Lecture – Bringing up baby stars

photo by: Dennis Wise/University of Washington
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Lecture – Bringing up baby stars

Sunday, October 08, 2023
3:00 pm - 4:00 pm
*To keep this series accessible to all, regardless of the ability to pay, there is no set charge for the event; however, donations are always welcomed and appreciated.

“Bringing up baby stars: Captive breeding of the endangered sunflower star for research and restoration”

Presented by Dr. Jason Hodin
Univ. of Washington Senior Research Scientist
Friday Harbor Labs

In 2013, a devastating outbreak of a mysterious disease known as seastar wasting (SSW) began to spread in our region and along our entire coast, from Alaska to México. It impacted most if not all of our local seastar species to some degree, but sunflower stars (Pycnopodia helianthoides) were hit the worst. In California and southward they are all but gone, and their disappearance seems to have led to an ecosystem shift from healthy kelp forests to areas overpopulated by sea urchins and little else.

In 2019, in partnership with the Nature Conservancy of California, we began the first ever captive breeding program for this now-endangered species. In this talk, I will describe our successful efforts to raise this top predator in captivity through their entire life cycle, and some of the amazing things about this species that we have learned along the way. We have been gathering information important for understanding their ecology in the wild through all of their life stages, and also developing methods for large-scale cultivation with the future goal of wild reintroductions. Most recently we completed a field test with our lab born stars, giving us hope that rewilding is feasible.

Jason Hodin received his PhD in Zoology in 1999 at the University of Washington, focusing on insect metamorphosis. During graduate school, he took a course at Friday Harbor Labs (FHL), witnessed metamorphosis in the ocean for the first time, and began to plot how he would become a marine biologist after graduate school. Then, after more than a decade of studies into the remarkable life transitions in echinoderms (sea urchins, sea stars, se cucumbers and kin), he returned to FHL as Senior Research Scientist. His studies that focused on careful rearing of echinoderm larvae through metamorphosis and into the juvenile stage are what led him to be tapped to lead the sunflower star captive rearing effort. Dr. Hodin also runs two educational websites that focus on basic biology and environmental science called VirtualUrchin (virtualurchin.org) and I2SEA (i2sea.org).

Our lecture series, The Future of Oceans, draws on the commitment of professional researchers and educators across all academic spectrums to help define and inspire the health of our oceans.

To see the full lecture series for 2023-2024, visit our Lectures page.

Thanks to the Darrow Family for their ongoing support.


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