Strawberry Isle Marine Research Society has been monitoring for Sea Star Wasting Syndrome (SSWS) since 2015 along the coastline between Tofino and Ucluelet, B.C.
Sea stars are beautiful and vibrant animals and play an important role in the intertidal ecosystem, but, unfortunately, sea stars along the Pacific coast of North America have experienced a mass die-off due to SSWS. Both the cause and the long-term effects of the disease are unknown, but it is now identified as the largest non-commercial mass marine die-off in history!
SIMRS collects data for the number, species, size, and degree of wasting syndrome of sea stars.
At the end of each field season their data is shared with the Multi-Agency Rocky Intertidal Network (MARINe) to contribute to a larger North America-wide database to be used as open source data for SSWS research. The information collected from this data can be used to track seasonal and long-term trends in sea star species abundance, diversity, and level of wasting disease both within small-scale and large-scale regions.
To celebrate the end of this years Sea Star Surveys and all of the early mornings and wet feet put in by citizen science volunteers, SIMRS is finishing up the Sea Star Surveys this month with an Intertidal Bioblitz Event!
Remember to dress for the weather, wear sturdy waterproof footwear (for traversing slipper rocks) and come ready to record some intertidal species (with your phone and the iNauturalist app downloaded).
The Sea Star Stewardship Program is highly reliant on the wonderful volunteer citizen scientists that join SIMRS each month in the field to collect data. They are always accepting new volunteers and offer on-site training.