Kelp forests in Washington have been in decline over the last 100 years – with a 36% decline in kelp forests in the San Juan Islands in less than ten years, 80% lost in south Puget Sound the last 50 years, and disappearance of all bull kelp beds around Bainbridge Island as of 2015. Scientists and managers lack the data needed to fully understand the causes of this situation. Reef Check is working in conjunction with Puget Sound Restoration Fund (PSRF) and the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation to address this issue.
We are a part of the Kelp Forest Monitoring Project funded by the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation. This project includes a network of partnerships including PSRF, Reef Check, Marauder Robotics and The Bay Foundation. The goal of this project is to understand how to achieve a higher level of kelp health and resilience that leads to better management and conservation of this fragile but mighty ecosystem, using a variety of methods.
We have been working closely with PSRF to build a base of volunteer citizen science divers and establish a network of monitoring sites throughout the Salish Sea. PSRF focuses on structure forming species, Olympia oysters and bull kelp, and habitat enhancing species, such as pinto abalone. Their partnership has been a crucial part of determining the Reef Check indicator species for Puget Sound and their local knowledge of current and historical kelp beds will be invaluable in determining our survey sites.
To carry out this effort, we welcome our new Washington Regional Manager, Jackie Selbitschka. Jackie graduated from the University of California Santa Cruz with a BA in Marine Biology and AAUS scientific diver certification. Her background is in marine science education and she has been a NAUI instructor for 10 years. Her passion is to share the incredible life that lives underwater so that others are inspired to care for and protect our marine habitats. She is excited to bring this passion to training Reef Check citizen science divers in Puget Sound.
Reef Check is in the middle of training the first round of Washington divers this spring. We have 15-20 monitoring sites that will be monitored this inaugural season selected with input from the Washington Department of Natural Resources and Tribal groups. All training is comparable to the California and Oregon protocols to create a network of monitoring sites up and down the west coast. While spring training sessions are underway, to become a Reef Check Washington citizen scientist diver, you can find information about prerequisites and our future training schedule here.