Year in review: 2016

Winter sunset alpenglow on Mt Baker and the North Cascades. Copyright: LoweStock

Winter sunset alpenglow on Mt Baker and the North Cascades. Copyright: LoweStock

This year has been as busy as any we have had since our founding in 2010. As we look forward to year seven (!) of our organization, we have put together a sort of highlight reel of accomplishments.

At various points, PSI scientists worked to prioritize emerging contaminants in our waterways. We studied the health of forage fish populations, analyzed eelgrass abundance and brought together key scientific findings for Puget Sound’s marine and nearshore. 

Most recently, our team began helping to develop new state and federal Implementation Strategies that will prioritize future Puget Sound cleanup efforts (you can read more about the Implementation Strategies in the Encyclopedia of Puget Sound).

Through it all, we have kept you informed with dozens of articles in our magazine Salish Sea Currents, as well as many new papers in scientific journals. After a strong 2016, we believe that science is more vital than ever to Puget Sound recovery. We look forward to building on our accomplishments in 2017.

View some of PSI’s research and products.


New report details the broad sweep of climate change in Puget Sound

PS-SoK_2015_cover_0A new report commissioned by the Puget Sound Institute and the Encyclopedia of Puget Sound provides the most comprehensive assessment to date of the expected impacts of climate change on the Puget Sound region.

The report was produced by the University of Washington Climate Impacts Group, and is meant as an easy-to-read summary that covers topics such as increasing landslides, flooding, sea level rise, impacts on human health, agriculture and rising stream temperatures for salmon. Partners in the report include NOAA, The Nature Conservancy, the Puget Sound Partnership, the WWU Huxley Spatial Institute and others including dozens of contributing scientists. Major funding for the report was provided by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Download: “State of Knowledge: Climate Change in Puget Sound” 

You can also read highlights from the report in a three-part series from Puget Sound Institute senior writer Chris Dunagan. This week’s story covers the potential increase in landslides, something of special concern during the winter rainy season. Continue reading


Shifting ground: climate change may increase the risk of landslides

Landslides, which all too often kill people, destroy homes and disrupt transportation networks, could increase in the coming years as a result of climate change. A new report commissioned by the Puget Sound Institute looks at what we might expect in the region, especially during the winter months when rains and flooding reach their peak. PSI senior writer Christopher Dunagan brings us part one of a three-part series on some of the report’s findings.

Continue reading


State report says lack of funding is a major barrier to Puget Sound recovery

StateoftheSound2015_reportcoverThe 2015 State of the Sound report from the Puget Sound Partnership points to lack of funding as one of the leading barriers to Puget Sound recovery. The report looks at ongoing progress to restore the health of the ecosystem, but according to the Partnership’s Executive Director Sheida Sahandy, “The rate at which we as a community are continuing to damage Puget Sound is greater than the rate at which we are fixing it.”

Overall, funding has fallen far short of critical needs, the report argues. Projects described in the state’s recovery plan as ‘Near Term Actions’, would have required $875 million to carry out during the years 2014 – 2015, but as of last June had received only $67 million. The period from 2012-2013 had a shortfall of 57%.


The State of the Sound also describes a lack of significant progress on several key areas of focus for state and federal recovery efforts. The agency tracks a series of ‘Vital Signs’ such as numbers of orcas or fluctuations in herring populations—there are 21 vital signs in all—as indicators of Puget Sound health. “The majority of Vital Sign indicators are, at best, only slowly changing. Few are at—or even within reach of—their 2014 interim targets,” reads the report.

Some vital signs have seen modest improvement, however. The Partnership says that in 2014 removal of shoreline armoring such as seawalls and bulkheads exceeded permits for new armoring structures. Goals for habitat restoration also made some steps forward.

The State of the Sound report includes a series of funding recommendations ranging from continuation of existing allocations to support of legislation that would direct additional funds to key areas like habitats, stormwater and restoration of shellfish beds.

Download the 2015 State of the Sound report.


List of Salish Sea fish grows to 253 species

An illustration of the fourhorn poacher (Hypsagonus quadricornis). Copyright: Joseph R. Tomelleri

An illustration of the fourhorn poacher (Hypsagonus quadricornis). Copyright: Joseph R. Tomelleri

Researchers updating a 1980 fish catalog have found evidence of 37 additional fish species in the Salish Sea. This information, accompanied by hundreds of detailed illustrations, is seeding a new reference book expected to gain wide use among scientists, anglers and conservationists. Read an interview with one of the book’s co-authors in the Encyclopedia of Puget Sound. 


Leadership Council to consider new State of the Sound report

The Puget Sound Partnership Leadership Council will review a draft of the latest State of the Sound report at its October 15th meeting in La Conner. It will also hear from the UW Climate Impacts Group about a new report commissioned by the EPA and the Puget Sound Institute analyzing future climate conditions in the region.

View the media release from the Puget Sound Partnership.


Puget Sound Fact Book now available

PugetSoundFactbookCoverV3Have you ever wanted to know how much water is in Puget Sound? Or the weight of a giant Pacific octopus? Where can you find the skinny on stormwater pollution or local climate change? The Puget Sound Institute provides a new reference guide with key facts about the health and makeup of the ecosystem. Download a copy today.

Funding for this project was provided by the EPA and the Puget Sound Partnership.


Identifying ecosystem services in Puget Sound

Sunset over Puget Sound near Golden Gardens. photo by Wondelane.

Sunset over Puget Sound near Golden Gardens. photo by Wonderlane.

The ecosystem services concept has become the leading framework for understanding and communicating the human dimensions of environmental change. A new report commissioned by the Puget Sound Institute focuses on several of these ecosystem benefits, including economic, social and cultural services linked to Puget Sound recovery.

Read the full report on the Encyclopedia of Puget Sound.


An in-depth look at harbor porpoise in the Salish Sea

Harbor porpoise surfacing. Photo: Erin D'Agnese, WDFW

Harbor porpoise surfacing. Photo: Erin D’Agnese, WDFW

In the 1940s, harbor porpoise were among the most frequently sighted cetaceans in Puget Sound, but by the early 1970s they had all but disappeared. Their numbers have since increased, but they remain a Species of Concern in the state of Washington. A new in-depth species profile looks at the status of harbor porpoise in the Salish Sea, and brings together some of the most comprehensive information to-date about their regional ecology and behavior. The profile was prepared by Jacqlynn Zier and Joe Gaydos of the SeaDoc Society for inclusion in the Encyclopedia of Puget Sound.

Read the full report.


Salish Sea conference will feature GIS ‘speed talks’

Earlier this summer, UWT and PSI researchers studied how low-cost unmanned aerial systems (small UAS) might be used to monitor algal blooms in local lakes. Image courtesy: Kris Symer

One session talk will feature PSI’s use of low-cost unmanned aerial systems to monitor algal blooms in local lakes. Image courtesy: Kris Symer

PSI will co-sponsor a series of talks at the 2016 Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference related to geospatial technology and its impact on ecosystem recovery. The conference session will feature short, 5-minute oral presentations and/or posters on a range of emerging topics and approaches within the GIS field. Abstracts for presentations are now being accepted at the conference website through 12/18/2015. Questions about the talks can be sent to session leader Kris Symer at ksymer (at) The conference will be held in Vancouver, British Columbia April 13-15, 2016. Continue reading