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Public Lecture Sneak Peek: Paddling for a Purpose in a Troubled Sea--Sampling the Salish Sea During Tribal Canoe Journeys

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USGS Menlo Park Science Center, Bldg. 3, Conference Room A, 7:00PM


Public Domain.


Amelia: Hello and thank you so much for joining us on this sneak preview of our Western Region Evening Public Lecture for October 29th. I'm Amelia Barrales and today we have Eric Grossman, USGS Geologist and Tribal Journey Science Advisor

Hello Eric, thank you so much for this sneak preview. 

Eric: Well thank you for having me.

Amelia: You are giving a talk entitled "Paddling for a Purpose in a Troubled Sea -- Sampling the Salish Sea During Tribal Canoe Journeys. This is somewhat of a fairly new USGS water quality project you have been working with the Coast Salish peoples. Can you tell us a bit about how this got started in 2008?

Eric: Well lets see…A few years ago after a long day at a conference, I was discussing science needs to address climate change with a bunch of colleagues and one of them mentioned that this Coast Salish peoples conduct a 2-3 week canoe journey every summer. And it dawned on me that the tribal journey would be a great platform for  conducting water quality science and a great way to integrate our western science with traditional ecological knowledge of the tribal people and so you know, the canoe is just really great way for this kind of work it doesn’t have any gasoline or diesel engines that disturb or contaminate the very water we wanna analyze. And the Coast Salish peoples have sustained their rich culture on the water for a millenia and so who better to learn from and work with to understand how the Salish Sea is changing than the Coast Salish peoples themselves. A few months after discussion, I learned that Paul Schuster a USGS hydrologist, conducted a similar project on the Yukon River and so he and I strategized how do this behind multiple conoes simultaneously across such a vast area like the Salish Sea, and then we pitched the idea to the leaders of the Coast Salish and they whole heartedly endorsed the idea.

Amelia: So why do this work in the Salish Sea and not somewhere else?

Eric: The Salish Sea which is comprised of the Straits of Georgia and the north, and down through the Strait of Juan de Fuca into Puget Sound and Hood Canal is experiencing dramatic loses of habitat and important species including the icons of pacific northwest, salmon and orca and their populations predicted to double in the next 30 or so years and the area is experiencing the some of the most rapid rates of climate change and both of these are affecting near shore ecosystems. USGS is helping efforts to improve understanding of the system up there and to provide science to guide restoration before the ecosystem collapses, much like what happened in the Chesapeake Bay in the recent past, and so we’ve been conducting various types of coastal science up there now as part of the USGS coastal habitats in Puget Sound project.

Amelia: Besides all this scientific work you do on this particular project, what is the cultural part of this unique tribal journey?  

Eric: Well the tribal journey is an annual event where more than 40 western U.S. tribes and over 50 British Columbia first nations, peoples, paddle these large ocean going canoes over along their ancestral waterways and the goal is to share their knowledge of share songs, dance, foods and essentially practice their rich culture, its what they do. And its kind of like a right of passage for the young, but probably more important its the community activity of these water people. Only 150 years ago they were the only ones here and they traveled the waters by these beautiful canoes.  I mean it’s essentially just what they did and they assisted off of plentiful marine resources and many of these are now imperiled, it’s just very powerful to be there and witness the journey and it’s a privilege to work with the Coast Salish people to bring awareness and improve resource management to the pacific northwest.

Amelia: Eric, what you have been telling me so far, sounds like you have a lot of fun.

Eric: Oh yeah, it’s mixes a little bit of fun with work, hopefully it’ll be a great outreach as well as partnership that’s developing into a number of new project areas, which I will cover in the presentation.

Amelia: Great, well thank you so much Eric, we really appreciate this.

Eric: Yeah thank you, it will be fun.

Amelia: If you are interested in learning more about this upcoming lecture and to view any of our previous lectures, please visit our USGS Evening Public Lecture Series website at His video will be available online on at the end of the month for viewing .  

Thank you for your interest in our Western Region Evening Public Lecture Series.  

This a production of the U.S. Geological Survey, Department of Interior. 

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