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Puget Sound Seabird Survey

Puget Sound is the nation’s second largest marine estuary, and covers just over 1,000 square miles. It supports significant wildlife including marine mammals, marine birds and important salmon populations. The Puget Sound Seabird Survey (PSSS) is a community science effort created by Seattle Audubon in 2007 and was recently transitioned to Puget Sound Bird Observatory (PSBO). The program engages over 250 trained volunteer field observers to gather data annually on wintering seabird populations in Puget Sound, Strait of Juan de Fuca and waters surrounding the San Juan Islands. Data collected have provided an evolving snapshot of seabird and waterfowl density, a key indicator of health for Puget Sound, on more than 5,400 acres of sheltered and open water and shoreline habitat. It is the only land-based, multi-month seabird survey in the Southern Salish Sea, and it provides essential and dynamic population data for researchers and policy-makers. With shifting climate and marine conditions, long-term datasets such as the PSSS, are vital to gauging environmental health. CREOi funding helped support the transition of PSSS from Birds Connect Seattle (formerly Seattle Audubon) to PSBO, including engaging former Seattle Audubon Science Director Toby Ross, who oversaw PSSS and brings with him continuity and experiential knowledge of the stakeholder relationships and financial, logistical, and programmatic workings of the project.

Not only did the PSSS complete its 16th season of monitoring without interruption of the long-term data collection effort, PSBO made significant improvements to the program. They developed a volunteer recruitment and registration web tool; improved the program’s seabird identification assessment tool and online survey site map; and completed a major renovation of the online data entry portal to streamline and improve the user experience. Perhaps most importantly, PSBO leveraged CREOi funding and continuity of the PSSS to secure a $250,000 collaborative award with University of Washington and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) to combine PSSS shore-based data with WDFW’s long-term aerial seabird surveys to identify causes of shifts in Puget Sound’s overwintering marine bird populations. Finally, PSBO has expanded collaborative efforts to share data with Birds Canada to assess vessel impacts on sea duck distribution in the Salish Sea.