How to Stand Out in a Crowd

Have you ever thought you were doing something or wearing something that made you stand out in a crowd? We counted our salmon affected by albinism (check out our previous latest news), and found 21 Coho Salmon that were all affected by this genetic mutation. If you do the math, that comes out to about 0.03% of our total coho population. As you can see, albinism isn’t a widespread phenomenon, but it is a cool teaching opportunity!

Genetic mutation is one part of the machinery that evolution operates off of. If a mutation enhances an individual’s survival rate, it is able to pass those genes to its offspring. In the case of albinism in our coho, they have a much lower chance of survival than coho with darker pigments since they can blend in with their environment. Most likely, coho affected by albinism won’t get the chance to reproduce. But they still serve a very useful role in capturing an observer’s interest, and sometimes that’s all you need to get them excited about salmon!

A well-known example of a successful genetic mutation that has passed on in humans is lactase persistence. This is where human can consume dairy products even in their adulthood. Due to positive selection in this phenomenon, varying populations around the world now have this trait. We don’t see albinism in coho because of strong negative selection.

After we counted them, they were quickly put back with their other coho friends. Thank you for reading!

Baby Salmon on the Move

Last Saturday, all of our 80,000 alevins, young salmon that still have their yolk sac attached, were moved from their rearing trays into holding troughs. In the holding troughs, our alevin are acclimated to the process of feeding before they are released into the rearing pond. The holding troughs are also used to check on their development process as they finish the process of “buttoning up”, which is where they lose their yolk sac from their bellies.

We had the Students Saving Salmon Club and other volunteers show up and help us with this large move for our small coho salmon. They are moved from the trays that simulate their natural environment with their meshed-made redds into the holding troughs by gently placing the tray into the trough, and are then allowed to swim outside of the only world they’ve known so far. After making sure all of the alevin have swam out of the trays, the trays are then rinsed off. In the holding troughs, our volunteers helped remove eggs that didn’t make it.

The water that flows into the troughs comes directly from Willow Creek, which provides the oxygen and clean water that young salmon vitally need. A cool thing to notice if you get to see them in their troughs is how they swim against the current. Salmon instinctively do this either because they get more oxygen since water is flowing directly past their gills or because this is how they feed by eating small zooplankton that are carried with the current.

Albino Alevin Discovery

Rarely, maybe a couple a season, WCSWEC finds an albino salmon among our tiny, developing salmon, as shown in the picture below! These salmon are a favorite with school groups and something to look for when they are larger and in the rearing pond.

Albinism is usually inherited, but may be due to genetic mutation, diet, age, disease, or injury. Since Albinism, when inherited, is a recessive trait, both parents carrying the trait could look normal and spawn a salmon with Albinism. Chromatophores are the specialized cells that contain and produce pigments, and are responsible for producing skin and eye color in many types of animals. Cyanophore is a bluish pigment that is unique to fish and amphibians.

Another odd example of weird salmon pigmentation is when their meat is white, as compared to the usual red meat. Salmon get their usual red color from eating small crustaceans which contain carotenoid, a red-orange pigment. When salmon lack the ability to metabolize this pigment, they can have meat that is white.

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Students Saving Salmon Club using Engineering to Save Salmon

Check out the recent article about the Students Saving Salmon Club using their ingenuity and a device called a “hatchbox” to raise eggs in their natural habitat from the delicate egg to alevin phase. Once they “button up” and lose their egg sac that they rely on for nourishment, they can exit the hatchbox and start their long journey towards the ocean.

From the article:

“Students from Edmonds-Woodway and Meadowdale high schools are helping restore and enhance local salmon populations. Last Friday and Saturday, students placed fertilized coho and chum salmon eggs in instream incubators called “hatchboxes.”  The hatchboxes with chum salmon eggs were placed in lower Lunds Gulch Creek at Meadowdale Beach Park and those with coho salmon eggs were placed in Edmonds’ upper Shell Creek.

The salmon eggs will hatch in the hatchbox and the baby salmon will grow there until they have consumed their yolk sac and are ready to swim out of the hatchbox and begin life in the stream as salmon fry. This is similar to the natural process that occurs with salmon eggs laid in the gravel and growing to the fry stage before emerging from the gravel. Chum salmon fry will remain in the stream for only a few days before swimming out to saltwater, whereas coho salmon will spend the first year of their life in the stream.

The EWHS Students Saving Salmon club placed the coho salmon eggs in the upper portion of Shell Creek in Yost Park so that the young salmon can grow in stream habitat that is otherwise inaccessible due to an impassable waterfall near 7th Avenue and Glen Street.”


The Hatchery Is Back in Action!

On Friday, December 14th, we welcomed our newest Sound Salmon Solutions employee, Brooke, who is now our Hatchery Operations Coordinator. Her arrival was just in time to get the hatchery up and running again.

On the following Saturday, the hatchery received its annual 80,000 fertilized Coho salmon eggs to raise and release in the Spring. The eggs were collected from the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery and brought back to the hatchery, carefully transported by our dedicated volunteers and our Hatchery Operations Coordinator. Sound Salmon Solutions was grateful to be greeted by many volunteers, some of which came from the Edmonds Woodway High School student group, Students Saving Salmon. Together the volunteers and Sound Salmon Solutions staff worked to sterilize the eggs with an iodine solution to remove bacteria and fungi from the eggs, clean the egg trays, remove the minimal dead eggs, and weigh out the 42.6 pounds of eggs. In the end, each egg tray acquired about 3 pounds of eggs! With the warm winter the Puget Sound area is facing, the hatchery is expecting the eggs to hatch out at the beginning of 2019.


12,000 Coho Salmon Released into Swamp Creek

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On May 14th, Sound Salmon Solutions, Hatchery volunteers, and Washington residents helped release 12,000 Coho Salmon into Swamp Creek near Logan Park in Lynnwood. These are a portion of the original 80,000 Coho that were raised in the rearing pond after hatching from their incubation trays. The remaining Coho will be released at future outplant events.

Thank you to the estimated 200 people that showed up - your effort helps us to preserve salmon in our watersheds!

Willow Creek Hatchery receives 80,000 Coho Salmon Eggs

Last Saturday, December 16th, Edmonds' Willow Creek Hatchery began the journey for 80,000 coho salmon. The fertilized eggs were carefully transported from the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery. Once back to the Willow Creek Hatchery, volunteers and members of the Students Saving Salmon club from Edmonds Woodway High School arrived to observe and help begin the incubation process for the coho eggs. After carefully rinsing the eggs in iodine to help prevent bacterial infections, the eggs' weight was measured to accurately divide them up into incubation trays, which recreates a salmon egg's nest, or redd, with layered "gravel-like" mesh and stream water. 

For more information, check out MyEdmondsNews' article about the event by Larry Vogel.


Endangered Chinook are in Danger from Endangered Marine Mammals

Food webs can be tricky things. If a top-level predator is suddenly killed off, then this could cause an unhealthy change in other trophic levels. For example, if a fatal disease spread through a sea urchin-eating starfish population, then this could lead to a sudden spike in sea urchin abundance, who could then in turn could wreak havoc on their source of energy - kelp beds. On the other hand, what would happen to a food web if a top-level predator's numbers steadily increased? 

A recent study looked at the consumption of Chinook salmon in the past 40 years by killer whales, harbor seals, California sea lions, and Stellar sea lions, and found that it has dramatically increased! Previously, the question had been asked: why had Chinook populations been decreasing in the Salish Sea despite decreased numbers being caught and ongoing salmon recovery efforts? This paper gave us a possible unexpected answer: the increase in Chinook salmon consumption by marine mammals had offset salmon recovery efforts.

Increased consumption of Chinook may have dangerous consequences for our Southern Resident killer whale populations since 80% of their diet is Chinook, and because they have a much smaller migration range than Alaskan and Canadian killer whale populations. Obviously, there is no simple solution to the intertwined and sometimes conflicting marine mammal and salmon recovery efforts. Further research on how salmon hatcheries affect consumption rates, or if killer whales have preferences for wild or hatchery salmon may shed more light on this conundrum.

For more information, check out these articles from the Seattle Times and the Puget Sound Institute.

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Looking for environmentally-fused fun and entertainment?

Join Forterra on October 26th from 6-9 PM for a fun-filled night of performances, stories, and music from Pacific Northwest local artists! As part of their Voices of the Region initiative, this event is a great opportunity for listening and reflection from community members, environmental enthusiasts, and environmental experts about local or global environmental topics. This event is a celebration of Forterra's newest edition of Ampersand, a biannually published magazine containing essays, short stories, journal reports, and art about people and the place that we all live in - our natural and man-made environment. Listen, mingle, and get your informed citizen on!

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Learn More about the Impacts of Climate Change on Salmon

This story map is a brilliant primer on  the impacts of climate change on salmon, check it out! 

If you'd like to learn more about climate change and salmon, please join us in enjoying pints, presentations, and discussion on the topic sponsored by Cascadia Climate Action and Puget Soundkeepers at Peddler Brewing, 1514 NW Leary Way in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle on March 29th beginning at 7PM

 

 

Evergreen Carbon Capture Event at Stillwater Natural Area 2/4/2017

We could not accomplish what we do without the partnerships we forge with other organizations. Together we leverage resources to provide solid ground and momentum to habitat restoration. Our participation as a Field Partner for Forterra's Evergreen Carbon Capture program on a rainy, cold Saturday along the Snoqualmie River exemplified bringing together the complementary strengths of two nonprofit organizations, SSS and Forterra, with the commitment of local businesses Turner Construction, Nordstroms, GLY Construction, and Grist Magazine and their employees in addressing climate change through carbon capture. 670 native evergreen trees we're planted in the Stillwater Natural Area which over their lifetimes will capture over 3,300 tons of carbon from the atmosphere. That's capturing the carbon output of 400 average Americans for one year! 

We thank the 41 volunteers and the SSS and Forterra staff who made this event a joyful, fun day in the February rain! Let's do it again! 

Special thanks to our funders Washington Department of Ecology and Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife for making this project possible!

Forterra Evergreen Carbon Capture
photo credit: Chelsey Evans

 

 

Winter SSS Education & Engagement Update!

As 2016 comes to a close, we take time to reflect on an amazing year of getting out into the communities we serve and educating and engaging with both youth and adults. Our year end totals for education events include teaching 2,325 students, planting 1,858 trees, and leading environmental education lessons for 4,577 hours! We also attended 40 community outreach events and got the chance to speak to 1,337 people. We know that our education program isn’t just about the numbers. The people we serve and get the opportunity to educate about salmon, clean water, and protecting our beautiful watersheds is at the heart of the work that we do. We feel so lucky to have those opportunities, and believe deep down that it is good and important work. Thank you all for another fruitful year.

Speaking of 2017, we have some big changes happening in January in the education department as we say a bittersweet goodbye to our beloved and highly-talented Education and Engagement Project Coordinator, Kelley Govan. She leaves for a yearlong adventure and learning opportunity in Costa Rica. We are so thrilled for this next chapter in her life. She leaves behind a strong legacy at SSS, and has been a leader in helping to develop a strong education program over the last three years. We will greatly miss her, but wish her luck in Costa Rica. Upon Kelley’s departure, we are excited to welcome Kelly Frazee onto our SSS team as the new E&E Project Coordinator. She comes to us after spending ten years at the Woodland Park Zoo in their education department. Kelly is a well-experienced educator, and we are supremely confident in her abilities to take over the teaching duties and help to continue to grow and develop our education programs. Welcome Kelly Frazee!

In January, we also welcome Kelly Bounxayavong, a UW Program on the Environment Capstone student who will be spending her winter quarter as our Education and Engagement Intern. Welcome Kelly Bounxayavong!  And lastly, Martha Moritz, our E&E Program Coordinator is having a baby. She welcomes a little girl in February 2017, and so while she is on maternity leave, we are so fortunate to have the highly-capable Carolyn Alfano taking the helm in the Education department. Previously, Carolyn has run the Rare Plant Care and Conservation program at the UW’s Botanic Gardens and we are happy that she is bringing her strong program management skills to SSS while Martha is home with her new baby. We are looking forward to what 2017 will bring. Happy New Year!

 

SSS supporting Students Saving Salmon Club at Edmonds Woodway High School

The Everett Herald just published an article about our  Edmonds Watershed Stewards Program that works with the Students Saving Salmon Club at Edmonds Woodway High School in Edmonds WA. You can read the article here

Support for the Edmonds Watershed Stewards Program was provided to Sound Salmon Solutions by the Puget Sound Stewardship and Mitigation Fund, a grantmaking fund created by the Puget Soundkeeper Alliance and administered by the Rose Foundation for Communities and the Environment.

Spring Education Programs a Success!

Wow! What a busy and fun couple of months our Education Team has had. We led field trips nearly every day of the week for two months! Our team of educators taught students in Marysville, Skykomish, Darrington, Arlington, and Edmonds. In total, we have taught 1,712 elementary through high school students for a collective 3,318 science education hours and planted 986 native trees and shrubs during 504 hours of restoration service-learning.

Over the course of the spring field trip season, we had the privilege of working alongside several of our long-time community partners. These dynamic and important relationships help keep the wheels turning and our projects going. In April, we had several classes from Arlington elementary schools who wanted to do service learning projects, but were lacking an active restoration site nearby. After making a phone call to the City of Arlington, we spoke with Bill Blake-who helped by finding a field trip site for our students. The City of Arlington generously provided trees and SSS supplied the students for a lively field trip! Students helped with a planting project at Country Charm, one of our former habitat restoration sites on the South Fork of the Stillaguamish River. A win/win!We are also grateful for our on-going partnership with the Stillaguamish Tribe’s Natural Resources Department. They provide year-long environmental education classes to students attending Darrington Elementary, and have asked SSS staff to assist in implementing both indoor and outdoor lessons. The final lesson of the year took place at Squire Creek Snohomish County Park. We had a great day with the students and discovered it takes at least nine, 4th graders to hug a 200 year old Sitka Spruce tree!

One more highlight from this year was hosting a field trip on Maloney Creek in Skykomish with the 4th-12th grade students from Skykomish School. We tested water quality and collected macroinvertebrate samples in order to determine how well the creek is recovering from a major flood event last fall. We are happy to report we found a diverse variety of healthy stream bugs! The King County Flood Control District has provided funding for SSS to continue our partnership with Skykomish School for two years, and we are grateful for the opportunity to do this  important work!
I am continually amazed with our talented education staff who get out there day after day and teach lessons to a diverse audience of youth and adults. Their enthusiasm for working with students and passion for the subjects we teach is what makes our team the best! Kelley Govan, our Education and Engagement Project Coordinator, Kyla Caddey, our WCC Intern, and Laura Schreiber, our superstar Education Volunteer were the key players in closing out the 2015-2016 school year. Thank you for all of your hard work!

If you have questions or want to know more about our education programs, please contact Martha Moritz, Education & Engagement Program Coordinator at: martha@soundsalmonsolutions.org.