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Sea Star Wasting-Citizen Science Opportunity

With spring low tides coming up, it seemed prudent to help spread the word about a new rocky intertidal citizen science monitoring opportunity. You may have heard about the "Sea Star Wasting Syndrome" (it has been in the news recently: PBS Newshour; recent NPR blog post; Oregonian article). Researchers are looking for volunteers to help monitor for potentially impacted sea stars in Oregon. They are inviting anyone interested to attend a two hour informational session on Tuesday, April 8th, from 2-4 PM at Hatfield Marine Science Center (HMSC) visitors center in Newport.

Sea star wasting syndrome is "a general description of a set of symptoms that are found in many species of sea stars. Lesions appear in the ectoderm, which are easily seen by closely inspecting an individual. Typically, these lesions expand, leading to arm loss and eventual death, sometimes after just a few days. Widespread observations of sea stars with signs of wasting syndrome have been made by the MARINe group (Multi-Agency Rocky Intertidal Network) and others, at sites ranging from Alaska to southern California..." Scientists feel that volunteers will be crucial in effectively sampling the many miles of un-sampled coastline in Oregon. According to the Partnership on Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans (PISCO) website (which tracks cases of the syndrome, see: PISCO website) two sites on Oregon's central coast have potential cases, in both the ochre (pictured below) and sunflower sea star. 

For more information: visit the Multi-Agency Rocky Intertidal Network (MARINe) sea star wasting website, attend the upcoming informational session, and/or contact Melissa Miner by email at cmminer@ucsc.edu or phone at (831) 431-3866 or (360) 756-6107.

A classic “starfish” shape, ochre sea stars have five arms, each ending in a blunt point.  Despite the name, ochre sea stars also come in purple to dark rose.  All the back surface of an ochre seastar is covered with a loose net pattern of hard, light-colored bumps that protrude through a velvety surface; a small, light-colored bald spot is nearly always visible in the central back area.  These sea stars can grow up to just over a foot wide.