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!


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).



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?



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


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

MdRvr 2014 0301 931 BRCOb

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).


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.



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.


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.  

New Footprints — Rosalind Huang


Ros­alind shows off an Dolly Var­den (Salveli­nus alpi­nus — some­times referred to as Char, Arc­tic Char or Bull Trout) from Alaska.

Ever won­der what paths past COASST interns take after their time with COASST? This week, we asked Ros­alind, a Uni­ver­sity of Wash­ing­ton grad­u­ate, what adven­tures she has taken on since intern­ing for COASST.

As Rosalind’s COASST intern­ship came to an end, Ros­alind decided to mix things up and accepted an intern­ship with Wash­ing­ton Sea Grant. Ros­alind found her intern­ship with Wash­ing­ton Sea Grant to be “a totally dif­fer­ent type of intern­ship” com­pared to COASST. Dur­ing this intern­ship, Ros­alind was respon­si­ble for orga­niz­ing pub­li­ca­tions and con­duct­ing library searches. When asked how this expe­ri­ence influ­enced her career in the envi­ron­men­tal field, Ros­alind told COASST, “the expe­ri­ence helped tremen­dously later on for [her] own research.”

While talk­ing with Ros­alind, she empha­sized the impor­tance of hav­ing con­nec­tions and the courage to speak with dif­fer­ent peo­ple about var­i­ous open oppor­tu­ni­ties that one could apply for. She gave an exam­ple of a time when she once asked our very own Seabird Pro­gram Coor­di­na­tor, Jane Dol­liver, if she knew any­one in Tai­wan who was involved with Seabird Research. Ros­alind, orig­i­nally from Tai­wan, was plan­ning a trip back home and thought it would be inter­est­ing to go meet some­one while she was there. After being referred to a pro­fes­sor at the National Tai­wan Ocean Uni­ver­sity, Ros­alind ended up help­ing Con­grat­u­lafins, a non-governmental orga­ni­za­tion whose mis­sion is to stop shark fin­ing, with their social media and dif­fer­ent campaigns.

Now, Ros­alind is set­tled in Cal­i­for­nia where she is work­ing full time at a smart watch com­pany and vol­un­teer­ing for Con­grat­u­lafins part time. When asked what her next big move will be, Ros­alind said she plans “to go back to school in a few years for more fish-related studies.”