Puget Sound

Our inland sea needs help


If you visit the Seattle Aquarium, you might come away thinking Puget Sound is a bright, beautiful undersea wonderland. In some places, it is.

But overall…Puget Sound is in serious trouble.

(Click on the images to get a larger view)

I did this watercolor after spending some time at the Seattle Aquarium. These types of “habitat and species” illustrations are meant as a condensed versions of reality—to inspire curiosity and wonder. But do they give a wrong impression that Puget Sound is bursting with healthy life?


Puget Sound has toxic levels of many different chemicals, and it is killing the ecosystem. At one time, we could have blamed Big Industry for Puget Sound’s problems.

I did this sign for my West Bay Park project in Olympia. It shows historical uses of the working waterfront. Today, some of that area has been restored.


Today, the biggest source of pollution in Puget Sound is not Big Industry. It’s us…you, me and pretty much everyone who drives a car or lives in a house in the Puget Sound Basin. It’s called  Nonpoint Source Pollution—meaning not coming from one point, but coming from many points.

Basically, anything toxic on the ground or city streets—like motor oil or lawn chemicals—will end up in Puget Sound. Over time, the accumulations take a serious toll on marine life.

I did this illustration of Non-Point-Source Pollution for a project at Lost River Cave in Kentucky. It’s a different type of watershed there, but the idea is the same. Everyday pollutants end up in water…either ground water, or major water bodies like Puget Sound.



This aerial view I did for my Arboretum project, shows how the Puget Sound basin is ringed by mountains—and by major urban areas. Extending north into Canada, Puget Sound is also called The Salish Sea.


Looking east, with Seattle in the foreground, you see the Cascade Range, which collects lots of precipitation as snow and rain. But between the mountains and Puget Sound are urban Seattle and the eastside cities and suburbs. By the time time flowing water reaches the Sound, it has picked up a lot of contaminants. (But, rest assured… Seattle’s drinking water is pure and protected.)


(Close up view of the Seattle skyline as it often looks. Gray on gray.)


If we want to protect marine life in the Sound, we all must help. Find out how you can help protect water quality.


What is your favorite Puget Sound marine creature?

For me, it’s a tie between the Pacific giant octopus and the wolf eel. At the Seattle Aquarium, I like watching the wolf eels swimming in the dome room. They are the most graceful swimmers! Watching them is positively hypnotic.

Wolf eels are fish, not eels. The male and female often live together and breed for many years.
















And they have such a face! A real mug. Love it!









What is the fate of Puget Sound?

Find out more…

Puget Sound Partnership

Washington State Department of Ecology

West Seattle Blog


Puget Sound Starts Here

Seattle Aquarium


What do you think?

Are you looking for ways to become a non-nonpoint polluter?

Leave a reply!

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Old growth forests…from seedlings to giants

Have you ever looked at one of those massive, towering Douglas firs or western red cedars—the kind with roots that grip the forest floor like giant toes and crowns that disappear high in the sky—and wondered to yourself…what stories could this tree tell?

A forest sketch I did while pondering my novel “The Hollow Cedar





















Vulnerable new life

Every tree has its own story to tell. A new seedling faces a thousand dangers every day in the wild, unpredictable forest.

A Douglas fir seedling and beetle I painted for a signage project at Federation Forest.


The few who make it

The true forest giants—the ones that live for hundreds of years—have something to tell us about success in life…about being a survivor, and about beauty and strength in old age.

Six hundred years later, the seedling and its neighbors tower over a bull elk.


It all fits together

Life in a mature forest seems to go on forever, with layer upon layer of living beings—from the teeming soil to the bustling canopy. Some life-forms are tiny, ephemeral, nearly invisible. Others seem impossibly big. It’s a study in contrasts.

A section of an illustration for the Federation Forest project.


Where do we fit in?

I may be biased, but the forests of the Pacific Northwest are the most beautiful, fascinating places on earth. In any season, they are enjoyable—but when I’m in an old-growth forest on a bright summer day, I want to grow roots, sink them deep into the forest floor, and stay there forever.

A snippet of a working sketch for “The Hollow Cedar“.



















What about you? Do you have a favorite place? Leave a comment and tell us. And, if you enjoy the blog posts…please consider being a subscriber. The subscriber box is located on the sidebar of the main blog page. Thanks!