Creature Feature: Clown Triggerfish

Clown triggerfish

Size: Up to 20 inches long.

Range: Found in the western Pacific and Indian oceans, most commonly along external reef slopes.

Diet: Crustaceans, mollusks and echinoderms (which include animals like sea stars, sea urchins, sea cucumbers and sand dollars).

Fast facts: Triggerfish get their names from the fact that their first three dorsal spines are adapted in such a way that the first one, which is very strong, can be braced into an upright position by the second, allowing the animals to lock themselves into holes. When they want to come back out, the second spine acts as the “trigger” to unlock the first.

Posted in Marine Animals, Seattle Aquarium | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Aquarium volunteers plant trees to sequester carbon

A group of 24 Aquarium Youth Ocean Advocates, adult volunteers and staff recently spent time working with King County Parks to plant 725 trees at Soaring Eagle Regional Park in Sammamish. The Aquarium partners with Forterra to purchase trees and coordinate the effort to plant them in Seattle-area parks and forests to help sequester the carbon output from the Aquarium. This was our third year in a row of partnering with Forterra on this project and it also attracted the largest-ever group of Aquarium volunteers to help plant the trees!

Thank you to Aquarium Conservation Manager Mark Plunkett for continuing to lead this great effort and to Youth Engagement Mentor Karlie Roland for coordinating our Puget Sound: We Love You campaign youth for a great day in the sunshine, getting dirty and supporting our mission: Inspiring Conservation of Our Marine Environment! Click here to read a previous blog post about our partnership with Forterra.

Posted in Conservation, Seattle Aquarium | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Local Brownie troop supports the Seattle Aquarium with cookie sales

A local troop of Brownies, second and third graders from Redmond, are supporting the Seattle Aquarium with a portion of their Girl Scout cookies this year! The troop voted in January and chose ocean conservation as a cause they wanted to serve—and the Aquarium as the recipient of their donations. They even made a video about why it’s important to care for our marine environment.

The girls are using the video to promote their cookie sales through March 15. Troop leader Barbara Feldon tells us that a lot of the inspiration for the video came from the “10 ways to save Puget Sound” pdf on our website. To find it, click here, then look for the link in the first paragraph.

Here’s to the next generation of stewards for our marine environment, and a delicious season of cookie sales for a very special Brownie troop!

Posted in Seattle Aquarium | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Seattle Aquarium heads to the Big Island!
Part 2 of 2

Hawaii 2015 research tripThe Seattle Aquarium recently completed its seventh year of a research project off the northwest coast Hawaii’s Big Island: monitoring reef fish abundance. Data is gathered using a method similar to the one used in our temperate fish surveys: non-invasive monitoring through diver-performed video sampling. This work is being done in cooperation with Washington State University; California State University, Humboldt; and the Hawaii Division of Aquatic Resources.

Says Curator of Conservation Research Shawn Larson, “We are searching for shifting baselines, which are an ecological indicator of changes in fish abundance and diversity that may correlate with local environmental changes or other factors such as changes in human use activities.” Data collected has shown a steady increase in fishes in our study sites and has already been used for educational and management purposes in Hawaii.

Below, Dr. Larson shares her journal entries from the final two days of the research trip.

Day 4: Friday, February 6

Four days into the trip and we have only surveyed three out of our eight sites—and the surf continued to be too rough to access them from shore. Our plan was to pick up the rest of the Puako sites (2 and 5) from the Kohala divers’ boat. In the morning we drove up to Mahukona to see if we there was any way we could get divers in and out of the water without the ladder. When we got there we realized that wasn’t going to happen today as the whole access area had been closed due to high surf. Disappointed once again, we drove back to Puako and prepared to dive off the boat. Once on the boat it was a bumpy ride to site 5 through the biggest swells we had seen near Puako, but we were on a boat so we had no worries. We sent the first team of divers in and watched the swells mounting. We had surface communications with the divers so we could hear what they were doing and talk to them. We completed our surveys at site 5 with lots of surge and low visibility because of the swells. Even from a boat this site was challenging under these conditions. We then travelled to site 2 and found that the waves were so big snorkelers couldn’t set our surface marker, thus the divers would have a hard time finding the survey site. The water conditions were just too rough and after surveying only one site we were done for the day.

 

Day 5: Saturday, February 7

Today we headed back to Kona to meet up with Captain Pete again and try to survey site 8 off his boat. The swells were supposed to have died down to just 1–2 feet. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case and the swells were about 6-8 feet. We motored for about half an hour, halfway to our site, and decided to turn around as we knew the swell was too big to safely dive that shallow site. By early afternoon we were back up in Puako and looked at site 2 again. The swells were big but smaller than they had been most of the week. We decided to go for it and sent one dive team out. Making it through the surf wasn’t fun with all the gear. The conditions underwater weren’t the best with heavy surge and low visibility. Once the first team finished two transects, they surfaced and waited to hand off the gear to the next dive team. However the next team wasn’t in SCUBA gear, just in snorkel gear. When the first dive team was underwater the swells had picked up too much. The snorkel team was needed just to help the divers with their gear get into shore safely. Everyone made it in without getting significantly hurt although everyone had bumps and bruises.

Alas it was our last dive day and although we weren’t able to survey all our sites, we did get the same amount of data as we did our first year—and had to call it quits. We will just have to pick up sites 6–8 next year!

For details about the Seattle Aquarium’s other research projects, visit our website.

Posted in Conservation, Seattle Aquarium | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Seattle Aquarium heads to the Big Island!
Part 1 of 2

Hawaii research trip 2015The Seattle Aquarium recently completed its seventh year of a research project off the northwest coast Hawaii’s Big Island: monitoring reef fish abundance. Data is gathered using a method similar to the one used in our temperate fish surveys: non-invasive monitoring through diver-performed video sampling. This work is being done in cooperation with Washington State University; California State University, Humboldt; and the Hawaii Division of Aquatic Resources.

Says Curator of Conservation Research Shawn Larson, “We are searching for shifting baselines, which are an ecological indicator of changes in fish abundance and diversity that may correlate with local environmental changes or other factors such as changes in human use activities.” Data collected has shown a steady increase in fishes in our study sites and has already been used for educational and management purposes in Hawaii.

Below, Dr. Larson shares her journal entries from the first three days of the five-day research trip.

Day 1: Tuesday, February 3

Puako houseArrived at our hosts’ beautiful house in Puako late last night. We spent the morning getting all our gear together and picking up tanks. In the early afternoon we were able to get our survey dives done at site 1. It was beautiful and we saw many fish that we hadn’t seen at this site before. Plus there were many juvenile fish of all species. It was a great dive.

Day 2: Wednesday, February 4

Hawaii research trip 2015The waves were too big for us to access our sites from shore so no diving today. After we were shut out by the surf at Puako we headed 20 miles north to try our research sites at Mahukona. When we got there the waves were just as strong as down south—but what killed our hopes of diving here was the fact that the ladder that we relied on to get into and out of the water was gone. Two weeks ago the north side of Hawaii experienced record high tides combined with very heavy surf, and many nearshore areas were damaged, including our entry sight at Mahukona. Frustrated, we headed back to the house and spent the rest of the day preparing for our talk at the historic church in Puako at 6pm, which was attended by approximately 30 people and very well received, with lots of good questions and interest in our work.

Day 3: Thursday, February 5

Hawaii research trip 2015Today was our day in Kona (about a 30-minute drive to the south of Puako) to dive with Captain Pete McCormick off his 25-foot Parker motorboat. We were hoping to be able to dive on Sites 3, 4 and 8. However the swells were pretty big and after we surveyed sites 3 and 4 in Kona, we tried to make it down to site 8 (another hour boat ride) but it was too rough. We’ll try to pick up site 8 again Saturday.

Check back soon for part 2 of our Hawaii research trip 2015 series! In the meantime, for details about the Seattle Aquarium’s other research projects, visit our website.

Posted in Conservation, Seattle Aquarium | Tagged , , | Leave a comment