PSI monthly roundup: June 2022

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VIEW THE FULLY FORMATTED NEWSLETTER in your browser Boundary spanning in Puget Sound Ecosystem-based management is often a large-scale collaborative effort involving many distinct groups. Boundary spanning organizations such as the Puget Sound Institute can help to support communication and policy development across institutions. In a new paper in the journal Environmental Science & Policy, we look at how knowledge exchange influences science-based ecosystem recovery in Puget Sound. Our paper is now online, and we have created an extended abstract available on the Encyclopedia of Puget Sound. Read more. Magazine series looks […]

Seattle Aquarium honors work conducted at the Center for Urban Waters

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Congratulations to our recent affiliate Dr. Zhenyu Tian for receiving the Seattle Aquarium’s Conservation Research Award! Tian, who is now an assistant professor at Northeastern University, has been recognized by the Aquarium for his work in 2020 to identify a chemical from automobile tires that has been killing Coho salmon in Puget Sound. Tian and a team of scientists at our parent organization the Center for Urban Waters discovered the deadly compound 6PPD-Quinone which has been leaching into stormwater. Research leading up to the discovery was done in collaboration with many […]

Can biologists estimate the massive loss of shellfish caused by low tides, high temps?

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The putrid smell of rotting shellfish on some beaches in Puget Sound and elsewhere along the West Coast were a clear sign that large numbers of clams, mussels, oysters and other intertidal creatures were killed from exposure to extreme low tides, record-breaking temperatures and a blazing hot sun. The total losses of shellfish that perished late last month may be difficult to estimate, but experts are beginning to piece together evidence from shoreline residents, state and tribal biologists, and commercial shellfish growers. Their goal is to describe what took place […]

Environmental justice on the move: a few personal observations about change

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I recently completed a much-involved writing project focused on environmental justice. It has been one of the most challenging, yet for me enlightening, efforts in my 45 years of covering the environment. My initial idea was to report on a plan by the Washington Department of Ecology to rewrite the regulations for the Model Toxics Control Act, the law that prescribes the cleanup of all kinds of contaminated sites. One of Ecology’s goals in rewriting the rules has been to pay more attention to the demographic makeup of populations around […]

Discovery of toxic chemical in tires spurs scientific and regulatory interest

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The discovery of a mysterious chemical that kills coho salmon in urban streams is expected to spawn new research throughout the world while possibly inspiring new demands for protective regulations. The deadly chemical, associated with automobile tires, was identified by researchers at the University of Washington’s Center for Urban Waters, which is affiliated with the Puget Sound Institute. The findings were published yesterday in the journal “Science.” I wrote about this discovery and more than 20 years of related scientific investigations in PSI’s online magazine “Salish Sea Currents.” “This is […]

Could tire discovery go beyond impacts on coho?

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Scientists have suspected for several years that chemicals from tire wear particles are to blame for the deaths of thousands of coho salmon that have returned to spawn in Puget Sound’s urban streams. Sometimes referred to as “pre-spawn mortality” or “urban runoff mortality syndrome,” these deaths typically occur in streams near roads, and scientists have been analyzing a wide variety of automobile-derived chemicals to see if they produced similar toxic effects. Now, thanks to some painstaking detective work by our partners at the University of Washington Center for Urban Waters […]

Orca census: One death in January, but no births were reported until September

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UPDATE, Oct. 6 The newest calf among the Southern Resident killer whales was officially designated J58 after being seen alive and healthy on Sunday. The calf is the offspring of J49, a 15-year-old female named Eclipse who has one surviving calf, J51 or Nova. Ken Balcomb of the Center for Whale Research had been withholding the official designation until CWR staffers could be sure the newborn had survived and was healthy. In Sunday’s encounter off San Juan Island, CWR staffers Dave Ellifrit and and Katie Jones reported, “Both J41 and […]

Sewer operators worry that toilet paper shortage will lead to more nasty clogs

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With a multitude of people scrambling to buy toilet paper, and some going without, sewer utility officials across the country are worried about the possible repercussions of the TP shortage — such as clogged sewer lines. Toilet paper and wipes of all kinds have become the subject of a complex, wide-ranging and controversial debate. The issue was even argued this year in the Washington Legislature. But for hard-working public employees who clean out the sewers, the bottom line is simple: DON’T FLUSH ANYTHING BUT TOILET PAPER (unless it’s human waste, […]

Shoreline armoring in Puget Sound gets new scrutiny from the Army Corps of Engineers

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Shoreline bulkheads, which can damage beaches and destroy fish habitat, could come under more extensive review and permitting as the result of a revised shoreline policy announced last week by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The revised policy (PDF 163 kb), which resulted from a federal lawsuit, now requires a Corps of Engineers permit for shoreline construction below the high-tide line. The previous line of jurisdiction was lower on the beach, effectively exempting most shoreline armoring from federal permits. One of the key results of the policy change is […]

New technique casts a wide net for concerning chemicals

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By Sarah McQuate, UW News Scientists are working to identify which of the thousands of chemicals that flow into Puget Sound are most harmful to the environment. Researchers know that runoff from land in the urbanized areas of Puget Sound often contains harmful chemicals such as PCBs, but many other potentially dangerous compounds have gone undetected until recently. Using a new “non-targeted” approach, researchers at the University of Washington and UW Tacoma screened samples from multiple regions of Puget Sound to look for other concerning chemicals. The team identified 64 […]

PSI in the news: ‘Salmon on Prozac’ and more

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PSI’s Andy James is collaborating with scientists at NOAA and Washington State University to understand how wastewater affects juvenile salmon in Puget Sound. The study is led by Jim Meador of NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Sciences Center and focuses on discharge from three major sewage treatment plants in King County. Wastewater will be analyzed at the University of Washington Tacoma’s Center for Urban Waters for chemical signatures of contaminants such as pharmaceuticals and PCBs. The study was featured this week in the publication Crosscut. “The scope of chemicals monitored in this […]

Kolodziej, Peter Featured in SIFF Documentary on Seattle’s Thornton Creek

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A new documentary featuring PSI collaborators Ed Kolodziej and Kathy Peter was selected to premiere at the 2019 Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF) on Saturday, June 8. The 70-minute documentary, “Engineering with Nature – An Ode to Water, Wood, and Stone” was directed by environmental filmmaker Shelly Solomon and is distributed through Leaping Frog Films. It describes a four-year effort by Seattle Public Utilities to restore Thornton Creek, Seattle’s largest and most urbanized stream with 18 miles of waterway and a 12-square-mile watershed. The once-polluted and neglected creek is becoming […]