Padilla Bay newsletter

Our e-newsletter is published quarterly with current events, articles, and program information.
Shauna Bjornson aboard the Skookum Research Vessel in Olympia, retrieving the monitoring equipment with water and mountains in the background.

Busy Microbes - by Shauna Bjornson

Every 3-4 weeks, dedicated Padilla Bay researcher, Shauna Bjornson, wakes in the middle of the night to measure the oxygen in samples of water from the bay. She’s interested in the microbial respiration rate how fast microbes like bacteria are consuming oxygen and organic materials in marine waters. These rates are important because they indicate how carbon is being cycled in our oceans and estuaries, and how much oxygen is available to organisms like salmon, crab, oysters, and zooplankton.

Even though it’s important, respiration rates are seldom measured, and we have limited knowledge of rates for microbial respiration in the Salish Sea. These measurements are important to include in water quality models like the Salish Sea Model (SSM) which was developed to evaluate the influence of human activity on dissolved oxygen levels.

Instrument for measuring dissolved oxygen.

To fill this data gap, Padilla Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve is partnering with Ecology’s Marine Monitoring Unit to conduct a field study of pelagic (bottom water) microbial respiration in the Salish Sea. Every month for one year (Sept. 2018-2019), researchers sample bottom water from 15 of the sites. As bacteria and other microbes break down organic material in the water, they use up the oxygen. Researchers measure the oxygen level 2-4 times a day to determine the respiration rate.

So far, data reveal a seasonal pattern with lower rates of respiration in winter months, and higher rates in summer months. We’ve also seen large differences in respiration across sampling sites. These data will help determine how microbial respiration contributes to hypoxia (low oxygen conditions) and to ocean acidification. These data can help identify whether environmental factors like dissolved oxygen, salinity, and temperature affect respiration rates. This study will also contribute to improving the Salish Sea Model and further our understanding of the carbon cycling in the Salish Sea.

Girl holding a bunch of snails (Battelaria) in her hand

Straight from the pens of our learners                                   

Every year Padilla Bay has thousands of children visit on school field trips, summer camp excursions, and with their families. The education staff love being able to work with so many diverse students and teach them about why estuaries, like Padilla Bay, are so important! This year the education staff has been putting a lot of effort into reflection, both reflecting on how to be better teachers, and reflecting on what students are learning in our programs. One of the best ways to see this is by looking at the students’ own reflections in the letters they write us after their program. This article shows some of our favorite quotes from students that have visited this year:
 
“It was amazing to go out doors and learn about different things I didn’t even think existed. Thank you for taking the time to teach us, I learned so much!”     -Sophia
 
“Hi its me Logan I found the unidentified blob forgot the name the compliments made my day. Best tour I was on thank you for the day.”     - Logan
 
“Thank you for giving us the opportunity to come and learn about the estuary and all the creatures. It was so much fun looking for the creatures and looking at them with a microscope. Thank you I had a wonderful day.”    -Marrisa
 
“Looking through the glass of the aquarium was really cool! A crab was eating some algae stuff next to a big sea star. The experience of digging in the sand, looking for life was really fun and messy ;) I really enjoyed going to Padilla Bay, and I wish to go again sometime in the near future.”     - Sofia
 
“Thank you for teaching us about estuaries. I loved this field trip so much because in previous years we would’ve never used shovels or go into the mud and it was really fun for me, and I know for my group too.”     -Hedaya
 
“Thank you for being kind and showing me all the different plankton. You guys are amazing and you’re the best at telling what an estuary is.”     -Pablo
 
*Spelling has been edited in some quotes for clarity.
Thank you letter from child who visited Padilla Bay. The link to the transcription is in the caption.

Thank you letter from child who visited Padilla Bay.