Ocean Outbreaks in the Salish Sea from Sea Grasses to Sea Stars are Heating Up

Drew Harvell

Professor, Cornell University, Dept. of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

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(Archived video recording of this presentation)

While the COVID19 pandemic is creating new awareness of the dangers of multi-host infectious disease for humans on land, big impacts of infectious pathogens are occurring under the ocean. The Harvell lab is focusing on the ecology of underwater disease of foundation and keystone species and their changing risk with ocean warming. I will talk about transmission biology and impacts of an infectious protozoan, Labyrinthula zosterae, in eelgrass meadows from San Diego to Alaska and also an outbreak affecting over twenty species of seastar in our waters and resulting in endangerment of sunflower stars. In both cases and several other examples from oysters to salmon, ocean warming affects risk of disease. My recent book, Ocean Outbreak, also describes the increasing disease risk posed by a changing climate.

Drew Harvell

Drew Harvell is Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Cornell University and Curator of the Blaschka Marine Invertebrate Collection. Her research on the health and sustainability of marine ecosystems has taken her from the reefs of Mexico, Indonesia, and Hawaii to the cold waters of the Pacific Northwest and resulted in over 170 academic articles in journals such as Science, Nature, and Ecology.  Her current research is focused on health of the Salish Sea. She is a Fellow of the Ecological Society of America and the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future, and awarded the 2020 Cornell SUNY Chancellors Award, 2019 Seattle Aquarium Conservation Research Award, PROSE AWARD (Ocean Outbreak), National Outdoor Book Award (A Sea of Glass), Rachel Carson Environment Book Award, Honorable Mention (A Sea of Glass. She serves on the Advancement Board of Friday Harbor Marine Labs and the Science Board of the Ocean Health Initiative of Centre Scientifique Monaco.

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The Huxley Environmental Speaker Series is hosted by Huxley College of the Environment at Western Washington University.

The Series is free and open to the public.

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Presentations are held each Thursday at 4:30pm On-campus and ONLINE.


Due to the pandemic, the in-person presentations are not open to the public. However, the talks will be live-streamed ONLINE for the off-campus audience.


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