Subject: SWS Newsletter - October 2016

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Sound Water Stewards
Quarterly Beach Log

October 2016

We are trained volunteers working in and around Island County for a healthy, sustainable Puget Sound environment through education, community outreach, stewardship, and citizen science.

We have trained over 600 volunteers since 1990, and welcomed our 26th class this spring. After six week spring and fall sessions mixing lectures and field trips, they've learned the gamut from Aquifers to Zooplankton. They are our first class of Sound Water Stewards -- 20 from Camano and 22 from Whidbey -- an energetic and engaged group, as can be seen in the broad range of activities they’ve participated in already.  [ read more ]

25 years and growing

After 25 years as WSU Extension Beach Watchers, we are now our own  501(c)3 non-profit organization, allowing us to better match local priorities and to work effectively with other Puget Sound groups and researchers.  Meet our nine member volunteer SWS Board ...  [ read more ].
Meet Our Staff

Our volunteers are split 70% Whidbey and 30% Camano. The SWS Board has approved two part-time coordinator positions - 20 hours/wk for Whidbey, 10 hours/wk for Camano

Welcome to our new Whidbey coordinator, Kelly Zupich.  
Kelly graduated with the Whidbey 2012 class, and admits she hated the ocean when she first joined - but now you cannot keep her away.  When not exploring tidepools, she designs jewelry, does landscaping, and takes wonderful photographs, in addition to going back to school for a degree in Marine Biology ...  [
read more ]

Camano candidates are being interviewed this month.  Stay tuned.

Magic at the Coupeville Wharf

A multi-disciplinary team led by Barb Bennett (our former WSU Beach Watchers Coordinator, and now a dedicated volunteer with Sound Water Stewards) has worked magic at our marine display at the Coupeville Wharf.

Over the years, the display grew to include several re-articulated marine mammal skeletons hanging from the ceiling, with informational displays along the wall.

The impetus for the redesign was the vision by Jan Holmes in 2010 for an eelgrass display with -no- words.  The work was supported by funds from Jan's Cox Conserves Hero award, and by many other donations.  This post by Dan Pedersen tells the story very well.  Read more about Jan.

 To learn more about this hard working team, and to see pictures of the skeletons, and the de/construction ... [ read more  ]

Working with our State Parks

We are blessed with TEN State Parks on Camano and Whidbey.

It's a win-win proposition .. here's a simple example:  On July 4th, one of our volunteers helped visitors at Rosario to see the tide pools come alive!. After showing one family of five how to stop, get low, and wait a few seconds -- they became quite engaged.  When he checked  back in ~20 minutes the 10 year old son exclaimed "This is better than TV!"

We get similar responses from our participation in Nature Discovery Days on Camano each May,  and during the summer with our Cama Beach SP low tide walks.

Other activities this summer included a variety of guided walks, music, and  storytelling ...
[ read more ]
... and the work goes on ...
A quick overview of our other work, by ourselves or with other organizations -- providing the boots on the beach, and the forests, and the wetlands, ... (when shown - hours are for 2016)
COASST - way too many dead birds found this year ... 60 dead rhinoceros auklets found on Whidbey (300 hours walking the beaches every month - rain or shine - for COASSTreport)

Invasive Green Crabs - none found at our monitoring sites on Camano (Iverson Spit, Elger Bay) and Whidbey (Race Lagoon, Penn Cove, Lagoon Point lagoon, Deer Lagoon) from April - September (500 hours Apr-Sept), but they have been found in the San Juans and at Padilla Bay (WA Sea Grant - Crab Team News).

Measuring eelgrass beds -  (200 hours) - meshing analysis of underwater video and aerial photos [ read more ]

Intertidal Monitoring - (1000 hours, Apr-Aug) - extreme low-tide days find us on the beaches -
monitoring the marine life to accumulate baseline data-over-time on invertebrates, seaweeds, and beach conditions.   [read more ]
Forage Fish Spawning Survey - 500+ hours - see the [overview/summary] of this Island County MRC sponsored activity, and this brief article on [volunteers at work]

Pigeon Guillemot -  (600 hours June - Sept) monitoring this important indicator species that breeds in our seaside bluffs - an Audubon sponsored project Stay tuned as the PG Research Group is looking to extend the survey to Camano in 2017!  See the Whidbey 2016 data

Seining ... Sabbatical - (550 hours Feb - July) After 8 years of seining for salmon smolt at Cornet Bay (early mornings, freezing temperatures, rain, wind and generally unfavorable conditions at times) the Marine Resources Committee (who oversees this program) has agreed that enough data has been collected, pre- and post- restoration at Cornet Bay! So our dedicated seining crew has next year off – 2017. But don’t dispose of those waders, boots, gloves and jackets just yet ... Ala Spit may be added as a seining site in the future.

Kelp Survey - new this year -
using a kayak based protocol to monitor the health of kelp beds during the summer when kelp is actively growing. Beds are defined by tracking the perimeter using GPS units. Read more at

Storm Surge Monitoring - another new activity this year - training sessions on both islands this month by Dr Eric Grossman, USGS - then identification of sites - monitoring to be done by a pair of volunteers just before a storm is expected, and then just after the storm. 

Digging for Dinner - teaching families to dig clams sustainably (100 hours)

Langley Whale Center
- we serve as docents (and also on the Orca Network board) for this popular attraction - visitors (preschoolers to retirees) from almost every state, and over 30 countries.  To volunteer, contact
the LWC manager:

Nature Discovery Days - for Camano 2nd graders - wonderful experience for the kids AND the volunteers [ read more ]

WWS Outdoor Classroom - Fall lessons are in full swing for elementary students visiting the Outdoor Classroom from South Whidbey, Oak Harbor, and Lake Stevens schools. With strong interest in environmental education, at least 8 of the volunteer teachers are from SWS, and between the Spring and Fall lessons, have donated over 250 hours this year.

Whale Naturalists -  550 hours this summer - education/outreach for the public on  whale cruises,  plus collecting data for the Center for Whale Research

4th Wednesday Seminars - long running public seminar series on Camano.

Sound Waters University -  annual symposium for 600+ people. (1200 hours - Apr-Feb)
Pulling and planting - trail maintenance, planting trees and native shrubs, fighting blackberries and Scotch Broom (500 hours) (Whidbey Watershed Stewards, WCLT, Nature Conservancy, ...)

Beach Cleanup - on our own, or with community scheduled cleanups (100 hours)

Monofilament Fishing Line Recycling and Recovery - we've designed and put containers at popular fishing beaches around Whidbey - to be collected each year by volunteers and delivered to Skagit Steel and Recycling.

... and the fun ...

We gathered at Deception Pass State Park on a beautiful late July day for our annual picnic [ read more ]

In early October, a field trip to Seattle Aquarium started with rain (and gorgeous rainbows) and ended with great weather 
[ read more ]
Save the Date - All
 Sound Waters University - Sat Feb 4, 2017
     Our 23rd annual 'one day university for all'  with ~60 classes ...
     Keynote by  UW professor Terrie Klinger on Ocean Acidification
     SWU website:

Save the Date - SWS Members
   Nov 15 - Deception Pass - Annual Meeting & Potluck
   Dec 8 - Holiday Party - Whidbey
   Dec 9 - Holiday Party - Camano
   Dec 13-14 - Nightime Tidepooling
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