Sunday, May 4, 2014

#SSEC14 Day 3: Now What?

Guillemot Group, l-r: Kelly Zupich, Govinda Rosling, Frances Wood
Like all good things, the Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference came to an end on Friday, and it no doubt left those who experienced the entire three days of speeches, presentations and festivities exhilarated and as exhausted as conference organizers. Even for those who came for a day, the proceedings proved edifying and sometimes entertaining.

One can’t experience everything and as with all collections and compilations whether it be music, candy or research, one’s tastes and interests prevail. Maybe it’s a feeling of feeling full but not satisfied, that there was too much “social” science and not enough “hard” science, too much “critter” and not enough “processes.” In some of the mixing and matching, it was good to sit with both “dirt” and “critter” scientists discussing the range of Elwha research.

The conference provides a snapshot of some of the science being done in the Salish Sea. Include the posters presented in addition to the presentations and it’s a pretty rich snapshot.

To call out one example: Frances Wood and the Guillemot Research Group authored the poster, “Breeding Pigeon Guillemots on Whidbey Island: A Six Year Study.” It’s one of many good examples of solid research clearly presented and, while it may not look as sexy or dynamic as a talk before a crowded room, it’s an important part of the snapshot as well.

But so what? I love the science and can lose myself in the science and forget that most of my time is spent thinking about the policies and politics of saving the Salish Sea.

In the plenary session that began the conference, David Marshall of the Fraser Basin Council hoped to get a positive response when he asked how many participants had used information published in a previous report on the state of the Salish Sea. No one raised their hand. Uh oh, wrong question.

Nope, right question. Because it would be wonderful if the findings of the Guillemot Research Group were to be used by local officials and community members and activists in doing local land use planning and regulation. It would be great at the next conference if the question, “Did what we learned in 2014 make a difference,” were greeted by a sea of raised hands.

Conference proceedings will be published at a later date and conference science reporters will be publishing articles on conference highlights. Past conference proceedings are found at the conference web site.

--Mike Sato


  1. I commented on that very issue on the radio last week, as a wrap up of Earth Day. If people simply continue to think in the box they are in, then none of this will do anything of consequence long term. It's long past time to figure out how this is going to move the dial. The status quo is not working anymore. Just as the shellfish growers.

    1. 'Twas many moons ago at an early Puget Sound/Georgia Basin conference that Scott Redman led a discussion on science and policy. Politics is the fulcrum; science gives leaders the reasons to do the right things.

  2. Here are the Fraser Basin indicator reports to which Marshall referred --

    In a similar vein on the U.S. side we have --

    and the "Marine Waters overviews" for 2011 & 2012 --

  3. Another great publication to check out is the transboundary Health of the Salish Sea website which reports ecosystem conditions on the scale of the Salish Sea, north and south of the border. It represents a long-standing commitment between Environment Canada and USEPA, and collaboration among multiple levels of government, Tribes, First Nations and NGOs --

  4. Thanks, Cecilia. How well do you think all this information get used used to inform public policy on both sides of the border? Mike