Scientists are not standing idly by as thousands of sea stars on the west coast of North America continue to succumb to sea star wasting syndrome. In fact, a workshop for experts in this field is organized for this weekend.

Donna Gibbs, Vancouver Aquarium taxonomist

Donna Gibbs, Vancouver Aquarium taxonomist

The Vancouver Aquarium has been invited by the Oregon Sea Grant and Hatfield Marine Science Center to take part in the 40-person Sea Star Wasting Workshop in Newport. Our resident taxonomist Donna Gibbs and research coordinator Jessica Schultz will share what they have learned on the B.C. coast with the help of other research divers and citizen scientists.

Jessica says the group will work together to answer the questions “What do we know so far? How can we coordinate our efforts?”

The first day will focus on the progression of the syndrome and potential ecological impacts. The second day will focus on practical ways to respond to this epidemic as well as how to involve the public.

Jessica Schultz, Vancouver Aquarium research coordinator

Jessica Schultz, Vancouver Aquarium research coordinator

The results of the workshop will be published in a non-scientific paper for future reference.

Scientists may not be able to tell yet for certain what’s going on with all of the sea stars, but they’re on it, and they’re determined to find out.

Written by Karen Horak, writer-editor, content and digital experience at the Vancouver Aquarium.

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2 Responses

  1. Jim Rossi

    Dear research team, I have been diving today June 29th at Tuwanek on the Sunshine Coast. You may be aware that this area had been spared from the seastar wasting for several months after the initial outbreak reported in September. Sadly Pycnopodia have by all evidence almost entirely succumbed at Tuwanek. There are remnants in evidence presently as are there active wasting of p.brevispinus alongside some reasonably healthy looking individuals of P.brevispinous. I bring this to your attention because this may be an opportune time to collect samples. If you would like me to do this for you I would be willing just let me know how you would like them collected and preserved.


    • Vancouver Aquarium

      Hi Jim,

      Thanks very much for passing this on to us. It’s both interesting and alarming that Tuwanek is now experiencing the syndrome, and it is definitely important information. Thanks for letting us know. It also provides a good opportunity to collect data that we are no longer able to collect from Howe Sound because adult sunflower stars are currently nearly absent.

      Collecting and preserving stars may be logistically challenging. When we collect samples, we normally keep them alive (cold and oxygenated) to transport them back to the Aquarium where the vets carry out their preservation protocols and get what they need. This might be rather inconvenient for you, but I will talk to our vet staff to see if there are other ways of doing it. Alternatively, we might be able to send our dive team up there to collect some sea stars. I will look into it.

      How often do you dive at Tuwanek? Another thing you could do that would be very helpful is collect some data for us on the sea stars while diving, if you have time, and if it’s convenient. One of the big unknowns with the syndrome is why it seems to affect large adult stars but not young juveniles. It would be helpful to know the radius of each star (from the middle of the central disc to the end of the longest arm), the species, whether it looks sick or not, the depth and the temperature. I realize that may be a lot to ask, however, and that it may not be feasible. If that’s the case, no problem at all.

      Thanks again for getting in touch with us. Please let us know if you see anything else on your dives on the Sunshine Coast and elsewhere.


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