The lovely Pink Tritonia nudibranch (Tritonia diomedea) – R. Harbo
Everything depends on temperature – even the tides – R. Harbo
Because of mixing currents and temperature differentials, our tides are typically six hours later than those on the west coast of Vancouver Island – Google Earth
This has profound influences on the biodiversity of the region. This is Dwarf Red Sea Fan (Swiftia torreyi), one of the cold water corals – R. Harbo
Rick’s current area of interest is freshwater clams, which carry wonderfully descriptive names. I really liked the “pink heelsplitter”.
Although often overlooked, freshwater clams can be occasionally abundant. This is quadrat sampling. – R. Harbo
Here’s Rick at a particularly dense patch on the Cowichan River – A. Martel
Freshwater clams are interesting in that they require a fish host as part of their life cycle – illustrating yet again that in nature, everything is corrected to everything else.
There’s been a sea change in awareness of the extent of mariculture practised by First Nations. Yes, this is yet another clam garden. – R. Harbo
Rick wove a marvelous tale of how early explorers contributed to our current knowledge of natural history and geography: Cortez, Hernando,Galiano and Valdez Islands, Steller’s Jay, Sea Lions and Sea Cows… – R. Harbo
He was impressed with getting to examine plant specimens collected by Archibald Menzies, especially the Monkey Puzzle Tree (Araucaria araucana) from Chile and the Five-Rib Kelp (Costaria costatus), the latter signed and dated, “Northwest Coast of America, 1788”.
There were a whole lot of “gee whiz I did not know that moments”. I was unaware, for example, of the scale of the button industry in the 1920s… – rasmusen.org & US FWS (inset)
Now did I know how lucrative was the trade in geoducks… – R. Harbo
or how a whole industry was spawned by navy divers who learned their craft by rescuing practice torpedos…
Which takes us to the present. Invasive bivalves have created enormous problems in large parts of eastern North America – Zebra and Quagga mussels are the best known of these. – BC Environment
But not all invasives are intrinsically bad. The Pacific Oyster (which was known as the Japanese Oyster until WWII), arrived in the early 1900s and begat a flourishing industry. – R. Harbo
Others, like this Savoury Clam, arrived but never really caught on commercially. It would appear that they’re not that savoury. – R. Harbo
Introduced species may benefit native species. For example there’s some evidence that Black Oystercatchers, our Club mascot, have done well as a result of introduced shellfish. – R. Harbo
Sea star wasting disease is another serious concern – N. McDaniel
As are the intertwined problems of global warming, ocean acidification, overharvesting… – R. Harbo
…and even the successful recovery of sea otters, which is great…except for sea urchins or, in this case, a horse clam – B. Gisborne
It’s all very complicated…and very beautiful. Here’s that lovely Pink Tritonia again – this time eating a sea pen! – R. Harbo
Rick Harbo – “Marine Life of the Strait of Georgia: past, present and future”
by Andrew Bryant, 4 June 2016.
Rick Harbo worked as a habitat protection biologist with Fisheries and Oceans Canada for over 35 years, and while “retired”, is presently an active Research Associate with the Royal BC Provincial Museum. Rick is also an accomplished photographer and author of numerous books, including the acclaimed field guides Tidepool and Reef , Whelks to Whales and Shells and Shellfish of the Pacific Northwest.
Rick took us a on a vicarious underwater journey, beginning with an introduction to freshwater molluscs, his current area of research. He also provided a fascinating historical overview, beginning with clam gardens and First Nations mariculture, the contributions of early explorers such as James Cook, George Vancouver, Dionisio Galiano, and Cayetano Valdés, as well as prominent naturalists such as Georg Steller, Archibald Menzies and Thomas Nuttall, who have species named after them.
His talk illustrated other historical events, such as the use of freshwater molluscs to make buttons, the development of a geoduck industry by U.S. Navy divers who normally recovered practice torpedos, and the renaming of Japanese Oysters during World War II.
These threads were tied together with an exploration of current threats to the marine ecosystem: introduced or invasive species such as Zebra or Quagga mussels, and global warming/ocean acidification.
Finally, Rick provided some helpful links, including a good scholarly paper about starfish wasting disease, a link to the DFO shellfish closures website, the DFO Seven Day Tide Table for Powell River, and a really useful marine life identification website hosted by the Pacific Northwest Shell Club.