Puget sound phytoplankton counts – May 2012

Jack Rensel reports that diatoms are dominant in North/Central Puget Sound today, including Chaetoceros (Hyalochaete spp.), Thalassiosira, Nitzchia spp. Near Port Angeles Randy Hodgin reports relatively clear water with naturally low dissolved oxygen, following a Thalassiosira bloom a few days ago when dissolved oxygen was supersaturated. The MODIS satellite image provided by Brandon Sackmann (Ecology) below shows relatively low chlorophyll concentrations overall, save an increase associated with the Fraser River plume (that could be turbidity related too) that was pointing due south at the time of the image recording. Continue reading Puget sound phytoplankton counts – May 2012

Cetacean Endangerment

The cetaceans, being quite large marine organisms, are often the subject of avid protection from the general public, environmental organizations, and governments. With television shows such as “Whale Wars” and movies such as “The Cove,” human impacts on cetacean populations have been increasingly under the spotlight. Human activity, through direct fishing, entanglement in fishing gear, and harvesting for entertainment, has brought various cetacean populations to levels that are of concern to biologists. Gray Whale (Eschrichtius robustus) Although whale “hunts” continue among Native North Americans and by Scandinavian countries, the most controversial example is the “Scientific Research” based takes by the … Continue reading Cetacean Endangerment

Are Whales Smarter Than Humans?

During our visit to the Whale Museum, I was a little surprised to come across a display case containing preserved brains and fetuses of various organisms. The display allowed us to directly make comparisons between the brains, and it was easy to see that the brain of the fin whale was larger than that of a dolphin, which in turn was larger than that of a human being. Brains and a fetus on display at the Whale Museum The relative sizes of these brains struck me as being significant because it brings into question the claim that humankind holds, of … Continue reading Are Whales Smarter Than Humans?

A Quick and Dirty History of PCBs in the United States

For many decades in the United States, the ocean was seen as the ultimate wastebasket, where all of our wastes could be diluted and forgotten. Not for long, however, could these wastes be forgotten: Today, in the words of the magnificent Susan Thistle, we recognize pollution as one of the top two environmental problems in the world (the other being ). Thus, in this week’s fateful trip to the Whale Museum, as tempted as I was by preserved porpoise fetuses and whale parasites, it was the colorful diagram at the end describing pollution by polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, that caught … Continue reading A Quick and Dirty History of PCBs in the United States

Lolita: the long lost L pod member

It was a dark and chilly night on August 8, 1970 in the Puget Sound near Whidbey Island. The orcas of L-pod were gracefully swimming along in the thick of the night, just like any other night. A young calf around the age of three named Tokitae was traveling alongside her mother Ocean Sun, also known as L25.  But then suddenly out of the darkness speed boats with bombs came swooping in to mark one of the largest whale captures in history. The captors attempted to herd the pod together, but the pod quickly split into two groups in an … Continue reading Lolita: the long lost L pod member

Summary of False Bay

There are three essential items needed for a late night excursion to False Bay: rubber boots, headlamp, and a tolerant nose. When I first walked out onto the mudflat, I was completely surprised at how extensive the mudflat was. I had no idea that practically the entire bay could become a mudflat shallow enough to walk on. I also learned that the odd smell wafting from the mudflat was coming from seaweed. Because of the diversity within the bay, it was set aside as a preserve and the public is only allowed on the mudflat as long as they do … Continue reading Summary of False Bay