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Emily Carrington in The Washington Post & MSNBC on heatwave's effects on marine life

Tuesday, July 13, 2021 - 14:15 to Wednesday, October 13, 2021 - 14:15

Emily Carrington, UW Biology Professor, was recently interviewed by The Washington Post and MSNBC about the recent summer heatwave in the Pacific Northwest and parts of Canada, and its subsequent effects on the marine life in the area.

Also quoted in The Washington Post article is Chris Harley, former UW Biology graduate student and current Professor at The University of British Columbia.


Amid the crushing summer heat wave that has slammed the Pacific Northwest and parts of Canada, Alyssa Gehman, a marine ecologist who lives by the sea in Vancouver, B.C., walked down to the shore to go for a swim. As expected, the beach was packed with others looking to beat the heat.

She made her way to the edge of the water. It smelled like putrid shellfish — cooking.

All around her, beds of mussels had popped open, dead. The heat beating down on the rocks had killed them, and she could see dead tissue between their shells.

A dead crab floated in the water, she said.

Gehman studies marine community ecology, but this was the first time she had seen anything of this “magnitude of mortality.” An estimated 1 billion small sea creatures — including mussels, clams and snails — died during the heat wave in the Salish Sea, off more than 4,000 miles of linear shore, according to marine biologist Chris Harley.

Record-breaking temperatures hit the Pacific Northwest at the end of June, with an all-time high in British Columbia of 121 degrees. British Columbia reported at least 719 people suffered “sudden and unexpected deaths,” three times more than what would normally occur in the province during a seven-day period.

Losing mussels and other bivalve mollusks such as oysters and clams can throw off the entire ecosystem, University of Washington marine biologist Emily Carrington told The Post. Shellfish perform critical ecosystem services, modifying their local environment just by their presence and aggregation. They filter a high volume of water and play a central role in the food chain, she said.

Harley said she thinks the mass loss of shellfish could serve as a “wake-up call.”

“The pandemic was a big, scary, intimidating problem, and most of us were willing to make a few small changes that really helped,” he said. “We can do the same thing with climate change.”

Read the full article in The Washington Post.

MSNBC interview with Emily Carrington:

"They were literally cooking on the rocks." Experts @alyssamina and and @EC_carrington explain how the heat wave is impacting marine life in the Pacific Northwest.@MSNBC

— Stephanie Ruhle Reports (@RuhleOnMSNBC) July 9, 2021

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