When I was a young child, we didn’t have to worry about wildlife
getting strangled by six-pack rings, because these plastic binders
for cans had not been invented yet. I was 9 years old in 1961 when
this simple, convenient form of packaging was invented, so I
clearly remember the transition. (See Hi-Cone
At the time, nobody predicted the conservation consternation
that would be created by such a simple piece of plastic. During the
1970s and up to present, pictures of entrapped birds and other sea
creatures became common, suggesting that we at least cut the
plastic to save the animals. The first video provides a story of
Before the invention of six-pack rings, people bought soft
drinks and beer in cardboard packages, which sort of wrapped around
the cans. Pabst Blue Ribbon may have been the first beer sold in
cardboard cartons (second video), although Coca Cola may have
started the phase. The Coke
company claims to be the first to take its bottles out of
wooden crates and begin offering cardboard packaging for consumers
as early as 1923.
Baby river otters appear to be reluctant swimmers when they
enter the water for the very first time. As you can see in the
first video, the mother otter pulls, pushes and practically
wrestles her offspring to begin a swim lesson at Columbus Zoo in
The second video, from Oregon Zoo in Portland, features otter
keeper Becca VanBeek, who provides us some details about the life
of a young otter. Shown is a baby otter named Molalla. The mom
seems a bit rough with her baby, but she’s just trying to teach a
diving and breathing pattern.
If we want to be formal about it, what should we call a baby
otter? A baby walrus is called a calf, and a baby sea lion is
called a pup. So a baby otter is called a ______? If you said pup,
you are right.
Now for the parents. If a male walrus is called a bull and a
male sea lion is also called a bull, what is a male otter called?
The answer is boar, but please don’t ask me who comes up with this
stuff. Correspondingly, female walruses and female sea lions are
called cows, while female otters are called sows.
Thirteen kinds of otters exist in the world. Some, such as the
sea cat of South America, are so endangered that almost nothing is
known about them Read about all 13 on the h2g2 website.
In the Northwest, many people confuse the sea otter with the
river otter. Both are related to the weasel, and both have webbed
feet and two layers of fur to maintain their body temperature in
cold water. But there are many differences:
River otters spend more time on land than water. Sea otters
almost never climb up on land.
River otters live in freshwater and marine estuaries. Sea
otters live in seawater, including the ocean.
River otters generally grow to 20-25 pounds, sea otters to
River otters swim with their bellies down and expose little of
their back. Sea otters generally swim belly-up and float high in
the water because of air trapped in their fur.
River otters have rounded webbed paws, front and back. Sea
otters’ rear paws are elongated like flippers with webbing going to
the end of the toes.
Below is one of the two live cameras in the sea otter exhibit at
Seattle Aquarium. The cameras are in operation from 9 a.m. to 6
p.m. Visit the aquarium’s Otter Cams webpage
to see both cams and read about the otters.
Monterey Bay Aquarium also has a live otter cam, which is in
operation from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Visit the aquarium’s
Sea Otter page for feeding times, when the otters are
introduced to the audience and a live discussion takes place with
An open letter from me to Ken Balcomb, director of the Center
for Whale Research, on the 40th anniversary of the research
Congratulations on 40 years of superb research regarding the
killer whales of the Salish Sea and their relationships to all
living things. Your unprecedented work has helped us all understand
the behavior of these orcas and how quickly their population can
decline — and sometimes grow. I admire your steadfast efforts to
find answers to the mysteries of these whales and to push for
efforts to protect them.
On a personal note, your willingness to take time to explain
your findings to me as a news reporter will always be appreciated.
The same goes for Dave Ellifrit and all your associates through the
I was fascinated with the blog entry posted on Friday, which
showed the log book you began compiling during your encounters with
killer whales on April 8, 1976 — the very first time you described
these animals after forming the organization. The distant words on
the page demonstrate how much you — and the rest of us — have
learned, and it demonstrates that good research is a matter of
step-by-step observations. I hope everyone gets the chance to read
these pages, and I look forward to the next installment in the
Thank you for your dedication, and I look forward to many
more years of reports from you and your associates at the Center
for Whale Research.
With highest regards, Chris.
The Orca Survey Project began on April 1, 1976, under a contract
with the National Marine Fisheries Service to conduct a six-month
survey to figure out how many killer whales lived in Puget Sound.
Ken was able to use an identification technique developed by
Canadian biologist Mike Bigg. By identifying individual orcas,
researchers came to understand each of their families, their lives
and even their unique behaviors — which I would call
“personalities” for want of a better term.
Speaking of personality, if I’m not reading too much between the
lines, I see Ken’s scientific perspective mixed with his fondness
for the animals in the
first log entry about mooring the boat and staying the night in
“In the evening, we went for a hike into town for dinner and a
few beers with the local folks at the Town Tavern. We spread the
word and handout of the ‘study’ to all who would receive them. Most
folks were takers, but a few were concerned as to which side we
were on. People imagine sides of the killer whale controversy —
mostly leave them alone, or catch them to show to the folks from
Missouri. Our description of a killer whale study by photo
technique seemed to sit well with all ‘sides,’ though there were a
few skeptics, I’m sure.”
I actually looked over many of these pages from Ken’s log a
number of years ago, but for some reason they take on new meaning
now as we look back over 40 years of research and realize how far
we’ve come in understanding these killer whales — not forgetting
how much more we have to learn.
log book entry appears to be a description of the first direct
encounter Ken experienced from a boat at the beginning of his study
on April 8, 1976, as he came upon K and L pods off Dungeness Spit
“We cruised toward the large group of whales, first at 2300 RPM
and then reducing to about 2000 RPM as we approached to within ½
mile of the whales. It was very apparent that the whales were
initially concerned with avoiding us. They dove and came up several
minutes later a good long distance astern of us, toward Port
Angeles. We turned and proceeded toward the large group again and,
at a distance of about 400 yards, they porpoised briefly and dove
again for several minutes.
“Both we and the whales did not behave calmly for the first hour
of the encounter. Rain was spoiling our opportunities for
photographs, getting our cameras all wet and dampening our spirits.
Even at slow speed and with patience, we did not closely approach
the group of 25 whales, so we started toward a smaller group a
little farther offshore.
“By 10:05, things seemed to have calmed down considerably. By
maintaining 1050 RPM and taking slow approaches, we were tolerated
by one male in company with a female and a calf about 11 ½ feet.
The main group of 25 whales calmed down immediately and resumed a
leisurely dive interval of about one minute to one min. 50 seconds
down, still proceeding westerly.”
Remember that this was only months after the final capture of
killer whales in Puget Sound. (See
account from Erich Hoyt for PBS Frontline.) What were the
intentions of this boat approaching them? In time, these whales
came to realize that Ken and his crew would do them no harm.
If only they could know how much human attitudes around the
world have changed over the past 40+ years.
UPDATE, 9 p.m.
After a long day, orca researcher Brad Hanson got back to me,
saying he spent about two hours with the whales yesterday as they
moved from Edmonds past the Kitsap Peninsula during heavy weather.
The whales were not surfacing normally, which raised concerns, he
said. J-31 stayed with her dead calf a long time, and he cannot say
if and when she finally let go.
“This shows the value of getting out there in the winter,” Brad
said. “She will be an animal in the focus of any health assessment.
On the flip side, we have a new calf that looked really good. It
kept popping its head out to take a breath.”
With both delight and sadness, two new baby orcas have been
reported in Puget Sound. One newborn calf appeared to be alive and
doing well, researchers said. Unfortunately, one calf was dead,
still being attended by its mother.
“We’re excited to announce that NOAA Fisheries killer whale
researchers documented a new calf during a research survey with J
pod yesterday…,” states the Facebook
message from the researchers. “The good news comes with some
sad news, however. On the same trip, we observed J-31, a
20-year-old female who has never successfully calved, pushing
around a deceased neonate calf.”
At age 20, this female named Tsuchi could have already had one
or two calves that did not survive. It has long been speculated
that up to half of all newborn orca calves don’t survive their
I was not able to reach NOAA’s Brad Hanson, who was on the
research outing, but Ken Balcomb of the Center for Whale Research
told me that he has confirmed the successful birth and designated
the calf as J-55. Ken is in charge of the ongoing orca census.
The note from NOAA says the calf in “good condition” was
swimming in close proximity to J-14, a 42-year-old female named
Samish, and her daughter, J-37, a 15-year-old female named Hy’Shqu
(pronounced “high-shka”). “So we don’t know who the mother is just
yet, and it may take a few encounters before we know.” Hy’Shqu, by
the way, had her first offspring in August 2012.
The new discoveries were made as the research boat followed the
whales around the northern tip of the Kitsap Peninsula near
Hansville, according to Howard Garrett of Orca Network, who was
observing the encounters from shore on Whidbey Island.
Amazingly, this is the ninth birth among the three orca pods
since December 2014. There were no surviving calves born during the
two previous years, and things had been looking truly bleak for the
endangered killer whales of Puget Sound.
Now, six of the new babies are from J pod, and three are from L
pod, bringing this population of wild orcas to 85.
“My prediction was that J pod would be the saviors if any could
do it,” Ken Balcomb noted. “But they are coming on stronger than I
would have imagined.”
Michael Harris, executive director of the Pacific Whale Watch
Association, said the “baby boom” of orcas we have been reporting
“is starting to sound like a long, sustained rumble — and it
certainly is music to our ears.”
But news of the mother pushing around her dead offspring was
heart-wrenching, he said in a written statement.
“It’s almost as if she wanted so much to be a part of this baby
boom — to become a mother like so many in her pod — that she simply
couldn’t bring herself to the bitter reality of losing her calf,”
“And I guess we all have to be aware of reality,” he added.
“This population has turned a corner, no question, but in no way is
it out of the woods. We’ve got some tough salmon years ahead of us,
and that means extra pressure on the whales. Let’s celebrate this
baby J-55 and this resilient village of orcas, but let’s keep
working to make sure we get fish in the water and whales
Chinook salmon, listed as a threatened species in Puget Sound,
is the primary prey of the three Southern Resident pods.
For those of you following the killer whale tagging study, K-33
and likely the rest of K pod continued south along the West Coast
until they nearly reached Cape Mendocino near Arcata, Calif., on
Sunday. From there, they turned around and retraced their route
back north, passing Heceta Head on the Central Oregon Coast this
morning. For their full travels since tagging on New Year’s Eve,
check out NOAA’s website of
“Southern Resident killer whale satellite tagging.”
The new priority system is designed to gain funding for projects
that do the most for salmon at risk of extinction as well as other
high-priority salmon stocks. The previous system in Hood Canal —
still used in some regions — simply ranked the projects submitted
for funding. The new approach will encourage sponsors to design
projects for the high-priority fish in the high-priority
The priority system was set up with consideration for every type
of salmon that can be found in every stream flowing into Hood
Canal. Ecological importance of each stock as well as economic and
cultural values were taken into account. Next, consideration was
given to why the stocks are not doing well, followed by actions
that could correct those problems. Projects that gain the most
points are those that address high-priority stocks with actions
most likely to solve the problems.
In addition to the points accumulated from the priority ranking,
technical advisers assign points for certainty of success and cost
effectiveness. While salmon-recovery funds are directed toward
salmon projects, other ecological benefits include better water
quality and improved stream and nearshore structure, all of which
may benefit a variety of species.
Alicia told me the advisers are proposing adjustments to the
ranking system before the next round of funding and probably in
future years as well.
“We will always have to adaptively manage it, as new data are
developed,” she said. “We’re doing some refinements to make sure we
are identifying the highest priority.”
Some refinements will distinguish among the top-ranked projects,
she said. One idea is to establish priorities for specified
sections of the top-ranking streams.
“We’re finding that we have been funding the highest priority
projects,” she said, “but it’s hard to determine the very
Alicia said the committees also are considering establishing
some “keystone actions” that would move qualifying projects to or
near the top of the priority list. The idea, she said, is to allow
collaboration with involved property owners with some assurance
that funding will be provided.
“One of the biggest stumbling blocks is maintaining landowner
support until a project gets funded,” she said.
Bridge over Salmon Creek, $789,000: Jefferson
County Public Works will remove a steel pipe that prevents salmon
in Salmon Creek from passing West Uncas Road. A new 80-foot bridge
will open up three-quarters mile of prime salmon habitat for
threatened Hood Canal summer chum. Jefferson County will contribute
$139,000 in cash and a federal grant.
Big Quilcene River Floodplain, $587,000:
Jefferson County will buy three residential properties prone to
flooding, remove three homes, decommission wells and septic
systems, and restore the 2.5 acres to natural conditions. The
project, which is part of a larger effort to reestablish a
stream-migration corridor, includes moving a levee on the north
side of the Big Quilcene River. Jefferson County will contribute
Conserving Snow Creek, $151,000: Jefferson
Land Trust will buy and restore nearly 11 acres along Snow Creek,
adding to the Snow Creek Uncas Preserve. The work includes planting
native trees and shrubs on five acres of stream bank to improve
habitat for Hood Canal summer chum and Puget Sound steelhead, both
listed as threatened species, as well as coho and cutthroat trout.
The land trust will contribute $55,000 in Conservation Futures
funds along with donations of cash and labor.
Lower Big Beef Creek restoration, $441,000:
Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Group will remove two decommissioned
wells and an access road, allowing Big Beef Creek to reconnect with
its floodplain and recently restored wetlands. Three logjams will
be installed to improve salmon habitat and accumulate sediment.
Survival is expected to improve for juvenile summer chum, fall
chum, coho and steelhead. The enhancement group will contribute
$80,000 from a federal grant along with donations of materials and
Designing the restoration of Seabeck Creek,
$86,000: Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Group will draft a plan to
replace a pipe that carries Seabeck Creek under Seabeck-Holly Road.
The plan will include the addition of root wads in that location
and near Hite Center Road. The stream is used by steelhead, coho
and cutthroat trout.
Designing the restoration of the Duckabush River
estuary, $67,000: Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Group will
complete a feasibility study to remove the Highway 101 causeway,
allowing reconnection of the floodplain and wetlands along the
Duckabush River. The project would improve tidal exchange and
sediment transport. Built in 1934, the causeway separates the upper
estuary from distributary channels of the Duckabush River and
causes sediment to build up in the northern channel. The salmon
enhancement group will contribute $236,000 in a grant from the
state Estuary and Salmon Restoration Program.
Designing the restoration of the lower Big Quilcene
River, $300,000: Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Group will
develop a plan to restore the lower Big Quilcene River by
reconnecting the river with its floodplain and tidal channels. The
effort will include public involvement and three-dimensional
water-flow modeling. The enhancement group will contribute $53,000
in cash and a federal grant.
Investigating steelhead mortality at the Hood Canal
bridge, $688,000: Long Live the Kings will assess the
cause of juvenile steelhead dying at the Hood Canal bridge. The
investigation will assess water circulation around the bridge
pontoons that could affect fish behavior. Investigators will look
for predator hiding places as well as light and noise that could
affect behavior. Potential management actions will be proposed.
Long Live the Kings will contribute $154,000 in donations of
equipment and labor.
Summer chum use of shoreline, $396,000: Wild
Fish Conservancy will assess nearshore habitat and study how Hood
Canal summer chum use the shoreline. The findings will help
establish priorities for shoreline protection and restoration. The
conservancy will contribute $72,000 in labor.
Reconnecting Weaver Creek, $200,000: A new
750-foot channel will connect a stagnant portion of Weaver Creek to
the free-flowing Purdy Creek, and about 25 logs will be installed.
In addition to improved flows, the project will boost oxygen levels
in the stream. The sponsor, Mason Conservation District, will
contribute $153,000 from a separate federal grant.
South Fork Logjams, $225,000: Twenty-two
man-made logjams will be added to the Holman Flats area in the
South Fork of the Skokomish River to create salmon habitat, reduce
sediment flows and stabilize the stream channel. This area was once
cleared for a reservoir that was never built, resulting in excess
sediment that destroys salmon spawning beds. The sponsor, Mason
Conservation District, will contribute $469,000 from a separate
Logjam priorities in Upper South Fork,
$305,000: Mason Conservation District will study a 12-mile stretch
of the Upper South Fork of the Skokomish to develop a prioritized
list of the best places to install future logjams. Logjams are
designed to improve fish habitat, reduce sediment movement and
stabilize stream banks. The conservation district will contribute
$54,000 and labor.
Logjam designs for Skokomish, $265,000: Mason
Conservation District will work with landowners to select a design
for logjams on a 1.6-mile stretch of the Skokomish River that lacks
shoreline structure. The conservation district will contribute
$47,000 in donations of equipment.
Concepts for moving Skokomish Valley Road,
$363,000: Moving the road away from the South Fork of the Skokomish
River would allow for the removal of levees, restoration of the
river banks and reconnection of the river to about 60 acres of
floodplain. This project would investigate possible locations for a
new road as well as the possible addition of a meander to the river
channel and the removal or relocation of a bridge over Vance Creek.
The sponsor, Mason Conservation District, will contribute $64,000
from a separate federal grant.
“Time is like a flowing river, no water passes beneath your
feet twice, much like the river, moments never pass you by again,
so cherish every moment that life gives you and have a wonderful
New Year.” — Maya
“Year’s end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on,
with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us. Cheers to a
new year and another chance for us to get it right”.
— Oprah Winfrey
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the
things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off
the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds
in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” — Mark Twain?
“A New Year’s resolution is something that goes in one year and
out the other.” — Anonymous
“Life and death matters, yes. And the question of how to behave
in this world, how to go in the face of everything. Time is short
and the water is rising.” —
“Life was tough indeed and full of ups and down. May God give
you enough strength and stamina to bear the storms and rains with
courage. Happy New Year!” — New Year
wishes for brother
“The great miraculous bell of translucent ice is suspended in
mid-air… The bell can only be seen at the turning of the year, when
the days wind down into nothing, and get ready to march out again.
When you hear the bell, you feel a tug at your heart. It is your
immortal inspiration.” — Vera
Puget Sound Partnership is updating the Puget Sound Action
Agenda and encouraging people to get involved. An “Online
Open House,” which explains the Action Agenda step by step and
offers a survey, will be available until next Tuesday.
The 2016 Action Agenda — the next updated plan for restoring
Puget Sound — will be written with a more strategic approach than
ever before, according to PSP officials. “Near Term Actions” will
be designed to fulfill specific strategies for improving Puget
Sound. Funding needs will be identified.
Next year, the Action Agenda will cease to be a single document
updated every two years. Instead, a Long-Term Comprehensive Plan
will be updated every four to six years, while a two-year
Implementation Plan will include the prioritized list of Near Term
One might wonder why the Puget Sound Partnership needs to keep
updating the Action Agenda every two years, but it seems like a
good time to review what restoration projects have been
accomplished and what work should be done next. I can attest that
each Action Agenda has gotten better since the first one seven
years ago. I expect that the next one will be another
Treaties signed 160 years ago guarantee Native Americans the
right to take fish from Puget Sound for all time. A case now before
the courts will help determine whether those same treaty rights
place limits on how property is developed in the state of
Specifically, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals last week heard
arguments about whether the state of Washington violated the
treaties by building culverts that block or restrict the passage of
salmon. (Check out the video for the oral arguments.) If the
appeals court upholds a ruling by U.S. District Judge Ricardo
Martinez, the state could be obligated to fix about 1,000 culverts
within 17 years at an estimated cost of $1.9 billion, according to
state officials. That’s 1.9 billion with a “b.”
In landmark rulings in 1975 and 1976, U.S. District Judge George
Boldt focused on treaty language that called for Indians and
non-Indians to fish “in common” with each other. Boldt determined
those words to mean that the two groups must share the
“harvestable” amount of fish equally. He recognized that a portion
of the fish must survive the gauntlet of fisheries to spawn and
produce more fish.
Boldt also acknowledged that this perpetual fishing right would
have no meaning for the tribes if state actions, such as ongoing
development activities, caused the salmon to go extinct. The
question that must be determined for now and into the future is
what specific “duty” the treaty has imposed on federal, state and
local governments to protect the environment in their ongoing
settlement of the Northwest.
As the tribes argue in their brief before the appeals court:
“The parties intended the treaties to secure the tribes’ ability
to forever sustain themselves by fishing…. Today, empty streams and
empty nets belie that promise. Salmon runs have plummeted; many are
locally extirpated or completely extinct. Tribes cannot meet their
needs for fish.
“Despite ancient tribal and Anglo-American traditions barring
obstructions to fish passage, more than 1,100 state culverts block
salmon from 1,000 miles of case-area streams. Above those culverts
lie almost 5 million square meters of salmon habitat, capable of
producing hundreds of thousands more harvestable adult fish each
“The (district) court could only decide as it did: State
culverts that seal salmon out of the streams they need to survive
and multiply are inconsistent with the purpose and promise of the
treaties. This decision is but one small step further on a
century-long path of Supreme Court and Ninth Circuit cases holding
that the ‘right of taking fish’ prohibits all manner of obstacles
to the exercise of that right, without requiring that each obstacle
be enumerated in treaty text.”
In Friday’s hearing, state Solicitor General Noah Purcell argued
strongly on behalf of the state that the lower court ruling, if
upheld, essentially creates a new treaty right to control
development on nontribal land. If the appeals court fails to
overturn the district court’s findings, he said, there would be no
limit to future litigation. The tribes could assert a treaty right
to remove any obstruction that hinders salmon migration — including
dams — and to block any future development that could impede salmon
“On its face,” Purcell argues in his brief, “the right of taking
fish in common with all citizens does not include a right to
prevent the state from making land-use decisions that could
incidentally impact fish. Rather, such an interpretation is
contrary to the treaties’ principal purpose of opening up the
region to settlement.”
The state does not deny that culverts have affected salmon runs,
Purcell said. In fact, the state has spent millions of dollars on
salmon restoration, with special consideration for culverts. But
allowing a judge to require the state to spend money on culvert
removal has powerful legal implications.
The state currently is involved in a major restoration of the
Puget Sound ecosystem, including an enormous effort to restore
salmon streams. Directing money toward culvert removal could
displace projects with greater promise for salmon restoration, he
Martinez was not ignorant of the salmon-restoration efforts but
said the current pace of culvert-removal was too slow. Experts in
his courtroom convinced the judge that it would take more than 100
years to solve the problem at the state’s pace of culvert
replacement. After his ruling, the state picked up the pace of
culvert replacement, and the Department of Transportation has
dedicated special funding to get the work done. But meeting the
court’s deadline remains a big challenge.
It seems a little ironic that the U.S. government, which signed
the treaties with the tribes, has built many dams and roads of its
own that block salmon passage. Yet the U.S. government is a party,
alongside the tribes, in the case against Washington state. The
U.S. role in this case is simply as a trustee for the tribes,
attorneys say, and the tribes still have the right to sue the
federal government as well.
Purcell argued that if the court does decide that the tribes
have a treaty right that forces the state to remove the culverts,
then the federal government should be required to help pay those
costs. After all, most of the culverts were installed according to
designs approved by the Federal Highway Administration, he
The three-judge panel did not appear receptive to the state’s
counter-suit against the U.S. government in this case. That issue
might be more suitable for the Court of Federal Claims, one judge
John Sledd, attorney for the tribes, pointed out that state and
federal laws have long prohibited anyone from blocking streams. One
can build the road system as needed for development without
blocking the passage of fish, he said.
One member of the three-judge panel was Judge David Ezra, who
has presided over lawsuits involving federal dams on the Snake
River. Ezra asked pointed questions about how far the legal
principles might go in correcting environmental mistakes of the
According to Sledd, the notion that Martinez’ decision could
lead to all sorts of mandated restoration efforts or restrictions
on future development has been overstated.
“This is the first injunction that has come up through this
theory in 45 years that it has been pending in U.S. v. Washington,”
he said. “I don’t think the tribes are jumping to leap on every
little problem out there. This is a major problem. It’s described
by the biologists as the number-one priority after protecting
Still, the case is raising concerns from the state of Oregon as
well as the Washington State Association of Counties. In a
friend-of-the-court brief, WSAC said the litigation may not only be
costly to the state, “but, if upheld, the tribes could next sue the
counties, which could result in Washington taxpayers having to
provide another billion dollars or more to fix county
Specialized cameras, growing ever smaller as the technology
advances, allows people to see the world as animals do, swimming to
unique underwater environments, flying over craggy mountains or
traipsing across ice-covered landscapes.
Small unmanned vehicles make it easy go many places, but they
cannot replicate the behaviors and activities of wild animals.
The first video on this page shows a turtle swimming through the
Great Barrier Reef. The video, posted in June, supports a project
monitoring pollution across the reef. World Wildlife Fund is
working with several groups and individuals on the project.
Another amusing turtle video, titled simply TORTUCAM GOPRO HD HERO, shows a
turtle walking across someone’s yard and jumping into a swimming
pool. The turtle has her own pond with plants and other turtles,
and the pool is chlorine free, advises the poster,
Far from the calm environment of the Great Barrier Reef or a
family’s backyard is what we can see from a camera-equipped radio
collar mounted on a polar bear in Alaska’s Beaufort Sea. Check out
the second video on this page.
This research project took place in April of last year by
researchers with the U.S. Geological Survey. The video uses
technology developed by videographer Adam Ravetch with support from
the World Wildlife Fund.
Said to be the first camera ever mounted on a free-ranging polar
bear on Arctic sea ice, the video shows the female bear swimming,
trying to eat a frozen seal carcass and interacting with a
potential mate. The research could help scientists understand how
polar bears respond to declining sea ice.
One can find many videos resulting from cameras mounted on
birds. One of my favorites involves an eagle flying through the
French Alps, shown in the third video player on this page. For more
of this kind, including a record-breaking flight in Dubai, visit
the YouTube channel
for Freedom, a conservation group.
An odd little fish that attaches tightly to rocks could play a
role in developing underwater suction cups that won’t let go even
under the harshest conditions. I found the video amusing, but there
is a serious side to this discussion as well.
University of Washington scientists studying biological
attachment say the northern clingfish can hold up to 150 times its
own weight, thanks to a growth on its underside that works like a
suction cup. Unlike a standard suction cup, however, the
clingfish’s sucker works even better on rough surfaces. The
researchers are just beginning to imagine the possible applications
One idea is to develop a super suction cup that could attach a
satellite transmitter to a killer whale or other marine mammal. The
current method for long-term attachment is to use a sharp barb to
penetrate the skin. Standard suction cups are commonly used for
short-term monitoring with small instruments, but they tend to fall
Suction-cup attachments could be developed for laparoscopic
surgery, allowing doctors to move organs around without risk of
puncture. Other applications could be anywhere a temporary tight
bond is needed under wet conditions, such as the wall of a shower
or swimming pool.
“Northern clingfish’s attachment abilities are very desirable
for technical applications, and this fish can provide an excellent
model for strongly and reversibly attaching to rough, fouled
surfaces in wet environments,” said Petra Ditsche, a postdoctoral
researcher working with Adam Summers and
his team at Friday Harbor Labs in the San Juan Islands. (See
UW news release.)
In April, Ditsche found an interested audience at a meeting of
Adhesive and Sealant Council, which studies, promotes and
markets various forms of attachment.
So how are clingfish able to hold on so tightly? The secret lies
in the tiny hairlike structures called microvilli formed in layers
around the suction-cup growth on their bellies. The microvilli help
form a tight seal on rough surfaces, and they flex to maintain the
seal even when wiggled back and forth. A standard rubber or plastic
suction cup can rapidly lose its seal from distortion or movement,
which allows air or water to seep underneath.
For a detailed discussion about biological attachment of all
sorts, check out a paper by Ditsche and Summers called “Aquatic
versus terrestrial attachment: Water makes a difference” in the
Journal of Nanotechnology.
About 110 species of clingfish have been identified, and the
northern clingfish is found from Mexico to Alaska.