the show. Since a geoduck (Panopea generosa) was my companion on the show, I’ll give them a bit of attention here.

You can’t help but be immediately struck by the obscene enormity of its neck and its resemblance to something you might see in the pasture. Yet, there’s so much more to this Salish Sea icon.

This clam’s name originated from the Nisqually tribe in South Puget Sound as “gweduc”, meaning “dig deep”. As Europeans transcribed the name, they manged to go from gweduc to gooeyduck or goeduck to geoduck. Gee-o-duck? No matter how it’s written, Salish Sea residents still call them by their proper name, while those outside our region tend to be confounded by the matter.

The geoduck can be found from Kodiak, Alaska to Newport Bay, California, but it’s probably best known from the Salish Sea.  The geoduck wins the title of “world’s largest burrowing clam”, averaging over 2 pounds but sometimes weighing 10 pounds or more with necks over a yard in length. They are also among the oldest animals in the world, living in excess of 140 years

Geoduck siphon show. Fairly easily identified by the smooth, cream colored appearance of the openings. Photo: Jeff Adams

A geoduck’s long neck actually consists of two hose-like siphons. The incurrent siphon brings plankton and detritus rich water to the body, 3 or 4 feet down into the muck. The water passes across the gills which extract oxygen but also use mucus to glean food from the water before it makes the long journey through the excurrent siphon, back up out of the sediments.

Of course, you’d never know any of this from what you see on the beach. Only the tip of their siphons extends above the seafloor, though it may be several inches of the tip.

Digging a duck is a challenge since they’re so deep and so low in the intertidal. You have to race against the tide to dig deep before the tide overtakes your hole.

Geoduck siphon "show". The neck may sometimes be sticking several inches to a foot out of the sand at low tide. Photo: Jeff Adams

If you do manage to get one (from the beach or the market), you’re in for a treat. There’s a lot of meat to a geoduck, and amazingly enough, the meat is quite sweet. Tenderize it a bit, slice it up, role it and flour and toss it in a frying pan. Mmmmm. You can find several recipes and a everything else you could want to know about geoducks in Field Guide to the Geoduck by David Gordon, who is now Washington Sea Grant’s science writer.

You may also enjoy the lyrics and sheet music of Dig a Duck a Day. More recently, a Canadian band called the Bottomfeeders and a Seattle area Band called the Whateverly Brothers both have great geoduck songs. You can here the Bottomfeeders and Dig a Duck a Day on the fabulous duckumentary 3 Feet Under: Digging Deep for the Geoduck (trailer). So much great stuff about geoducks! Enjoy and may the force be with you if you hope to dig a duck a day. JEff

Jeff Adams is a Washington Sea Grant Marine Water Quality Specialist, affiliated with the University of Washington’s College of the Ocean and Fishery Sciences, and based in Bremerton. You can follow his Sea-life blog, email to or call at 360-337-4619.

Sea Life welcome and a “boring” bonus

Greetings All and welcome to Sea Life! I want to take this initial blog opportunity to introduce myself and the blog, but I can’t resist sharing a cool critter. As the Kitsap field agent for Washington Sea Grant I have the privilege of working on issues that affect the marine resources on the Kitsap Peninsula, the Puget Sound, regionally and nationally. These include treating and infiltrating stormwater, engaging residents in marine related outreach and research and addressing aquatic invasive species issues from the local to national scale. Washington Sea Grant is a University of Washington based program that serves communities, industries and the people of Washington state, the Pacific Northwest and the nation through research, education and outreach.

I was born in Corvallis, Oregon but grew up in rural Illinois on the banks of the Mississippi River. My Argentine wife says there’s a saying in her homeland that you always return to your umbilical cord (much more poetic in Spanish). True to that saying, I grew up with a powerful draw to the eastern Pacific. I came to Seattle in the early 1990’s to study biological oceanography, marine biology and freshwater biology before spending several years working on freshwater bugs in Portland, OR at the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation and circling back to the UW with Washington Sea Grant.

Though I’ve been a Husky half my life, I have been enjoying a fabulous working relationship with colleagues in WSU Kitsap County Extension. In fact this blog will regularly cross pollinate with Peg Tillery’s blog, Plant Life.

Aquatic plants and animals fill our bellies, fire our imaginations and feed our economies. This blog gives us an opportunity to enjoy and appreciate the crabs, clams, fish, mammals, insects, plants, seaweed and all other manner of aquatic life that affect and are affected by the Puget Sound, Hood Canal, Salish Sea and Pacific Ocean and the actions we take in their watersheds. There is no shortage of topics to discuss, but my hope is that readers will send me additional questions and ideas for topics that interest them – just email

Yellow boring sponge (Cliona californiana) from Foulweather Bluff preserve, Hood Canal
Yellow boring sponge (Cliona sp.) from Foulweather Bluff preserve, Hood Canal - photo: Jeff Adams

For starters, I wanted to share the humble yellow boring sponge (… boring… as in holes… I hope…). This sponge actually lives with animals that build their shells or houses out of calcium (barnacles, oysters, scallops and clams are favorite hosts). The sponge will chemically bore through the shell, growing through the interior, and punching through the exterior. If burrowing is extensive enough, it can weaken a living host or affect muscle attachments of the organism’s soft body to its shell. Once the host is dead, the sponge breaks the shell down into sediment, also releasing nutrients and minerals back into the water – a function similarly important to soil organisms breaking down leaves or moss and lichens breaking down rocks. At least one species of this sponge is thought to have been an unintentionally hitchhiker on Northwest-bound aquaculture shipments from the Atlantic a century ago. You’re more likely to find bits of Swiss cheesed shell than the living sponge, but it’s something to watch for next time you’re on the beach.

Have a great day and enjoy your shorelines! JEff Adams