Orca jumping showing belly

Become A Steward-Get Training

Sound Water Stewards will begin accepting applications sometime in January 2024 for 2024 Volunteer Education and Training (VET). Whether you live on Whidbey or Camano, send email to Camano-Coordinator to be notified.

See Where We Work

Check out our interactive map and get the big picture of where we’re making a difference across our shorelines

SWS Trains Amazing Volunteers

Sound Water Stewards are trained volunteers working in and around Island County for a healthy, sustainable marine environment through educationscience, and stewardship.

Apply for Membership to be Trained in 2024

SWS highly-regarded 100-hour year-long Training Program is required to become a member. The Training Program is only offered once each year. All current Stewards have completed the Member Training Program.

When you apply, you are expressing your desire to become actively involved in Sound Water Stewards’ education, science and stewardship projects. You agree to give back at least 100 hours of volunteer time in and around Island County.

By the end of your training, you will feel more connected to the beaches, marine life, and ecosystems of Island County, better able to communicate the challenges facing the environment, able to describe SWS mission and programs, and feel closely connected to the people in your class and in SWS. You will work hard and have fun!

Please watch this 3-minute video. We hope you find it tantalizing and inspiring!

Watch a virtual Town Hall recorded at noon on Feb 23, 2023 to learn more.

Click on the plus (+) sign to open each of the boxes below.

Benefits of Joining SWS

Maybe you are interested in learning how to protect and preserve your favorite beach. Or perhaps you are concerned about development and its impact on our natural resources. Maybe you would like to understand the geology and biology of these beautiful islands and surround yourself with terrific people who share your love of nature. Or maybe you want to give something back.

Whatever the reason, as a Sound Water Steward you will work a bit, learn a lot and have a ton of fun. And you will make a difference in the community.

About Training

Classes are engaging. We learn from experts who present on the nearshore marine environment and cover these topics

  • tribal sovereignty & treaty rights
  • coastal geology
  • intertidal zones & life forms
  • groundwater & watersheds
  • marine mammals & marine birds
  • plankton, forage fish & eelgrass
  • salmon life cycle, estuaries & habitat restoration
  • native plants and trees
  • waste reduction & recycling
  • climate change
  • ocean acidification
  • sea level rise
  • and more

In the spring, classes focus on foundational concepts about coastal geology, marine species and ecosystems, watersheds and natural resources. In the fall, we address human impacts such as climate change, ocean acidification, current challenges, and how we can each make a difference.

Trainees receive a detailed schedule and background reading for each topic and field trip via the Training Curriculum webpage. It all adds up to at least 100 hours of training.

When & where are classes held?

In 2023, classes are Thursdays, beginning Thursday, March 30, 2023. Most are Zoom; some are in-person.

  • 9 weeks in spring on Thursdays: 3/30 (in-person whole-day, two groups, one on Whidbey, one on Camano), 4/6, 4/13 (in-person whole-day; everyone at Pacific Rim Institute on Whidbey), 4/20, 4/27, 5/4, 5/11, 5/18 + 6/15 (in-person whole-day at Padilla Bay Estuary Research Reserve classroom, interpretive center and beach)
  • 6 weeks in fall on Thursdays: 9/14, 9/21, 9/28, 10/5, 10/12, 10/19 (one fall date may possibly be in-person whole-day, all others are Zoom)

With 3 exceptions, classes are live virtual via zoom on Thursdays, 9 am to 12:30 pm with a mid-morning break. You receive a schedule of classes on your first day of class.

  • In the field and on the beach experiences are vital and integral parts of training. They occur in the daytime, in-person, often outdoors on Whidbey or Camano or nearby, and usually not on Thursdays.

  • In addition to class time, requirements to graduate include:
    • At least three field trips (not on class days); you’ll have many options of trips and dates to choose from.
    • At least one Intertidal Monitoring survey.
    • At least one monthly member meeting.

About Field Trips

2023 Field Trip dates and locations are not set yet but are likely to be offered April-June and Sept-Oct.

Accommodations are made for anyone who isn’t comfortable on a beach or with in-person groups. We follow Island County Dept of Health, Washington Dept of Health, as well as State Parks or other host sites’ COVID safety standards.

Past field trips have included:

  • Hibulb Cultural Center at Tulalip
  • Stillaguamish Tribe Fish Hatchery near Granite Falls
  • Leque Island salmon habitat restoration area near Stanwood
  • Greenbank Farm native plants, Whidbey
  • South Whidbey State Park Forest Walk
  • Al Emerson Trail Forest Walk at Camano Island State Park
  • Kristoferson Creek & Farm Salmon Stream, Camano
  • Coupeville Solid Waste Complex
  • Port Susan Bay Preserve salmon habitat restoration, Stanwood
  • Marine Birds, aboard the Keystone – Port Townsend ferry
  • Kukutali Preserve, Swinomish Tribal Community
  • Island County Historical Museum, Coupeville
  • Cama Beach Historical State Park, Camano
  • Salal Native Plant Garden, Mt Vernon
  • Wetlands, Cranberry Lake, Deception Pass State Park
  • Pacific Rim Institute, Coupeville
  • Langley Whale Center

When is the application due?

Application Process

SWS accepts applications via an online form here on this website. Your application is time-stamped when you submit it and you will receive a copy by email.

Class size is limited. The earlier you apply the better your chances of getting into the Class of 2023. Applications will not be considered after March 7, 2023.

We aim for a mix of trainees from Whidbey and Camano, however, applicants are not required to reside in Island County, but are required to volunteer in or near Island County for at least 100 hours. The purpose of the Training Program is to equip Stewards for active involvement in and near Island County.

Applicants must participate in a two-way Q&A via zoom before being accepted into the Volunteer Education and Training program.

Membership Fee to Join

In 2023, the Membership Fee is $300 per person to cover the cost of the Member Training program. Full and partial scholarships are available. We do not want the fee to be a barrier to membership; donors have contributed funds to make possible a pay-what-you-can scholarship. We will handle details individually. You have the option of a budget-friendly payment plan (half in spring, half in fall).

While we prefer that you bring your payment by check on 3/30/2023, you may pay online after we provide the link to you around March 30.

For your $300 fee, you receive:

  • Member Training Program (15 weeks plus field experience)
  • Getting to the Water’s Edge guidebook
  • laminated EZ-ID guides to marine invertebrates, sea weeds and sea grasses, and
  • temporary nametag on a lanyard for training and your official long-lasting magnetic SWS nametag when you graduate

In return for this unique educational opportunity, you agree to give back 100 hours of volunteer time in SWS programs, activities or committees (50 hours a year for two consecutive years) and to log your hours in VolunteerMatters (training provided).

There are many ways to fulfill the time commitment and the hours add up quickly. It is fun, it is easy, and we can help you tailor your service to your talents, interests, and comfort level. Some volunteers participate in intertidal monitoring of beaches. Others help lead public education events at State or County Parks, troll the shorelines removing trash, or help remove noxious weeds. The pages of this website are filled with examples of activities that Stewards do.

SWS does not require annual dues. We will, however, periodically, invite you to make a charitable donation to support special projects or ongoing work in support of the health of the Salish Sea.

Requirements to Participate and “Graduate”

  • Technology – For training, you need a computer with microphone and camera or a tablet. (Attempting Zoom classes on a cell phone is not a useful substitute for a larger screen and keyboard). You will be required to set up some online accounts (SWS website login, Volunteer Matters, Slack, etc)
  • Attendance – Your attendance and participation are vital to your training! If you must miss a class, most (not all) Zoom classes are recorded and we ask you to watch the recording as soon as possible after the class you missed. In-person classes cannot be replicated so we ask you to be there.
    • In addition to Thursday Zoom classes, three (3) field trips are required to graduate. You’ll have lots of choices.
  • Prepare for classes and field trips by reading online curriculum materials (about one hour for each topic or trip).
  • Pay $300 membership/training fee or utilize a full or partial scholarship.

  • Educate, not advocate, when representing SWS as an organization. What does this mean? It means that SWS seeks to inform but does not take a position (for or against) specific government policies at the local, state or federal level, on the ballot, or otherwise.
  • Commitment to give back at least 100 hours of volunteerism with Sound Water Stewards programs or projects.

Tech Tools: Zoom, Website, Email, VolunteerMatters, SignUpGenius, Slack, Google Forms

In this day and age, technology-assisted communication is vital! You are required to install and use the following to participate in 2023 Training.

Zoom: Presentations from experts make it possible for all 50 trainees from both islands to receive the same high-quality information at the same time. Zoom creates a means for involvement and interaction across both Whidbey and Camano islands. Presenters are experts at sharing their presentations via Zoom.

Website: During our first few days of class we will explain the login process and review the Curriculum webpages, materials to read before each class, class schedules, plus members-only events calendar, news and volunteer opportunities.

Email: As a trainee, during training, you will receive regular emails with class details. Ongoing official communication from SWS will be via email.

VolunteerMatters: This is the hours-logging software program to track all Stewards’ time in community science, education and stewardship projects.

SignUpGenius: SWS uses this online tool for event and field trip signups. We’ll teach you how to use it.

Slack: We have selected this tool as a private, secure online communication platform where SWS trainees and members may post pictures, news articles, comment on and share insights on what you are learning. It allows trainees or project teams to interact easily and privately. You will be required to set up a free Slack account.

Google Forms: In recent years, SWS has used google forms for weekly feedback about the class sessions. In 2023, we will allot time at the end of each Zoom class for you to fill out your feedback form while trainers are present to answer questions about the process.

Training will be provided on ALL of the above SWS tech tools.

Covid Precautions

In-person indoor and outdoor classes follow Island County Department of Health and State of Washington COVID safety guidelines. As of 12-20-2022, masks are encouraged indoors.

“I recommend that everyone wear a high-quality, well-fitting mask when around others in indoor spaces to protect yourself and others,” Island County Public Health Officer Dr. Howard Leibrand said in a Dec 16, 2022 news release. “N95 masks and KN95 masks provide you the best protection,” Leibrand said.

SWS Board of Directors regularly reviews the COVID situation to update guidance for members.

Please sign up to receive our e-newsletter so you will be notified when the next training program begins accepting applications (see bottom of this page).

Sound Water Stewards do not discriminate on the basis of race, disability, color, creed, religion, gender, age, sexual orientation, national origin, ancestry, citizenship, military status, or any other protected classification.

SWS greatly appreciates financial support from Lighthouse Environmental Programs.

Please direct any questions you may have to training@soundwaterstewards.org.