Friday, August 28, 2015

SEA STAR WASTING SURVEY - LAST OF SUMMER 2015

The latest (8/28/15) Sea Star Wasting survey on the south side of the breakwater at S. Alki resulted in disappointing findings.  In total 32 Purple Stars were seen with 11 showing signs of SSWD.  This is a large increase in % and number of stars with SSWD from earlier this summer.  The reduction in total number counted has gone from 95 to the present 32.  These missing stars may have migrated elsewhere, or may have died from SSWD and been washed away.  It's also remotely possible they could be hiding deep inside the breakwater, but I doubt it.  The increase in diseased stars makes it more likely that the missing stars died and washed away, but that is impossible to know.
On a side note:  I counted 44 Keyhole Limpets on the south side of the breakwater.  Prior to SSWD I would be happy to find 6 or so on the breakwater.  So I'm guessing the lack of predatory stars has made life easier for the limpets and they have responded accordingly.....or they may just have come out from hiding deep inside the breakwater....which I doubt.

Keyhole Limpet

Purple Star with SSWD
 

Monday, August 24, 2015

RED SKY-NORTHWEST FIRE SEASON 2015

Is 2015 summer the view of the future for the Western United States?  Drought in California, exceptionally low snow pack in the Cascade and Olympic mountains and a very hot dry summer has resulted in one of the worst fire seasons for the West Coast states of Washington, Oregon and California.

If climate predictions are correct for the rest of this century we will see more low snow pack winters and drier, hotter summers.  Water shortages will become more common and dry hot forests will be ready to burn at the first spark.  Washington State is under a Federal Disaster Declaration as fire remains out of control on the east side of the Cascade mountains.  The towns of Twisp and Winthrop have been evacuated and Chelan is completely surrounded by fire except for the Lake Chelan side.
Even the lake front has seen the destruction of homes with lake shore property that were defended by home owners who took all the fire safety and landscaping precautions possible.  The fire is too hot and moves too fast to defend against in many areas.

Portland Oregon has seen worse air quality than Beijing China.....which is famous for poor air quality.
Smoke from east side Cascade fires usually is blown east away from west side cities but this year the wind has occasionally changed and move the smoke west.  High altitude smoke from California fires has given Seattle red sunsets all summer with eastern Washington smoke coming to visit lately.

I don't know how many climate change deniers have lost homes in these fires......but my guess is they may have done some rethinking after this summer.

It's not over yet by any means as more hot weather and high winds are forecast......it's going to give new meaning to "the long hot summer"........in the future you may not even get Las Vegas odds of your east slope house surviving for many years as this could be the century of fire in the West.

Some hope:  A strong El Nino is forecast for the winter of 2015-16 which usually means lots of storms for California with heavier than normal rainfall.  While this may not cure California's drough completley it may make a dent in it.  Many more wet winters will be needed to solve California's water problems.

 








Tuesday, August 4, 2015

HOODED (LION) NUDIBRANCH MATING SEASON

Summer is mating time for Melibe leonina, the Hooded (Lion) Nudibranch in Puget Sound.  This unusual sea slug does a lot of swimming from place to place to find mates and food.  Food consists of small invertebrates that are captures with an oral hood.  Hooded sea slugs usually are found on eel grass and use the oral hood to envelope prey items that live on the surface of the eel grass blades.  Eggs are laid in ribbons attached to the eel grass or sea weed....often Ulva.  They apparently live about one year, reciprocally fertilize one another (hermaphrodite), lay their eggs and die.
Melibe produces a sweet fruity aroma when handled and this gives the group name " bouquet".
This chemical odor is used to attract others in the hunt for a mate.  Many sea slugs produce chemical defenses which make up for the lack of a protective shell, spines or other defenses perhaps this works for the Hooded sea slug.   "Predators may include fish, kelp dwelling crabs and sea stars, but when disturbed Melibe leonina has the ability to autotomize (shed) its cerata. This will hopefully lead the would-be attacker away as the discarded appendages float off, or at least cause a distraction long enough for the sea slug to make an escape."
 The images/video below were taken a Seahurst Park in Burien WA on 8-2-15.

Hooded Sea Slug

Eggs of Hooded Sea Slug
video
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Videos :  Top-Laying eggs
                Second from top-Laying eggs
                Others are of swimming, group, and using oral hood on eelgrass