Marine Creatures Die-Off In Heat Wave

The extreme heat wave that hit the Pacific Northwest in July wasn’t just brutal on us it also killed an estimated billion coastal marine animals. It’s hard to grasp the extent of the mass die-off of mussels, oysters, sea cucumbers, sea stars, and many other species.

The ‘heat dome’ brought unprecedented high temperatures during some of the lowest tides of the year, exposing animals living along the shore to hours of sun and heat. What did those shores filled with dead animals mean for that ecosystem? All of the ecosystem services – like filtering of seawater, providing food for other species, including humans, and habitat for other species – disappeared.

Most intertidal animals are resilient and will likely recover. However, the climate crisis we’re in now means extreme weather will become more frequent and intense around the globe, making it harder for recovery. How extreme these kinds of events become is up to us. The time to act is NOW.

Disappearing Wild Bees

All wild bees, not just honey, are essential for good crop pollination providing up to two thirds of all pollination and they continue to disappear. Wild insect pollinators are key to maintaining biodiversity where they enable the reproduction of the majority of wild plants.

There are over 20,000 species of bees worldwide. In a recently published article, scientists reported that about a quarter of wild bee species haven’t been seen since the 1990’s when there was a dramatic increase in agricultural pesticide use.

The causes of the worldwide decline are many and mostly revolve around climate crisis and toxins. To learn more about bee culture check out our Buzzed on Bees feature where you’ll find lots of resources.



We received lots of positive feedback on our annual Website Visitor Survey. While there were many adults respondents, there were also a handful of middle school students who responded while trying to make it through the home stretch of a very challenging year.

We'll definitely be tracking these kids who are passionate about science.

(Not photographed are Brooke and David).

Did You Know: The Ocean Got Quieter During the Pandemic

When the world went on lockdown in early 2020, economic activity slowed and there was a steep decline in shipping traffic. The ocean is filled with animal sounds – whistles, songs, bellows, clicks, and more – and the sounds of storms and earthquakes. Added to that is noise pollution from ships.

Our friends at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI), study all aspects of the ocean and part of a nation-wide team trying to better understand underwater sound within the National Marine Sanctuary System. They have an underwater microphone (hydrophone) deep in the ocean in the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary that streams and records ocean sounds. Listen to orcas and Pacific white-sided dolphins.

Did You Know: Purple Comes from Snail Slime?!

Purple has always been a ‘royal’ color that originally came from snail slime. You heard right: snail slime!

Archeologists have dated “royal” purple garments dyed with snails to as old as 1,000 B.C and only three species produce this dye.

The marine snails from the genera Murex, Thais and Plicopurpura produce slime, a secretion from their mucus gland—like other snails. But in their slime is a compound, which in the presence of light and oxygen, is purple.

People Have Shaped Nature for Thousands of Years

The idea of “natural” or “wild” lands is a myth. Scientists released a study showing that about three quarters of terrestrial nature has been shaped over 12,000 years by the land use of Indigenous and traditional peoples. Those land use practices included burning, hunting, species propagation, domestication and cultivation.

The cause of the current biodiversity crisis is a result of intensifying and new uses of the biodiverse landscapes shaped and sustained by traditional societies. “[This study] shows that high biodiversity is compatible with, and in some cases a result of, people living in these landscapes,” says Yadvinder Malhi at the University of Oxford. “Working with local and traditional communities, and learning from them, is essential if we are to try to protect biodiversity.”

Coral Microbiome

Just like us, coral reefs have microbiomes that keep them healthy. Researchers, like our Featured Scientist, Colin Howe, study the microbiomes of coral reefs. They aim to identify microbes on specific reefs where they can discover how corals’ microbes help them become more resilient in the face of human-caused climate change and pollution.

Sea Star Wasting Disease

Sea Star Wasting Disease (SSWD) has decimated sea star populations around the world. Since the epidemic of dead, dissolving sea stars was discovered around 2013, scientists have been trying to figure out the cause of the disease.