Karis Barnes

Jan Holmes Island County Coastal Volunteer of the Year

Karis Barnes is no ordinary volunteer. As the youngest volunteer to be awarded the Jan Holmes Island County Coastal Volunteer of the Year award, she is an inspiration to us all.

This award, presented by the Island County Marine Resources Committee, Sound Water Stewards, and WSU Extension – Island County, is given every year to an outstanding volunteer whose efforts contribute to the protection and restoration of the Island County marine ecosystem and coastal resources.

The award is named to honor the memory of Jan Holmes, an exemplary marine scientist, educator, and champion for stewardship of the marine environment. Karis indeed exemplifies the spirit of Jan Holmes, with her passion for working in the field, and for sharing her love of the marine environment by helping others learn about it and encouraging them to explore it for themselves.

This past summer, staff at Deception Pass State Park found themselves facing an increase in park visitation with limited resources to meet the growing need to provide education about tide pool ecosystems and appropriate viewing practices. Karis stepped up to meet this need in her volunteer work as a Beach Naturalist Intern.

Karis went above and beyond in her volunteer work, always arriving early to prepare for the day, and regularly volunteering for additional shifts and to cover holiday weekends. Not only did she volunteer over 186 hours this summer, but she did so with an openhearted personality and positive attitude. Her educational efforts and stewardship messaging helped reach over 20,000 visitors, leaving them with positive memories and nuggets of information about tide pool ecosystems.

Despite the challenges of volunteering during a global pandemic, Karis worked diligently to make the experience inviting, engaging, and accessible to all, helping kids and adults alike find wonder in the natural environment.

Karis spoke about the ways that the youngest visitors would often inspire her. In one instance, a young student impressed Karis with her knowledge of marine creatures. “It was one of many days where a child inspired hope in me, and reminded me why I’m going into this field,” Karis remembered.

We are honored to acknowledge Karis’s volunteer efforts through this award. She has inspired many through her dedication, welcoming personality, and infectious enthusiasm for the marine environment. Karis, you inspire us.