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Tribal Canoes Towing Underwater Probes in the Salish Sea Attract Widespread Interest, Gather Valuable Water-Quality Data

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Skipper and crew of the Grande Ronde Chinook canoe family prepare to leave from the beach at the Swinomish Tribal Community Center
Above: Skipper and crew of the Grande Ronde Chinook canoe family prepare to leave from the beach at the Swinomish Tribal Community Center on July 22, 2008. [larger version]

The canoes carried paddlers young and old, novice and expert, members of indigenous peoples living all around the Salish Sea—the inland waters of Puget Sound, the Strait of Georgia, and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Some had enjoyed relatively smooth travel; others had faced strong winds and waves. Some had been on the water as much as 2 weeks before they landed at Cowichan Bay on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada, the destination of this summer's Tribal Journey—an annual canoe voyage honoring the centuries-old customs of transport, harvest, and trade by the Coast Salish people.

More than 100 canoes took part in the July 2008 voyage, launching from various points around the Salish Sea and beyond. In a first for the Tribal Journey, five of the canoes towed underwater probes that collected scientific data on water quality—part of a collaborative effort with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to better understand how the Salish Sea is responding to pollution, urban growth, and climate change (see Sound Waves article, "USGS Will Collaborate with Coast Salish Indigenous Peoples to Measure Water Quality in the Salish Sea (Puget Sound, Strait of Georgia, and Strait of Juan de Fuca"). The probes, towed 1 to 2 ft beneath the water surface, measured such parameters as water temperature, salinity, pH, dissolved oxygen, and turbidity. The data were collected every 10 seconds, transmitted to a data logger onboard the canoe, and tagged with latitude and longitude automatically recorded from a Global Positioning System (GPS) unit. At the end of each day, the data were downloaded, given preliminary screening for quality control, and published in near-real time on the USGS Web site "A Blending of Science and Tradition." Visitors to this site can access the water-quality data by way of a Google map overlain with the tracks of the canoes as they made measurements (go to "Maps—Follow the Journey" and click on "Daily Updates of the Journey"). Clicking on track segments (or on links listed below the master map) leads to more detailed maps that show every point where data were collected by a particular canoe on a particular day; clicking on a data-collection point opens a window listing the time, latitude, and longitude of the measurement and the recorded data.

Eric Day, Brian Cladoosby, Bob Doyle, and Eric Grossman Eric Grossman demonstrates a water-quality probe
Above left: (Left to right) Eric Day, Swinomish canoe skipper; Brian Cladoosby, chairman of the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community; Bob Doyle, USGS deputy director; and Eric Grossman, USGS scientist, at a July 21, 2008, news conference in the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community's Administration Building. [larger version]

Above right: USGS scientist Eric Grossman demonstrates a water-quality probe during an interview with KOMO-TV (ABC, Seattle) at the Swinomish Tribal Community Center near La Conner, Washington, on July 21, 2008. [larger version]

Collection of water-quality data during the Tribal Journey was supported through the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, the Northwest Straits Commission, the USGS, and the Potlatch Fund. The project was coordinated by Sarah Akin, a scientist with the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community. USGS scientists Eric Grossman and Paul Schuster were invited by the Coast Salish to serve as science advisors in planning and conducting the study and analyzing the data. Participants in the collaboration were astounded by the magnitude of media interest, which resulted in television coverage, radio interviews, and articles in numerous print and online publications in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom.

tracks of canoes Detailed map of Saanich Inlet
Above left: Screen shot of Google map (with additional labels in white) showing tracks of canoes (yellow) as they collected water-quality data in the Salish Sea in July 2008 (from URL http://wa.water.usgs.gov/projects/coastsalish/). White star, Tribal Journey landing point at Cowichan Bay. [larger version]

Above right: Detailed map of Saanich Inlet, showing points where water-quality data were collected on July 28, 2008. Clicking on a point opens a window displaying time, latitude, and longitude of the measurement and the recorded data. Time of data collection reported in Universal Time Coordinated (UTC), 7 hours later than Pacific daylight time. [larger version]

This summer's Tribal Journey—and the concurrent collection of Salish Sea water-quality data—ended on Landing Day, July 28, at Cowichan Bay, where the assembled groups celebrated their gathering and went on to hold the North American Indigenous Games (August 3-10). The GPS units and water-quality sensors have been retrieved and returned to the offices that maintain them. In the coming months, the participating scientists will examine the water-quality data more thoroughly to produce maps, geographic-information-system (GIS) data layers, and a report on the results. These products, in turn, will be used to identify important water-quality issues and design future studies in the Salish Sea.

 Landing Day Supporters
Above left: Landing Day (July 28) at Cowichan Bay. Arriving canoe families maneuver their vessels into a tight array of canoes facing the shore. [larger version]

Above right: Supporters welcome them with drumming, chanting, and cheers. View a short video clip (46 MB) of Landing Day. Longer videos—with narration, interviews, and music—are posted on the A Blending of Science and Tradition web site. [larger version]

Related Sound Waves Stories
USGS Will Collaborate with Coast Salish Indigenous Peoples to Measure Water Quality in the Salish Sea (Puget Sound, Strait of Georgia, and Strait of Juan de Fuca
July 2008

Related Web Sites
A Blending of Science and Tradition
USGS U.S. Geological Survey
2008 Tribal Journey
Tribal Journeys

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Sea Otter Population Recovery Continues at Slower Rate

Scientists Map Arctic Sea Floor

Tribal Canoes Gather Water-Quality Data

Raising Awareness of Water-Resource Issues

Sea Otter Awareness Week

MIT Students Visit USGS

Meetings Diversity in the USGS Workforce

Awards Kvenvolden Honored at International Conference

Staff Community-Use "Recyclabikes"

USGS Woods Hole Welcomes Hapke

Publications Coral Reefs of the USA

September 2008 Publications List

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Updated December 02, 2016 @ 12:09 PM (JSS)