CALIFORNIA, 1/22/23 — The Solstice Sea Star Search conducted by California Academy of Sciences and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) in late December found no sunflower sea stars, TNC kelp restoration specialist Tristin McHugh told The Mendocino Voice. But the event was still a success, as 11 different species of sea star were recorded following the impacts of sea star wasting disease.
According to statistics from iNaturalist, 307 people made 2,814 observations over the four-day period. McHugh said she was “very surprised” to see that high a level of engagement, as far north as Crescent City and as far south as San Diego.
“Our partners at Cal Academy put a lot of this work together and made it happen,” she said.
The search came on the heels of a sunflower sea star sighting in Fort Bragg by commercial urchin diver Grant Downie. Though nobody spotted sunflower sea stars, other stars were seen in huge numbers: around 1,874 ochre sea stars were observed, as well as 580 bat stars and 100 leather stars.
Giant sea stars (pisaster giganteus), which can grow to more than a foot and a half in diameter, were observed seven times. This was especially exciting because sea star wasting disease severely affected this species.
Twenty-one different “bio-blitz” events were organized along California’s coastline, including one right here in Fort Bragg. Jo-el Houle of the Noyo Center for Marine Science told The Voice that around 45 community scientists turned up locally to search for sea stars.
The Noyo Center had a competition going for number of sightings, too. Here are the winners:
- 1st place: Wendi Felson – 100 observations / 3 species
- 2nd place: Erika Gottl – 85 observations / 5 species
- 3rd place: Carin Berolzheimer – 57 observations / 4 species
- 4th place tie: Hiroki Coyle – 30 observations / 3 species & Sarah Grimes – 30 observations / 4 species
“In the name of community science, you braved the weather, and it was well worth it,” Houle wrote to the “stargazers.” Check out the constellation of stars observed on iNaturalist — and keep your eyes peeled!
Note: Kate Fishman covers the environment & natural resources for The Mendocino Voice in partnership with a Report For America. Her position is funded by the Community Foundation of Mendocino, Report for America, & our readers. You can support Fishman’s work with a tax-deductible donation here or by emailing [email protected]. Contact her at KFishman@mendovoice.com or at (707) 234-7735. The Voice maintains editorial control and independence.