Meet Tracy Braun

Tracy Braun at Olympic Peninsula

Volunteer Profile

“There’s so much going on – it’s so much fun!” was Tracy’s response when asked what she likes about Sound Water Stewards. Indeed, Tracy is involved in numerous SWS projects!

Tracy Braun and other Stewards learning about Intertidal Monitoring

Tracy moved to Whidbey Island in 2016 from the ranch where she grew up with cattle and horses thirty minutes west of Denver. Before coming here, she spent ten years caring for and enjoying the friendship of her mother who she took three times a week to Denver for dialysis, even on wintertime snowy icy roads. Prior to being primary caregiver, Tracy taught beginning band in public schools. Living here now she says, “It’s neat to have both mountains and saltwater so close.” She had been used to orienting herself by the mountains and here she orients by water as well as distant peaks.

tracy braun pidgeon guillemot burrow on bluff
One of the Pigeon Guillemot burrows Tracy and Gladys survey at Swantown west of Oak Harbor

A friend was presenting at Sound Waters University, so Tracy went. There she met Clara Beier who told her about SWS Annual Training. Yet another friend mentioned SWU and SWS and, there you go, Tracy was in the Class of 2018. She carpooled with Vance Willsey and they became fast friends both living on the north end of Whidbey. Since then, they have teamed up for many projects, including supplying Getting to the Water’s Edge (GTWE) to vendors and getting our book into north Whidbey stores including Ace and the Navy. Vance is retired air force and has made it possible to sell GTWE on the Naval Air Station (NAS) base. Today she is headed to resupply the gift shop at Padilla Bay NERR Breazeale Interpretive Center.

Tracy and Vance were both part of the SWU committee that produced the phenomenal event utilizing 60 simultaneous classrooms in South Whidbey High School. Tracy was on the registration team that held “packet parties” back when each of the 700 attendees received a customized paper schedule and packet made possible by Connie Clark’s computer coding mastery plus many Stewards. For the recent virtual event with field trips, Tracy held a different important position helping resolve registration questions when virtual SWU attendees needed details about their Eventbrite tickets.

Tracy has also helped with Digging 4 Dinner and intertidal monitoring. She finds community science to be her favorites. For several years she and Gladys Howard have surveyed Pigeon Guillemots (Find Swantown on the SWS Project map and in the list of Guillemot Survey locations). Pictured here are the Swantown bluff and burrow west of Oak Harbor. She and Vance are now working to get NAS-Whidbey permission for bluff erosion surveys on the base.

Tracy is perhaps best known for participating in the Swinomish Crab Abundance Monitoring Project (SCAMP) using overnight light traps in the summers. Light traps attract larval stage marine invertebrates; she has found crab and octopus in tiny early stages of development. The project involves looking for the presence or absence of larval stage crabs of all types. The study aims to find out how monitoring larval crab population can predict adult crab population to better understand the health and numbers of Dungeness Crab in the Salish Sea. “Monitoring and surveying with a light pot is fascinating. I am always amazed to see what marine creatures we find and how the number of larval crabs rise and fall with the season,” says Tracy.

SCAMP was started by Swinomish Tribe a few years ago. SCAMP has three light trap sites at Cornet Bay, Rosario Head and Anacortes. Tracy meets her team at Cornet Bay in Deception Pass State Park usually on Saturdays in summer. Researchers are building data on larval Dungeness Crab populations: where and when are late-stage larval crab (megalopae) present, do we see the same patterns annually, and is there a relationship between larval number and adult numbers. SCAMP is part of the Pacific NW Crab Research Group.

“It’s so interesting to learn about the environment and then go out and see the interconnectedness … gunnels (a benthic eel-like fish) as larvae and then later, pulled out from under rock, in the mouth of a pigeon guillemot sitting on the water waiting to take it to a chick in the burrow.”

Note: follow link to see amazing close-up pictures by Govinda Rosling of Pigeon Guillemots with gunnels

Below: SWS Class of 2018

class of 2018 photo by Rich Yukubousky
SWS Class of 2018 by Rich Yukubousky

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