Jude Apple ~ Entrepreneurial Ecologist

COSEE Pacific Partnerships logo

Search for Culprits

Click images for enlarged views
Bellingham Bay, with its abundant fishing grounds and shellfish beds, has been a source of food for local Native Americans for eons. That is until recently, when Native fishermen began bringing up nets covered in black mud, and the shellfish beds were closed due to contamination. Dr. Jude Apple began to focus on two culprits – hypoxia and fecal coliform contamination. "We are investigating basic research questions about hypoxia in Bellingham Bay," says Jude. "We are looking at low dissolved oxygen and other aspects of water quality, and how they affect aquatic and natural resources in traditional fishing grounds and tribal waters near the Lummi Reservation."

In the winter of 2008 Jude worked with the Science Director at Northwest Indian College (NWIC) on developing a routine sampling program to investigate hypoxia, wrote a proposal to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to look at water quality and coastal eutrohication, and was funded for a two-year project to monitor hypoxia in Bellingham Bay. Jude is quite familiar with hypoxia, having done his PhD research in the Chesapeake Bay region, so he approached his Bellingham Bay research with some context. Using nine field sites, he had assumed he would find hypoxia in the deepest part of the bay, as is true in the Chesapeake and the Gulf of Mexico, but in fact it is in the shallower, northernmost sites where hypoxia is most prevalent, occurring in July and August.

"I am motivated by these questions: How extensive is hypoxia in Bellingham Bay, what’s driving it, and how can we mitigate its effects?"
The Bellingham Bay project also supports students as part of a year-round internship program at NWIC – and in fact could not produce the data needed without the students' participation. (The interns work on independent research projects that are all related to water quality in Bellingham Bay.) This collaboration has blossomed into a larger project with interns from NWIC, plus REU, PRIME and MIMSUP students. "It's something of a hodgepodge," says Jude. "But I'm able to build background and proof of concept data that allow me to write proposals to continue the larger project."