Estuarine Field Studies

University of Washington, Tacoma

TESC 445: Spring 2012

[Main] [Commencement Bay] [Quartermaster Harbor] [San Juans] [Hood Canal] [Methods]

The Puget Sound

Puget Sound is one of the most ecologically diverse and complex saltwater estuarine systems in the world and is located in the northwestern portion of Washington State. It is a fjord system of flooded glacial valleys running from the southern end near Olympia, Washington north to Deception Pass stretching nearly 100 miles. It incorporates over 42.8x106 million gallons of water (KCDNR 2001) with 19 watersheds, covering nearly 16,800 square miles that empty into Puget Sound (USGS 2005). Puget Sound is divided into four separate main basins, each separated by a shallow sill feature. The basins are Hood Canal, west of the Kitsap Peninsula; Whidbey Basin east of Whidbey Island; South sound which is south of the Tacoma narrows, and the Main basin (KCDNR 2001). Puget Sound has an estimated 10,000 fresh water rivers, streams, and creeks that empty into its waters (Puget Sound Partnership 2008).

From the Pacific Ocean via Admiralty Inlet, over 4.3x105 million gallons of saltwater enters the Puget Sound daily. Within the Puget Sound watersheds there are 115 cities with a combined population of over 5.3 million residents. The entire Puget Sound region, including the Strait of Juan de Fuca experiences a semi-diurnal tide cycle, with two high tides and two low tides commonly occurring during an approximate 25 hour period. Puget Sound is affected by one of the largest tidal fluctuations in the world. On average the tides range from -4.5ft to +14.5ft, a difference of 10ft but in extreme areas such as the port of Seattle can see differences of up to 18ft. (Navy 1996).

Estuaries Field Studies (TESC 445) is a field course focusing on the study of water bodies that make up the Puget Sound within Washington State. Samples and data were collected from four different areas of Puget Sound; [Commencement Bay], [Quartermaster Harbor] [San Juans], and [Hood Canal]

Data was gathered at each area in a number of specific coordinates which are referred to as 'stations'. The parameters of studies included physical conditions, chemical analysis, biological and geological measurements. All data was taken back to the lab for analysis. The sample data that was collected at each station included: temperature, salinity, density, oxygen, fluorescence/chlorophyll, transmissivity, nutrients, phytoplankton, zooplankton, sediments, and microplastics. The description of the methods used at each sampling station can be found on the [Methods] page.

The Puget Sound is a large estuary and there are many factors that influence its waters, including its watershed and freshwater inflow, oceanic saltwater influx, natural and human influenced runoff and wastewater treatment effluent. How the water is circulated and flushed is a complex equation of tidal processes, bathymetry, geographic configuration, and the impacts of a growing population.


We would like to offer our sincere appreciation, thank you, and gratitude to the following groups and individuals who graciously volunteered their time and resources to aid in our study:
Cheryl Greengrove: Associate Professor; University of Washington Tacoma Environmental Science
Julie Masura: Lecturer; University of Washington Tacoma Environmental Science
Dave Thoreson: Captain; Wealander; University of Washington Seattle College of Oceans and Fishery Sciences
Tony Miller: Captain; City of Tacoma Research Vessel
Michael Roper: Captain; City of Tacoma Research Vessel
Nannette Huber: TA; Estuaries Spring 2012
Kathy Newell: University of Washington Seattle Research Scientist, Oceanography [PRISM]
Kathy Krogslund: University of Washington Seattle Research Scientist, Oceanography [PRISM]
Fritz Stahr: University of Washington Seattle School of Oceanography [PRISM]
Larry and Marta Hoover: [City of Tacoma Wastewater Treament Plant]
Crew of Centennial: Captain David Duggins and First Mate Wolf and University of Washington [Friday Harbor Laboratories]


Kendra Baird
Michael Barnett
Kyra Gagliardi
Carolyn Green
Cheryl Greengrove
Tina Houck
Nannette Huber
Julie Masura
Caitlin Olive
Samantha Petrie
Elisa Rauschl
Ian Reeber
Jonathan Silas
Samantha Steininger
Past Course Links:
Water Resources and Pollution Spring 2006
Water Resources and Pollution Spring 2005
Water Resources and Pollution Spring 2003
Water Resources and Pollution Spring 2002
Water Resources and Pollution Fall 2002
[Main] [Commencement Bay] [Quartermaster Harbor] [San Juans] [Hood Canal] [Methods] [Course Photos]

Created by: Kyra Gagliardi, Carolyn Green and Jonathan Silas