Friday, August 5, 2011

New Ecology video highlights scientists who monitor Washington's marine waters

By Sandra Hughes, Office of Communication and Education

Play video now on YouTube

A dream assignment

I care about Puget Sound and also love small aircraft. So when I was invited to spend a day with Mya Keyzers of Ecology’s Marine Monitoring Program — and shoot video of her taking water samples from a seaplane — I jumped at the chance.

To get as many samples as possible on a single day, and to save time and money, Mya and her Ecology colleagues hire the use of a Kenmore seaplane.

Mya is part of a team that has been collecting data on the health of Puget Sound and Washington’s coastal estuaries since the 1970s.

This large body of data, taken over time, helps scientists understand if what they are seeing is normal or represents an important change that should be communicated to environmental managers and the public.

Their work encompasses a huge area. It takes three flight days for the program to cover all of Puget Sound (north, central and south.) A fourth flight path covers two coastal estuaries, Grays Harbor and Willapa Bay.

Mya works as a flight technician. One of her tasks is taking samples and electronic sensor measurements at different depths throughout the water column.

How she does that is pretty interesting. As soon as the plane lands, Mya opens a hatch and lowers her oceanographic equipment right through the belly of the plane into the water!

The video gives you a flavor of Mya’s work — and why she has such a personal connection to it.

Eyes Over Puget Sound — a peek into the scientists’ notebooks

The Marine Monitoring team also takes aerial photographs and makes detailed notes about the surface and near surface conditions they observe on the water.

They can see the extent of an algae bloom or where brown freshwater runoff collides with bluer saltwater. They might see an oil sheen in the water, or a vessel in distress, or large amounts of floating debris. On a more positive note, they sometimes see whales and creatures such as jelly fish far from shore.

Now, you can view these photographs and notes online by subscribing to Ecology’s Eyes Over Puget Sound list serve. You can also view a sample Eyes Over Puget Sound page.

The site also shows data collected from the Victoria Clipper (a high-speed passenger-only ferry service between Seattle and Victoria), satellite images, and mooring data in different regions of the Salish Sea. You’ll receive e-mail notifications when new flight images and data are added. You can also unsubscribe at any time, using the same link.

The direct video link is:

Improvements to the Marine Monitoring Program's website are underway, so please stay tuned.

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