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Western Fisheries Science News, January 2015 | Issue 3.1

February 2, 2015

Fish Health Research at the U.S. Geological Survey - Marrowstone Marine Field Station

The USGS Western Fisheries Research Center’s Marrowstone Marine Field Station, overlooking the Puget Sound, is well-situated for addressing marine ecosystem health issues. Photo taken by Paul Hershberger, USGS.

Research at the Marrowstone Marine Field Station (MMFS) addresses several of the most important marine ecosystem health issues throughout the Northeast Pacific Ocean. Located on an island in the northwest corner of Puget Sound, the five acre Marrowstone campus is home to a unique USGS research facility, where approximately 7,000 square feet of laboratory space benefits from tanks filled with high-quality treated seawater. Strict biosecurity procedures and biocontainment infrastructure allow for the responsible handling of endemic marine pathogens. These unique capabilities allow scientists to empirically address disease issues that impact populations of wild marine fishes and invertebrates.

Ongoing ecological disease projects at Marrowstone are addressing population-level impacts of pathogens to Pacific herring, steelhead trout, and Chinook salmon in coastal areas from Washington State to Alaska (AK). For example, scientists at Marrowstone are providing disease expertise for a large consortium of state, federal, academic, and private institutions that have implemented a 20-year recovery plan for Pacific herring in Prince William Sound, AK. The collaborative effort includes investigations into the herring food web, migration routes, predation, bioengergetics, and disease issues. Additionally, by investigating the possible involvement of a highly-abundant trematode parasite, scientists at Marrowstone are working with other federal, state, tribal, academic, and private partners to identify causes for the low returns of steelhead (the official state fish of Washington) to Puget Sound watersheds. Finally, in a partnership with scientists at the WFRC Seattle Laboratory, scientists at Marrowstone are investigating the possible involvement of a protistan parasite with the decline and failed recovery of the Chinook salmon population in the Yukon River, AK & Yukon Territory, Canada. The population crash has resulted in severe cultural and economic impacts, including restrictions and closures to subsistence fisheries, and a series of declared commercial fishery disasters, including the most recent in 2014, which precipitated $20.8 million in federal assistance to the region. 

Because of its unique facility and the availability of experimental colonies of specific-pathogen-free (SPF) marine fishes, the MMFS attracts visiting scientists from around the world. Recent guests have included:

  • Scientists from Cornell University investigating the cause(s) of sea star wasting disease.
  • A Norwegian scientist investigating the effects of pathogens on predator/prey interactions.
  • A Finnish scientist investigating the effects of a monogenean trematode on wild fishes.
  • Canadian scientists investigating the effects of endemic pathogens on Pacific herring and Atlantic salmon.
  • Alaskan scientists investigating the effects of pathogens on Pacific herring bioenergetics.

Newsletter Author - Rachel Reagan



Scientist Retirement Marks the Closure of the WFRC’s Newport Duty Station:  On January 10, Research Geographer Deborah Reusser retired after 24 years of federal service.  This departure marks the closure of the WFRC Newport Duty Station –a station opened in 2010 to focus on the impact of climate change and sea level rise on estuarine and near coastal environments, and identifying species at risk in those changing environments.  Reusser’s career has been varied, productive, and pioneering, including a large role in the National Atlas of the United States, North Pacific Non-Indigenous Species Information System, and a variety of collaborative and integrated research projects with the EPA.  Reusser’s contributions and achievements have been recognized at many levels, receiving two Hammer awards from the Clinton administration in the mid 1990s, the USGS Shoemaker award in communications, and three awards from the Office of Research and Development for the Western Ecology Division of EPA.


WFRC Center Director Participates in USDA ARS International Biosafety and Biocontainment Symposium:  On February 4, Jill Rolland will participate in the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) 3rd International Biosafety and Biocontainment symposium:  Biorisk management in one health world in Baltimore, MD.  Rolland will be giving a presentation on infectious salmon anemia and participating in a roundtable panel discussion focused on challenges to forging critical links when animal, human and environmental health collide.

USGS Convenes Columbia Basin Partner Forum in Support of Great Northern Landscape Conservation Cooperative (GNLCC):  On January 28-29, WFRC scientists participated in a 2-day workshop in Portland, OR.  The purpose of the workshop was to develop partnerships and direction for the Columbia River Basin Partner Forum—one of three forums recognized as sub-regions of the GNLCC.  The workshop brought together members from Tribes, federal and state agencies, and Regional consortia who are addressing the impacts of landscape scale stressor such as climate change, uncharacteristic disturbances from fire and insects, and energy development on fish and wildlife and other environmental resources.  WFRC has been working together with the GNLCC to help develop the forum and identify priorities in the Columbia River Basin.

USGS Scientists at PIT Tag Workshop: On January 27-29, WFRC scientists Patrick Connolly and Ian Jezorek attended the 2015 PIT Tag Workshop at Skamania Lodge (Stevenson, WA).  The goal of the workshop was to bring together those using Passive Integrated Transponder (PIT) tag technology in fisheries management, monitoring, and research to share accomplishments and information. Connolly presented a talk titled “New approaches afforded by PIT-tag technology have yielded important answers about fish behavior and habitat needs”.  Connolly and Jezorek also hosted a booth during the workshop to inform scientist about U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s (BOR) launching of Challenge Prize competitions for ecosystem restoration.

USGS Presents at Lahontan Cutthroat Trout Interagency Meeting:  On January 14-15, WFRC Fishery Biologists Craig Haskell and Pete Rissler participated in a Lahontan Cutthroat Trout interagency meeting in Reno, NV.  Haskell and Rissler gave a presentation titled “Independence Lake Research Update and Hydroacoustic Monitoring.”  The meeting was hosted by the Nevada Department of Wildlife and included participants from state and federal agencies, tribes, universities, and non-profit organizations.

In the News

WFRC scientist Ian Jezorek is featured on the front page of the BOR’s website for his work hosting a booth for BOR about various Challenge Prize competitions for ecosystem restoration.

USGS Scientists Quoted in Science News Feature on Elwha River:  On January10, USGS scientists Jeff Duda, Amy East, Steve Rubin, and James Starr were quoted in a Science News feature published, “Let the River Run” about the Elwha River dam removal and ecosystem restoration project. The piece details how the dams were removed and how scientists are studying the physical and biological changes to the ecosystem during and following dam removal. An accompanying video features an interview with Jeff Duda.


Brenkman, S., J.J. Duda, P.R. Kennedy, and B.M. Baker. 2015. A legacy of divergent fishery management regimes and the resilience of rainbow and cutthroat trout populations in Lake Crescent, Olympic National Park, Washington. Northwest Sci. 88(4): 280-304.

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