Elwha Nearshore Update, January 2023
A few notes on the nearshore January 2023…
First, a novel spin on king tide photos. Shorebirds depend on the nearshore for critical winter food resources. In the photos below, shorebirds (sanderlings in winter plumage ) use the king high tide to feed on invertebrate (and maybe forage fish eggs!) flushed up into the shallow sand of the upper intertidal zone. It's a rigorous process-look how far into the sand they burrow! Sand lance spawning is occurring now–but these shorelines haven't been documented (yet). Herring should be spawning along these shorelines within a few weeks, so these small birds are well situated to rest and fatten a bit before they head to the Arctic in May. Another indicator of how important these undisturbed zones, processes, and seasons are. If you're walking on a shoreline keep an eye out for these quiet beautiful beings and keep those dogs on leash... **Thank you to Mike Morrell for the bird ID intel!**
For our January 2023 monthly seining in nearshore? It was a field of coho and steelhead smolts, trout fry, and juvenile herring in the Elwha and Salt Creek nearshore this Friday morning. Trout fry behavior is very different from salmon of this same size. They are very vigorous and active and do NOT like being looked at. Salmon this size? In general really don't care. It's amazing that, after sampling for literally decades, we recognize pretty quickly who we are (or aren't) looking at even when the fish are tiny (the rulers in the photos are in cm) and coloration is tricky/nondescript. The river and creek were both high and running fast so we kept the seining to only a couple sites. A beautiful day and a good-willed hard working crew that make this work possible. A good way to start the new year!
Spring is just around the corner. Stay tuned…
Click any photo to enlarge. All photos © Coastal Watershed Institute.
Dr. Shaffer is the Executive Director and Lead Scientist of the Coastal Watershed Institute (CWI), a small, place-based environmental non-profit formed in 1996 that is dedicated to understanding, protecting, and restoring coastal ecosystems thru community-led scientific partnerships. Shaffer and her team conduct world-class ecosystem science and restoration with very modest resources and from a remote base of operations.
Dr. Shaffer and the talented team she leads at CWI are now informing dam removals planning and actions worldwide. Dr. Shaffer has authored over twenty scientific publications on nearshore ecology and dam removal science and regularly presents her scientific work internationally. Her work is featured in Hakai Magazine, National Geographic, New Yorker Magazine, Al Jazeera, PBS (Earth works), and National Public Radio. Dr. Shaffer and her team have received conservation science awards from the Seattle Aquarium, American Fisheries Society, and Society of Ecological Restoration for work on coastal ecosystem science, conservation, and restoration, including the Elwha.
Dr. Shaffer was born and raised in a large family and a small town of eastern Washington struggling to overcome the ravages of WWII. The solitude of wild intact remote coastal shorelines of northwest Washington provided rare moments of peace and healing and instilled a fierce dedication to conserving and restoring wild places. After their first round of graduate school Shaffer and her husband Dave Parks moved to the Olympic Peninsula where they raised two children. Dr. Shaffer then returned to school and earned a PhD in Marine Science from the University of Victoria in 2017. She and her family continue to thrive in their dedication to fight for what matters. Their future focus is to instill a passion in the next generation to do the same.
More information on Dr. Shaffer and her work with the Coastal Watershed Institute can be found at www.coastalwatershedinstitute.org.