Western Lecture Series

Engaging speakers and scholars deliver talks on a variety of academic subjects and world affairs. Presentations are designed to expand your knowledge base, provoke thought, enhance understanding and inspire creativity. Every lecture introduces a distinct and interesting topic. Offered throughout the year, the Western Lecture Series is free and open to the public. Registration is not required.

Green Logo with a large bird flying off to the sideThe Climate Reality Project: Hope for the Future

Date: Sunday, June 24, 2018
Time: 2-3 p.m.
Location: Islandwood School 4450 Blakely Ave. NE, Bainbridge Island
Cost: Free, registration not required. Open to the public

Presented in partnership with Islandwood School

With rising seas, global heat records falling, and storms becoming more devastating, the reality of climate change has never been clearer. With clean energy solutions like wind and solar getting more affordable, batteries getting better, and buildings becoming more energy efficient every year, we can see the way forward. Thanks to 195 countries signing the Paris Agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions planetwide, the world is united in working for a safe and sustainable future. Climate Reality is working to accelerate the global shift from activities driving climate change to renewables so we can power our lives and economies without destroying our planet.

Presenter: Dr. Adelia Ritchie


Liberty Bay Watershed: Its History and Trends in Water Quality and Aquatic Habitat

Date: Wednesday, July 11, 2018
Time: 6-7 p.m.
Location: SEA Discovery Center, Poulsbo
Cost: Free, registration not required. Open to the public

The Liberty Bay watershed supports a variety of beneficial uses for people and wildlife, including direct-contact recreation, shellfish harvesting, and fish and wildlife habitat. Development over the past 100 years has resulted in a variety of detrimental impacts, including closure of shellfish beds due to bacteria and toxics accumulation, recreational use closures due to sewage spills, decreased spawning and rearing habitat for fish, and others. Recently, there have been encouraging indicators that these trends may be slowing. This presentation reviews historical development in the watershed, historical water quality and wildlife habitat information, as well as the projects and actions that have been taken to restore Liberty Bay.

Presenter: Phil Struck


The Global Expansion of European Green Crabs

Date: Wednesday, July 18, 2018
Time: 6-7 p.m.
Location: SEA Discovery Center, Poulsbo
Cost: Free, registration not required. Open to the public

European green crabs are listed as one the world's 100 worst invasive species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. These crabs were first detected in the Salish Sea in 2016, raising concerns that this species might damage our local ecology and economy. This lecture presents current knowledge of green crabs and endeavors to answer the following questions: What exactly does it mean to be one of the world's worst invasive species? Do green crabs deserve this reputation? What consequences might we expect if green crabs establish in the Salish Sea? What can you do to help? Barnes also provides a description of his research and technology designed to track individual crabs to characterize their use of space and determine whether native crabs are effective at limiting green crab distributions in the Pacific Northwest.

Presenter: Patrick Barnes


What's Happening to the Sea Stars? 

Date: Wednesday, July 25, 2018
Time: 6-7 p.m.
Location: SEA Discovery Center, Poulsbo
Cost: Free, registration not required. Open to the public

During the summer of 2013, people began to find sea stars decaying on the beaches of the Salish Sea, where they are a historically common sight. Known as Sea Star Wasting Disease, the die-off has been observed from Alaska to Mexico. Sea star populations on many beaches along the West Coast remain below historical levels. The die-off received a great deal of media attention, but some of the publicity may have too quickly jumped to conclusions. Urnes summarizes what is currently known about Sea Star Wasting Disease in the waters of the Northwest. 

Presenter: CJ Urnes


Marine Mammal Bioacoustics

Date: Wednesday, August 1, 2018
Time: 6-7 p.m.
Location: SEA Discovery Center, Poulsbo
Cost: Free, registration not required. Open to the public

Explore how marine mammals receive and produce sound, and why sound is important in their aquatic environment.  

Presenters: Dawn Grebner & Susan Levitt


Eelgrass Wasting Disease in the Salish Sea: Local impacts and identifying resilience in a changing ocean 

Date: Wednesday, August 8, 2018
Time: 6-7 p.m.
Location: SEA Discovery Center, Poulsbo
Cost: Free, registration not required. Open to the public

The decline of seagrass around the world is of great concern due to its crucial ecosystem functions contributing to the health of coastal systems for both wildlife and humans. Eelgrass Wasting Disease, caused by the omnipresent marine pathogen Labyrinthula zosterae, has the potential to devastate important seagrass habitats. It is found around the world and has been linked to rapid declines in seagrass beds on the U.S. east coast and Europe in the 1930s and 1980s. Although little is known about the host-pathogen interactions in wild habitats or what conditions lead to destructive outbreaks, the pathogen is known to be temperature sensitive and opportunistic, increasing damage during stressful conditions for the eelgrass. Lab experiments show the disease has a negative impact on shoot growth and is sensitive to increased temperature and low light conditions. Through field surveys in the Puget Sound and San Juan Islands, research documented the prevalence and severity of eelgrass wasting disease in the region. It’s found to be widespread in the Salish Sea, but levels of damage vary greatly between beds. Results suggest the pathogen is moderated by cool sea water conditions. Cross-infection experiments show both host and pathogen genetic variability may contribute to the impact the disease has on the eelgrass population. Future work focuses on determining the conditions that promote resilience and reduce the impact of the disease on eelgrass beds. Exploration also looks at the role of oysters in filtering the Labyrinthula zosterae pathogen in wild eelgrass beds, potentially supporting the health of the eelgrass and lowing disease. 

Presenter: Morgan Eisenlord


Anemones on Acid: Sea Anemone Symbiosis in Changing Seas

Date: Wednesday, August 15, 2018
Time: 6-7 p.m.
Location: SEA Discovery Center, Poulsbo
Cost: Free, registration not required. Open to the public

The Salish Sea is a unique ecosystem that experiences a special type of upward current known as coastal upwelling. This trait, combined with increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, results in lower pH levels projected for 2050. While ocean acidification is commonly viewed as a threat to important species like oysters, other iconic species of the Salish Sea, such as eelgrass and anemones, may benefit from this new environment. A research study examines a cold-water relative of corals, sea anemones, which house small algae cells in their tentacles. The algal cells in this relationship are able to utilize the extra carbon dioxide in the water and anemones that host a one type of algae benefitted from experimentation under low pH conditions. The study demonstrated that under intermediate levels of ocean acidification, certain anemones benefit, while at higher levels predicted for 2100 all anemones started showing signs of stress, including loss of their algal symbionts. Anemones comprise a large part of the animal biomass in the intertidal zone, so modeling their reaction to future conditions will help determine what Salish Sea ecosystems will look like in the future.

Presenter: Natalie Coleman


Assessing the State of the Sound

Date: Wednesday, August 22, 2018
Time: 6-7 p.m.
Location: SEA Discovery Center, Poulsbo
Cost: Free, registration not required. Open to the public

The Washington State Department of Natural Resources manages 3 million acres of state trust lands and over 2.6 million acres of state-owned aquatic lands. As stewards of these lands, the department’s Aquatic Assessment and Monitoring team conducts research on a variety of essential topics ranging from ocean acidification to eelgrass bed dynamics. In collaboration with Western Washington University on an integrated multi-trophic aquaculture project, researchers look to discover the effectiveness of using other organisms to mitigate the waste produced from shellfish aquaculture. Findings can assist in management decisions, with a goal to ensure environmental protection while fostering public use of aquatic lands. 

Presenter: Elisa Rauschl​


SEA Discovery Center Interns Investigate Liberty Bay and the Salish Sea

Date: Wednesday, August 29, 2018
Time: 6-7 p.m.
Location: SEA Discovery Center, Poulsbo
Cost: Free, registration not required. Open to the public

Discover what marine mysteries our summer interns have been studying, and find out what they’ve learned. 

SEA Discovery Center Summer Intern The SEA Discovery Center Internship Program gives college students and recent graduates an opportunity to immerse in the marine environment and gain valuable experience while conducting research for 10 weeks. For more information about the internship program visit the SEA Discovery Center website.

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