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Scientists Need Help Observing Oregon Coast Sea Stars - How to Assist

Published 05/05/22 at 12:35 AM PST
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Scientists Need Help Observing Oregon Coast Sea Stars - How to Assist

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(Oregon Coast) – Oregon coast scientists and other experts need some help to figure out the actual numbers and the state of sea stars along the shoreline, after a mysterious disease called sea star wasting syndrome wiped out large chunks of the population in the Pacific Northwest several years ago. Researchers still don't understand much about this particular tidepool plague, and they're still trying to get a good picture of the rebound of some species in its aftermath. (Photo copyright Oregon Coast Beach Connection)

Ochre stars, it turns out, are the one of the most vulnerable and yet well-known of the coastline's intertidal species. Experts are trying to get more eyes on the tidepools and document what's happening. With that in mind, CoastWatch is hosting an online seminar on how to submit a sea star observation for MARINe, the Multi-Agency Rocky Intertidal Network, a partner of CoastWatch.

It's held via Zoom on Wednesday, May 25 at 6 p.m.

Recently, the State of Oregon passed a law prohibiting the collection of this species, citing in part how climate change is making them more vulnerable to illness and helping to make them less resilient and hardy in the face of habitat shifts.

The talk is aimed at CoastWatch members, who patrol Oregon coast beaches and report on various issues, hoping to snag more members to submit sea star reports. But it is also open to the general with the aim of simply getting many eyes on beach environments.

Melissa Miner, a researcher in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at UC Santa Cruz who is based in Bellingham, Washington, will give a tutorial of how to submit a sea star observation for CoastWatch volunteers and interested others. Miner will also provide an overview of the resources found on the MARINe website, which include sea star guides to correctly ID'ing them and various updates on the disease and population numbers in general.

The presentation is free and will last about an hour. You can register for the webinar at this link.

Ochre sea stars (Pisaster ochraceus) are not simply one color: they can show up as yellow, orange, brown, reddish or even purple, according to Oregon Coast Aquarium. They are typified by small white spines across their backs. Most Ochre sea stars have five rather large, thick arms, although you may find them with as many as seven and as few as four.

Their diet largely consists of barnacles, snails, limpets and mostly mussels, obtained by a rather mind-bending means. The sea star pushes its stomach out of its body and inserts it into the shell of their prey. They're also known for a good degree of tolerance for being out in the air, with the Ochre sea star able to survive up to 50 hours under the right conditions.

Why do they come in different colors? It's not entirely understood, but scientists believe it can have to do with what they're eating and possibly other factors. These little stars of the Oregon coast have plenty to still be revealed. MORE PHOTOS BELOW

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