Nov 29, 2018 /

#NOPLASTICNOVEMBER – Lonely Whale: an impactful organization working to address plastic pollution

By Elise Lasky
In honor of the culmination of #NoPlasticNovember, I am highlighting Lonely Whale, an organization that has been contributing to the movement against single use plastics since 2017. Lonely Whale not only created the local Strawless in Seattle campaign but has also created and continues to create change on a national and global scale.
Each minute a garbage truck worth of plastic is dumped into the oceans, adding up to 8-12 million metric tons of plastic each year. 

Read more

Nov 22, 2018 /

#NOPLASTICNOVEMBER – Easy Steps Toward Reducing Single-Use Plastics in the Kitchen

By Angela Cruz
Plastic has infiltrated our lives. Looking around any room in a home, you’ll likely see a large number of plastic items. It’s possible the most single-use plastics you own are in your kitchen. And it makes sense! Plastic is highly durable and, in many cases, makes life more convenient, especially when packaging food products. But plastic’s durability has also made it a problem. 

Read more

Nov 19, 2018 /

The Southern Resident Killer Whale Task Force : Are the recommendations enough?

By Marlena Skrobe
There are only 74 endangered southern resident killer whales left – a 35 year low – and the population has not had a successful birth since 2015. As their numbers dwindle, we find ourselves asking: Is this what extinction looks like? Or will we take bold and immediate actions to help save iconic creatures that we have struck with our vessels, poisoned with PCBs, starved by constructing dams and altering their habitat, and even captured for our entertainment? 

Read more

Nov 15, 2018 /

#NOPLASTICNOVEMBER – Pack it Out or Stay Home: What You Can Do to Refuse Single-Use Plastics

By Karin Otsuka
Going out to eat? You might be thinking about which restaurant you’d want to go to, what kind of food you’d like to eat, or whether you’d want to take out or dine in. The occasion may be casual, formal, or celebratory. Regardless of the affair, let’s take a moment to take the next step in considering the amount of waste generated on a day of eating out. 

Read more

Nov 13, 2018 /

Reimagining how we talk about climate change

By Zoe van Duivenbode
“If we take care of the most vulnerable, then we take care of everyone,” Dr Jalonne White-Newsome kicked off the 2018 Northwest Climate Conference with this powerful message, suggesting that climate change has transitioned from an environmental problem to a social justice and equity problem. Each year, the Northwest Climate Conference gathers people working on climate change from various fields to learn about the latest science, share information, exchange ideas and encourage collaboration across sectors and the region. 

Read more

Nov 8, 2018 /

#NOPLASTICNOVEMBER – Tackling takeout: addressing the problem with plastic containers and packages

By Dave Berndtson
Most of us are aware that the plastic takeout containers we pick up at our favorite restaurants across the nation, use once, and then throw away are destined for landfills – but what happens from there? Turns out they could end up as geological indicators of humanity’s existence in the distant future. Seriously. Your take-out taco container or coffee cup could one day mark the geological eyeblink of modern human history, similar to how the striking stratifications seen in the rock formations of Badlands National Park inform us of eras come and gone. 

Read more

Nov 5, 2018 /

Are FADs Bad?

By Samantha Farquhar and Guillermo Gomez (SMEA Alum, 1982)
Tuna is the world’s most lucrative fishery, accounting for $42.2B in revenue in 2016. As the demand for tuna has increased, so has the innovation in catching. Now more than ever, members of the tuna industry are using Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs) to attract and capture tuna.
FADs are man-made structures that are set adrift or anchored in the otherwise open sea. 

Read more

Nov 1, 2018 /

#NoPlasticNovember – What are you using?

By Spencer Showalter
In recent years, the public has become more and more aware of the negative consequences of high plastic consumption. Crucially, some cities and companies are taking steps towards slowing the use of plastics. For example, Seattle decided to ban plastic straws and utensils for businesses selling food or drinks, Alaska Airlines stopped using plastic straws this summer, and Starbucks is working on a phase-out of plastic straws. 

Read more

Oct 29, 2018 /


By Ashley Bagley
My summer went swimmingly – in more ways than one! That’s because I spent most of my summer interning with King County on a salmon habitat restoration project along the Green River AND snorkeling the Stillaguamish River for my thesis research. One might say I really bring out the “E” in SMEA because I’m one of the few SMEA students who study stream and salmon ecology. 

Read more

Oct 22, 2018 /

SMEA Summer: Who’s buying salmon on the South Line?

By Cori Currier and Emilie Franke
“Now’s a good time! Throw me your duffel,” the crew shouted as the two salmon tender boats pulled alongside one another. It was around 1 AM, and the Alaskan sun had just set over the low-lying green hills on the west side of Nushagak Bay. The 2018 Bristol Bay sockeye salmon summer was in full swing, and it was time to make the jump from the rail of one familiar tender to a new and unknown tender. 

Read more

Oct 15, 2018 /

SMEA Summer: Watching people watch whales

By Celeste Barnes-Crouse
Boats, binoculars, and big whales: a recipe for my thesis research. When I came to SMEA, I knew I wanted to write a thesis to complete my degree. I knew it would be challenging, but I liked the idea and flexibility of designing my own research and contributing new information to the literature. I planned for my research to take place over the summer of 2018, and if I was going to be spending hours doing it then I wanted to like what I was doing. 

Read more

Oct 9, 2018 /

SMEA Summer: Studying Fisheries Management Around the World (Literally)

By Priscilla Rivas
This summer, I was fortunate enough to intern in Rome, Italy with the Fisheries, Economics, and Institutions Branch (FIAP) at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). During my internship, I co-authored a paper about fisheries quota share programs, and worked with FAO employees focused on tenure and user rights in fisheries. Tenure and user rights relate to how individuals are able to utilize resources and have been increasingly studied in recent years, but there is a lot of debate surrounding exactly what the terms mean and what management policies capture these concepts. 

Read more

Oct 1, 2018 /

SMEA Summer: Pursuing Passions in the PNW

By Tressa Arbow
What’s a SMEA student to do with a long list of goals and only one official grad school summer? As much as she can, if you ask me! So, this summer I divided my time between Swahili language classes, my role as NOAA Science Camp Coordinator for Washington Sea Grant, and preliminary data collection for my thesis.
Although I’m focused on Washington for my thesis, I’m ultimately hoping to apply my experience and the research skills I’m gaining in an international setting. 

Read more

Sep 24, 2018 /

Letter from the Currents Editor

By Kelly Martin
The sun is setting earlier, rain is making its way back into the forecast, and the leaves are starting to turn shades of yellow: another school year at the University of Washington is here. As the incoming Editor-in-Chief of Currents, the School of Marine and Environmental Affairs (SMEA) student blog, this means making sure our staff is ready for another year of communicating timely marine and environmental research, news, and policy issues. 

Read more

Jun 4, 2018 /

Clearing the Way for Salmon: The Difficult Path to Removing Dams in the Klamath Basin

By Spencer Showalter
Mark your calendars for 2020—it could be the beginning of the largest dam removal project in American history. While dams in California have been used for generations to stabilize long-term water availability to settlers, their inherent role of restricting flow affects humans and ecosystems downstream. Because of these impacts, four dams in the Klamath River Basin are slated to be removed in a $450 million project that would re-open 500 miles of spawning grounds to coho and Chinook salmon.  

Read more

May 31, 2018 /

Simply Science, Part V: How the ocean gives us every other breath

By Samantha Farquhar
Take a breath….and thank the trees.
Now take another breath…..but this time thank the ocean.
Yes, the ocean. It has been estimated that 50% of the global oxygen supply comes from the ocean.
How does the ocean do this? By providing a home to plant-like organisms called phytoplankton.
Similar to trees, phytoplankton utilize the chemical process of photosynthesis. 

Read more

May 28, 2018 /

Will your steelhead survive the Sound?

By Ashley Bagley
I’m avidly following my steelhead’s migration down the Skokomish River—so far it has migrated 34 miles from its rearing site, headed for the Pacific Ocean!
I recently decided to join a team and sponsor a steelhead in the name of conservation. Every spring, Long Live the Kings hosts its Survive the Sound campaign to increase awareness about steelhead survival and raise money for conservation efforts. 

Read more

May 24, 2018 /

Simply Science, Part IV: Ghosts under the oyster bed: why the Washington Department of Ecology rejected a new pesticide for oyster farms

By Danielle Edelman
On April 9, 2018, the Washington State Department of Ecology (DoE) responded to a request from the Willapa-Grays Harbor Oyster Growers Association (WGHOGA) to approve the use of the pesticide imidacloprid to control burrowing ghost shrimp in oyster beds. Specifically, the WGHOGA had applied for a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit, a key component of the national Clean Water Act which allows for the discharge of chemicals and wastewater into the environment. 

Read more

May 21, 2018 /

Ocean Acidification on the Half Shell: An SMEA Student’s Experience Running the “Boring” Booth at a Seafood Festival

By Danielle Edelman
A few weeks ago, I found myself sitting behind a table covered in bottles of sea water, pH-test kits, and posters with pictures of pitted and dissolving snail shells. I had a coffee in one hand and a bowl of steamed clams and mussels in the other. As I looked around at the booths next to mine, I spotted a family with two kids. 

Read more

May 17, 2018 /

Simply Science, Part III: Dog Teams and Feces: The Unlikely Heroes of Orca Conservation

By Katie Keil and Kaitlin Lebon
This story is part III of the Simply Science Series, where we’re delving into research conducted in our own backyard
They’re local celebrities, Puget Sound hallmarks, key ecosystem players, and, unfortunately, endangered. Although they should be rebounding from (now banned) live harvest captures in the 1970s, the Southern Resident killer whale (SRKW) population has remained relatively stable at low levels for years. 

Read more