Orcas swim through Haro Strait, past Canada and Washington’s San Juan Islands. Credit: Ashley Braun

I never thought I’d live to see an orca in the wild, a sobering prospect for someone in her 30s living in the Pacific Northwest. Or rather, I never thought the orcas would live long enough for me to see them in the wild.

I’m not talking about meeting just any orcas; I wanted to meet my orcas, the 74 remaining endangered Southern Residents who call the busy, steely blue waters of the Salish Sea their home.

In this corner of the cold Pacific Ocean spanning Washington and British Columbia, the Southern Resident orcas face more challenges than most, faring…


The New New

Researchers in Australia are using autonomous technology to combat a notoriously hard-to-kill pest

Illustration: Derek Ercolano

I spot one on a clear September morning, while swimming through the lukewarm waters around the Great Barrier Reef. A striking starfish, the color of cabernet and sporting more than a dozen arms, hugs the side of a gently curving ridge of coral. It looks lovely and dangerous, and not just because I know the long spines covering it are lacquered with venom.

This creature, located a two-hour boat ride from Townsville, off Australia’s northeast coast, is known as the crown-of-thorns starfish. While it’s the first one I have ever seen, it’s far from alone. Since 2010, a plague of…

Ashley Braun

Science and environmental journalist in Seattle. ashleybraun.com + twitter.com/ashleybraun

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