dabob bay

Pickleweed in a Pickle at Dabob Bay

Written by Joelene Boyd, Stewardship Coordinator, Puget Sound Program
Photographed by Milo Zorzino, Volunteer Photographer

While visiting the Dabob Bay conservation easement this past month I noticed something I had never seen before. At first I mistook it for a plastic oyster bag that was degrading, then I noticed more and more patches along the spit and it was only present in the pickleweed (Salicornia). Pickleweed is a native saltmarsh succulent plant that can withstand and grow in high salinity conditions.

Pickleweed (Salicornia) at Dabob Bay © Joelene Boyd

A volunteer and I decided to take a break from easement monitoring photos and get a closer look. “It looks like silly string,” we said to each other. Upon further inspection and some prodding we discovered that it was plant-like and when breaking it apart it felt like we were snapping tiny roots. One of the volunteers in our group knew exactly what it was – dodder. Its unimpressive name sells this parasitic plant short of its tenacity and impact. Dodder is a leafless and rootless filamentous plant that gets nutrients and water from host plants (in this case pickleweed) by wrapping itself and becoming intertwined to the host plant. Morning glory is a close relative of dodder which gives an indication of how persistent it can be. Once we realized what it was we noticed there were discrete patches of dodder along the eastern side of the spit. Since dodder is a native to this type of environment there is no plan to control it but it does raise a good and age old question, especially if you are a pickleweed at Dabob Bay – when is a weed a weed?  

Besides discovering a cool new plant at the Long Spit easement in Dabob Bay 8 volunteers along with Melissa Watkinson and Kara Cardinal helped out to remove Scotch broom and pick up garbage along the spit. After we finished representatives from Rock Point Oyster gave us a tour of their oyster production facility. 


When Conservation Pays - Dabob Bay Clean up


Seeing the benefits of volunteering clean up at Dabob Bay

Written & Photographed by Cailin Mackenzie, GLOBE Intern

What four-generation family owned business could possibly survive market upheavals, fluctuating production, and a world war?  The Rock Point Oyster Co. has been cultivating oysters in Washington since 1922.  In 1943, founder E.N. Steele purchased 200 acres in one of Puget Sound’s largest and healthiest salt marsh estuaries – Dabob Bay

The Nature Conservancy has partnered with the Rock Point Oyster Co. for three decades to conserve Dabob Bay’s irreplaceable habitat on which orcas, salmon, forage fish, shellfish, and shorebirds depend. Steele’s grandson David (pictured in photos 6 & 7) has vastly increased production in recent years with water quality monitoring and other environmental investments that safeguard Rock Point’s sustainability. Last week, a group of intrepid volunteers headed to Long Spit, one of our protected areas, and monitored conditions, collected trash, removed invasive plants, and learned about Steele’s strategies to make oyster production and Dabob restoration symbiotic.

For shellfish farmers, the ramifications of climate change are felt where it really hurts – the bank. David Steele taught us how young oysters (which look like quinoa!) cannot tolerate low pH and are dying off with increasing marine acidification. Algal blooms, one of the worst consequences of acidification, can be significantly reduced by healthy shellfish populations. Despite their sand-grain size, oyster larvae can consume an incredible amount of algae. Learning about Steele’s operation grounded our volunteer event with an appreciation of Dabob Bay’s ability to nurture abundant life, both human and wild.

After the oyster lesson, our group took a barge to Long Spit, a gorgeous peninsula of beach created by Dabob Bay’s unique hydrologic cycles. The spit has suffered from Scotch Broom invasion for years, so we focused on weeding out broom and other invasives. We also hauled out ten garbage bags filled with everything from plastic bottles to an abandoned tire.

We are dedicated to maintaining innovative collaboration with partners like the Steele family to continue informed stewardship, and could not make our positive impact without our committed volunteers!