Wednesday, December 6, 2017

A Perfect Night Among the Stars

Sea Star Wasting Syndrome is a horrific disease that has impacted much of the coastal intertidal zones of the Western United States. It has caused sea star populations to collapse in some areas.

The Port Townsend Marine Science Center plays an active role in monitoring the spread of this disease in our local waters.

Currently, we monitor a plot off of Indian Island four times a year. We count the number of sea stars found in the plot and look for signs of wasting. The two species of interest when we are monitoring are ochre stars and mottled stars. However, seeing many species of sea stars in the plot is good news!

Ochre Star 

December 3rd was our last monitoring event in 2017. It also happened to be a super moon, when the full moon is at its closest to Earth, making the moon appear up to 14 percent larger and 30 percent brighter than usual.

Being from the Midwest, tide pooling is always a treat since I never have been able to do this back home, but adding a super moon to the mix made for an amazing night. The moon lit up the rocks and helped us spot all the animals. There were crabs, anemones, sand dollars, and sea stars all living in the intertidal zone.

Looking for Sea Stars

We saw a total of 8 sea stars in the plots. However, there were many more outside of our plots. The purple, red, and orange colors from the ochre stars and anemones were everywhere on the rocks. 

The best news about this trip is that all the sea stars were healthy individuals. We did not encounter any signs of wasting on our trip. This is very reassuring since the populations were doing so badly in recent years. The super moon lit our way and made the evening very special!

Written by AmeriCorps Marine Science Educator James Swanson.

Indian Island lit up by the Super Moon


  1. Thanks for the good news - hope they all stay healthy.

  2. Great news about the healthy sea stars! And your photo of the giant moon over the "cut" is gorgeous.


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