Tag Archives: Puget Sound Science Panel

Puget Sound Science Panel completes two-year plan

I wonder if anyone has noticed that I’ve been away from this Water Ways blog for a time. Aside from visiting my youngest daughter in Yakima, where she had her first baby, I’ve been occupied with breaking news for the Kitsap Sun.

There is no shortage of things to talk about, however, and I’d like to start with the recently approved two-year Science Work Plan for the Puget Sound Partnership.

Joe Gaydos

In developing a plan to investigate science-related questions, the Partnership’s Science Panel set out to identify weaknesses in our overall understanding of the Puget Sound ecosystem. The panel chose to be strategic about filling the gaps in our knowledge.

“We want to know everything, of course,” chairman Joe Gaydos told me. “But just because there’s a gap in our knowledge does not mean we should go out and do a study.

“The real question is, where does the lack of science hinder our ability to make decisions? We’re not just doing science for science’s sake but to help us make better decisions.”

Continue reading

‘Puget Sound Science Update’ takes new form

If science is to guide the Puget Sound Partnership in its quest to restore Puget Sound, then a new online version of the “Puget Sound Science Update” promises to become a powerful spotlight pointing the way.

The printed version of this new Update, released Monday, is more than 700 pages long. The Update engages in a solid discussion about the state of the science in Puget Sound, But the initial version is just a beginning of what the Puget Sound Science Panel hopes it will become, according to Joe Gaydos, vice chairman of the panel.

“I feel like it is a really great start,” Joe told me. “Once we get everything in there, it is really going to be amazing.”

Puget Sound and its major rivers
Source: Puget Sound Science Update

The goal is to provide a central source of all information relevant to the Puget Sound ecosystem, including human connections and guidance for restoration. This is where both old and new research can be cited, discussed and made relevant to decisions regarding Puget Sound.

Joe, a veterinarian and regional director of The SeaDoc Society, discussed how the basic findings could be enhanced with links directly to research reports, academic discussions, newspaper and magazine articles and even descriptions written for elementary school children.

If successful, the Update will become — or be connected with — a living encyclopedia of all things related to Puget Sound. The structure of the website, developed by both policy and science advisers, looks something like Wikipedia — but Gaydos expects it to evolve. An editor will help ensure that information meets a certain level of scientific credibility.

From the document:

Continue reading

Puget Sound restoration is an adventure in science

It appears the Puget Sound Partnership will remain busy the rest of the year with a variety of critical activities, many of them mandated by state law.

I reported on last week’s meeting of the Leadership Council in a story published in Saturday’s Kitsap Sun. The meeting focused on approving a new Strategic Science Plan (PDF 11.8 mb) and efforts to identify indicators for measuring progress toward restoring Puget Sound. Helping write upcoming budgets for the state’s natural resource agencies and crafting new legislation will occupy significant time.

One of the interesting discussions about indicators was the question of whether jellyfish or herring should be used as an indicator of ecosystem health. Herring were said to be a broader measure, since they are eaten by far more species than jellyfish. At the same time, changes in herring population are harder to relate to a specific cause. The balance could be tipped toward herring, since so much historical data are available.

The council reviewed a new organizational structure (PDF 2.8 mb), which puts science squarely into the picture. There was a general agreement that vacant positions on the science staff need to be filled as soon as possible. Especially important is the science program director, who will direct day-to-day work at the partnership, and the natural resource scientist, who is seen as a liaison with the broader scientific community. Another important post is the oil spill research analyst, which is also vacant.

Jan Newton, a member of the Puget Sound Science Panel, made an impression on me when she pointed out how unique a place Puget Sound is.

“It’s not Chesapeake Bay; it’s not the Gulf,” Jan said. “We’re dealing with population change. We’re not on a static playing field. We need to recognize that.”

Puget Sound Partnership must not be limited by studies that have been done in the past. The organization has the horsepower to call for new research in its quest to figure out how the ecosystem really works.

After hearing Jan’s talk, I turned to the chapter in the Strategic Science Plan called “Puget Sound: Unique Ecosystem, Unique Community,” where I found this instructive language:

“Puget Sound is the second largest estuary in the United States, with over 3,000 kilometers of shoreline. Carved by retreating glaciers at the end of the last ice age 11,000-15,000 years ago, the fjord-like geomorphology of Puget Sound is somewhat unique in the United States. Most estuaries in this country are coastal plain or drowned river estuaries, lacking significant restrictions to the coastal ocean and lacking the great depths and strong tidal currents well known in Puget Sound. The average depth of Puget Sound is 62 meters with a maximum depth of 280 meters.” (Compare that to Chesapeake Bay in the charts below.)

Continue reading

“State of the Sound” report falls short of expectations

The first “State of the Sound” report issued by the Puget Sound Partnership was announced yesterday with practically no fanfare.

I recall that the Partnership’s predecessor group, the Puget Sound Action Team, used to make a big deal out of these ecosystem reports. Frankly, I had expected a major rollout, like that of the Puget Sound Action Agenda — until I read through the document and began to ask questions.

David Dicks, executive director of the Puget Sound Partnership, told me the report was a “hybrid version.” Before the next formal report is due in two years, he hopes to provide more meaningful ecosystem-condition reports through a Web site.

The Partnership’s Science Panel called the report a “transitional” document between descriptions of ecosystem conditions in past “State of the Sound” reports and a new “ecosystem-reporting framework” being developed for the Puget Sound Partnership.

Kathy Fletcher, executive director of People for Puget Sound, said the document is not what the Legislature envisioned when it laid out reporting requirements for the Partnership. Without better indicators, benchmarks and long-term goals, nobody knows if the Partnership is on track to restore Puget Sound to a healthy condition by 2020, she said.

Fletcher has a unique perspective on this process. Besides heading an environmental organization, she serves on the Partnership’s Ecosystem Coordination Board. She also was the first executive director of the original Puget Sound panel — called the Puget Sound Water Quality Authory (1983).

I won’t linger on this new report, as I expect more useful information to be forthcoming in the next few months. Read my story in today’s Kitsap Sun, or download the report from the Puget Sound Partnership.

If you download the report, you may wish to read about the Performance Management System being developed, which is described in some detail, as well as a description of funding issues. Those and a few other details are new additions to the “State of the Sound.”

Because the Partnership is relying heavily on its Science Panel to develop a system to measure changes in the ecosystem, I’ll highlight a few of the problems, which the panel describes in its section of the report:
Continue reading