Drew Harvell: The Sea Star Epidemic – An Arms Race for Biodiversity

December 11, 2019

>>Thank you everyone for joining us tonight. It’s a real pleasure to be able to welcome you
to San Francisco State’s Romberg Tiburon Center. My name is Karina Nielsen and
I’m the director of the center. I’m also a professor of biology here
and I’m a marine ecologist by training. I wanted to just say a few
words about the center. For those of you who are not that familiar
perhaps with us, we are, as it turns out, the only marine and coastal research center
that’s actually on San Francisco Bay. We are also very fortunate to have two wonderful on site intellectual partners
here in the scientific enterprise. We have a branch of the Smithsonian
Environmental Research Center that has a laboratory group here. And we also have the headquarters for
the San Francisco Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. Our institution here provides a gateway for
university level researchers and students to study, conserve and restore
the amazing diversity of marine and coastal environments we
have right in our own backyard. We also host really outstanding public programs
like the one you’re about to see tonight. I’m sure you’re going to enjoy it. In addition to these public programs, we also
host a lot of extended educational opportunities in the community through–
and try to engage people in understanding more about the marine sciences. Most recently, I’ll just give you one example,
because we’ve really had a lot of fun with it. We hosted about 58 teachers
from the San Rafael City Schools in a really wonderful professional development
program to support their implementation of next generation science standards. We had them out, all out, on a sailing
research vessel called the Derek M. Baylis and we conducted investigations on the
bay while looking at water properties, food webs, marine mammals and sea birds. They had a really rich experience because
we partnered with San Francisco State Center for math and science education
and with educators from the San Francisco Bay
National Estuarine Research Reserve. The graduate students from RTC who are doing
research here also came out on the boat and help the teachers understand a little
bit about their projects and assisted them with learning about how to sample and
use all the different equipment and think about questions that they might be
able to work on with their students. So, that was a really, really
wonderful experience. I’m also really happy to be able to
share with the community here some of the recent commitments that San
Francisco State University has made to supporting the center. I know that we’ve been here for– in the
community since 1978 and we’re hoping to start really a new wave
of improvements out here. And President Wong, who is the president of San Francisco State University has
recently allocated about $2 million this year for physical plant safety upgrades. And we expect bidding process for some of
those projects to begin within the New Year. I also want to extend and introduce to
the community and make a very warm welcome to our new dean of the college
of science and engineering, Dr. Keith Bowman, if you would maybe just– [ Applause ] I also want to acknowledge that what I have
just said about the investment is true. I can– It can be verified and audited
by the CFO of the university who happens to be here too, Ron Cortez,
would you waive your hands. [ Applause ] Thank you very much. And I– At this point, I want to just also
really acknowledge the huge investment and opportunity that has been provided to us by
the generosity of Richard and Barbara Rosenberg who have supported Romberg Tiburon
Center with an endowment that allows us to bring you programs like this,
as well as our discovery day, which we invite you to participate in April. Some of you are familiar with that. Barbara and Dick unfortunately
could not join us tonight but Barbara usually helps us open the program, and she sent a few words so
I’m just going to read those. We are very sorry we cannot join you
for what should be an extraordinary talk on a critically important subject. Dick and I have a conflict tonight with the
awarding of the UCSF medal to an individual, whose signature program Barbara chaired,
says I chaired, I’m reading her words, and on his foundation board Dick serves. Please accept our best wishes for a
highly successful evening and as obvious that the programs of this high
caliber, we are going to have to find a larger venue, Barbara Rosenberg. So, thanks to Barbara and
Dick for their support. It is now my immense pleasure to introduce our
guest speaker for tonight, Dr. Drew Harvell. She comes to us from Cornell University where
she’s a professor and curator of invertebrates in the Department of Ecology
and Evolutionary Biology. Professor Harvell has had over 130
major peer review publications including in the top-tier journal Science and Nature. And she has a new book expected out in
February of 2016 to be published by UC press and it’s called the “Sea of Glass.” I think she’ll be telling us something about
this project during part of her presentation. So, I’m not going to steal her thunder. But look for the book. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. Drew Harvell is one of the foremost
experts on diseases in marine organisms. A subject that is not studies– studied as well
as it should be, given the likely importance of diseases influencing the abundance of any
and all of the plants and animals on our planet. Just consider the condition of human
populations and lives before vaccines and antibiotics were used in medicine. Or, when Europeans arrived to
the shores of North America and exposed Native Americans
to the small pox virus. You can get the sense of what we may
or may not know about marine organisms and their relationship to diseases. In a 2002 review paper that Drew is an
author on, she and her co-authors concluded in a very present way, that the
links between climate change and disease will increase the severity of
threats associated with climate warming. Here we are in 2015 with a very warm
ocean and a very warm bay actually, and many unusual things are happening in
addition to this epidemic afflicting sea stars which we’re going to hear
some more about tonight. Species are appearing further north than
usual, extensive algal blooms of the diatom that produces domoic acid have
been prevalent all summer. And most recently in the news, we’ve seen
health warnings about eating red rock and Dungeness crabs and it may delay the
opening of the iconic Bay Area crab season. You may or may not be able to put
them on your Thanksgiving plate. If anyone you know has doubts about the
uncertainties we all face or continue to face as we continue to burn fossil fuels
at the rate we are now or continue to cheat on emissions testings for cars. Just have them check out the ocean this year. OK. So, the decline of sea stars in this
epidemic touches anyone who spends a low tide on the beach, exploring tide pools, the
incredible diversity of life in them, the microcosm of the ocean and what
it is that’s attracted a lot of us to love the ocean to studying it. This evening, I’m especially
excited to know that we are graced with the wonderfully evocative paintings
by a local artist named Ellen Litwiller, if you could just wave your hand. I know she’s here. [ Applause ] The paintings that she did were inspired
by her awareness and personal observations of sea star loss as we are all experiencing. If you haven’t had already,
you had a chance to look. I hope you’ll pause, look at
them at the end of the program. I’m inspired though to know that we have
so many different ways to communicate about the importance of marine life. And I’m so heartened to know that
people from so many different walks of life share this affection and
wonder and awe about marine creatures. It’s a reason for optimism even in the face of the increasingly apparent challenges
facing marine and coastal ecosystems. Knowledge is the first step in the
pathway to progress and change. And as with that optimistic thought in mind, please join me in welcoming our special
guess tonight, Dr. Drew Harvell. [ Applause ]>>Thanks Karina for that amazing introduction. You’d certainly sort of opened
the discussion on some of the things I want to continue to talk about. And thank you all. This is an amazing turnout. I’m really delighted to see your
interest, the engagement of the community. Pretty amazing engagement of the university
and administrators to be here for this. And so, it’s really a wonderful honor for me. And then finally, Ellen’s, you know, evocative beautiful artwork is a
real honor to have on the walls here. So, this is a event that sort
of took us all by surprise, even though in some ways we had predicted
things like this were likely to happen in our changing oceans especially
under warmer conditions. Nonetheless, the scale and the magnitude of
this event certainly caught the public as well as all the scientists by surprise. So, I’m going to talk tonight about the work
we’ve been doing over the last three years now. I don’t know if you’re that familiar
with how long this has been going on. But it’s been– It’s been
kind of a long term event. And before I go any further, I just want
to introduce a couple of my collaborators because they’ve been absolutely key
in our ability to get this work done. So, I’m a university professor
so I’m always working with several PhD students and under grads. This is Morgan Eisenlord here who’s a student
that started working with me during this event because it happened so quickly and has
been involved in almost all stages of it. Maya Groner has done a lot of the
statistical work as a post-doc. And Raniel Shilk [assumed spelling] is a
incredibly talented former honor student in my lab who continues to help with the work. So tonight, this is a general
organization of where I’d like to go. First, I’ll talk about what
is killing the sea stars, the information that we have
about this outbreak. What we know so far. Information about whether the environment plays
a role and what we’ve learned about the role of the environment, and then some of my thoughts about how this affects our
living biodiversity here. Probably, a lot of you know already that this
outbreak has had a lot of public attention. In fact, the correspondent who did this
video, PBS Newshour, ended up winning an Emmy for her reporting of this
event in the last year. There’s a brewery in Oregon’s– Oregon that
developed a Wasted Sea Star purple pale ale. It’s sort of in support of research and sort
of widening public information about this. And, you know, as a scientist,
a lot of the things that we study don’t get this kind of attention. And so, for me personally, this has
been a really kind of a tough event and that I hate seeing these iconic, really
ecologically important species go down. But it’s helped a lot to know that the public
has cared so much about it and then is involved as they have and that’s, I guess,
been a bright light in this. So, a little bit about sea
star waisting disease. I’m afraid it really is pretty much as
grim as were sort of cartooned here. Essentially, what happens is
these stars begin showing signs of twisting and then their arms fall off. So it end– It does end up being
a fairly gruesome kind of process. How many of you have seen this, you
know, on your beaches or around here? Yeah, so, you know, a lot of
you have experienced this. It turns out, it’s not just that it’s, you know,
an interesting concerning issue on our shores but it has sort of wider significance, and
this is the largest marine wildlife epizootic that we’ve have experienced in the oceans. So that’s a pretty big thing. A bigger one in this is white
spot syndrome which is a virus that affects shrimp, but that’s a farm species. So this is actually, we call this a wildlife. And it’s so large not just because of the
extent of the outbreak all the way from Mexico to Alaska, but the fact that over
20 species of stars are affected. And it’s not just the west coast it
actually began on the east coast. And unfortunately now, it’s
spread beyond our shores to China and reportedly also to Australia. So, that means it’s now probably
panzootic when it reaches other continents. At least 20 star species are affected. And then finally, these are
ecologically important. So, the term keystone species which
is kind of a cornerstone concept in marine ecology was actually coined
to describe the activities of a couple of the species of these stars here. And it’s because they’re– they have a
disproportionate impact on their community and that’s obviously an issue
that we’re interested in following up the absence of many of these stars. So, I just want to introduce a few terms. If I start talking about them
as host, this would be the star. This is the organism that becomes diseased. A pathogen, in this case, I’m only going to
be talking about things that are infectious. So that would be a bacteria, a
virus, some kind of a parasite, some kind of disease-causing agent. And then the environment, everything that
interacts with the pathogen and the host. And it turns out that for a lot
of our outbreaks in the ocean, there’s a very important role
that the environment plays. A lot of these sort of disease events
just kind of sit quietly ticking along until the environment changes
and then there can be an outbreak such as we’re experiencing with– in this case. So a disease is sort of the intersection
of these three things coming together. I’ll talk about prevalence as the
proportion of the population afflicted. And severity is– so like out of a hundred
individuals, you know, 5% would be, you know, 5 out of 100, and severity is the degree
to which an individual is afflicted. And then, we’ll talk a little bit
about differential susceptibilities. So, the kinds of signs that we see if
you’re on your beach and you’re wondering, and by the way, this still is ongoing. So, this epizootic began in 2013
and it continues to this day. We get– I’ve been getting reports also from
the east coast of stars still dying there. And the stars on our coast
are still showing these signs. So it starts with this abnormal
twisting of arms, then there are lesions, then the arms fall off, autotomy
and severe tissue degradation. And then a lot of these stars
obviously have been dying. And so, these are just a few of
our pictures of the dominant stars. So this is the ochre star which is a dominant
star on certainly our shores in the San Juan’s, and I think used to be, yeah, here. Yeah, here. So, they’re not always ochre,
sometimes they’re purple. This is the twisting, lesions beginning
and then just to give you a sense of how the sort of grim situation progresses. So this was the first– This was
the first record we had of this. It was from a diver called Neil McDaniel
[assumed spelling] and he posted these pictures of a big die-off event in British Columbia. And so, he’d been photographing this
rock outcrop on October 9th, 2013. Two weeks later, this is what it look like. All of these giant sunflower stars basically
went through the process we’ve talked about, fell off and basically these are just piles
of the spicules all those stars left behind. So this was pretty dramatic to
have an event so rapidly starting. Plus, these are stars that were
kind of in the prime of life. They were fully reproductive. So it was a kind of a dramatic
event that we were watching. I’ve been studying some diseases as part of our research coordination
network in Friday Harbor Lab. And so, we were immediately interested in trying
to isolate what might be causative for this. What we had no idea about at that time was
that this was going to spread and affect so many species over such a wide range. We’ve seen epidemics in stars before. Usually, it’s a single species and it’s
usually a very small geographic range. So, a lot of– Most often in Southern
California and a few times in our waters, but, we’ve never seen anything
with such a wide host range. So that’s what makes this unusual. So, what causes sea star wasting disease? When this for started, there was
enormous arguments among scientists about what the cause was. There were those that were convinced it
was a low oxygen event, hypoxic event. There were others convinced that
acidified waters were to blame. Still, others were really sure
it was radiation from Fukushima. So, there were all sorts of ideas and
passionate beliefs about what was going on. This is work that a colleague of mine from
Cornell Ian Hewson led, and the amazing thing about this is a lot of the kinds of
diseases or the causative agents we find in the ocean tend to be bacteria. Sometimes they’re fungi. They’re parasites. Not as much that we’ve been
able to study viruses. And so, in this case, we were very fortunate
to have this virologist Ian Hewson at Cornell who had been studying echinoderms, which
is what a– it’s what sea stars are, and put in four months of incredibly
hard work to isolate a virus that he thought was causative in this case. So, we set up experiments in
Washington State to actually demonstrate that this virus was the causative agent. And so, I’m going to take you through the steps
that Morgan Eisenlord and Colin Birch went through to kind of demonstrate
that this was the cause. So yeah, I mean that look sad. So what you have to do is start by grinding
up a sick star and creating a filtered version of the exudate that’s viral sized so
that you take everything else out. Then, one of the treatments is
the live virus size fraction and the other is a heat-killed version of
that so that it can no longer be active. That’s the control. Stars are injected and we had to have
special quarantine conditions to do this. This is not something we wanted to do anywhere where there was sea water
running back into the ocean. We didn’t want to be taking any chances. So we’re established at a
fishery’s lab for this. And then, it was a pretty exciting day,
they actually went through several, several repeats of this with nothing happening. And then finally, one of these runs worked
where the stars that were injected all got sick and the controls all did not
that’s why they’re spoiling. And the next part of this is to
actually do what’s called the [inaudible] and to actually take these same stars and run
through an increased replication of stars. So in this case, we had 10 in each
case, same situation, same results. So this was a really key experiment that these
two ran to actually be able to demonstrate that it was a virus that was
involved for one of these species. Of course, there’s a lot of other species. I really love these field guides that Neil
McDaniel’s produces, because it reminds us of the incredible biodiversity
and how beautiful these stars are. These are just some of our pictures of
some of the species that have been affected in the San Juan’s and further south. So, one of the not surprising but
interesting aspects of this is that there’s such a wide range of hosts
that were showing signs of infection and variation in susceptibility. The reason that we did the experiment– oops, with the sunflower stars,
that’s the most susceptible. So that was the species that we were seeing,
you know, in 2013 and 2014 very rapidly dying. Whereas, these other ones were showing signs
but going down a little bit more slowly. So this was the logical one to work on first. So, what causes the wasting disease? The best candidate pathogen is
this ea star-associated densovirus. Densoviruses are also found
in other echinoderms. And this is some of the interesting work
that Ian Hewson did to smooth this out, because of course we have lots of
questions, you know, was this new? Where did it come from? And it turns out that this particular
densovirus has been found in museums for over– museum specimens that are over 60 years old. So it’s been in our waters. And it may surprise you, but it’s actually
not an unusual thing that a normal constituent of our marine ecosystem sort of ticks
along isn’t causing a lot of trouble. And then, something changes
in either its genetics or in the environment and
then an outbreak starts. So we still don’t have sort of the
answer to that really big mystery, what is it that’s changed, why
did this suddenly happened? We think that part of the mystery probably rise
in the generics of that virus and that’s work that Ian Hewson’s group is
trying to understand now. Parvoviruses in general, infect many
different organisms, you may know those of you that have dogs, may know that you always
vaccinate your dogs against parvoviruses. So, that’s a completely different
unrelated virus but it’s in that same group. This is a picture of the ochre star that I
took in Bamfield marine station, sort of the– sort of just as this outbreak was occurring. And it’s just kind of a reminder
to me and I hope to all of you, how beautiful this biodiversity was sort of
before a lot of these are disappearing now. Certainly, there’s not these
numbers in most of our sites. These were relatively healthy when we visited. Maybe about 5 or 10% of them were
starting to show a few signs like this one. But by early August, some of these signs, up to
50% of them were showing signs of the disease. So, I want to show you some of our data from
the San Juan islands, not too far north of here. Before I do that, I almost forgot. One of the things that we–
we do in addition to– well, let met just back up why we would do this. So this is an investigation of
the immune system of the sea star. And a lot of people sort of
ask me, well, what can you do? OK. That’s great. We figured out there’s a virus
that’s causing this, so that’s good. Now, what do we do about it? And there’s not actually a lot we can do
once an agent like this is in the oceans. But probably, one of the first steps
that anybody who’s concerned about sort of endangered organisms or risks from disease,
is to think about captive breeding programs. In order to do that, well, you have to
know something about the immune system. So this is a study that we did with our students
where we actually compared the gene expression of stars that were injected with the
virus versus control stars that weren’t. And I’m not going to take
you through all those words. They’re deliberately kind of very small in
font so you won’t even try to read them. I just want you to see that all
our treated ones, these three here. Here’s the one that’s treated with virus. Here’s the ones that are control. Look at all those red colors. So, those all have to do with
the genes that led up in response to being injected with that virus. So that’s the immune system of the
sea star fighting back against this. So, there’s a lot that we can
do still in terms of researching and understanding the natural mechanisms
of these organisms in fighting off disease, and this is kind of the first step in that. So, a little bit more about the surveys. We have a combination of surveys, we did
a fairly active citizen science program because we just needed information
from a very wide range of the areas about the condition of the
stars during this event. And so, I’m going to show you a little bit of
the data from the citizen science and then more of our own sort of researcher’s data. These are a couple of our
students doing surveys. Let’s see if I can get the slide to start. So what this is, this is the citizen
science data and it will show an animation of how the diseased animals showed up at
the different sites in our region here in the San Juan’s and out to the Olympic
National Park, which is actually one of the first places that this was recorded. So, you’ll see colors showing up. Green means that there’s no disease and
obviously as it gets redder and redder, it’s higher and higher prevalences or
percentages of the population affected. So let’s run this and see how this goes. So there’s the first one, summer
of 2013, pretty rapidly followed. You can see a lot of places looked
pretty good, even into the spring. And then bam, summer of 2014, that was
basically the time of our really huge outbreak. Not as many– I’m going to play this
again because that’s really fast. So what you’ll see, what you saw
in this is that, sort of really, sort of slow lead up to the
outbreak in our areas. What I don’t have is your data. Down here, there was massive
outbreak during the fall of 2013. So it came much later to our waters. And I’m going to come back to one of
things we think about why that is. So, just to run this again. So they were starting here, we looked,
we looked, we looked, everybody was good, everybody was good, pretty much
bam, everybody was not good. So, and then, there’s a lot of x’s which
mean these are all sites where we’ve checked and there aren’t any individuals. Last spring, we were a little bit
hopeful, all those sites were green, a few remaining stars weren’t sick. And unfortunately this summer
there was another round of it. So, I’m going to show a little bit
of data from this paper that we have, it’s not published yet, it’s in review. And it talks about sort of
the impact in our waters. So this just gives you an
idea of the proportion, this is back to that term
prevalence, the percent of individuals in a population that are affected. And what you can see here
is that, over 50, 60, 70, 90% of the stars at all these sites
in the San Juan’s were affected. There’s a few places where
they did a little bit better and not so many were affected
and– on the other coast. We also followed these individuals
through time and unfortunately that was not really a happy thing to experience. So, these were all of our 12 sites and basically
all of them went down really dramatically between sort of the end of June
and the middle of August in 2013. So, very rapid epidemic. And then this is just one
site to give you a sense. This is a site where we had
several thousands of stars. This is the increase in that prevalence– oops,
that’s the increase in the prevalence to August. And this is the crash in population numbers
from hundreds on our transects to just a few. And then, we still have this
other little pulse this year. So, it’s continuing. And this just shows– I won’t go through
the details of all these individual sites. So, some of the things we’re interested
in is the role of the environment and this has been one of the trickier
things for us to figure out, is temperature. So, what’s shown here is the probability
from our surveys of a star getting– developing a disease at different temperature. So, different sites had different temperature. And what you can see here is that there’s a
very strong signal of these stars developing– having a much higher probability of developing
the disease sooner on a steeper trajectory at the warmer temperatures, this trace here. The other thing is that the other
probability of developing disease that was very strong is the size. So again, this is showing the individuals
that were in a sort of 200 size. So these are stars about, you know,
this big, had a much higher probability of developing the disease early on. And the littler ones, a much lower probability. So then, what we did is this
was just the field survey data. We wanted to confirm that
temperature was important. Obviously, we were very interested in that, not
only from a lot of my other work which has been with diseases of– that are
temperature sensitive on coral reefs, but also because we were under such warm
conditions basically the last two years and with this year being the absolute worst. And so, what we did is we grew them at
four different temperatures in the lab, both the juveniles and the adults. And what you can see here is that the
adult– so this is percent healthy. So, we have 100% at the beginning
and that changed very fast with the adults dying much more
rapidly than the juveniles. But, in both cases, it was dependent somewhat
on the temperature that they were grown at. So, let’s see. And then, this shows the time before onset of
disease and death plotted against temperature. And again, you can see that the
lower temperatures for the adults, it was fewer days than the higher ones. So, overall for temperature. So, that’s sort of the story that
we have today on the ochre star. This is just one piece of a much
broader range of investigation. So this is the work that we’ve been doing. As you know, there are scientists working
all up and down the coasts to sort of contributing different parts to this story. I also want to expand the discussion
a little bit to another species. So the ochre star we focused on
entirely because it’s so abundant in our waters so we could get the best data. It occurred at, you know, a
whole range of different sites. The sunflower star is a subtype of species. But remember, that was among
the most susceptible. So that was kind of why we picked the
sunflower star for those injection experiments because we expected it to respond the quickest. I’m afraid that the current
estimates of their numbers in the natural environment
are very poor right now. So, they are completely absent from
San Juan Islands in our surveys in the spring, summer and fall this year. In addition, SeaDoc Society did a
survey of over 100 transects this fall and didn’t find any individuals at all where
normally, you’d probably find like 3000. We have reports from [inaudible] which is
just north of Vancouver, they’re complete– they’re almost completely absent. They found a couple of really small ones. [Inaudible] British Columbia in the outer
coast of Vancouver Island, they’re absent. The reports I’ve heard from
Monterey are that they’re absent. Sitka, Alaska from several sites where
they’re abundant, they’re absent. And where we do know that
they’re still occurring and they’re healthy are in the Aleutian Islands. There are healthy pycnopodia as of this fall
and last spring at Kodiak Ian Hewson went. So, this is pretty– a pretty big
impact over a large part of the range. So, when we start talking about biodiversity, most of these sea stars or
what we call endemic species. So the only place in the planet they live is on
our west coast, so between Mexico and Alaska. So, it’s good news that there’s still healthy
pycnopodia, the sunflower star in the Aleutians. But it’s pretty concerning news
that they’re absent for a lot of different locations along their range. There are occasional small pockets. So, what do we think the role of temperature is? I really can’t answer. I shouldn’t have worded it that
way, as if I was going to answer it. I can’t actually answer that question. But I think it’s really important to realize
that we’re under very unusual warm conditions in our oceans, at least on our Pacific coast. This was a report from the
New York Times last week. They entitled that the Pacific
Ocean becomes a caldron and they’re showing this strong
El Niño of warming water. This is plotted as the departure from average. So you can see, this is up to plus 9 degrees
Fahrenheit which is pretty big departure. And then you can see our coastline here. The water is hot and it’s been really
hot for quite a while in our coast line. So, don’t– There’s no indication that
the warming temperatures that we had in 2013 actually triggered the outbreak, especially because that outbreak
continued into fairly cold waters. My interpretation of the temperature effect is
that it probably made the mortality more rapid and perhaps worse than it would have been. And it’s the kind of out break we would expect
under these kinds of warming conditions. So, it’s just a little bit more, you
know, our actual data on the disappearance of the sunflower stars in the San Juan’s. So this is again that prevalence. That’s the percentage of
individuals that are sick. So, when we did our first
surveys in May of 2014, everybody looked pretty good
for the sunflower star. In June, we started to see
sick individuals reaching up to almost 50% of the large ones in July. Everybody kept hoping the
little ones would stay healthy. What we had observed with the ochre stars
is that we rarely survey the sick small ones because they– in the lab they died so quickly. And so similarly, we think that may
be partly the case with these guys. And then, into August, virtually,
all of them were sick. And then, the numbers in the next year
are essentially a high number of them sick and then they’re virtually gone as of 2015 in
our waters and in quite a few other places. So, I want to make the case that sea
star wasting disease isn’t alone. I mean this is– This is an
anomalous outbreak in our waters. This is a very large– as I’ve said, this
is the largest wildlife disease outbreak that we’ve recorded. But of course, we see other disease
outbreaks and that affect biodiversity and that affect some of our marine species. So, these are just a few examples. This is abalone. So the wasting disease of
abalone has driven two species of the California abalones to endangerment. So again, that’s a bacterial
disease in this case. So, and there’s also a temperature
component to that one. We’ve been working for many years, most of
them work to this point has been with corals and several species of Caribbean
coral are now considered endangered and infectious diseases have
been partially the cause of that. They’re starting to be a big outbreak of
what we call a shell disease and lobsters in the east coast, that’s also quite
temperature sensitive and is starting to take of fairly big toll on those populations. And then finally, the work that we’ve
been doing in the San Juan’s in addition with the sea stars is with a wasting– it’s
called the wasting disease of eelgrass. It’s not in any way related
to the sea star affliction. This one is caused by a protozoan
and not by a virus. But again, it’s one of these,
its temperature sensitive and it’s sort of affecting our marine species. So, one of my other hats that I wear,
one of my jobs is to be lead investigator on this project called, it’s a research
coordination network that brings together about 50 scientists around largely our country
but also some European and Australian scientists to actually try to understand that– well,
in particular the environmental facilitators as well as the causative agent of some of these infectious marine diseases
under changing ocean condition. So, one of the ones that we’ve done a lot
of work with are the corals, but certainly, we now add this– the sea stars to
this project and the eelgrasses. And what this does is it allows us to
bring a large team of scientist together. For example, with the sea star event, we were
able to move pretty quickly to help isolate and to provide Hewson with the
samples because we had a whole team of researchers that were working together. We were able to access lab facilities
at a fish quarantine lab as part of this research coordination network. So, we think this is important
work to do because diseases in the ocean are kind of out
of sight and out of mind. It’s not something you can
actually see happening. The sea star event is very unusual and
that it happened on the public’s beaches and where people could see it within iconic
species that they really cared about. And so, compared to most of the outbreaks
that we have, it was quite, quite unusual. I want to just sort of continue
this theme about– although this was an unusual event,
it’s not beyond our experience. So, probably many of you know that there
are currently is and over the past 10 years, there’s been a big outbreak of disease
in frogs and other, well, large– it’s largely frogs but also
some of the salamanders as well. And there’s been a lot of work
to try to disentangle the– same kind of terms, host pathogen
and environmental determine– determinants of this recently
emerged wildlife disease. So this has been going on for about 15 years. And this just shows you sort of, on our
continents the distribution of frogs that have this particular disease. No, they’re not in the ocean
so I’m not an expert on these. But I do want to kind of draw your attention to
sort of, you know, what the outcome has been. This was kind of a newly discovered disease about 15 years ago and I’m
seeing papers like this. This was a recent paper actually that just
came out last week estimating that about 3% of frog species have disappeared. That means an entire species
that’s gone extinct. So on these– This was a really
complicated statistical paper sort of estimating the grand total of
extinctions to be about 200 species. This is a staggering impact
from a disease outbreak. And so, I think it’s important to realize
that these infectious diseases can in fact be very potent changers of our biota. And things that we really do need to understand
a little better particularly in the ocean where we’re a little bit behind
in terms of having some of the– we don’t have a CDC for sea stars currently. We don’t have some of the– even the
facilities that agricultural systems have. So, there’s a lot more. But, we do have a lot of interest. We do have people that care about
what’s going on in the ocean. This is an example of a policy
action that was actually, that was activated by this particular outbreak. So, we were contacted by Congressman
Denny Heck from Washington State who said, you know, what could we do better? You know, how do we handle these
kinds of situations in the ocean? And working with his team, we helped him
put together words around the emergency– the Marine Disease Emergency
Act which he then introduced. And it’s still sort of kind of
sitting there being worked on. And what this kind of legislation will
do is provide funding for cases like this when there’s a surprise outbreak in
the ocean where there’s a lot unknown. For example, I would estimate that
all of the scientists that worked on the sea star wasting epidemic
probably wrapped up, you know, tens of million dollars worth of research
and yet that funding wasn’t there. And so, this was a lot of work that
was done by kind of bootlegging and patching together other
grants, folks working far more hours than they should have just because they
really were– or cared about the work. And so, this is just an example of
something positive that can be done. So just to summarize some of
the things that I’ve told you. The smaller star– The smaller ochre
stars are slower to infect and these were from lab experiments but they die
really rapidly once they become sick. And so, it was very difficult to
detect sick ones in nature and this– some of you may have heard, some really hopeful
reports about, “Oh, there’s a bunch of recruits. We think they’re going to be OK. None of them looks sick.” Unfortunately, a lot of them did end up dying
and not sort of getting to the next level and we think this is probably
what, you know, that explains that. The ochre star populations I’ve
shown you have been heavily impacted. We found over quite a few of our sites over
90% of them disappeared between 2013 and 2014 and that’s continued into this year. So, we don’t know how long it’s
going to take for the recovery. We do feel good that there are
still ochre star on our shores and I know there are still some here. So that’s a really great thing. It’s not as big an impact
as with the sunflower stars. The sunflower stars are among the most
susceptible and they’re certainly extirpated from some parts of their range and we really
don’t know what the outcome is going to be in terms of recovery in the species. So, I guess there’s a few issues to consider. One is that disease can drive species to
endangerment and we have good examples to that, unfortunately with the frogs
actually being driven to extinction. And with Abalone corals where species are
actually pushed to the edge of endangerment. We do know that warming temperatures
affects the rate and impacts of mortality. As I said, we don’t attribute this
outbreak to the record breaking warm waters but it is the kind of outbreak that
we could see more of in normal waters. One of the big questions is how many or
which of these survivors may be resistant. We sort of have suspicions that some of the
ochre stars could be resistant since they’re, you know, they’re still out
there, they’re surviving. And that’s– That’s a really hopeful thought
that some of these are resistant and are going to be sort of breeding more
resistant individuals. So, you know, sometimes when I give
this talk, it gets a little grim. And it is grim, I mean, you
know, I think we’re– there’s so many people here because
you’re concerned and you’re worried about not only losing iconic species either
temporary or longer term but also, you know, just what else is going on in the ocean
that you should be concerned about. I think we need to remember
that our oceans especially in this country are actually
healthy and vibrant. And this healthy and vibrant oceans really
do need you to be kind of connected either, you know, for contributing
to monitoring efforts. You’re here tonight. You’re involved with this incredibly
amazing marine lab that’s here right in your community that’s sort of
involved in research, you know, in the day and I think that’s kind of one
of the most important things, so you should all be congratulating
yourselves for, you know, your level of support for this effort here. Another thing is support legislation
that provides resources for monitoring and responding to marine diseases. And, you know, it’s not just
sort of sea star outbreaks. We’re having problems with El
Nino causing shortages of food. For example, some of the birds, I
know there was an article, you know, this week about problems,
mortality events with the birds. So, there’s sort of a lot of issues that
require you to be informed citizens. And then, I want to just remind you, when
I say, you know, the oceans are healthy and vibrant you’re going, “Oh, come on
that’s not what you just told us, you know, you’ve been showing us dead things and
they’re dying and they’ve got diseases, like they’re not going to comeback.” And so, I just kind of want to remind you that
actually, we have a lot of bounty in our oceans. And so, I want to tell you
about one of my other projects. It’s a little bit more hopeful. And one of the reasons why I do that project is because I really do feel we have
amazing biodiversity to celebrate in our oceans despite the
fact that I do this work. So, this is this book that you
we’re hearing about earlier. It’s called the “Sea of Glass”
that’s coming out this spring. And it’s a search for the blaschka’s
fragile legacy in an ocean at risk. I think it’s fair to say,
we do have an ocean at risk. And the theme is that, marine
biodiversity is as fragile as glass. Oh, what does that mean? Has anybody ever seen the
blaschka glass flowers at Harvard? OK. OK. We’ve got people here. OK. So this is a very historic glass collection. It was made a 160– well actually,
the flower for about 140 years ago for a collection that’s very
much priced at Harvard. Well, Cornell has the blaschka
glass invertebrate collection. And just to get a sense of how exquisite these
are, it’s a little bit hard in this picture to know which is the living swimming
anemone that lives in our waters in the Pacific Northwest
in which is the glass one. So, this is the blaschka glass. So, the father and son team crafted over 560
different species that we currently house at Cornell of these glass pieces. And so that’s why I call it a Sea of
Glass, because these are all glass, they’re all exact replicas of
particular species that are in the ocean. And so, that’s great. You’re thinking, ”Well,
what’s so hopeful about that? They’re all glass, you know. What can we do about that?” This is really– this is even worse. Well, the good part of it is,
is that, what we’ve been doing for the last few years is going back
and sort of using this is a time capsule and seeing, ”Can we still find these? Are they still in today’s oceans, right? They were made 160 years ago.” And,
you know, the really exciting thing is that a lot of them are still in our oceans. Sometimes they’re a little hard
to find but a lot of these, they pick fairly common species
that are still out there today. This thing is just a troublemaker. So, each of these things in glass is made
life-size, it’s not like as big as that. But the model itself is actually about that big. And– But in nature, this thing has tentacles
that stretch probably 30 feet behind it. So, and it can form these big swarms. That’s not always a good thing but
it’s really beautiful in glass. So that’s what some of those look like. And of course, we do have an asteroid and
this is a beautiful picture of the glass by Guido Mocafico who’s a very famous
photographer and courtesy of the Dublin Museum who hired him to do some of those pictures. So, when I say that, you know, it’s– this
is really upsetting, this is a, you know, it’s been a very challenging time with the sea
star epidemic and something everybody needs to pay attention to and well, I don’t, maybe
not everybody, but I hope a lot of people, I’m really pleased to see
people are interested in it. You know, we need to think about the changes
to our ocean and what we can do to safeguard and maybe do things a little bit better. So, I just want to finish by thanking
other collaborators on this project who– many of whom have their own research programs. So, I’ve been telling you about
some of the work we’ve done. There are other scientists for example Sta. Cruz has Pete Rimando’s [assumed
spelling] group has really led the way in– through the monitoring programs
along the entire Pacific Coast. And that’s been key and our sort of studying
this whole outbreak as it’s unfolded. Ian Hewson has been teaming up recently with the
Seattle Aquarium to do more work on the genetics and other aspects of the continuing outbreak. And as well the Vancouver Aquarium
has been an important collaborator in providing us information about
where different outbreaks are. Those are just some of the main people. They’ve done a huge group involved. This is again, a large outbreak,
our entire coast. And so there have been a lot
of collaborators on this. So with that, I think I’ll take any questions. [ Applause ]>>So I was just reminding Drew that one
of the neat things that we do here is that we have our graduate students ask–
interview our speaker for a few minutes and then we open up the floor
public questions and answer. So, we’re going to just take a
short break, it’s not a break, a short a minute to raise the screen and
have our student interviewers come up. I’m also going to introduce you
to our associate director here at Romberg Tiburon Center, Dr. Ellen Hines. She’s a professor in the geography department and she’s also the coordinator
of our graduate program. And she’s going to introduce
two of our graduate students. And Drew, there’s a chair for you as well. So, we’re going to warm you up and hope that you
keep track of the questions you’d like to ask and then we’ll take them in a few minutes.>>Hi everybody and welcome. I’m so glad to see you all here. So, you we’ve got some grad students
here that are going to just grill Drew. It’s going to be brutal. But I think you’ll all enjoy it. So, first on my left here we’ve got
Ryan Hartmed [assumed spelling]. Ryan Hartmed and Crea Nelson
[assumed spelling] as well, and both of these students are projects– are products, even though
students aren’t really products, of California State University Schools. So Ryan here got his BS in
general biology, it’s no mistake. And he’s currently completing
his MS, Marine Science. Interested in large scale climate oceanography,
ocean chemistry, and how that relates to marine ecological interactions. He’s interested in working in Marine Technology
Development or in oceanography research. The title of Ryan’s thesis is, ” Connecting
the dots in the Gulf of the Farallones: linking physical ocean conditions to the
ecological success of planktivorous predators.” [ Laughter ] Sexy, huh? All right. This is Cara Gallagher over here. And Cara works with myself
and Jon Stern and Sarah Cohen. And she got her CSU degree
at CSU [inaudible] Biology. First college graduate in her school
and the winner of our College of Science and Engineering– Women in Science
and Engineering award last semester. So, well, I’m pretty proud of her. [ Applause ] Cara got her MSC, is getting her MSC. She’s going to graduate this semester– sorry,
in ecology evolution and conservation biology. Interested in ecological modeling as well
as foraging ecology and marine predators. She’s going on through a PhD and she’s going
to pursue a career on teaching and research. The title of her thesis is, “Modeling
energy sequestration and foraging of harbor purposes in San Francisco Bay.” OK. Without further ado. Ryan, you have some questions for us.>>Yes I do. First Drew, I just want to say
thank you for that wonderful talk. It was very informative and
interesting and impactful. Your work on this epidemic
is in depth and encompassing and it was a privilege to
be hear you speak tonight. Absolutely. This particular issue is near and dear
to me because when this outbreak began, I was in my marine invertebrate zoology
course at Sonoma State and I was in field. And it was very disheartening to see
this tragedy unfold in front of my eyes. So now that we have– now that you have
identified the virus that is the culprit for sea star waisting disease, what are the
next research steps to address this epidemic? And is it possible to develop a
vaccination for susceptible sea stars?>>How about that? There we go. Oh, that’s a good question. You know, I think at this
point– I’m speechless. The idea of developing a vaccine, probably
not, although, you know, we always have to keep in mind that there’s definitely amazing wizardry
that goes on in terms of medical technology and we do have a vaccine for
parvovirus for dogs so I don’t know. Maybe there’s some potential for it. And then that could certainly be
helpful with infected populations. I think, probably the more
immediate sort of response to this is to look for resistant individuals. And what I heard, some of the aquariums talked
about is the possibility of breeding resistant– resistant [inaudible] populations. And so, that’s certainly been
the strategy with amphibians. For example, with the frogs, there’s project
called Arcs that, sort of like Noah’s Arc, that are trying to breed and sort
of keep safe resistant individuals. So that’s kind of what I would think, yeah.>>Cool, excellent.>>I also want to thank you so
much for that fascinating talk. I have a bit of a cold so you guys
can probably hear that in my voice. As for me, I was able to spend some
time at Friday Harbor Lab sometime between the summers of 2010 and 2012. I can remember going up there and diving and seeing the sea star pycnopodia,
absolutely everywhere. I actually had a pet pycnopodia
that I used in my research, his name is Pat [assumed
spelling] or her name is Pat. We don’t know. And now, getting that pycnopida
is so drastically impacted by this disease, it’s really concerning. So, I was wondering what makes one
species more susceptible to a pathogen than another species, a closer related species. And also, why are sea stars being hit by this so much more drastically than
other species [inaudible]?>>Oh, those are great questions. Would grill me there– Oh, yeah. You know, I think with the
pycnopodia and the sunflower star, I mean these are the ones who
are about this big across. I mean, they really are spectacular and
you probably saw like 5 or 10 on the dive when you were there because
they use to be very abundant. We don’t really know why they’re
that much more susceptible. One possibility is that they have–
it maybe the connective tissue. This particular virus seems to
attack the upper surface or the– what we call the epidermis of the stars and
the pycnopodia really much more soft body. So, one possibility is some of
these soft bodied stars are tending to be a little bit more susceptible. So, it may just be that it’s
easier for the virus to get and they don’t hold off quite as well. You also asked that other really good question
about is it just the stars that are affected and do we know how wide the
host range actually is? To this point, we think it’s
mostly the stars, although, you probably know that happens [inaudible]
the dome of the urchins as well. So urchin goes– coming in and out. [ Inaudible Remark ] So, yeah, that’s better. Urchins are close relatives of stars
and so we’ve been kind of watching those and there have been outbreaks of other
diseases in urchins along this coast anyway. I don’t know if anybody’s confirmed
whether it’s densovirus or not. The other group to look in are the sea cucumbers
and mostly they seem to be holding up OK. So, as far as we know, it’s just
that class called the asteroids. Yeah. They’re like– Those
are all your questions?>>Yeah.>>Yeah, OK, good.>>So Drew, I know you’re a
coral reef pathologist as well. So, I was wondering, in the tropics there’s
a sea star called the crown-of-horns, another large sea star and they’re responsible
for the decline in coral reefs in many areas. And crown-of-horns’ abundance vary actually
and when high, they can eat and kill a bunch of reefs or the corals that build the reef. And It’s not their abundance is increasing
more recently due to human cause [inaudible]. And I was wondering are the
crown-of-thorn sea stars sensitive to sea stars associated densovirus? And if yes, would it be ethical– ethically responsible to us the virus
to control their population growth? Perhaps this possibility been
discussed among the scientific people.>>Well, that’s an interesting question
Ryan, what do you think the answer is? [ Laughter ] No, we’re not going to introduce
densovirus to control crown-of-thorns. But we may get a chance to observe the natural
experiment because there is a new outbreak of disease in Australia that
started in Melbourne. We don’t– It’s not confirmed yet whether it’s
densovirus or not but it looks a lot like it. And so, it would be spreading north now. So far, although this virus
has spread to other shores, it doesn’t seem to be hitting the
tropical species as far as I know. And so, it raises a very interesting question
about whether it will get to the range of where the crown-of-thorns star is. However, if it gets there, and if it kills the
crown-of-thorns, everybody will be really happy. Because it’s an enormous– it’s probably
one of the major classes of, you know, mortality of corals on the Great Barrier
Reef and other tropical waters, yeah. So it’s a good question, and
there’s a lot of interest in that.>>So, to continue on what
you we’re just talking about, we do know that the sea star wasting disease
has happened in other places and at other times, but this west coast event that’s occurring
right now seems to be very extreme, in its range and the amount of species affected, I was wondering if you had any ideas why
the west coast is such a target right now. And also, related to temperature, do you think that increasing temperature could be increasing
the virus’ ability to infect the host? Or actually reducing the host’s sickness?>>So those are great questions. You know, in terms of the temperature effect, I don’t think we know whether it’s affecting the
host’s immunity or the happiness of the virus. It is the case though that a lot of factors that compromise the host’s immunity
seem to make them get sicker faster. And so, I’m a little bit suspicious that part of
that temperature effect is sort of some stress to the host, for example, places where
there are more pollutants or there’s more, you know, really bad fresh water run off. We found sort of full sight that the stars
dying faster or sooner in those kinds of places. So, it’s a little bit similar
to the temperature effect. The thing about the west coast, you know,
is an interesting one because it’s not just that this is happening on our coast, because there’s also this outbreak that’s
occurring in the stars on the east coast. And in fact, it started on
the east coasts with the– in the north east with these various species. The difference is that, it hasn’t been
very well studied on the east coast and so we don’t fully comprehend
the magnitude of it. But I know that even just this fall
I was getting e-mails from folks in Massachusetts saying, oh no, another round,
bunch of our stars are dying again this year. So, I don’t know that there’s
necessarily a difference. What’s spectacular and sadly striking on our
coast, is that we have such a rich biodiversity of sea stars, you know, in the area
of the San Juan Islands there’s over 85 species of sea star in our key. So that’s an incredible biodiversity. And I don’t know what the numbers are here
but it’s probably not too much less than that. You don’t see those all the time, a
lot of those are deep sea or very rare. We don’t know that it’s only
20 species that are affected. Those are just the ones, you
know, that we see and can confirm. Yeah.>>Thank you. You did a great job. Here at RTC we’re incredibly
proud of our students. I know that I feel like when I can do– I can
only do so much that when I have students, it’s like I have five more fingers and five
more pairs of hands, so thank you very much. [ Applause ]>>OK. Yeah you get to say what you have to say. We don’t get the water off the hook that easily. So, this is where we open up the floor for
questions from the audience and we’re going to have a couple of students who will bring
a microphone over to you and as you soon as you have your hand up,
they’ll come over and you can ask. Yes, you really, really want to– yeah. We have [inaudible], so, here we go.>>So how long have the sea stars been around?>>How long, you mean in
terms of evolutionary time? I guess over 500 million years.>>Yeah.>>Are you sure? [ Laughter ]>>Pretty long time.>>So they have [inaudible] though?>>I’m sorry they can’t– what?>>They haven’t like disappeared
and came back, [inaudible] happen–>>Oh, oh how many extinction
events have there been? Well you know, that’s a good point. I mean, a lot of species we do certainly have,
you know, species going extinct, disappearing and coming back, maybe not the same ones. Usually, we don’t see this many, you
know, affected sort of this quickly. Although, you’re raising a really good
point which is that, we have almost no data or baselines about the impacts of marine disease
over time and so it’s really hard to say, what’s a typical of that,
what’s an atypical of that. And so, you know those are–>>Yeah, I’m just thinking if that water was
heated up and then after then some survived and then it get colder again and they come back.>>Well, we hope they will.>>Of course they will.>>Yeah. Yeah.>>Other questions?>>Questions of the food chain
[inaudible] by the virus in some way. What’s the food chain surrounding the sea star? Or is it–>>Right. So, I mean, that’s
a really interesting question. One of the things that we were kind of
speculating about early on is whether this virus for example could be concentrated by
some of the shellfish that sea stars eat so that it could actually be, you know,
concentrated in the food chain and, you know, delivering them a bigger dose,
so that’s one aspect to that. I think the other part of it
though, is what will happen to our marine biota now that
these stars are gone. Given that we think they’re keystone species, are we able to actually pick
up, you know, a big impact. The reports that I’ve heard,
I mean, our monitoring– our work has been to really
focus on the stars themselves and then the host-pathogen interaction. But other ecologists had been monitoring usual
populations haven’t reported any outbreaks, large numbers of urchins still in
our waters, which is not surprising that especially the sunflower
star eats everything. So, it’s incredibly voracious
predator on all sorts of stuff. And so, we’re not surprised to see the urchins. The keystone effect of that
ocher star is sighted as mussels. And so, the expectation is that
there will be large recruitment and, you know, larger numbers of mussels. And I haven’t seen a data on that so
I can’t really tell you about that. The urchin impact is kind of the one that’s
talked about the most because of course that can have a cascading effect in
the food chain because urchins are, themselves, voracious herbivores. And so, when there’s lots and lots
of urchins, they eat all the algae, which is not a good thing
because we like to kelp beds and kelp beds are important
habitat for fisheries. So, there could be some potentially bad
impacts in terms of the cascading effects on our ocean food webs, but we don’t, you
know, we don’t have all that confirmed. And then just to make it a little bit
more complicated with these warmer waters, there have been disease outbreaks
recorded in the urchins, sort of in the southern California
and maybe up to these waters. I’m not so sure about that. So, yeah.>>Thank you for your time. We have 2000 [inaudible] about
these surveys up and down the coast and we’ve seen them basically lack far behind
the shallows appearance in the deep water. And then, usually about a year and
then they would disappear there too. So most recently, [inaudible] return
from the area from [inaudible] to– or any boarder, last year at this time, the
[inaudible] several thousand in our reservoirs. This year, we saw one. But from your graph, it look
like that area was skipped over and they started disappearing in Vancouver. And I was curious why did you
think that preceded our loss of sea stars in the North American boarder?>>Can I just– So, for your [inaudible]
surveys, did you also do sunflower stars? And are they pretty much gone?>>Gone.>>Gone. From where to where?>>From the [inaudible].>>Wow. Which is where they are?>>Yeah. We had [inaudible]. So we started about 20 meters
and we’re going down as deep as 600 meters and they’re not [inaudible]. So, we’re covering the full
range of their habitat.>>Let’s hope they’re down there.>>Yeah.>>Thank you sir. Any questions?>>Yeah. So that’s I mean it
make sense that it took longer. Yeah. So that’s the sunflower star and
then, some of the solasters too probably, you’re not finding there many of, yeah. Well, I really look forward
to talking to you more about that later, talk to you more about it. There was a gap. I think what you were asking me is about
why it took so long for San Juan and Oregon. So, it was a little strange and actually
very mystifying to us in 2013 when a bunch of stars died in Vancouver, North of Vancouver
and then everything kind of fell apart from Monterey south in the fall of 2013. And then, our stars stayed perfectly fine
we thought, until that following summer. So it took almost a year until– and we
don’t really know one possibility could be water temperature. We had much cooler waters during that period. So the– And the big mortalities in
Vancouver were all the sunflower star. So that was kind of what had everybody’s
attention and not so much the ochre star. So, I’m thinking that some of that
gap was explained by the combination of different species and
then maybe water temperature. Now, in Oregon, I would love to know
what some of actually, you know, your former adviser [inaudible]
because there was a big lag there. And I’m wondering whether it’s some
of those actual occurrence as well as water temperature but I– we don’t know. I think– I wish we knew. Yeah?>>I know [inaudible] if they– the way
the currents go and is there any relation of the current of the Fukushima
radiation coming in. And maybe affecting these
areas in different ways?>>You know, at the time of the outbreak
there was no evidence for radiation in our waters, this was several years ago. So that, at the rate which that was drifting,
and there were a lot of program especially from the University of Washington to be
carefully testing the waters and the fish. And so there was a no signature
of any radiation.>>Isn’t it [inaudible] at the same time? I mean it was– it takes– I
think two or three years to get to the west coast which would
be at the same time?>>Well, about, you know, from
the models of when there was going to be any radiation hitting our coast
that was long after the outbreak started. So, the timing doesn’t quite work off for that. You know, the only thing we can’t rule
out is that, you know, there was some kind of a sick star that originated in Japan and came
over, you know, with the wreckage or something, you know, that’s a possible that could have
happened but there was just no evidence for it. And again, the distribution of
stars didn’t really match that. So there was really– Everyone
pretty much ruled that out, yeah. Yeah?>>Hi. You said that there are– you found
that the virus also in the same sample about kind of [inaudible] from 1942. Did you compare the two? How has the virus changed?>>I would love to know the answer to that. I did not– I’m not a virologist. So, the virology work was done by Ian Hewson’s
lab at Cornell and it was his brilliant idea, really, to go back and look
at those museum specimens. And he did find a virus that closely
matched the densovirus that it sort of matched out to the same species. And it’s a burning question in my mind as
well to know whether there’s been a difference in the genetic code from then
until the virus that we have now. And don’t know the answer to that. But I do know that that’s one of the priority
areas that his group is investigating now. Yeah, yeah, and in fact, you know, to match
up the phylogeny of that virus and all, these species of stars but
we don’t have the answer. That’s a great a question, yeah.>>OK.>>OK. We’re going to go all the
day to your right at the back.>>Hi. Great talk.>>Well thank you.>>So I’m interested in temperature
and it’s quite [inaudible]. And so, I’ve wondering has anybody
[inaudible] of a healthy sea star and different temperature treatments and
seeing how it compares to the environment or to our sea star breeding
environment, their transcript film and then maybe understanding what– if they’re stressed and if the
temperature is causing stress, then we would say for certain
if it’s [inaudible].>>It’s a great idea. I don’t know anybody that’s doing that. I think it would be a really good thing to do. Yeah, there you go. There’s somebody’s PhD [inaudible] right there. Hey, that would be a good one to do. Yeah. Yeah, there’s been a lot of that
kind of work done with corals, I mean, including in our group following a gruesome,
you know, really stressful [inaudible] and those studies are very
valuable, and so I need that, yeah.>>You know the mechanism of transmission?>>No, we don’t. [ Inaudible Remark ] So, one of the black boxes in general for
disease in the ocean is often transmission. There’s very little known
in a lot of these cases. And I don’t– It’s not confirmed yet in this
case whether direct contact is required. We just offer the observation that there
were outbreaks in all of the major aquaria, Vancouver, Seattle and Monterey Bay
Aquarium within several weeks of each other, inside the aquaria that suggested the
possibility it could be waterborne. So, that’s all we really know about that. Yeah. [ Inaudible Discussion ]>>Hi, OK. So I’m wondering if the disease is communicable to sea mammals specifically
connected [inaudible] and if so, what would the disease look like in sea mammals?>>Well, that’s interesting. Well, so, the thing about virus is
they tend to be pretty host specific, which is one of the slightly strange
things about this particular one, the fact that so many, you
know, we got over 20 species that are already affected,
but they are all sea stars. So it would be a very, very strange aspect
in biology if [inaudible] were infected. So, that seems the virologists are
telling me is a very, very unlikely thing. However, if it was, I suppose, you might
expect some kind of disruption on the surface. So, one of the characteristics of this has
been that it attacks the upper surface, the– what we call the epidermis, the
outer skin of the star first. And so, I suppose that we’re going to look
for an effect, that’s what I would look for. But I– It’s very unlikely, yeah.>>I just want to ask if there
are any models or sort of pathways that [inaudible] rebound the
populations after events like this either in sea stars themselves or related species.>>The most likely thing that
happens in an outbreak like this is that there will be recovery, that
the host will become resistant and then it will eventually rebound. So that’s certainly what we’re
all hoping for in this case. The fact that we’re still seeing quite a few in the ochre star even though their numbers
have been, you know, really not back as– I think it’s hopeful that some of those must be
resistant, right, that they’re still out there and so therefore they should
be able to repopulate. It could take a very long time given
how wide the host range of this event is that stars all the up into Alaska are affected. It’s taken a lot longer in Alaska and I don’t
know if it’s because of the colder water. But sort of, you know, the susceptible
species are, you know, starting to show more and more impacts like the sunflower star. The sunflower star, you know, I just don’t
even know what to say about recovery. I think it’s too soon to know what we can
expect with that one and I think it’s– there’s a lot of concern about the levels
that we’re seeing on that one, yeah. So does that answer your question? Yeah.>>OK. So thank you all so much for your
attention and staying late with us tonight. I know it’s week night and I want
to be respectful of your time. Let’s give a round of applause for
Drew Harvell and her wonderful work. [ Applause ] I just want to let you know if you want
to have a cup or coffee or something, we do have a little bit of a refreshment
still before you head out, if you want to chat with anybody for a few minutes,
we’ll be here for a little while. But, thank you all very much for coming and we
hope to see you again at our spring public forum in April and on the discovery
of the open house also in April. Thank you. [ Applause ]

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