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ETD 79: A. Why are Baby Orca's Dying in Puget Sound?
May 15, 2013 at 8:10am


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Lynda Stoddard
May 20, 2013 at 8:05pm

Carter is a natural educator. He loves to explain the different things in learns in class and especially enjoys science. He did a terrific job explaining the various reasons that baby orcas are dying in the Puget Sound. He explained how PCB, from electrical transformers, makes it way into the Puget Sound and food supply. He discussed bio accumulation and bio magnification and explained how the PCB amounts increase rapidly eventually causing problems in the endocrine system, thus altering reproduction.

Jim Stoddard
May 20, 2013 at 8:36pm

Carter is a whiz with a whiteboard. He described how actions that we have taken have created a potential catastrophe in the Puget Sound, how PCB's and other chemicals drain into the water. These chemicals enter the food supply at the bottom and through biomagnification become more and more concentrated higher in the chain. Orcas, being several steps up the chain, have concentrations of 1% (1000 PPM) or higher. Baby orcas have even higher concentrations, at levels that cannot support life. It's a sad situation that presents a very challenging problem.

Elizabeth O., Period 1
May 27, 2013 at 4:02pm

Elizabeth taught me about the issues concerning baby Orcas. I learned about how PCBs and other contaminants enter our waters though runoff. I also learned about the food chain and trophic levels. As PCBs enter the waters of the Puget Sound they are consumed by Plankton, which are the lowest level of the food chain. As each higher organism consumes the lower ones on the food chain the PCBs become concentrated by a factor of ten with each trophic level. Finally the apex predator – in this case the baby orca – winds up consuming PCBs at the rate of 100,000 parts per million. The concentrated PCBs cause extensive damage to the whale’s endocrine system, which negatively impacts development, digestion, and reproduction. ---------------------- In teaching my dad about the growing issue of baby Orca’s dying in the Puget Sound, I gained a greater understanding of Appex Predation and the costs of occupying the highest trophic levels. Baby Orcas are a dying breed and many of the developmental issues that we see are linked to human consumption and neglect of the environment.

Adilah M
June 04, 2013 at 9:58pm

Adilah taught me about why baby Orcas are dying in the Puget Sound. She told how it was because of an accumulation of PCBs in the water. These PCBs are absorbed by an important food source to many primary consumers. This eventually effects Orcas because they are high on the food chain and indirectly require a large amount organisms of lower trophic levels to support them. I found this discussion very interesting. -------------------------------------------------------- I taught my mom about why Orcas are dying in the Puget Sound. I told her about how Orcas are an apex predator and because of that they are indirectly affected by all the species below them on the food chain. By explaining this to my mom I was able to develop better understand this entire process and all the factors that are involved.

Steve Klein
June 06, 2013 at 10:38pm

My talk with Eric about Baby Orcas was stimulating and raised many new questions which we discussed. One question was how the PCB's are passed from the Mother to the baby since the baby orca drinks milk that is generated from the mammary glands which are supplied by the mother's blood. Does the mother's blood contain the high levels of PCB's? My talk with Eric brought to light for me the need to be vigiliant in caring for the environment which supports the Whale population.

Steve Klein
June 06, 2013 at 10:49pm

Eric showed enthusiasm and concern for helping to preserve the health of the Orcas through an increased understanding of the conditions that adversely effect the whale population. The topic was how baby orcas are prematurely dying due to high levels of PCB in the food chain. We discussed how the baby orcas recieve the pollutant through milk consumption. We raised a number of questions about how the PCB's are transmitted from mother to baby. I enjoyed my talk with Eric.

Jessica Houston
June 16, 2014 at 9:26pm

Parent: Poor baby Orcas! My daughter explained to me how PCBs, which are highly toxic chemicals, run off into the Puget Sound from companies that build airplanes and from electrical transformers. These chemicals get into the water and build up through the food chain until the amount of PCB in the Orca mother is very high, and then extremely high in the baby since it drinks its mother's milk. The discussion was really enlightening as to what we are doing to our ecosystem.

Student: My mom had some questions about things like why the amount of PCB increases in concentration as it goes up the food chain, and why companies even use PCB. I was able to answer most of her questions and we also had an interesting discussion regarding Boeing too, and our conflicted feelings about what they're doing despite the fact that my father is an engineer at Boeing.

Madison Boggan
May 18, 2015 at 5:30pm

Parent: :(   This makes me sad. My family and I have seen baby orcas several times when in or near the Puget Sound and Madison grew up singing about Baby Beluga. We want Baby Beluga to live healthily in the sea! It is crazy to think that PCB can travel all the way from it's original use in planes and electricity transformers to the blubber of an orca.

Student:  This was a good conversation to have however it is such a huge, daunting thing as well. Bioaccumulation is scary for us as humans as well because we are sharing that top space in the food pyramid with orcas. My mom and I talked about the different ways that people around the world differ in their lifestyles and how this contributes to polluting the environment. My favorite part of talking about this ETD was how many times my mom has played the Baby Beluga song but my least favorite part is how it is now stuck in my head.

Talesh Patel
June 07, 2015 at 9:42pm

Parent: Talesh explained that baby Orcas are dying in the Puget Sound primarily because of the effect of PCB's (chemicals) in the runoffs from various factories in the area.  These chemicals affect Orcas the most because they are predators which are highest on the food chain. At the lowest level, the plankton take in particles of PCB's, then krill eat the plankton, herring eat the krill, salmon eat herring, orchas eat the salmon.  Each time the amount of PCB's in the system multiply by 10, so by the time the Orca ingests the Salmon, it may ingest 100,000 ppm of PCB's.  This, Talesh explained is an example of bio-magnification.  The PCB's affect the Orca's endocrine system and negatively impact the development of the baby Orca, resulting in deformed or stillborn births. Also, when the baby Orca's feed, they may pass down the PCB's through the mothers milk.Student: By showing my mom that little bits and pieces make a big difference, I realized that when I wash my car with synthetic soap, that it then travels down the street, collecting contaminants, then flows through pipes into streams, then a river, and eventually the Puget Sound. This means that I could be making a negative impact through my subtle actions. I'll be looking into some more natural alternatives in the future!

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