Makah Tribe Surveys Neah Bay’s Intricate Intertidal Zone

The Makah Tribe is studying marine habitat and species along its rocky shoreline in Neah Bay this summer.

Makah’s marine ecologist Adrianne Akmajian and a team of technicians are noting the types of seaweed, grasses and algae, plus urchins, anemones, snails, sea stars and other invertebrates.

The tribe is focusing on 28 sections of beach within the reservation during the lowest tides to catalog species composition and abundance.

“The reservation’s primary beach habitat is made up of low, flat rock platforms,” Akmajian said. “We want to know what are the dominant vegetation and invertebrates.”

She also wants to compare beaches to determine similarities between species and their populations within similar habitat types.

“Because I cannot survey every inch of beach on the reservation, I want to know if I can use the data gathered from one area and extrapolate to other areas with similar habitat or shoreline,” she said. “I’ll also use other physical measurements to figure out what makes species composition differ, such as beach slope, wave energy and substrate type.”

The tribe’s long-term goal is to gather baseline data to begin monitoring the effects of climate change and to compare to in a catastrophic event such as an oil spill.

“The intertidal is a highly variable ecosystem and I hope to implement annual monitoring of at least a handful of sites,” Akmajian said. “But, if we have this baseline and then conduct surveys again in five or 10 or 20 years, we will be able to observe large-scale shifts in species composition, abundance, or life history related to climate or other disturbances.”