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Students saving seagrass in the San Juans

May 16, 2024

Since 2020, Seacology has supported the University of Washington’s Friday Harbor Laboratories’ innovative work to restore native eelgrass meadows in the San Juan Islands.

Eelgrass is a type of flowering plant that grows in shallow intertidal waters throughout the Northern Hemisphere. It is the most common type of seagrass in the Pacific Northwest, and is foundational to the local marine ecology. Eelgrass meadows serve as a habitat and spawning ground for small fish and invertebrates, and a barrier against erosion. Eelgrass helps filter pollutants out of the water column, improving water quality. And like all seagrass, it absorbs and traps enormous amounts of carbon, helping fight climate change and ocean acidification. Unfortunately it is in decline worldwide, including in the San Juans.

Our three projects in the area—two at San Juan Island’s Westcott Bay in 2020 and 2021, and our most recent on Sucia Island—are supporting FHL’s work to reseed degraded areas using seeds harvested from a thriving meadow at Fourth of July Beach. Our partners are working with students, volunteers, and members of the local First Nations communities, using several reseeding methods.

In February, UW’s Kate Allhusen and Adam Rogowski gave presentations about the importance of seagrass to the San Juans, the techniques they are using to restore it, and how they’re getting local communities involved at a virtual symposium hosted by the National Parks Service. You can stream their full presentations below.