What’s Washed In — July 28

Hope all of you are enjoy­ing the last week of July! Thanks so much for send­ing in all of your great pho­tos and datasheets. We’ve had a fun few weeks, train­ing new vol­un­teers and catch­ing up with cur­rent COASSTers in Cres­cent City (CA), Ban­don (OR), and Coupeville (WA). This week, we’re start­ing sum­mer check-ins.  If you have any datasheets lying around or if you need any sup­plies at all, please let us know.  We’re always happy to help!

Let’s take a look at what’s washed in recently:

A copyBill: 16 mm, Wing: 13 cm, Tar­sus: 18 mm

Peter and Helen found this on Haskin Beach on the North Coast of Wash­ing­ton on June 3rd.

Cal­i­for­nia COASSTers don’t jump too fast on this one! 3-webbed toe, no hind toe – and from the gen­eral size, looks like a juve­nile Com­mon Muurre, except that’s not just bright light­ing – the foot is pale.

West Coast Beached Birds: on AL1, select wc<15cm, bill color dark – Mar­bled Mur­relet (AL14) is the only one with dark sec­ondary tips on fully-grown wings (pri­maries extend much far­ther than secondaries)

Alaska Beached Birds: on AL1, select wc<15cm, move to AL2, select dark bill. Here we’re left with Mar­bled Mur­relet (AL17) of Kittlitz’s Mur­relet (AL19) – bill and tar­sus are too long for a Kittlitz’s – Mar­bled Mur­relet, that’s correct!

BBill: 54 mm, Wing: 44 cm, Tar­sus: 67 mm

Randy and Jim found this bird on Churchrock Beach on the Chukchi Sea in Alaska on June 21st. This gull has not “been through the wash too many times” — it’s a species with unique plumage, and rare for West Coast COASSTers (you guys can sit out on this one).

Alaska Beached Birds wing key (‘cause the foot is hid­den): Select upper­wing white-to-nearly-white, and with a wing chord of 44 cm, we have our match – Glau­cous Gull (LA10), a subadult since the bill tip is dark.

C2 copyBill: 50 mm

Can­dace really pulled out the fine-tooth comb on this bird found on Otter Point in Ore­gon on July 1st. With just a bill, we’re a lit­tle on our own with iden­ti­fi­ca­tion. No wor­ries! We’ve got this!

Luck­ily, don’t have to turn too far to find the first match – dark bill, straight, 50mm. We’re left with Com­mon Murre (wc: AL2, ak: AL3), Pacific Loon (LO2), Red-throated Loon (wc: LO6, ak: LO4), Amer­i­can Crow (wc: PE2) or Com­mon Raven (ak: LB4). Bill depth (per­pen­dic­u­lar mea­sure­ment from upper to lower bill) removes crows and ravens from the run­ning. Between the Com­mon Murre and the two small loons, look at the place­ment of the nos­tril – for mur­res, the nos­tril is under the “V” of feath­ers, for the small loons it’s at the point of the “V,” or slightly above. Good work – Com­mon Murre, adult, breed­ing plumage.large debrisThis huge marine debris item was found on March 10th by LoAnne on Wash­away Beach. This piece is extremely weath­ered and multi col­ored. Char­ac­ter­is­tics like these are clues to how long marine debris had been in the water and where pieces may have come from.

balloonOn July 19th, Hillary led the interns and stu­dents from a marine biol­ogy class on a field trip to Ocean Shores. Their marine debris sur­veys doc­u­mented plenty of last­ing evi­dence from 4th of July cel­e­bra­tions, includ­ing the rem­nants of this para­chute fire­work. A dou­ble whammy for poten­tial harm to wildlife: this object is red which may attract some birds more than other debris, and it has sev­eral small loops which pose a risk of entanglement.

Skate eggs How cool is this mermaid’s purse?! No, we’re not kid­ding, this really is called a mer­maid purse. These skate eggs were found by Jan­ice at Ore­gon Mile Marker 309. Although they some­times wash ashore, skate eggs belong in the water on the sea floor, where they grow and even­tu­ally hatch. The eggs are cov­ered a sack to pro­tect them from preda­tors. Hun­dreds of skate species have been iden­ti­fied and their egg sacks can be dis­tin­guished by size, length, and color. Eggs can range in size but are typ­i­cally found to be very small, only a few cm in length.

What’s Washed In — July 9, 2014

It’s been a busy week at the COASST office, with juve­nile com­mon murre wreck reports in two Hum­boldt loca­tions and lots of data com­ing in! If you hap­pen to see 10 or more beached birds of the same species on your sur­vey, check out Part 4 of the COASST Pro­to­col and let us know if you have any ques­tions about wrecks! We’re happy to help.

This week­end we have another low tide series, which means it’s a great time to head out for another sea star sur­vey or your very first, if you haven’t tried the sea star pro­to­col yet. More than 18 species of sea stars in the Pacific North­west are exhibit­ing signs of Sea Star Wast­ing Dis­ease, and we could really use your help to mon­i­tor sea stars on COASST beaches. Thank you again to those of you who have con­tributed thus far.  There is no way we could mon­i­tor such a large geo­graphic area with­out your help.

We’ve had quite a few inter­est­ing finds on COASST beaches recently, includ­ing what we call a one-in-a-million bird! What does that mean? Let’s take a look at what’s washed in and find out!AWe haven’t seen a flood of this species hit the beaches like what we saw in the sum­mer of 2011 and 2012. Still, Brenda and Bill spot­ted one – only mea­sur­able part left is the tar­sus. Let’s take a look, start­ing with the foot key (tar­sus = 53mm): Webbed, go to Q2; com­pletely webbed, go to Q3; 3-webbed, 4th minute (=tiny) go to Q6; thin toe or nail only go to Q7; heel is flat, go to Q8; with this tar­sus, we’re at Tubenose: petrels – stop!

On TN1, we can see that what’s left of the wings is larger than 20cm, so pro­ceed to True Petrels. Bill is thin, long and dark – one of the shear­wa­ters! With a 53mm tar­sus, we’re out­side the range of the Short-tailed Shear­wa­ter, and just barely in the range of the Pink-footed Shear­wa­ter. The PFSH has a pale bill base – well, Sooty Shear­wa­ter it is!

B_1

BJ and John found a one-in-a-million bird last week, not by species (we’ll get to that) – it was oiled AND entan­gled – only about a  .002% chance of that! Let’s get back to what it is – crack open the foot key again: Webbed, go to Q2; com­pletely webbed, go to Q3; 3-webbed, 4th minute (=tiny) go to Q6; thin toe or nail only go to Q7; but this time the heel is swollen: Lar­ids – stop! Hooked bill, mot­tled brown plumage, dark bill: we have our­selves a Large Imma­ture Gull, specif­i­cally a Glaucous-winged Gull, subadult.

CLook at the size of that fish! Joanna didn’t find any birds on her Ore­gon Mile 309 sur­vey, but she did spot this Yel­low­eye Rock­fish (aka Ras­p­head, Red Snap­per) on May 25. Yel­low­eye range from Prince William Sound, Alaska to Baja Cal­i­for­nia, Mex­ico, though in the mid­dle of their range, their pop­u­la­tion is low and declin­ing, which led to a ban on their take in Wash­ing­ton since 2003. In 2010, they were listed as Threat­ened under the Endan­gered Species Act prompt­ing a pro­posal of crit­i­cal habi­tat in the greater Puget Sound/Georgia Basin in 2013 for Yel­low­eye, and two other species: Canary Rock­fish, and Bocac­cio. Yel­low eyed rock fish can grow up to three feet in length. Yel­low­eye rock fish are red in color as juve­niles and very slowly progress to a dull yel­low. By very slowly, I really mean very slowly! These fish can live up to about 120 years!

KayakRopeWon­der­ing what’s hap­pen­ing with marine debris? COASST’s Exec­u­tive Direc­tor, Julia Par­rish, recently took a trip to Kayak Island, Alaska to test out the marine debris pro­to­col.  She was joined by Ellen Lance, Branch Chief for the Anchor­age USFWS Endan­gered Species Pro­gram, and they found a lot of BIG debris. On the smaller side was this rope. A cou­ple of key char­ac­ter­is­tics are the fact that it has many loops (a poten­tial entan­gle­ment haz­ard for wildlife) and it has goose­neck bar­na­cles on it (a sign that it has been in the water a long time and may have trav­eled a long dis­tance).  In this photo you can see our pro­to­type mea­sur­ing device/color bars used to deter­mine the size and color of debris objects, along with the famil­iar COASST ruler and chalkboard.

Thanks to all of you for your hard work! Happy COASSTing!

What’s Washed In — June 30, 2014

Hope every­one is enjoy­ing the first weeks of sum­mer. As usual, the COASST office is bustling with activ­ity — we have new sum­mer interns, we’re get­ting ready for three beached bird train­ings in July, the marine debris pro­gram devel­op­ment is pro­gress­ing, and we’re now col­lect­ing data on sea stars (see below)! Just a heads up for those of you along the Cal­i­for­nia, Ore­gon, and Wash­ing­ton coast, Brown Pel­i­cans are headed north ear­lier this year. In some years, we’ve seen big spikes of murre chicks around coastal colonies due to Pel­i­can dis­tur­bance — be pre­pared, espe­cially if you sur­vey between New­port and Otter Crest in Ore­gon North.

Let’s take a look at what’s washed in!

A.Wing chord = 41mm

Ack! Just a wing! But no fear here: if you have the wing key, turn there (that’s what Janet and Carol did), or turn to the wing table!

Alaska wing key: Pale, but not white, so select gray (go to Q25). And hey! There’s not much else going on here: no mot­tled stripe, no dark pri­mary or sec­ondary tips, no bicol­ored pri­maries, and the pri­mary tips aren’t white, they’re still gray. Look close – can you see the tiny white “fin­ger­nail”? This has to be a Glaucous-winged Gull (LA6-7).

West Coast wing key: Gray man­tle, some species with dark tips and/or dark stripes (look­ing pretty plain here, but still, go to Q10). If upper­wing gray, do wingtips con­trast? Nope, not that we can see. Check out the longest pri­mary – at least one white fin­ger­nail there, so we’re left with Glaucous-winged Gull (LA7-8).

Wing table: With our wing chord, we’ll zero in on the “Extra Large” row. Upper­wing isn’t dark (those near black hues), it’s gray – turn the page or scan across. Sim­ply gray or gray with white lin­ings or gray with black tips? Well, we can elim­i­nate black tips. We’re left with Heermann’s Gull (LA21-22) or Glaucous-winged Gull (LA7-8).  Our wing chord is too large for Heermann’s – Glaucous-winged Gull, final answer.

BBill: 44mm, Wing: 20cm, Tar­sus: 41mm

Sure, this didn’t JUST come in, but we pulled this one to show Chris’ detec­tive work started with FINDING the bird, even before the ID. A fine exam­ple of a bird hid­den (not even buried!) in wrack.

All regions: Foot — let’s start there. Three webbed toes and no tiny “minute” toe behind – Alba­tross or Alcids, but the foot is WAY too small for an albie.  Flip to Alcids, AL1. Bill is dark, smooth and fea­ture­less – mur­res or guille­mots. No white upper­wing patch – not a guille­mot and bill is too big for a Thick-billed Murre (a rarer-than-rare option in Puget Sound, but still). Con­grats – COMU (AK: AL3-4 West Coast: AL2-3).

CaCbWing chord = 26.5 cm

Gin­ger fig­ured this out! Flip back to the wing key or wing table.

Alaska wing key: Sec­on­daries darker than man­tle, so select dark specu­lum (go to Q17). No patches here (go to Q24). There it is: buffy stripe above and white below specu­lum. The wing chord is larger than 19cm, so we have a North­ern Pin­tail (rare, not in the AK COASST guide).

West Coast wing key: Dark sec­on­daries, go to Q18. Tan stripe above and white stripe below specu­lum. Def­i­nitely larger than a Green-winged Teal – good work — North­ern Pin­tail (WF9-10)!

Wing table: Smack in the mid­dle of “Med-Lg,” and we’ll scroll across to patch/speculum. We have few to con­sider! NOPI (WF9-10), MALL (WF11-12), WWSC (WF 3–4), KIEI-m (WF21-22). Let’s start from the bot­tom and work our way up! KIEI  male – white under­wing – ours is mostly gray. All  white sec­on­daries, a la WWSC? Nope. Mal­lard has a purple/blue specu­lum bor­dered by white – not quite. Only one has a “green­ish brown” specu­lum – that’s the North­ern Pin­tail (WF9-10).

D

 

Bill: 74mm, Wing: 30cm, Tar­sus: 69mm

Melissa notes, “dark brown, belly tan mot­tling.” Let’s go back to the foot key.

All regions: Webbed foot (go to Q2), fully webbed (go to Q3), 4 toes, all webbed, Pouch­bills (PB1). On PB1 we note: NOT a Pel­i­can (wing chord less than 35cm). In Alaska, we can get straight there: tan (or at least not dark) chin. West Coast COASSTers, fol­low through to pages PB2, PB4, and PB6 to check the mea­sure­ments of all three cor­morants. A bill of 74mm is too big for a Pelagic or Double-crested Cor­morant – this is a Brandt’s Cor­morant (AK: rare, West Coast: PB2-3).

 

Dolliver_Jane 21014float Here’s a buoy that the marine debris team found recently. If you take a close look, you can see the curved pecks from bird bites. Pilot sur­veys con­ducted by Marine Debris interns seem to be show­ing a pat­tern that’s con­sis­tent with research con­ducted by Ger­hard Cadee in the Nether­lands. In Cadee’s research, he found bird bite marks on 80% of the foam marine debris he tested! The COASST Marine Debris mod­ule will help us under­stand the degree that birds inter­act with debris objects.

CCallen6-16-14 0043A big THANK YOU to all of you who are help­ing to col­lect sea star data.  Here’s a photo sent in by Can­dace, show­ing sea star wast­ing dis­ease in ochre sea stars. Sea star wast­ing dis­ease is cur­rently impact­ing upwards of 18 species of sea stars through­out the Pacific Coast.

COASST is work­ing with Pro­fes­sor Drew Harvell at Cor­nell Uni­ver­sity to doc­u­ment sea star wast­ing dis­ease using a sim­ple pro­to­col. If you live near a coastal area with cob­ble, rocky bench, or tide pool coastal sites, we’d love your help with this impor­tant, time sen­si­tive project. The pro­to­col and data sheet can both be found on the COASST web­site in the vol­un­teer tool­box.

Lucky Duck #245

Over spring break, marine debris stu­dent intern, Abby, spent the day hunt­ing for pet­ro­glyphs and marine debris on the three-mile stretch of beach from Cape Alava to Sand Point.

By far the most inter­est­ing find was a weath­ered blue plas­tic duck, found among some sea­weed in the wrack, with a large sharpie-marked “#245” on the bot­tom of it. Abby guessed it might have been a part of some project, so she brought it back to the COASST office to inves­ti­gate. 

Blue Duck Profile

Maybe #245 is its race number and this little guy made it a lot farther than the finish line.

Was #245 its race num­ber and this guy made it a lot far­ther than the fin­ish line?

Cur­tis Ebbesmeyer, a local oceanog­ra­pher whose work revolves around mod­el­ing ocean cur­rents, pop­u­lar­ized the use of marine debris as a type of track­ing move­ment of water on the ocean sur­face. He got his start after a large ship­ment of 29,000 plas­tic “Friendly Floa­tees” bath toys were dumped into the Pacific Ocean in 1992 and for the next 15 years or so peo­ple were find­ing toys from this spe­cific spill wash­ing up on beaches all over the world.

Photo credit A. Larson. Another example of a beached duck. You won't find this guy in the COASST field guide.

Photo credit A. Lar­son. Another exam­ple of a beached duck, but you won’t find this guy in the COASST field guide!

Pick­ing up on this idea, schools, cities, and var­i­ous non-profit orga­ni­za­tions have taken to releas­ing batches of rub­ber ducks into streams and oceans, and rely­ing on help­ful beach­combers to report where and when they’re found. While COASST won’t be releas­ing any ducks or wood blocks (the slightly more eco-friendly ver­sion), future marine debris par­tic­i­pants will col­lect infor­ma­tion on where and when an object was found, mate­r­ial size, mark­ings and iden­tity to pro­vide insight into source and move­ment pat­terns for all debris.

As to the lit­tle blue duck? After some CSI sleuthing on Google we found a “vin­tage” duck of the same style for sale on Etsy. Heidi did men­tion the Annual Great Olympic Penin­sula Duck Derby, a good and local con­tender, but recent releases fea­ture clas­sic, yel­low ducks. Finally, a poten­tial match — could it be from the San Clemente (CA) Ocean Fes­ti­val, about 1,740 kilo­me­ters south of the spot Abby found it on the North Coast of Washington?

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New Footprints — Sophie Pierszalowski

Sophie Alaska

What oppor­tu­ni­ties await COASST Interns after grad­u­a­tion? This week, we had the oppor­tu­nity to catch up with Sophie Pier­sza­lowski (COASST Intern, 2008).

Since grad­u­at­ing with a B.S. in Biol­ogy and Aquatic and Fish­eries Sci­ence (2010), Sophie pur­sued work a marine mam­mal genet­ics lab at NOAA’s Alaska Fish­eries Sci­ence Cen­ter and con­ducted research on hump­back and fin whales with the Gulf of Alaska Apex Predator-Prey Project through the Uni­ver­sity of Alaska, Fairbanks.

After those two big breaks, she had another: dig­ging into a recently uncov­ered whal­ing catch log­book from Port Hobron, Alaska (SE side of Kodiak Island), start­ing in the 1920s. In addi­tion to that, what occu­pies all her time? “Analy­sis and writ­ing to fin­ish my MSc,” says Sophie, now with Ore­gon State University’s Marine Mam­mal Insti­tute, Depart­ment of Fish­eries and Wildlife.

Sophie’s research involves look­ing at Hum­back Whale genet­ics (who is related to who? is there lots of mix­ing? or are they all from the same “small town”?) pop­u­la­tion struc­ture (old ones? young ones? some middle-aged?) and feed­ing ecol­ogy (what do they eat? where do they eat?) in South­east Alaska, espe­cially whales in Glac­ier Bay National Park).

After she knocks off all that, we had a a feed­ing ecol­ogy ques­tion or our own: where will Sophie be next? Chow­ing on fresh-caught seafood in Kodiak Alaska? Unwrap­ping an energy bar at a trail­head in the Cas­cades?  Wher­ever she for­ages, we hope she stops by to nib­ble off the  COASST office brownie plate soon!

What’s Washed In

Hope that you’re all enjoy­ing Spring! We’ve had a lot of inter­est­ing pho­tos in our inbox, includ­ing some iconic species. Here’s a look at what’s washed!

MalelN 2014 SUSC 778bCalifornia-to-Washington: Look at that bright red/orange foot! Front toes are webbed, hind toe is lobed: Water­fowl: Div­ing Ducks. All dark wing and no white plumage — Surf Scoter or Black Scoter. (In the Alaska Guide, with­out a head, we’ll turn to the Wing Key… see below) For the Black Scoter, the last pri­mary is much shorter — not the case here — “nor­mal” wing with the last pri­mary longest — SUSC! (Found by Sara and Peter, Hum­boldt, California)

Alaska: Dark upper­wing (trust us on this). Upper­wing sim­ply dark, and under­wing lin­ings not white. Wing chord is 24cm, and wing is “sim­ply dark” no out­er­cuts, inner­cuts, smudges, bright pri­maries or short outer pri­maries. NOW we can use the foot. Har­le­quin Duck, shear­wa­ters, North­ern Ful­mar, Black Oys­ter­catcher, Surf Scoter  — only one with a redish foot — SUSC!

Wa-atch 2014 0327b

All regions: Okay! This one is cer­tainly rec­og­niz­able, but let’s go through the steps to ver­ify our answer: four free toes, 3 in front and 1 in back. No toes fused, and the tar­sus is less than 150 mm. We def­i­nitely have claws here (= nails as long as toes = talons)! The bare tar­sus tells us that this is a rap­tor (as opposed to an owl) — a Bald Eagle. (found by Paul and Sally, North Coast, Washington)

OcnPrkSth 2014 0409 DUNL 079 a

OcnPrkSth 2014 0409 DUNL 079 b
All regions: This is a great exam­ple of coun­ter­shad­ing (dark on back, light on tummy).  Look­ing closely at this tiny wing: white stripe along the man­tle edge when the wing is out­stretched and the inner­most sec­on­daries are pre­dom­i­nantly white. With a wing chord of 12 cm, this is a Dun­lin (rare in Alaska). The long (39 mm), droopy-tipped bill sep­a­rate this DUNL from two other com­mon shore­birds: Sander­ling and West­ern Sand­piper. (found by Paul and Janet, South Coast, Washington)

Sea Star Hatchlings

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Burt’s photo from Feiro Marine Life Cen­ter (Six-rayed Sea Star, Lep­tas­te­rias hexactis)

Thanks, Burt (Kalaloch North and Kalaloch South) for shar­ing the photo of sea star “babies” at the Feiro Marine Life Cen­ter thanks also to Jody and Janis for their in-situ pho­tos from Ruby Beach (part of Olympic National Park). With both of these hit­ting our inbox at the same time, we won­dered, is this just coin­ci­dence? When do sea stars repro­duce in our coastal waters?

Janis and Jody’s photo from Ruby Beach (5-armed: Pur­ple Star, Leather Star, etc — check them out here: http://www.seastarsofthepacificnorthwest.info/species.html)

Sea Stars are part of the Phy­lum Echin­o­der­mata (lit­er­ally ”spiny-skinned” in Greek). Male and female sea stars (like Com­mon Mur­res, only THEY can tell the dif­fer­ence) release sperm and eggs directly into the water col­umn (April-July). The result­ing embryos become free-swimming lar­vae, and after sev­eral months meta­mor­phose and set­tle on sub­strate as tiny ver­sions of the sea stars we rec­og­nize. The sea stars in Burt and Jody and Janis’ pho­tos are set­tled plank­ton from last summer.

And why do we care? Why are sea stars so impor­tant? Well, we need not look far! Just knock on Dr. Bob Paine’s door, Uni­ver­sity of Wash­ing­ton Biol­ogy Pro­fes­sor Emer­i­tus. It’s through years of research on Tatoosh Island that Dr. Paine devel­oped the key­stone species hypoth­e­sis, a land­mark hypoth­e­sis in ecol­ogy and con­ser­va­tion that describes the impor­tance of (and result­ing impact from) preda­tor removal to all other species in an eco­log­i­cal com­mu­nity.  So while small, we’re well-served to pay atten­tion to these stars, now and in the future.

Learn more about Dr. Paine’s research, includ­ing what he sees as the most press­ing ques­tions to be answered by future gen­er­a­tions in his inter­view with Hillary, when she was a UW grad­u­ate student.

Adventures in Marine Debris

This win­ter, COASST marine debris stu­dent interns embarked on sev­eral field trips across Wash­ing­ton to develop and refine a pre­lim­i­nary pro­to­col for the new marine debris pro­gram. Interns this quar­ter included a photo team, Abby and Jes­sica, and a field team, Ange­line and Kaili.

Reports from the field:

A total of 14 beaches so far, from Decep­tion Pass to Ocean Shores! Dis­cov­ery Park was our first stop, to trial the small debris sur­vey meth­ods — lots of beach glass at both this site and Alki Beach.

 Interns Kaili and Abby survey for small marine debris at Discovery Park

Kaili (left) and Abby (right) use a 1 meter quadrat (i.e. square) to define the search area for small marine debris at Dis­cov­ery Park (Seattle).

Together with ser­vice learn­ing stu­dents Christie and Yi, we vis­ited Whid­bey Island beaches Ala spit, Penn Cove, Joseph Whid­bey State Park, Fort Casey, and Use­less Bay. The phys­i­cal dif­fer­ences between these five sites was quite sur­pris­ing (sub­strate, wood, wrack, bluff, dunes, expo­sure) given they’re all within a few kilo­me­ters of each other. Spe­cial thanks to COASSTers David and Can­dace, who ori­ented us to their beaches and shared some (much needed) chocolate!

Service learning student Christie paces the width of the beach.

Christie paces the width of the beach on a medium debris tran­sect at Penn Cove (Whidey Island).

From the Puget Sound, we ven­tured to Ocean Shores to check out North Jetty and South Tau­rus beaches. Super wide, sandy beaches made the marine debris sur­veys much slower than those in Puget Sound.

The fol­low­ing week we returned to Ocean Shores to sur­vey Damon Point and North Jetty to see if debris had shifted/accumulated/changed. We also vis­ited the annual Beach­combers’ Fun Fair where we saw Heidi (COASST staff), and other marine debris enthu­si­asts, Cur­tis Ebbesmeyer and Alan Ram­mer. The col­lec­tions and dis­plays at the fes­ti­val (that’s right, 44 exhibit cat­e­gories, includ­ing “assem­bled unadorned pieces of drift­wood”) helped us iden­tify many objects we’ve been see­ing in COASSTer pho­tos and on our beach surveys!

Out at Damon Point, we almost lost our small debris sur­vey­ors (and equip­ment!) to a rogue wave. For the rest of the trip, we trekked all the way around the perime­ter of Damon Point look­ing for par­tic­u­larly complex/interesting items to add to our marine debris teach­ing col­lec­tion. Where did we find the most stuff? At the very tip! (fingers/points/spits tend to snag debris and birds — just ask the folks at Ediz Hook or Dun­ge­ness Spit).

Dur­ing spring and sum­mer quar­ters, we’ll con­tinue to test and refine the marine debris mon­i­tor­ing pro­to­col, get­ting it ready for Prime Time!

Angeline, Abby and Kaili enjoy the view at South Jetty after a long day of marine debris monitoring.

Ange­line, Abby and Kaili (left to right) cel­e­brate on the north­ern edge of Gray Har­bor (Ocean Shores) after a long winter’s day of marine debris mon­i­tor­ing (shoes not required).

Using marine debris photos

Karen (left), Abby (middle), and COASST Data Verifier Charlie (far right), assess marine debris objects during a survey refinement session where we asked the question: do Karen, Abby and Charlie agree on the characteristics of each object?

Stu­dents Karen (left), Abby (mid­dle), and COASST staff mem­ber Char­lie (right), assess marine debris objects dur­ing a sur­vey refine­ment ses­sion where we asked the ques­tion: do Karen, Abby and Char­lie agree on the char­ac­ter­is­tics of each object?

Thanks to a recent award from the National Sci­ence Foun­da­tion Advanc­ing Infor­mal STEM Learn­ing (AISL), COASST is expand­ing to mon­i­tor marine debris. Since Decem­ber, we’ve assem­bled a team of stu­dent interns and staff ded­i­cated to devel­op­ing this new pro­gram lead by Marine Debris Pro­gram Coor­di­na­tor Hillary Burgess. What have they been up to? Cre­at­ing a sci­en­tific pro­to­col for mon­i­tor­ing debris that col­lects infor­ma­tion use­ful to the resource man­age­ment com­mu­nity AND is do-able by COASSTers.

Like the beached bird pro­gram, marine debris COASSTers will doc­u­ment basic beach and human use data (wood, wrack, humans, dogs and vehi­cles) and for this pro­gram, the quan­tity and char­ac­ter­is­tics of debris objects. These data link to how harm­ful debris are to wildlife and wildlife habi­tat, where debris comes from (some obvi­ous, some we haven’t thought much about), and the path debris take to get to the beach.

Thanks to the ded­i­cated effort of hun­dreds COASSTers, the marine debris team hit the ground run­ning and began ana­lyz­ing a data­base of over 6,000 marine debris pho­tos from about 200 beach sites in the Pacific North­west and Alaska. Photo team interns Jes­sica and Abby are inde­pen­dently assign­ing char­ac­ter­is­tics to debris objects — so far, they’ve reviewed nearly 900 pho­tos! Paus­ing along the way to com­pare results, ana­lyze sources of dis­agree­ment, and make adjust­ments accord­ingly, these pho­tos have been extremely valu­able in the cre­ation of the new survey.

Beyond pho­tos, we’ve also launched an expert panel to help deter­mine which types of char­ac­ter­is­tics should be included: bite marks? color? weath­ered? Although it may sound fairly straight­for­ward, marine debris comes in a seem­ingly infi­nite array of shapes, hues, mate­ri­als, and sizes — deal­ing with the chal­leng­ing vari­abil­ity has led to many hours of debate and discussion.

And lengthy dis­cus­sion does some­times lead to more light­hearted moments and philo­soph­i­cal con­sid­er­a­tion of debris. For instance, is the object a loop? Some objects have very small holes; other objects are rope/line tan­gled into a mas­sive ball of loops. And why do we care? Loops can be super dan­ger­ous to marine organ­isms, caus­ing entan­gle­ment and stran­gling, a threat espe­cially well doc­u­mented in North­ern Fur Seal pups. All this talk prompted Hillary to look up the actual def­i­n­i­tion of a loop online. We pon­dered: if the end is con­nected to the begin­ning, what is the begin­ning or the end?

Stay tuned for more updates from Hillary and marine debris pro­gram stu­dents — we’re rapidly mak­ing progress toward the 2015 launch of marine debris surveys!

What’s Washed In — March 10

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Sara and Peter at Mad River South (CA) just found this last week.  Let’s take a look at the feet. Webbed, com­pletely webbed, four webbed toes: Pouch­bills. Since the bill is less than 10 cm and the wing chord is less than 35 cm, we know we are look­ing at a Cor­morant.  If we take a closer look at the wings, we’ll notice that the outer pri­maries cut out on the lead­ing edge.  We can tell this is a Brandt’s Cor­morant because the bill is dark and the chin feath­ers are tan (Pelagic Cor­morant, Double-crested Cor­morant, or Red-faced Cormorant).

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GrifPrdy20140301_601c_blkiGrifPrdy20140301_601b_blki Time for some wing prac­tice! Take a look at these great pho­tos from Terry and Carl at Griffith’s Pri­day State Park on the South Coast of Wash­ing­ton.

Here we have gray upper­wings with con­trast­ing dark tips. Using either wing key (Alaska, West Coast), we check the upper­wing for stripes — nope.  Next, we turn to the pri­mary feath­ers, notic­ing that some have white fin­ger­nails, but no win­dows (large white spots, not at feather tip). The inner pri­mary plumage is gray, not white-tipped (Red-legged Kit­ti­wakes — Alaska guide).  With a wing-chord of 30 cm, this is a Black-legged Kittiwake.

Using the West Coast wing table, the 30 cm wing chord puts us in the “large” row. Our col­umn is “gray man­tle with white lin­ings and black tips” —  either a Black-legged Kit­ti­wake or a Red-legged Kit­ti­wake. Under­side of pri­maries is more pale than the man­tle  - this is a Black-legged Kittiwake.

 

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Tom found this Gray Whale skull on his first COASST sur­vey at Steam­boat Creek in Wash­ing­ton (beginner’s luck!). After check­ing in with col­leagues at Cas­ca­dia Research Col­lec­tive (thanks Jessie!), it’s likely be an adult gray whale (orig­i­nally 12m!), ini­tially found in 1991.

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Here’s a crab buoy found by Joanna on Ore­gon Mile 309, cov­ered or “bio­fouled” with mus­sels, bar­na­cles, sponges, and algae. Did you know? It takes free swim­ming bar­na­cle lar­vae (cyprids, more than 6 months old) a few hours-to-two weeks to set­tle onto nat­ural or man-made surfaces.