Protection Island, Washington

James Hayward (Biology) and Shandelle Henson (Mathematics)

Paleoecological Reconstruction of Protection Island, Washington

Protection Island, Washington, consists of a series of unconsolidated Pleistocene and Holocene deposits. Protection Island National Wildlife Refuge, a marine bird and mammal breeding center, was established on the island in 1988. Several geological features of this island serve as wildlife attractants: steep cliffs of unconsolidated sediments around the island periphery afford ideal nesting sites for burrowing auklets and puffins; cliff ledges provide platforms for nesting cormorants; longshore currents deposit gravel spits at the east and west ends of the island on which gulls and guillemots nest and seals haul out. These features attract about 70% of Washington’s inland breeding seabirds each year and a high proportion of the state’s breeding seal population. Despite the presence of geologic features crucial to the breeding success of marine birds and mammals, little is known about Protection Island’s geological structure and paleoecological history. We propose the following specific objectives: 1) development of a geologic framework of mapped stratigraphic units; 2) collection and preservation of sediment and fossil samples from each stratigraphic unit; 3) characterization of the composition, thickness, depositional history, palynology, and paleoecological history of each of the island’s stratigraphic units; 4) development of a geologic map of Protection Island which will detail its stratigraphic features; 5) absolute dating of the various stratigraphic units using carbon-14, thermolumenescent, and/or amino acid racemization dating techniques; 6) development of a paleoecological history of the entire island; and 7) development of recommendations for the conservation of geological features of Protection Island.

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