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Terrific tides, a cruel crustacean and a smooth operator

Saturday, July 20th, 2013
Scout holds one of the many fried-egg jellies (Phacellophora camtschatica), large and small, that we found beached or at the water's edge. Photo: Jeff Adams

A girl scout holds one of the many fried-egg jellies (Phacellophora camtschatica), large and small, that we found beached or at the water’s edge. These don’t have a significant sting. However, the similarly sized, brick red lion’s mane jelly packs a nettle-like sting. Photo: Jeff Adams

Terrific Tides

The daytime minus tides that began on Thursday are the last of the lowest for 2013, so this week’s a great time to get out and explore. All tides below are for Seattle and can vary depending on where you go in the Salish Sea.

  • Saturday 7/20: -2.3@9:25am
  • Sunday 7/21: -2.9@10:15am
  • Monday 7/22: -3.1@11:03am
  • Tuesday 7/23: -2.8@11:50am
  • Wednesday 7/24: -2.1@12:37pm
  • Thursday 7/25: -1.1@1:23pm

The Kitsap Beach Naturalists will be sharing cool finds at Scenic Beach State Park Saturday (8:30-10:30), Fay Bainbridge Park Sunday (9-11), and at both Kitsap Memorial State Park and Lions Park (Lebo Blvd. in Bremerton) Monday (11-1).

I had the pleasure to end the work week by teaming up with the great Harbor WildWatch staff and volunteers to share sea life wonders with about 100 girl scouts, team leaders and some family members at Manchester State Park. We had a lot of lovely finds and a couple that really piqued my interest…

Shiner surfperch parasitized by a blood sucking copepod (Haemobaphes diceraus). Photo: Jeff Adams

Shiner perch parasitized by a blood sucking copepod (Haemobaphes diceraus). Photo: Jeff Adams

A cruel crustacean

Reactions to a dead shiner perch (Cymatogaster aggregata) were varied, particularly as we showed off the  evidence of parasites that may have hastened the perch’s demise. Turns out the poor fish’s body was home to a small coven of vampires!

Out from under each gill cover poked what looked like a pair of small Slinkys. A colleague who trained as a fish pathologist, informed us that the coils were the gonads of a parasitic female copepod called Haemobaphes diceraus.

Copepods are crustaceans, better known as abundant members of the microscopic animal plankton. Of course, in certain circles, their fame derives from Plankton, the tiny, one-eyed nemesis from SpongeBob SquarePants. Plankton was a reasonable depiction of typical copepods, which have teardrop bodies with a single eye and long antennae. Their parasitic cousins, however, wind up looking more like a bit of offal from the cleaning of the last catch.

Close up of the egg sacks from Haemobaphes diceraus. Photo: Jeff Adams

Close up of the pair of coiled egg sacks from the parasitic isopod, Haemobaphes diceraus. Photo: Jeff Adams

Haemobaphes diceraus has a long trunk that extends through the gill arch and directly into heart, where… it siphons off blood. It’s super cool creepiness even garnered the honor of Parasite of the Day in 2010.

Research from Nanaimo, British Columbia in the early 2000′s found that about 10% of shiner perch unwillingly hosted their personal blood sucker. Interestingly 97.9% of the infested fish they studied had only a single copepod inhabiting them. Our sad specimen sported two. Bummer.

Smooth operator

Beauty and grace combine on a bed of slime. Imagine shaping yourself to the ground as you move through your daily life. While halfway up the stairs, I’d be thinking “Oh yeah, I’m pretty cool.” (Then again, I’d be choking on dust and dog fur.) Alas we remain upright and rigid, but we can still enjoy watching a flatworm live the glide life.

Giant flatworm (Kaburakia excelsa) with it's spotted brown top side and branched digestive sacks on the bottom. Photo: Jeff Adams

Photo: Jeff Adams

While collecting for the touch tanks, Harbor WildWatch staff  found a beautiful giant flatworm (Kaburakia excelsa). Their typical home is under rocks, though you may find them on floats and docks and among masses of mussels. Since they can read 4″ long, these are the giants of the flatworm world and a bit tougher than their smaller cousins.

You can see the highly branched digestive sac in the picture of it’s underside. Though branched, the sack is made up of dead ends. After using an eversible throat to capturing an unfortunate victim, partially digested food is moved into the digestive sac. Since there’s no point B for the indigestible bits to leave the sac, poo must go out where the food came in. Yum.

Wandering the beach is an iconic part of the Salish Sea summer. Summer’s going fast, so explore a beach this week. Go slow. Be observant. There’s always some new bit of wonder tucked on a rock… or sticking grotesquely out of the side of a dead fish’s head!

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 jaws@uw.edu or call at 360-337-4619.


Worm your way into being a Beach Naturalist

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

Actually… elaborate disguises or moonlight dances are not necessary. If you’d like to become a beach naturalist, opportunities begin around the Puget Sound over the next few weeks. Scroll below for more information.

Giant sea nymphs (Nereis sp.). Photo: Jeff Adams

Giant sea nymphs (Nereis sp.). Photo: Jeff Adams

Explosive Love

As for a moonlit nuptial dance, we need to chat with a sea nymph (Nereis sp.). Sea nymphs are large (some very creepily so!) worms that stretch out of their burrows and use inordinately fierce looking jaws to grab a nibble of algae or maybe a soft invertebrate. However, when the moon and tides and light are right, they have a different priority.

Kind of like a werewolf, their bodies change with the coming of the full moon. The once burrow-dwelling omnivore becomes an actively swimming, gutless baby-making machine called an epitoke. On full moons in the winter and summer, the males epitokes will vigorously swim from their holes and rise into the water column, shedding sperm as they go. Once the females sense the males in the water, they follow closely spewing eggs. The sperm and eggs are often released through ruptures in the body wall (ouch!). The close proximity of eggs and sperm help ensure many of the eggs will become fertilized, but mom and dad contribute to the next link in the food chain.

Sea nymph (Nereis sp.) epitoke/body-turned-egg-case. Photo: Jeff Adams

Epitoke remains with eggs oozing out the body wall. Photo: Jeff Adams

Ricketts’ words painted a fabulous image of the experience of coming across giant sea nymph worms in their nuptial fervor:
” Specimens may be nearly a meter long, and are broad in proportion — a likely source of sea-serpent yarns. To the night collector, already a bit jumpy because of weird noises, phosphorescent animals, and the ominous swish of surf, the appearance of one of these heteronereids swimming vigorously at the surface of the water must seem like the final attack of delirium tremens.” (Between Pacific Tides, 1939). … I had to look up delirium tremens… shudder!

In early March, just after the full moon, a volunteer brought the epitoke remains pictured here to a beach exploration and said they were all over her beach. Thanks for sharing!

During that same time on the beach, we got a closer look at another really cool worm…

Beach Scrap Castle

Above ground portion of 12"+ tube of an ornate tube worm (Diopatra ornata). Photo: Jeff Adams

Above ground portion of 12″+ tube of an ornate tube worm (Diopatra ornata). Photo: Jeff Adams

When you’re on a Puget Sound beach that’s not entirely dominated by gravel and cobble, you’re likely to encounter worm tubes sticking out of the sand. The tubes represent several of the nearly 1000 species of marine worms in our region. Particularly common in the lower intertidal is the jointed three-section tube worm. Unwieldy common name aside, it can be abundant enough to look like mini forest of leafless bamboo in the sand.

The tube of the ornate tube worm (Diopatra ornata) is well decorated by bits of plant, shell debris and algae and may be overlooked even when abundant. The tube is not as sturdy as some and may lay on the beach when the tide is out. Under the sand, the tube is much narrower, doesn’t have any decoration and feels like tough parchment. It can also extend a foot deep into the sand, giving the worm a safe place to retreat. As complex as the tube may be, the worm can abandon it and build a new on if need arises.

A diagram from the 1979 paper "The diet of worms: A study of Polycheate feeding guilds" by Fauchald and Jumars.

A diagram from the 1979 paper “The diet of worms: A study of Polycheate feeding guilds” by Fauchald and Jumars.

Ornate tube worms are thought to be scavengers but eat a lot of algae. In The diet of worms: A study of Polycheate feeding guilds (actually a really cool paper to cruise through), Fauchald and Jumars described the various things this tube worm has been observed eating, but clarified that it’s apparently not picky, “feeding experiments have shown that it will accept any plant or animal material, dead or alive, fresh or rotten (R.R. Emerson, pers. comm.).” Yum.

The image to the left is also from The diet of worms. When the tide’s out, you don’t get to see this kind of activity, but it’s fun to imagine a bunch of these worms bickering over who gets the best bit of the kelp.

Above ground portion of 12"+ tube of an ornate tube worm (Diopatra ornata). Photo: Jeff Adams

Head end and first 80 or so segments of an ornate tube worm. Photo: Jeff Adams

Finally, if you’re lucky enough to get a look at the beast inside the tube, you get to see that the tube isn’t the only ornate character in its life story. The five black-tipped feelers on the front of it’s head are purported to have smelling abilities though I couldn’t find any more detail on that.

The gills extend for scores of segments behind the head and look like skinny red Christmas trees with branches spiraling up toward the tip. The worm my have more than 100 segments beyond that.

Segments are apparently disposable since the worm can pinch off segments from its hind end, presumably to give a predator something to nibble on while the important bits head off to build a new tube.

Beach Naturalist Opportunities

Screen shot 2013-03-19 at 9.18.56 AMIf you’re in the Kitsap area, join me, other volunteers and guest experts at the Poulsbo Marine Science Center on Thursday evenings this spring. The Kitsap Beach Naturalist training starts March 28th and will include classes on the oceanography, invertebrates, seaweed and the nearshore environment’s form and function. You can print and fill out the form to the right or register online.

Similar opportunities are available all over the Puget Sound area.

If you don’t necessarily want to be part of a training and volunteer program, check with any of the groups above for naturalist led beach exploration opportunities. Hope to see you in a classroom or on the beach!

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 jaws@uw.edu or call at 360-337-4619.

 

 

 


Terrific tides, crab opener, and croaker care

Friday, June 29th, 2012

Students and families at Scenic Beach State Park. Photo: Jeff Adams

Terrific tides
This morning was the first in a great set of minus tides.

  • 6/29, -0.4 at 7:43AM
  • 6/30, -1.6 at 8:36AM
  • 7/1, -2.5 at 9:27AM
  • 7/2, -3.1 at 10:16AM
  • 7/3, -3.4 at 11:03AM
  • 7/4, -3.2 at 11:50AM
  • 7/5, -2.7 at 12:35PM
  • 7/6, -1.7 at 1:20PM
  • 7/7, -0.5 at 2:04PM

Remember that these are predictions for Seattle and can vary depending on geography and weather. Should get you in the ballpark though. Kitsap Beach Naturalists will be on several beaches at different times over the next week if you can take advantage of the great critter stories they have to share.

Eagles know where to find midshipmen. The medium to large rocks such as those in this image often harbor midshipman during the summer. Poulsbo waterfront. Photo: Jeff Adams

When you head out to explore the beaches, keep a few things in mind to protect and respect those who call the beach home.

  • tread lightly and walk more than run (you stay safer and see more cool stuff when you’re walking anyway),
  • look around the edges of eelgrass and kelp beds instead of tramping through them,
  • explore mostly under rocks that are smaller than your head and return them to the way you found them,
  • refill any holes you dig, and
  • remember, shellfish license or not, it’s illegal to take most living sea creatures off the beach, including  shore crabs, hermit crabs, sea stars, sand dollars, snails, etc.

Midshipman eggs with the front half of daddy midshipman cryptically visible to the lower left of the eggs. Fort Ward. Photo: Jeff Adams

Midshipman (croakers)
In the big rock category, if you do turn over a large rock this time of year, you may find male plainfin midshipman (Porichthys notatus) guarding pea-sized yellow eggs that are attached to the underside of the rock. It’s a really cool thing to see, but over-handling of the fish and awkward replacement of a heavy rock may be tough on the fish and it’s progeny. If you do get a good look at one, maybe stick to the “rocks smaller than your head” rule and leave the rest of the large rocks be.

These amazing deeper water fish have light producing spots called photophores under their head to attract prey, and some seriously sharp teeth with which to munch them. Each late spring/summer, they rise up to the intertidal to stake out nests under large solid objects and make grunting noises to attract the ladies (the reason they’re sometimes called croakers).

Midshipman, nibbled on and left to dry. Poulsbo waterfront. Photo: Jeff Adams

Plainfin midshipman are important predators, but also fall prey to seals and sea lions and can be a very important part of eagles’ diet. It’s not unusual to find the bodies of eviscerated midshipman far from the shoreline, delivered there by an eagle or crow. They are also sometimes abundant bycatch in commercial shrimp trawls.

Crab season
For those of you who have been drooling for dungeness since Christmas… The recreational crab season opens this Sunday, July 1st, for much of Puget Sound and lasts until September 3rd. Blain/Bellingham/San Juans are the exceptions with a slightly later start and close to the season. You can only crab Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays. I guess Tuesday and Wednesday is the crab weekend.

The large hard substrate that midshipman find isn't always limited to rocks. Silverdale Waterfront Park. Photo: Jeff Adams

You’re still measuring between where the outermost points meet the carapace. In Puget Sound, you’re looking for up to 5 male Dungeness that measure at least 6.25″, and up to 6 red rock crabs of either sex that are at least 5″. Make sure their shells are hard and that you record your Dungeness. For crab sexing, you can check out an earlier post, and for lots of great information including gear and regulations, see WDFW’s excellent recreational crab site.

Enjoy the holiday week and the excellent tides, and our intertidal treasures!

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 jaws@uw.edu or call at 360-337-4619.


Beach Walk on the big screen and jellies in the water

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

Beach Walk DVD front and back covers. By: Robyn Ricks, Washington Sea Grant

In recognition Puget Sound Starts Here Month, Kitsap Commissioner Charlotte Garrido is sponsoring a showing of Beach Walk: A Naturalist’s Review at the Dragonfly Cinema (822 Bay Street, Port Orchard) on Thursday, May 24th at 6:30. As an added bonus, we’ll be exploring the Port of Bremerton’s Port Orchard Marina‘s sea life immediately after. As part of the Sustainable Cinema Series, this showing is offered free of charge, and donations are gratefully accepted.

Beach Walk was produced by Nancy Sefton of Unicorn Studios with participation by Washington Sea Grant and WSU Kitsap Extension. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to narrate and poke my head onto the screen a few times. It’s original intent was to be a refresher video for volunteer beach naturalists before they participate in a beach exploration with the public. However, the 35 minute film has appealed to a much broader audience, giving a flavor of the seaweeds and animals you can find on Puget Sound beaches when the tide is out.

You can preview or watch the film on YouTube in 3 parts.

  • Part 1 – 5 min, introduction and best beach behavior
  • Part 2 – 15 min, sea life of cobble/boulder beaches
  • Part 3 – 14 min, sand/mud beach life and things you can do anywhere in the watershed that protect marine habitats

After the film and a brief discussion, we’re going to head across the street to the public entrance of the Port Orchard Marina. I hadn’t been to the marina before, so I checked it out last week and found lots of sea life treasures.

In particular, I was struck by the jellies, finding about a dozen species. Many people have seen the moon jellies and even the large, red lions mane or yellow fried egg jellies. But look closely and the sea is alive with a variety of these predatory, floating, gelatinous anemone cousins.

The compilation below shows several species. From left to right, top to bottom…

  • aggregating jelly (Eutonina indicans) with it’s dangling mouth.
  • gregarious jelly (Clytia gregarium) is very similar to the aggregating. These can be so abundant the water surface is writhing with them. They also make a good meal for larger jellies.
  • eight-strand jelly (Melicertum octocostatum) has 8 large sex organs around its body. It’s a weak swimmer. Trade off for reproductive prowess?
  • red-eyed jelly (Polyorchis penicillatus) has tiny, light sensitive red spots where the tentacles meet the body. The spots help it figure out which way is up in the water.
  • sea gooseberry (Pleurobrachia bachei) has two feeding tentacles that can stretch to 8x the length of its body. Since it’s a ctenophore and not technically a jelly, it has 8 rows of tiny comb plates that wave to help it swim. In the sunlight, they make a beautiful pulsating rainbow.
  • many-ribbed jelly (Aequorea sp.) looks like a bicycle wheel. Can we rename it spoke jelly?

Opalescent nudibranch taking a slime across my hand. Photo: Jeff Adams

I also encountered several gorgeous opalescent nudibranchs (sea slugs), one of which was floating bottom up on the water’s surface (maybe looking for a new home?). I gave it a perch on my hand before putting it on the dock next to a small anemone (sorry anemone). They eat hydroids, little coral-like creatures, but may nibble the occasional anemone or sea squirt.

We may see these creatures at the Port Orchard Marina after the show, and we will certainly see others…. rain or shine. Hope to see you there. Be sure to dress for the weather and enjoy 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, SalishSeaLife tweets, FaceBook and video posts, send email to jaws@uw.edu or call at 360-337-4619.


Be a star: Become a Kitsap Beach Naturalist

Friday, March 16th, 2012

Four species of sea squirt from the Bremerton Marina. Photo: Jeff Adams

  • How can sea squirts be our cousins?
  • Why do barnacles hold the record for masculine endowment?
  • Why is nori so good for you and sweet kombu so tasty?
  • What would a skeleton shrimp Halloween costume look like?
  • Why doesn’t muscle stand a chance against hydro power?

It’s my belief that whether life led to a career in construction, law, food services, biomedicine, administration…, everyone who has ever wanted to be a marine biologist should have that opportunity. I’m not talking about a graduate education and cruises on the Calypso, but you can learn more than the 99% and share your wonder with others by becoming part of the Kitsap Beach Naturalists or other programs around the Puget Sound (Seattle Aquarium, South Sound Estuary Association, Island County Beach Watchers, Harbor WildWatch, Bainbridge Beach Naturalists).

Kitsap Beach Naturalists explaining sea star tube feet to beach goers. Photo: Jeff Adams

Starting Friday March 23rd, join the Kitsap Beach Naturalists for our 5th year of  training, and learn more about some of the questions above. Classes are Fridays from March 23rd to May 11, 2012 at the Norm Dicks Government Building in Bremerton. You can register ($60 for materials) by contacting WSU Kitsap Extension at 360-337-7157. You can get the flier online (click here) or feel free to contact me or comment to this blog with questions.

Volunteers who have completed the training have a variety of citizen science projects (eelgrass, dead birds, beach diversity,…), beach and dock explorations and youth and family outreach opportunities they can be a part of.

We’ve expanded the training this year to include more field opportunities and more speakers, covering everything from intertidal invertebrates to seaweed cosmetics. I look forward to meeting some of you for what should be another great year of celebrating and understanding the shorelines that are such an important part of our contemporary and traditional Pacific Northwest culture.

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 jaws@uw.edu or call at 360-337-4619.

 


Drawn from the deep

Friday, February 17th, 2012

Public entrance to the Bremerton Marina. Photo: Jeff Adams

OK, so we’re unlikely to witness the rise of a leviathan, but tomorrow evening (Saturday 2/18 from 7:30-8:30), you can join Kitsap Beach Naturalists, along with me and my WSU Kitsap Extension colleague Peg Tillery at the Bremerton Marina (map). We’re taking a break from the night time low tides to explore the subtidal and free-swimming life that can be enjoyed on almost any floating dock, at any time. Night time on a dock can bring even more sea life to the surface with the aid of a bright light.

You never know what might respond to lights pointed into the water at night. Ever watched squid jiggers at work – often in the cold, often in the wet, always in the dark? Their porcupine lures rise and sink through the water in or around a column of bright light. Schools of squid are attracted by the lights and often can’t help but embrace that brightly colored tube, entangling themselves in the lure’s spiny skirt. The jiggers are taking advantage of the many-armed tasty’s attraction to light.

Opalescent or market squid (Loligo opalescens) near the surface at Bremerton Marina. Photo: Washington Sea Grant

What else will be attracted to the light? Many creatures spend the daylight hours below the photic zone – the top layer of the water where there’s enough light to support plant growth but also enough to be easily seen by predators. Every evening they come to the surface to feed under the safety of darkness, then return to the deep as the sun rises.

The spring blooms are yet to arrive but some small organisms and even some jellies still float around near the surface. Imagine you’re a tiny copepod (about as long as the thickness of a dime) and you’re happily filtering tiny particles out of the water. Leviathan being something of a matter of scale, the hairs near your cycloptic eye may rise in fear as dusk settles in and from below swims an torpedo-shaped arrow worm (Sagitta elegans). It’s 40 times your size (about the length of a football field compared to a tall human) with rows of hooked hunting spines on either side its head (ironically not unlike the squid jig). Yikes! … Back to your human self, just shake off your imagination and remember the arrow worm’s only an inch and a half or so long.

Northwest ugly clam (Entodesma navicula) on the Bremerton Marina docks. Photo: Washington Sea Grant

No guarantees on what we’ll see swimming in the water, but there’s always a spectacular show to take in on the submerged areas of the dock.

Most animals and plants on the docks don’t move through the open water and rely on the hard surfaces of the dock to give them a strong foothold that they would otherwise only find from rocks below the exchanging tide. Among these will be seaweeds, chitons, anemones, crabs, barnacles, stars, cucumbers, urchins, slugs and squirts… and (my personal favorite) the ugly clam.

Plumose anemones (Metridium) and green false jingle (Pododesmus macroschisma) adorning a pipe at the Bremerton Marina. Photo: Jeff Adams

Clams on a floating dock you may ask? This is no ordinary clam. In a natural environment, you’d find the ugly clam (Entodesma navicula) growing out of a crevice or between rocks, it’s shell deforming to fit its surroundings. It’s far easier to find these clams on docks where they are frequent inhabitants.

Another bivalve that lives on docks an form fits to its home is the false jingle shell (Pododesmus macroschisma). It’s bottom shell has a hole through which it attaches to it’s substrate. It also has bright orange lips that you can see while it’s feeding.

Speaking of lips, maybe we’ll be lucky enough to see a scallop or two flashing their bright smile.

Smiling scallop at the Bremerton Marina. Photo: Washington Sea Grant

Like the squid jiggers, it’s likely to be cold, wet, and dark, so bring flashlights or headlamps (something with a strap so it doesn’t fall in the water). Life jackets are a good idea for kids. Wear warm, waterproof clothes so you can even get down on belly if you like and get a closer look off the dock.

If you can’t join us tomorrow, go to the public docks nearest you any time they’re open. If you see something cool, let me know and even send a picture. I love that stuff and am happy to let you know more about what you found!

We’ll also be doing this again, so if you’d like to be kept in the loop, please contact me or Lisa Rillie 360-337-7157 x 3244 or lrillie@co.kitsap.wa.us. Happy dock exploring!

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 jaws@uw.edu or call at 360-337-4619.


Thingy Thursday: Catch cards and a confounding crab

Thursday, September 22nd, 2011

Few of us get a chance to see the full diversity of the Salish Sea’s crabs. Many species never venture onto the beaches. Others are small and hide well. Some even remain tucked away inside a large clam or mussel. For all the wonder, economic benefit and gastronomical pleasure crabs provide, there are several species that we don’t want to see in our waters, including the invasive European green crab, Chinese mitten crab and Asian shore crab.

European green crab (Carcinus maenas), notice the five large points on either side of the front of the carapace. Photo: Jeff Adams

Such invasive species can have dramatic economic and ecological consequences. That’s why I’m always very appreciative of folks who send notes or pictures or specimens of something unusual. Controlling the spread of marine invasive species is difficult at best, but the earlier they’re detected, the better chance we have.

I received images of a potential green crab in late August from an informed individual who had found an unusual crab at Birch Bay State Park (near Blaine and the Canadian border).

The European green crab has been present on the outer coast of Washington and up the Pacific side of Vancouver Island since the late 1990′s, but the populations have not been highly successful to date and have not found their way into the Salish Sea. Hopefully, that arrangement will continue since these buggers consume shellfish and outcompete Dungeness crab of similar size, for both food and habitat. Red rock crab on the other hand, tend to give the green crabs a serious abdomen whooping.

Green crab??? Thankfully not. Photo: Len Vandervelden

Fortunately, this is a helmet crab. It has the few large points on the front of its carapace like a green crab, and was probably a similar size (~3″ across the carapace), but helmet crabs are covered in stiff hairs and have points all the way around the back side of the carapace.

Helmet crab (Telmessus cheiragonus), a hairy or even bristly crab with several large points on either side of the front of its carapace and a couple more on the back side. Photo: Jeff Adams

The helmet crab is probably the species most commonly mistaken for a green crab. The individual in question is particularly tricky to identify since it has so many barnacles on it.

Live helmet crabs and even molts may seem unusual even to experienced beach goers. I see scores of them while snorkeling over eelgrass that’s exposed at low tide, but I rarely see them alive on the beach when the tide is out. I guess it’s no surprise that as one of the fastest Pacific Northwest crabs, a helmet crab would rather retreat with the tide than try its luck hiding from gulls in the eelgrass and algae.

Back to the European green crab… Fortunately, it isn’t living up to the initial concern in our state, but there are a lot of unknowns if it gets into the Salish Sea or if conditions change in our waters. It’s certainly important to keep a watchful eye.

Always feel free to send observations, pictures or thoughts of things extraordinary or out of the ordinary. If I can’t share part of its story, I enjoy looking for someone who can and learning together.

Oh, and just a reminder for all you crabbers… Whether you caught Dungeness or not, don’t forget to put your Puget Sound crab catch cards in the mail or enter the data online by October 1 to avoid a $10 penalty and to help managers determine how much crab should be harvested in the winter season. Happy autumn!

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 jaws@uw.edu or call at 360-337-4619.


Keep the butter out of your belly and your shovel out of the sand

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

Screen shot of the Washington Department of Health Shellfish Safety map for Kitsap County for August 3rd, 2011.

Thanks to Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP) toxins produced by microscopic marine algae… King and east Kitsap Counties are closed to harvest of all shellfish species including clams and geoduck, oysters, mussels, and other invertebrates such as the moon snail (which are no longer legally harvestable anyway).

The meat from crabs is not known to contain the PSP toxin. The guts (butter) can contain PSP levels that are not safe, so carefully clean your crabs and toss the guts. (I guess I’d better stop letting the chickens gobble the guts lest I wake up to a poultry Jonestown.)

Invasive purple varnish (mahogany) clams hold the toxin longer than any other bivalve in the region. Butter clams also hold onto the toxin for longer than most shellfish. Sometimes shorelines will be closed to varnish clam only or to both species only, so read the health maps and warnings carefully. Even when beaches are open, it’s a good idea to cut off the black tip of the butter clam’s siphon before eating it since toxins are concentrated in the tip.

The DOH clickable shellfish biotoxin/pollution map is an excellent resource to check every time you head out for shellfish or might interact with others who are digging dinner. You can also learn more about the toxin and it’s origins from the Department of Health PSP fact sheet and the links it provides.

Noctiluca bloom in West Seattle (late June 2011). Photo: Jeff Adams

Washington Sea Grant also has a really great publication called Gathering Safe Shellfish: Avoiding Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning. The document has lots of great info and fabulous black and white drawings of some of the harvested shellfish species in the Salish Sea (great identification resource). It also discusses the difference between the striking blooms you may see and those creating biotoxins.

This too shall pass. In the meantime… enjoy the the beaches in Puget Sound’s Main Basin, but but keep the butter out of your belly and your shovel out of the sand.

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 jaws@uw.edu or call at 360-337-4619.

 


Express your inner scientist

Friday, July 8th, 2011
  • 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 jellywatch.org 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 scienceforcitizens.net and citizensciencecentral.org or like citsci.org 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 info@coasst.org). 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 jaws@uw.edu or call at 360-337-4619.


Terrific Tides and Getting Crab Crazy!

Friday, July 1st, 2011

Pulling a crab pot can require some muscle. Photo: Jeff Adams

Dust off the crab pots (both the one with holes and the one with boiling water), it’s crab season! The long awaited day has arrived (as of 7:00am today, 7/1), and many will feast on freshly caught crabs for the holiday. After all, Dungeness crabs are as Northwest’erican as espresso and apple pie. Don’t forget the red rock crab though. It’s tougher to crack, but abundant and mighty tasty.

Chris Dunagan shared a story on the recreational harvest this crab season, and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has a one stop recreational crabbing website with a 4 minute video, regulatory, harvesting, cleaning and cooking tips and more. A few things to note…

- A fishing license and crab endorsement are required. (Don’t forget you need to pay to get into Washington State Parks now.)
- You can keep up to 11 crabs a day!

  • 5 hard-shelled, male Dungeness crabs and
  • 6 hard shelled red rock crabs (male or female).

- Use pots (with degradable cords to prevent ghost fishing) or collect by hand.
- Don’t forget to RECORD AND REPORT your catch! (Says the guy who’s committed to doing his part for the fishery… and to not paying the $10 penalty again this year.)

While your on your way to or from your favorite destination, check out some of these excellent holiday weekend beach walks and events. Have a crabby day! JEff

A barnacle encrusted red rock crab. If you get a crab like this, you might as well eat the barnacles too... taste a bit like shrimp. Photo: Jeff Adams

This week’s minus tides for the Central Puget Sound (remember you may need to add up to an hour or more for out of the way fingers like Dyes Inlet, and much of South Puget Sound)…

  • 7/1 Fri; -2.6 ~11:30am
  • 7/2 Sat; -2.7 ~12:15pm
  • 7/3 Sun; -2.4 ~1:00pm
  • 7/4 Mon; -1.8 ~1:40pm
  • 7/5 Tues; -0.7 ~2:15pm

Kitsap Beach Naturalists
- Silverdale Waterfront Park, one of my favorite urban Kitsap beaches, Saturday July 2nd from 12:30-2:30pm
- Scenic Beach State Park, Seabeck, WA, July 2, Noon-2:00pm
- Fay Bainbridge Park, Bainbridge Island, WA, July 3, Noon-2:00pm

Harbor WildWatch (Gig Harbor and the south of Kitsap Peninsula)
- Kopachuck and Penrose State Parks, July 1, 10:30am-2:30pm
- Penrose and Joemma State Parks, July 2, 11am-3pm
- Kopachuck and Penrose State Parks and Narrows Park, July 3, 11:30am-3:30pm
- Kopachuck and Penrose State Parks, July 4, 12:30pm-4:30pm

Celebrate Oakland Bay – Family Fun with the Stars (site with link to flyer)
- Walker County Park, Shelton, July 3, 11am-4pm

Vashon Low Tide Festival
- Point Robinson Light Station and Park, July 2, 10am-3pm

South Sound Beach Naturalists
- Priest Point Park, June 2, 12:15pm – 3:15pm.
- Burfoot and Tolmie State Parks, June 3, 12:30pm – 3:30pm

Seattle Aquarium Beach Naturalists are on a variety of east Sound Beaches
- Richmond Beach, Carkeek Park, Golden Gardens, South Alki, Lincoln Park, Seahurst and Des Moines Beach Park, July 2, 11-2:30; July 3, 11:30-3; July 4, 12:30-3:30

I’m sure there’s more! Please share other opportunities through comments.

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 jaws@uw.edu or call at 360-337-4619.


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