From the water and from the beach, West Seattle environmental advocate “Diver Laura” James has continued to help document the mystery ailment that’s killing off so many sea stars (as updated here three weeks ago). Tonight, she’s been out diving east of Seacrest as part of a weekly check (added 1:53 am, here’s the new video):
Two weeks earlier, that same check yielded this video:
Before tonight’s dive, Laura sent this report on a shore investigation from Saturday night:
We got out last night with Professor Drew Harvell (from Cornell) to take a walk down at Seacrest. We walked from Cove 2 to Cove 1 on the lower low tide in the intertidal zone and counted sick and healthy sea stars. We counted about 170 stars (both the purple and orange ones) and saw a disease rate of around 50%. This is better than what we are seeing subtidal at the same sites, which is showing 90% + mortality, like at the pilings in the video.
The Professor was very excited because it showed a difference between intertidal and subtidal, and also that it is not hard for beach walkers/tidepool visitors to find the Sea Stars, but also reasonably easy to identify one that is ‘sick/dying’.
We are going to try to make the same walk a few more times during the next series of low tides and hopefully get another count and see how the numbers compare.
A regional map is in the works, as the sea-star deaths are being tracked – see it here. If you would like to help contribute, read on for Laura’s explanation of how you can do that:
if you happen to scuba dive at a site, or are walking on the beach at a low tide and encounter a sick or dead sea star that looks like it has the melting or wasting disease, we are working on a simplest of hashtag driven crowdsourcing that can then be passed on to the scientists and help them follow what beaches/sites are impacted in almost realtime.
Take a picture of the beach (on the walk or after the dive) with Instagram and #sickstarfish #deadstarfish (or both) if ALL the stars are normal at the site #nosickstarfish (please make sure geotagging is on and you upload from at or near the site – not from home)
You can put other comments in the comment field (what type of starfish, how many, etc..) just make sure to use the #sickstarfish hashtag.
This is not just for the West Coast of the US, keep an eye out everywhere, as divers we will be the first who will notice if this makes the jump to another far away geographic location.
In the case that you don’t have a smartphone, find someone on the boat or beach that does have one and ask them to take a surface shot and upload it with #sickstarfish. We are still working on data mining from Twitter and Facebook. Right now it works with Instagram. …
This is NOT meant as a replacement for the surveys that Vancouver Aquarium and California Universities are doing, this is just a quick simple way to collect complementary data from folks who may not choose to use the web sites. All the data we collect will be available for the researchers upon request. Crowdsourcing for Science type projects works best if things are kept simple.
Although this won’t solve the problem, this will hopefully allow the rest of us (the citizen scientists) help out with documentation.
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