Remembering Ken Balcomb and his extraordinary life with killer whales

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I’m still adjusting to the world of killer whales without Ken Balcomb. Ken, who died Dec. 15 at age 82, was a constant presence throughout my career as an environmental reporter. His presence inspired many others among the so-called “killer whale community,” made of experts, observers and those who simply love and follow the stories of our beloved orcas. Ken, who I called the dean of killer whale research, founded the Center for Whale Research and established an amazing 46-year record of every birth and death among the Southern Resident […]

The quest continues for a nutrient reduction plan

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The quest continues for a large-scale plan to reduce human sources of nitrogen and improve the health of Puget Sound. This article is part of the Puget Sound Institute’s effort to explore the technical uncertainties related to the science of Puget Sound water quality. The project, jointly funded by King County and PSI, includes online workshops and discussions, along with informational blogs and articles. By Christopher Dunagan Human sources of nitrogen in Puget Sound have been blamed for increasing the intensity of algae blooms, lowering oxygen to critical levels, and […]

A network of computer models is predicting the future of Puget Sound

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A new $4.8 million dollar project led by the Puget Sound Institute links together a series of computer models to explore future scenarios across the watershed. Some of Puget Sound’s biggest concerns hold the greatest uncertainties.  Will we have clean water? Can the ecosystem sustain species like endangered salmon? How can the region continue to grow and still maintain healthy habitats for wildlife and people? What, in other words, is the future of Puget Sound? No one can travel through time to answer these questions firsthand (science has its limits), […]

Scientists dig into massive data collected during international high-seas expedition

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Questions about where salmon go and how they survive when traveling far out into the Pacific Ocean have puzzled scientists for 200 years. But a new vision for piecing together this intricate puzzle has begun to emerge, thanks to sophisticated research tools deployed during an international expedition this past winter. Last week, scientists got together in Vancouver, British Columbia, to share their preliminary findings and to brainstorm the next steps in a collaborative effort to solve some of the great mysteries of Pacific salmon. Researchers from multiple countries provided wide-ranging […]

Killer whale census shows another down year, with three deaths and two births

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Three deaths and two births. Over the past year, the endangered Southern Resident killer whale population has declined by a total of one, according to the annual census report submitted yesterday by the Center for Whale Research. Now the number of whales in all three pods stands at 73, down from 74 last year and declining from 98 animals the past 25 years. The births of J59 last February and K45 in May have been widely reported, along with the death of the much-loved K21, a 35-year-old male named Cappuccino. […]

Six things that people should know about ecosystem modeling and virtual experiments

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The Puget Sound Institute is facilitating a series of online workshops and discussions to explore the technical uncertainties related to the science of Puget Sound water quality. As part of the project, we are publishing informational blogs and articles, including this look at how computer models are becoming increasingly important to our understanding of the natural world. The project is jointly sponsored by King County and the Puget Sound Institute. By Christopher Dunagan If you are planning a hike, picnic or other outdoor activity, it might be wise to take a look at the local […]

Add-on structure will begin to address steelhead crisis at the Hood Canal Bridge

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The Hood Canal Bridge, which connects the Kitsap and Olympic peninsulas, has proven to be a dangerous impediment to juvenile steelhead trout. As many as half of the young migratory steelhead in Hood Canal may get picked off by seals, birds and other predators as the fish try to pass under the floating highway, according to studies. While a permanent solution may be years away, the first step at reducing predation at the bridge may be just around the corner, as construction crews prepare to fabricate a floating structure that […]

Upcoming workshops on tools to evaluate water quality and biological integrity 

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New event: More than 130 researchers, scientists, modelers, and other experts attended our first workshop in July on The Science of Puget Sound Water Quality. The discussion continues with two interrelated workshops focusing on scientific tools for evaluating marine conditions and species health. Join us:  September 29th from 8 – 10 AM PT for Tools to Evaluate Water Quality. Learn about tools and new analyses from monitoring and modeling that help us better understand water quality and potential eutrophication impacts. We will look in particular at increased access to spatial and temporal […]

PSI monthly roundup: July 2022

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VIEW THE FULLY FORMATTED NEWSLETTER in your browser Low-oxygen problems to be scrutinized in talks about research, modeling efforts   For decades, researchers have been advancing their understanding of what causes the harmful and sometimes deadly low-oxygen problems afflicting some areas of Puget Sound. A series of 10 workshops on the subject will begin Tuesday, July 26th, and continue into next year. The workshops, coordinated by the Puget Sound Institute, will build on previous discussions, such as the Washington Department of Ecology’s Nutrient Forum and a forthcoming Marine Water Quality Implementation Strategy that […]

Low-oxygen problems to be scrutinized in talks about research, modeling efforts

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By Christopher Dunagan For decades, researchers have been advancing their understanding of what causes the harmful and sometimes deadly low-oxygen problems afflicting some areas of Puget Sound. Computer models have been developed to replicate conditions and point the way to possible solutions. Experts generally agree that excess nitrogen flowing into Puget Sound contributes to the low-oxygen conditions. What is needed now, some argue, is a stronger regionwide consensus around solutions to the problem. That could mean coming to terms with research findings, understanding the strengths and weaknesses of the models, […]

New orca calf confirmed amid serious health concerns and actions to protect the whales

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A surprise visit by K pod on Saturday near Vancouver Island led to the official confirmation of a new orca calf born into the Southern Resident killer whale community. The new calf, designated K45, is the second baby born to the Southern Residents this year, as recorded by the Center for Whale Research, which maintains the official census. For K pod, this is the first confirmed calf to be born since 2011. The youngster was first reported on April 28 by a fishing guide cruising off the Oregon Coast. The […]

Series of workshops will advance understanding of nutrients in Puget Sound

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Our region is navigating complex and challenging decisions on how best to manage nitrogen, dissolved oxygen, and the potential impacts of eutrophication on the key habitats and species of the Salish Sea. Over the next year, the Puget Sound Institute is sponsoring a series of scientific workshops to help address technical uncertainties and to advance modeling tools to assist decision-making related to nutrient pollution and broader water quality challenges. Supported by King County and municipalities in the Puget Sound Clean Water Alliance, we are collaborating to: Facilitate 10 scientific workshops with […]