This refers to a PREVIOUS SW, held Saturday, February 2, 2019
Please see this page for the most recent Sound Waters University information

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Session A 11:00-12:15
A.1 An Aerial Tour of Island County Eelgrass Beds

Aerial view of Cornet BayCome take an aerial and underwater tour of seagrass beds in Island County and learn why they are so important to the Salish Sea. See where the beds are (and are not) and trends in their size over the last ten years.

We will explore stressors to seagrass health including: boating, storm events, water quality, light availability, sedimentation, temperature changes, low salinity, algal blooms, sea urchins, sand dollars, epiphyte growth, eelgrass wasting disease and shifting sands. 

Observations also will be shared on kelp beds, boat launches, ghost shrimp harvesting, landslides, bulkhead removals, construction projects and gray whale feeding pits.

A.2 Carbon Less Lifestyle

Taking a busConcerned about climate change but don't know what to do about it? The solution starts with choices each of us make on a daily basis.

Find out how to calculate your carbon footprint and how you can reduce it while enhancing your quality of life. Discover new and old technologies, services that lend themselves to a low carbon lifestyle, and what your neighbors are doing to reduce the impact of climate change.  We’ll look at reducing waste, energy efficiency, water conservation, shopping less or shopping local, transportation, carbon less commuting and low carbon vacations.

You’ll see how taking small steps makes a big difference and how you can join a world-wide community of folks who share your concerns and are working toward a brighter future and a carbon less lifestyle.

A.3 Climate Change Impacts in the Salish Sea Area

Pacific Northwest Coastal watersGlobal climate change will bring major changes to the Pacific Northwest, both on the land and in the coastal environment.

This presentation will summarize these projected impacts, drawing on the published work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC 2013/2014), the latest National Climate Assessment (2017/2018) and the Climate Impacts Group (CIG) at the University of Washington.

Aerial image of Pacific NW Firest firesThe focus of this class primarily will be on the marine environment. The items addressed will include ocean acidification, sea-level rise, toxic algal blooms, and changes in species diversity including proliferation of invasive species.

The global predictions of changing temperature and precipitation will be addressed at the PNW regional scale with discussion of implications for agriculture, water resources, snowpack, and forest health.

A.4 Coastal Geology: Bluffs, Beaches and Landslides

Bluff erosionWhere is your favorite beach? Do you know how it was formed or why it changes during the year? What will that beach look like in 20, 50 or 100 years?  

And what about the landslides you saw on the news? Could those have been prevented?

Did you know that much of the salt marsh habitat on Whidbey Island occurs (or used to occur) behind spits?  Why is that?

photo of eroded beach bluff

This class will answer many of your questions. You'll be expertly guided through a slideshow illustrating principles and local examples of geology and beaches.  Come learn the importance of storms and discover that erosion is often a good thing. Our shorelines can be exciting places--storm surges, king tides, 60 mph gusts, landslides--and they demand stewardship.

A.5 Dungeness Crab in Puget Sound - Management and Life History

Dungeness crabs

This popular and informative class will be an overview of the Puget Sound Dungeness crab fishery.

Topics will include a discussion of Dungeness crab life history, a comparison of the recreational, commercial and treaty fisheries, and an overview of the historic landings.


The photos on the left show Dungeness crab color morphs.

5 limit of Dungeness crab





The photo to the right shows the five crab limit of large Dungeness crabs.

A.6 Effects of Plastics and Microplastics On Human Health and the Environment

Plastic is a composite of a resin (man-made polymer) and a number of additives. The resin serves as the backbone of plastic and determines the major properties and potential uses of plastics. Additives are used to modify the physical and chemical properties of plastics.

The impacts of improperly discarded plastics and microplastics on marine life, and the leaching of additives in our food and drink, as well as in the environment are well publicized.  In addition, these plastics pose significant health risks. Some plastic additives will be identified and their effects on human health and the environment will be discussed.

A.7 Firewise Whidbey-Style: Landscaping Tips for Island Landowners Living with Wildfire in Our Bioregion

First Firewise Community Members of Island CoWhen it comes to wildfire, does Whidbey Island come to mind? 

Although most of us think about our neighbors east of theKelsi teaching about Home Ignition Zones (HIZ) mountains when thinking about wildland fires, Whidbey's unique wildfire regime has sculpted this landscape like all its other natural processes.

Kelsi Mottet, Whidbey Island Firewise Coordinator, will teach you about wildfire science, the unique history of wildfire on Whidbey Island, and ideas for how you can adapt your landscape to living with the threat of wildfire, Whidbey-style, while meeting your other conservation and land-use goals.

A.8 HAS BEEN CANCELLED -- Invasive European Green Crabs in the Salish Sea: Update and Importance of Citizen Science Monitoring

European Green CrabGreen Crab Team VolunteersWith thousands of miles of shoreline, looking for very small populations of potentially founding individual crabs takes a massive collaboration.

At the core of this work is a dedicated crew of 200 community science volunteers - the Washington Sea Grant Crab Team early detection network.

What are community science volunteers able to contribute that no other group can? What are the unanticipated benefits gained by working with volunteers?

Along with providing the freshest updates on what is known about European green crab in the Salish Sea, we'll provide our thoughts on these questions and highlight the valuable role of community science in protecting the Salish Sea.

We regret this class has been cancelled
A.9 Kayaking Local Waters: How and Where

Seal on rock at low tide near Possession Point

Whidbey Island is a near-perfect place to learn or perfect your basic to intermediate kayaking skills.

You will learn what to do to practice safe kayaking, including how to respond to a tip-over. You will learn details about kayaking equipment. Finally, you will learn where to go to get started around Whidbey, both in fresh and salt water, and how to connect with other kayakers.

Handouts and resource guides will be provided. 

A.10 Major Bioregions of Washington State and Their Geologic, Climatological, and Biological Geneses and Differences

This class will examine the nine major bioregions of Washington. Consideration will be given to the geological forces that have shaped the landscape and the climatological features that define rainfall patterns and temperature resulting in the unique biological communities of each bioregion.

Map of major bioregions of Washington State

A.11 Mason Bees - The Native Super Pollinator

mason bee on a leafMason bees are one of the earliest emerging pollinators in the Pacific Northwest.

Learn about how important these efficient, gentle pollinators are to our ecosystem and how easy it is to host them in your backyard.

Information will also be shared about planting in your garden to support solitary pollinators and their increasing importance to our agricultural industry.

A.12 Orca Scat Detection - Serious Research Relying On Canine Super Sniffers

Researchers and Dio (K9) searching for orca scatThe Southern Resident killer whale scat project, led by the University of Washington's Center for Conservation Biology Endowed Chair Dr. Sam Wasser, utilizes a scat detection dog on the front of the research boat to sniff out fecal samples, sometimes from as far away as a nautical mile. Giles, who has been at the helm of the research boat since 2009, along with seasoned dog handler Collette Yee and CK9 Dio, work as a team to find orca scat in the highly dynamic waters of the Salish Sea.

Researchers processing a sampleNon-invasively collected scat samples can be used to answer myriad questions about the health of the whales by analyzing stress, nutrition and pregnancy hormones, as well as levels of different toxic chemicals such as PCBs, DDT, and PBDE's, which are flame retardants.

Recent findings from this project showed that up to 70% of pregnancies are spontaneously miscarried, some in late stages of pregnancy which is particularly dangerous for the female whales. These pregnancy losses are believed to be a result of nutritional stress brought on by lack of food. Another recently released study by former graduate student - now Dr. Jessica Lundin, showed that evidence of exhaust from vessels declined in the whale scat samples after vessels started staying farther away from the whales in 2012.

Dio (K9) searching for orca scatUpcoming research questions will focus on analyzing the orca scat samples for micro-plastics and parasites.

A.13 Plastics and Zero Waste Issues in the Salish Sea Region and Upcoming Legislation

Plastic bag litterPlastic litter from our watersheds is getting into Puget Sound. Like marine water bodies all over the world, micro- and macro-plastics are floating in the water, accumulating in the bottom muds, and are sprinkled throughout our beach sand and gravels.

Picture of recycled products

This growing accumulation of plastic has come from marine litter and debris, but an estimated 80% comes from land sources. One-use plastic disposable items, such as plastic bags, vape tubes, food serviceware, and other plastic waste, often gets tossed and blown around and accumulates along roadways, public spaces and in waterways. Creeks and rivers wash this litter from our watersheds into Puget Sound. Once the litter reaches marine waters, it is almost impossible to remove, and the plastic gradually breaks down into tiny bits called microplastics, never completely decomposing. In addition, we are experiencing a crisis in recycling.

For decadRecycle sitees, we have been exporting our recyclables to China. China has closed off this option and now we need to manage our recyclables, especially plastics, here in Washington. In this session, you will learn about these issues and more. We will also discuss legislation that has been introduced to address plastic pollution, our recycling crisis and other zero waste issues.

A.14 Public Infrastructure and Fish Passage Barriers: Challenges and Opportunities

Fish Passage  Barrier - culvert

Public infrastructure improvements are happening all around Puget Sound as local and state governments invest limited road funds into the maintenance and safety improvements for the existing transportation system.

In most of these projects, the ability to “upgrade” culverts to enhance fish passage is difficult and very constrained.  Unfortunately, local jurisdictions are often forced to choose between culvert enhancement and necessary safety projects.  While funding is a primary challenge, local jurisdictions also see a great opportunity: a path to enhance the environmental conditions and advance salmon recovery.

Salmon entering culvert

This session will explore the effort to leverage local infrastructure spending with state restoration funding to remove priority fish passage barriers and restore Washington’s salmon populations.

Commissioner Price Johnson will be joined by co-presenter Eric Johnson of the Washington State Association of Counties.
A.15 Puget Sound Fault Zones, Focusing on the South Whidbey Fault Zone and Darrington-Devils Mountain Fault Zone

Picture of a LiDAR image showing a large landslide and fault scarpIn this class, we will take a look at active faults around the Puget Lowland. These faults all have evidence of producing large earthquakes in the recent geological past. We will examine geological evidence that point to these past earthquakes at several sites. We also will examine high-resolution images produced from LiDAR surveys that help geologists doing field studies to document this evidence.

Through this careful examination of active faults, we now know that at least 13 active faults in the Puget Lowland produced 28 large earthquakes (magnitude 7 or larger) over the last 15,000 years. More importantly, most of these earthquakes occurred in the last 4000 years.  This suggests that large earthquakes strike our region on average about every 200 years. 

Note about photograph:This is an oblique LiDAR image showing a large landslide and fault scarp - both were produced during the largest historic shallow earthquake in the Pacific Northwest on December 14, 1872 near Entiat, Washington. Fault movement during the earthquake offset the ground surface and produced a fault scarp, seen in the LiDAR image as the dark shadow running diagonally from the image center to the lower left side

Brian Sherrod, the original presenter for this class, is unable to join us due to the federal shutdown. Bill Steele, a past keynote and class presenter at SWU, generously offered to take Brian's place.
A.16 Shining a Light on Lighthouses: What You Need to Know and How You Can Help

This session will focus on lighthouses locally and around the state. It will shine a light on Whidbey's own Admiralty Head lighthouse and other key lighthouses in the state. You will learn how you can help these lighthouses, and how the lighthouse license plate has made a huge impact locally.Admiralty Head Lighthouse

The structure we see today is the second Admiralty Head Lighthouse. It consists of a two-story dwelling linked to the base of a circular tower of roughly the same height by a one-story foyer. Three bedrooms were located upstairs in the dwelling, while the kitchen, dining room, and a living room were downstairs.

Built in a Spanish style using brick covered with stucco, the lighthouse was a one-of-a-kind and was said to be the most comfortable residence in the territory, featuring an indoor bathroom and laundry room.

Sponsored by Whidbey's own non profit Lighthouse Environmental Programs (LEP).

A.17 Shore Enough! Birds of Rocky and Sandy Beaches

Black Oystercatchers at Deception Pass State ParkWeathering storms and dodging falcons, hundreds of shorebirds arrive on local beaches each fall. Scurrying, probing, and hammering, they eke out a living during their sojourn here. They are the very definition of tenacious. Subtle (and in some cases, comical) in appearance, these active sprites travel great distances to winter here.

Come see what life on the rocks is all about. This class covers shorebird identification tips, breeding practices, their remarkable flights and the hazards they face. We will also talk about their special adaptations and foraging techniques - from the long, down-curved bill of the Whimbrel to the dine and dash Sanderlings.  Whimbrel at Oak Harbor City Beach

This is the first of a two-part series from the instructors who presented the popular Fishing For A Living classes. 

A.18 Tales of a Veterinarian: Living With Wildlife On Whidbey Island

Baby ottersDave Parent, DVM is the owner of the Useless Bay Animal Clinic. Besides treating dogs, cats, chickens, rabbits and the occasional reptile he has a license to treat wildlife, including marine mammals.

Dr. Parent has participated in wildlife research in the Olympic Mountains, the Selkirks, Alaska, and Madagascar.

Baby flying squirrelCome join us for fun stories of successes and failures in treating our wild neighbors.

He might even share with you his favorite animal or divulge which wild animal is most likely to cause pain and hemorrhage during treatment!

A.19 The Boldt Decision: Impacts on Environmental Policy in Washington State

Salmon entering culvertThis year’s Culvert Case, is the third in a series of Boldt Decision court rulings related to the Boldt decision of 1974. This year’s Culvert Ruling requires the State of Washington to replace more than 600 state-owned road culverts to reduce barriers blocking salmon access to spawning grounds.

The initial Boldt decision of 1974 ordered co-management and equal sharing of specific marine resources between treaty tribes and the State of Washington, representing non-tribal recreational and commercial harvesters. The Boldt decision also affirmed treaty assured rights for treaty tribes to harvest at their usual and accustomed sites. This ruling continues to shape Washington State's environmental policy and establishes treaty tribes as a voice for environmental stewardship to sustain the marine resources addressed in their treaties.Judge Bolldt

This presentation will consider: the historical context of the Treaty of Point Elliott, the Fish Wars and the Boldt Decision; the relationship between private ownership of shore lands and tribal treaty rights; legal rulings that have followed the initial Boldt decision; how a strong tribal voice helps shape Washington’s environmental stewardship; how treaty rights are compatible with priorities for Southern Resident Killer Whale recovery, salmon recovery, water quality, and protection, restoration and maintenance of marine natural resources; and looking ahead to opportunities and challenges.

Barbara Bennett will be joined by the following co-presenters:Patti Gobin, Natural Resources Treaty Rights Office, Tulalip Tribes; C. Thomas Laurie, Senior Advisor for Tribal and Environmental Affairs, WA DOE; and William Stelle, retired, Regional Administrator, West Coast Region, NOAA Fisheries.
A.20 The Great Bear Rainforest: A Look at the Salish Sea 200 Years Ago

Picture of a Spirit BearApproximately 400 miles north of Langley lies British Columbia’s Great Bear Rainforest. Much of the area is extremely remote and undeveloped. A visit to the myriad of coastal islands, fjords, high mouSalmon schoolntains, and indigenous peoples provides us with a look back in time at our own Salish Sea. This was a time when First Nations populations were thriving, salmon were plentiful, and creation myth reflected geological reality.

In this class we will discuss the Tsimishan creation myth, and how Raven the Creator and Black Bear agreed that every tenth black bear would be white, and called Moksgm’ol, to remind Raven of the terrible days when ice covered much of the land.

picture of wolfFrom a 14,000 year old myth we will jump forward to present day and see photos of a trip through the Great Bear Rainforest. We will see Moksgm’ol, the Spirit Bear, and other creatures who inhabit the area's forests, rivers, and salt water environs. We will close by discussing how a changing environment and development threaten this pristine area; just as development and a warming climate have impacted our Salish Sea.


Session B 1:30-2:45
B.1 Boat-Based Lidar and Multibeam Mapping of the Puget Sound Nearshore

Lidar provides detailed, 3D mapping of beaches, bluffs, riparian vegetation, large woody debris, and shoreline armor along the coast. Multibeam sonar maps the depth and shape of the seafloor under the water (bathymetry) and seabed features, including substrate type, aquatic vegetation, derelict debris, and benthic habitats such as oyster beds. Each technology obtains both close-up and landscape-scale information to characterize nearshore ecosystem structure, process, and function.

The data allows us to explore connections between human interactions (such as development, protection, and restoration activities) and natural processes across the terrestrial and marine environments. For example, a single lidar survey can determine how much overhanging vegetation shades the upper beach, providing refuge to forage fish, as well as the relative impact shoreline armoring may have based on the extent it encroaches onto the beach. When the same stretch of coast is surveyed more than once, lidar and multibeam data can be used to measure the amount of sediment and woody debris supplied to the nearshore from coastal bluffs. The delivery of fine sediment from feeder bluffs is important for forage fish spawning and eelgrass habitat.

During the class, example data products will be shown and discussed to enhance our understanding of the human, geomorphic, and habitat features along the Puget Sound shoreline.

B.2 Coast Salish Ethnobotany and Lessons for Food System Resiliency

Food is a nexus point for our relationship with the environment. Just as "we are what we eat," our landscape reflects our food choices and our values. For ten thousand years or more, Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest have enjoyed a diet and relationship with the lands and waters of this bountiful bioregion that is very different from that of the settler Americans.hands holding camas bulbs

We will introduce some of the most important indigenous food systems, from halibut fishing to root gardens, and discuss their environmental sustainability.roots and fishhooks

B.3 Crabbing 101

photo of Dungeness crab

This class will cover as much about crabbing 101 as can be delivered in 75 minutes.

Topics will include: crab habits and addictions; the rules for catching and possession; the many ways to catch crabs such as trapping, snaring, and netting; how to keep crabs alive; cleaning crabs; cooking crabs; picking crabs; and freezing crab meat.

We will look at many equipment options and make suggestions as to how to best set up a pot.  We will discuss the best baits, the best Whidbey Island locations and times, and how to keep from losing your pot.  If we have time, we might even trade recipes and taste the results.

B.4 Eager Beavers: Managing Ecosystem Engineers

Beaver tail-slapDespite drastic reductions in population size due to historic trapping, beavers remain a facet of our local waterways. But why do they build those pesky dams? And what can we do about it?

Beaver benefits are manifold. From water quality improvements to increases in biodiversity to enhancing resiliency of watersheds, the wetlands that beavers create offer a diverse suite of services.

However, with our human infrastructure so intricately tied to waterways, beavers can often seem like a nuisance.

Luckily, there are plenty of ways to manage beavers and retain the benefits that they provide! We will discuss beaver biology, benefits, relocations and management infrastructure to keep these ecosystem engineers in business.

B.5 Ecological Interactions in a Warming World: How will Climate Change Affect Relationships Between Plants and Insects?

Grasshopper feeding on a lupine leaf

Relationships are at the heart of ecology. From birth to death, all organisms are caught up in a complex network of interactions—both positive and negative—with other living things. For some, these relationships are important enough to play a role in determining vital outcomes like survival, reproductive success, and distribution range limits.

This class will explore the effects of climate on one of the most ubiquitous sets of species interactions in terrestrial ecosystems: those between plants and insects.

We will start by laying out the major ways in which climate factors like temperature and precipitation affect the overall physiology of plants and insects, to build an understanding of why these groups are likely to respond differentially to the effects of climate change.

Then we will use active learning techniques to work through how these differences in responses could impact species interactions. We will focus on a couple of case studies, at least one of which will be based on research done in the subalpine habitat on the slopes of Mt. Rainier.

Participants will learn about the importance of plant-insect interactions in shaping ecosystem functions in our mountain regions, and come away with a greater appreciation for some of the little-noticed dramas that take place literally under our feet.

Photograph: Cascade Timberline grasshopper feeding on a lupine leaf

B.6 Farming for Carbon!

Aerial view of Skyroot FarmIn this class we will explore ways in which farming in Puget Sound can be part of a holistic solution of watershed conservation. We will also explore measures of on-farm soil conservation and nutrient recycling.

A significant part of the presentation will focus on farm efforts to capture carbon and store it for the long term in the soil.

Finally, we will review ongoing efforts at SkyRoot Farm to slow the movement of water through the landscape using KeyLine design systems and perennial plantings.

B.7 Forest Health in a Changing Climate

photo of a very sick treeThe past few years have seen marked increases in tree mortality throughout Whidbey Island and the broader Puget Sound region.

In this class we will look at why so many trees are dying right now, what can (and can't) be done to help them,  and where we go from here.


B.8 From White Caps to Watersheds: Myriad Lives Intertwingled

When we go for a walk in the woods or on the beach, there is an abundance of interesting creatures and habitats, from tiny crabs to giant glacial erratics. Yet some of the most fascinating aspects are nearly invisible: the relationships.

Creatures are linked to each other, to the rocks, to the currents, and of course, linked to us. John F. Williams will highlight some of these relationships with excerpts from his collection of films and from his new publication, “Salish Magazine."

John will also illustrate that the relationships are not just random…there is actually a “system” in ecosystem. He will show examples of these relationships and briefly sketch out what a “system” is, and some of the ways we can represent systems.

Discussions will include why we want to portray ecosystems - how simplification is necessary, but oversimplification is a problem.

He will explain how learning about these ecosystems actually improves our relationships with them, and he will talk about some of the new tools we have for doing this better.

B.10 Native American Adaptation to Whidbey and the Salish Sea

Coast Salish wrapped net sinkers. www.qmackie.wordpress.comLou will discuss the Native American cultural adaptation to the mega-optimum zone of the Puget Sound region with a focus on Whidbey Island.

The tools, food, dwellings, and life ways will be shared with the audience.

B.11 Oil Spill Risk and Commercial Vessel Traffic Impacts to Southern Resident Killer Whales in the Salish Sea

Commercial vessel traffic lanes in the Salish Sea overlay the Southern Resident Killer Whales’ critical habitat. Washington State is the fifth largest refinery state in the nation, with five refineries located in the Salish Sea, in addition to the major cargo shipping terminals in Tacoma, Seattle, and Everett. British Columbia’s Port of Vancouver is the largest port in Canada with 27 major marine cargo terminals.

This class will provide information about commercial vessel traffic impacts and oil spill risk in the Salish Sea, with a focus on impacts to Southern Resident Killer Whales. Oil spill risk analyses and current vessel traffic data as well as projected increases in vessel traffic from new and expansion projects will be presented. The class also will provide information on opportunities to advocate for Southern Resident Killer Whale protection and recovery actions.

B.12 Orca Emergency Response Legislation in Olympia - What's Up and How to Participate

Pod of Killer WhalesThe Southern Resident orcas are starving from lack of salmon to eat, vessels interfere with their abilities to communicate and find food, and pollution both harms their reproductive systems and impacts their food availability.

Orca Emergency Recovery will be a top priority in the 2019 legislative session for the Environmental Priorities Coalition along with 100% clean energy, oil spill prevention, and plastic pollution.

In this class, you will learn about these four legislative priorities, how the legislative session operates, and how you can effectively participate in the legislative process to make positive change.WA State Legislature logo

B.13 Puget Sound Kelp: Challenges and Opportunities

Max Calloway diving in kelp bedsAlong the world’s rocky, temperate coasts, floating canopies of large kelp tower over the seafloor to provide refuge, forage grounds and nurseries for a dizzying array of marine animals. Both floating and understory kelp species act as foundations and engineers that transform rocky nearshore waters into some of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet, even competing with tropical rainforests in terms of total productivity.

In the Puget Sound the canopy forming bull kelp (Nereocystis luekteana) conspires with over 20 other understory kelp creating underwater forests unique to our region. These forests attract juvenile rockfish and salmon that use the tangle of large kelp fronds as safe refuge and all-you-can-eat buffets.

The constant detritus produced by the frayed ends of long kelp blades provide ample food for filter feeders, while small grazing invertebrates opt to dine-in, often using kelp blades as both a home and food source.

Human beings are no exception when it comes to using and eating kelp. New research suggests that the first humans to reach North America traveled a “kelp highway” of sheltered, calm waters that stretched along the coast from Japan to Alaska. Today, global seaweed aquaculture is valued at over $6 billion annually. While a bulk of that production occurs in China and Korea, there is growing interest in North America with the Northeastern states of Maine and Connecticut leading the charge.boat floating in kelp beds

Unfortunately, kelp forests throughout the world are in decline as water temperatures continue to rise and coastal food webs are disrupted from over-fishing. In recent decades, land managers, fishermen and residents throughout the Puget Sound have reported increased losses to floating canopies. As a direct result of these alarming reports, work has begun to develop priority recommendations for kelp conservation, recovery and restoration in the Puget Sound.

Part of this recovery and conservation strategy focuses on promoting increased kelp aquaculture in the Puget Sound for the production of restoration stock and to create sustainable economic opportunities to coastal areas throughout the state.

Additionally, there is growing evidence that kelp aquaculture may benefit the Sound by buffering against ocean acidification and helping remove excess nutrient pollution. The course will begin with a brief primer on the unique biology and ecology of kelp before discussing the current state and trends of Puget Sound kelp forests and potential causes of decline. In addition, this course will explore the potential role of kelp aquaculture in providing similar ecosystem services to natural beds.

B.14 Pulling Together - Local Jobs in Watershed Restoration and Stewardship

The Pulling Together in Restoration Project (PTIR) is a landscape-scale jobs-in-restoration program working across jurisdictions in coastal watersheds to prevent the spread of invasive species and thereby protecting the natural resources that sustain local communities and are enjoyed by millions of visitors each year.

In this class you will learn about the negative impact of invasive plant species, the conditions that promote their growth, and how climate change can provide the ideal invasive sites for these generalist species.

By helping to limit the spread of invasive plants, PTIR saves the public, agencies, private industry, and tribes billions of dollars in the future, while empowering communities, local youth, agencies and tribes in stewarding local watersheds and the natural resources dependent on them.

This program charts the pathway toward resilient and healthy watersheds, establishing a model that validates the efficacy and benefits of local jobs in stewardship – a model we hope to inspire others to deploy!

B.15 Sea Level Rise in Washington State: Probably More Than You Need to Know

This course will cover the background, methods and results of a recently published updated sea level rise assessment focused on coastal Washington State.

The report and associated data are available

Sea Level rise report Cover

B.16 Shellfish Studies in Puget Sound: How Ocean Acidification Impacts Oysters in Our Current and Future Oceans

Oysters affected by ocean acidificationPacific oysters, are an integral part of Puget Sound's ecology, economy, and culture. Of the nearly 25 million pounds of bivalves farmed in Washington in 2013, one-third were Pacific oysters (Crassostrea gigas). (NOAA Washington Shellfish Initiative).

Oyster reefs create fish habitat, stabilize shorelines, and improve water quality and clarity by filter feeding. Excluding harvesting, yearly economic value of these ecosystem services is estimated between $5,500 and $99,000 per hectare.

Currently, the economic, social, and environmental benefits provided by C. gigas are endangered by climate change.

Ocean acidification and rising ocean temperatures are two of the most critical dimensions of changing climate in marine ecosystems. When the ocean absorbs atmospheric carbon dioxide, the gas reacts with water to form carbonic acid and bicarbonate, lowering pH. Increased production of bicarbonate also results in dissolution of calcium carbonate. It is the latter that affects shell formation for marine calcifiers like C. gigas. Larval oysters and spat (newly-settled oysters) have poorly formed shells, low survivorship, and developmental delays in acidified conditions. Adult oysters face shell degradation and compromised reproductive function. Additionally, warmer conditions lead to increased energy demand by C. gigas and greater indicators of oxidative stress.

In this class, we will first discuss the phenomenon of ocean acidification, focusing on how natural features of estuarine systems like those found in Puget Sound can exaggerate climate change impacts. We will then engage in hands-on activity to understand how Pacific oysters are impacted by ocean acidification at different life stages. Finally, we'll explore how the field of genetics can be used to ensure oysters will thrive in future oceans.

Introduction to ocean acidification:

Introduction to oyster genetics and climate change resilience:

B.17 State of the Sound - Actions Within Island County to Help Recover and Sustain Puget Sound

Come learn about Island County’s shared roadmap for ecosystem recovery in our watershed and Puget Sound.

This class will highlight ways our local and regional partners are collectively advancing recovery goals to protect critical habitats in Island County, how we fit into the regional framework of Puget Sound recovery efforts, and how we ensure that protection and restoration investments are directed to the highest priority local projects.

B.18 The Salish Sea Estuarine Circulation: Causes and Consequences

The Salish Sea supports a vast ecosystem from phytoplankton to Orcas. These all rely on the presence of nutrients, mainly nitrate.  About 95% of the nitrate entering the Salish Sea  comes from the Pacific Ocean, specifically the waters about 300 meters deep, out beyond the continental shelf. These waters are relatively old, and their chemistry is influenced by long transits from their headwaters in the Equatorial Pacific and north of Japan. Along the way they accumulate nitrate.

This deep inflow is part of the "estuarine exchange flow" or "estuarine circulation" that occurs in the Salish Sea. I'll explain more about how this works in my talk, but for now you should just know that the strength of this exchange flow is about 20 times greater than the sum of all the rivers coming into the Salish Sea, so it is a big deal, and strongly affects everything about water quality here.

Live Ocean created graphI'll present results from a numerical model my group has created, called LiveOcean (see figure). This is a realistic simulation of the whole region, including the Salish Sea and the coastal estuaries. It includes realistic forcing from 45 rivers, detailed winds and atmospheric heating, and tides. It also simulates biological and chemical fields like oxygen and pH. We use the model to help inform oyster growers about ocean acidification, and to help predict the arrival of harmful algal blooms at Washington beaches. Like a weather model, LiveOcean produces a daily forecast, making predictions 3 days into the future every day.

You can see today's predictions and learn more about the model here:

B.19 Toxic Phytoplankton of the Salish Sea

Alexandrium, the single celled algae that causes paralytic shellfish poisoningPhytoplankton form the base of the marine food web, however some species produce toxins that can accumulate in shellfish and other seafood and make consumers sick or even die.

Other species of phytoplankton can proliferate (bloom) in such numbers to create harmful conditions for fish or other wildlife (harmful algal blooms known as HABs).

This class will go through the various types of toxic and harmful algae (some with very interesting life cycles!) in the Salish Sea. I will also speak to how public health agencies keeps people and the food supply safe. For more information about phytoplankton and HABs please visit:


Session BC 1:30-4:30, with break
BC.1 Getting Ready to Rumble: Natural Hazards Encountered on Whidbey Island and Emergency Preparedness (Double Session)

Home damaged by local stormIsland County contains beautiful, awe-inspiring landscapes with prodigious bluffs, glacial till and panoramic views of Puget Sound, all creating a paradise in which to live. Just driving across Deception Pass Bridge or sailing on one of our Washington State Ferries takes one's breath away. But the landscapes that make this such a wonderful place to live and visit also creates some difficult challenges.

Island County, due to its location, is vulnerable to natural and man-made disasters. We live in one of the most seismically active areas in the nation. There’s the Cascadia Subduction Zone off the coast, multiple fault zones crossing the islands, and others surrounding us.  Books like Cascadia’s Fault, Full Rip 9.0, Cascadia, and a variety of news articles and documentaries all describe the devastation from “The Big One” that is predicted to strike our region.

Earthquakes, as well as tsunamis, high winds, ice storms, or fires could quickly damage our critical infrastructure for extended periods and leave us vulnerable. Fortunately, the Island County Department of Emergency Management and its community partners are focused on strategies to keep our community safe, both prior to and after disaster "rumbles".

This unique, double session, class introduces useful tools and information that will help you and your family respond, recover, and rebuild your community and your home before, during and after a disaster. Topics include:

  • Identifying Hazards of Island County;
  • Developing an Emergency Plan for you and your family;
  • Building an Emergency Kit that works for you;
  • Staying informed before and during an emergency; and
  • Additional training opportunities and getting involved.

Session C 3:15-4:30
C.1 A Glacial History of Puget Sound and Its Relevancy to Communities Today

Bluff near beach where face of bluff has sloughed off revealing different sediment layersStratigraphy of large landslide at Dabob Bay

The last glacial period in Puget Sound shaped the region.

The natural resources, locations of cities and towns, and transportation routes are all impacted by the events that took place in Puget Sound between 20,000 and 13,000 years ago.

Lidar Map of part of Whidbey Island

The emphasis of this class will be to provide an overview of the glacial history of the Puget Sound and to link that glacial history to what we see on the ground, along our shorelines and in the water today. Understanding the legacy of this glacial history provides insights into geologic hazards, how our communities have grown, and the challenges we now face.

LiDAR imagery showing glacial ice movement, Fidalgo Island and North Whidbey Island

C.2 Become an Effective Environmental Advocate For This Place We Call Home!

Used asphalt pile

Learn from a local environmental activist how to become informed about an issue you care about, define the problem you want addressed, tease out multiple associated issues so they may be prioritized, and ferret out the names and contact information of decision makers who are best positioned to effectively address your issue.

Finally, learn how the art of persistence and patience in the advocacy process can reap its rewards!

C.3 Harmful Algal Blooms in the Puget Sound Region

Phytoplankton are microscopic plants at the base of the food web in the sea. Phytoplankton containAlexandrium catenella chain, photo by L. Claasen chlorophyll, often float near the surface of the ocean and use the sun as an energy source to photosynthesize, similar to terrestrial plants.

The two main groups of phytoplankton are diatoms and dinoflagellates. Diatoms have hard structures composed of silica and dinoflagellates are soft-bodied algae with flagella which allows for some mobility in the water column.

Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) are often referred to as “Red Tides”, but not all HABs are red and not all red tides are harmful.

This course will give an overview of which of these phytoplankton species are harmful around the world and more specifically, which of these Harmful Algal Species are found in Puget Sound, their history and what impacts they have on the local environment, marine organisms, human health and the economy. 

Results from some of our recent HAB studies in Puget Sound,  ( will be presented, along with a summary of regional monitoring efforts throughout the Salish Sea ( and ( 

Greengrove and Masura with crab corer on R/V Barnes

C.4 Island County Hydrogeology

Aquifer ImageIn this course, you will gain a basic understanding of groundwater science (hydrogeology).  You will learn about the genesis and function of our aquifers and aquitards.  You will also learn about the risks to our water resources, such as contamination and over-use, and how government agencies work to protect our water resources.  The course will provide details regarding local groundwater availability and issues.

C.5 Joyality - Tools for Empowerment, Connection and Conscious Action

We must know something to love it. We must love something to protect it. Yet often, we spend our time as activists focusing outward, without nourishing the connections, relationships, and reasons for our activism.

We live in trying times, times of great chaos, uncertainty, and collapse. How can we maintain our active hope and inspiration in times like these? How can we empower ourselves and others to create a community of changemakers who act from our love for this world, rather than from our fear? How can we experience and honor our grief at what is happening to our world without drowning in it?

This workshop is an exploration of these questions and a taste of Joyality - an Ecopsychology and Activism Toolkit and Resilience Training Program. We will enliven our connection to nature, explore how to transform difficult and painful emotions into inspiring fuel for changemaking, and tap into our joy for being alive at this time on planet earth.

C.6 Keep It Green: Shoreline Vegetation Conservation

Picture of skunk cabbage in bloomWe know that vegetation is important to the environment, but to what extent? From new home construction to walking trails and more, land use can impact our local landscapes in a myriad of ways.

Picture of shoreline vegetationThe natural beauty of Island County is what drew many of us here! Come hear from Island County Planners about the role that flora play in supporting slope and shoreline stabilization and our water quality while providing essential habitat for local wildlife. With over 200 miles of shoreline in Island County, there is both opportunity and challenge to maintain our stunning landscape.

Presenters will discuss how you can proactively minimize your impacts through recommended and permitted activities related to vegetation conservation within wetlands, shorelines and their buffers. This straightforward overview will also touch upon both allowable and prohibited activities. You will leave this workshop feeling empowered to make improvements to your land while promoting a stable and vibrant shoreline environment!Sceanic view of bluff habitat

C.7 Marine Birds of the Salish Sea

Double-crested Cormorants on nests, Protection IslandThe Salish Sea is world famous for its many species of beautiful and fascinating marine birds. Western Washington University and Fairhaven College professor John Bower will focus on the diversity, ecology, and population status of Salish Sea marine birds, featuring the beautiful photos of Bellingham birding expert and photographer Joe Meche.

Photo by Peter Hodum. Courtesy of Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife.

C.8 Marine Debris in the Salish Sea

Marine debris is a growing concern, with impacts that span ecosystems, food chains, human health and socio-economic systems. Solving this global problem will require local solutions informed by science.Looking for beach debris in survey grid

In this session, we'll talk about what we know and don't know about marine debris sources and impacts. Lastly, we'll get a hands-on preview of how the citizen science program COASST is working to tackle the unknowns and make a positive difference.

For more information, visit

C.9 Ocean Acidification

An overview of ocean acidification will be provided. Goals of the class are to provide you with an understanding of what ocean acidification is, and how both global mechanisms and local effects are involved.  We also will look at how ocean acidification affects biological organisms, its status in Washington waters, and future climate change scenarios.

C.10 HAS BEEN CANCELLED -- Ocean Research College Academy (ORCA) - Running Start Students Collecting Real-time Data in Possession Sound

Ardi Kveven - ORCAConnecting students to the places they live has been a cornerstone of the curriculum at the Ocean Research College Academy (ORCA) since inception 15 years ago. By engaging students in a locally based research project in the Salish Sea, ORCA has graduated over 400 students that have direct, hands-on experiences in the Snohomish River Estuary.

This program has been awarded three grants from the National Science Foundation, and is a collaborative partner with CCURI. Through incorporating active learning strategies such as undergraduate research, students have engaged deeply in the biogeochemical processes of a salt wedge estuary.

Over the course of an entire year, students collect oceanographic metrics and utilize their emerging mathematical and communication skills to analyze and interpret the longitudinal data set that includes temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, pH, chlorophyll concentration, turbidity, nutrient levels, fecal coliform levels and plankton presence and abundance. Additional monitoring of seabird and marine mammal abundance and distribution round out the expansive data set.

Students sampling on boardAs students grapple with real data that they collected, their understanding of the nature of science improves. These data represent value to not only the ORCA community, but other collaborators as well. Students present their work at conferences such as the Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference and the annual Possession Sound Student Showcase and Talks.

Come learn more about this local work. Learn more at

Student photo of grey whale

We regret this class has been cancelled
C.11 Pinto Abalone - Efforts to Protect this Species in Washington Waters

In this class we'll discuss a beautiful marine mollusk that is Washington's only species of abalone. We'll learn about the biology of the species, the history of the fishery, and why the species is not recovering even though the fishery has been closed since 1994.

We'll discuss the current captive-breeding program, the latest results of monitoring and field experiments, and what you can do to help.

C.12 Protection Island Aquatic Reserve Avian and Marine Mammal Survey

Tufted PuffinSince November 2016 a group of volunteers has conducted monthly boat-based bird and mammal survey's through the waters of Protection Island Aquatic Reserve (PIAR) as part of the Citizen Stewardship Committee for PIAR.

Two years of observations revealed many noteworthy details about marine birds and mammals in this area, and, by extension, the eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca.

Counting over 23,000 individual birds and 500 marine mammals, we recorded feeding flock assemblages, seasonal changes in species diversity, and use of the reserve by species such as Marbled Murrelet, Pigeon Guillemot, Rhinoceros Auklet, Common Murres, Yellow-billed Loon and a variety of gulls.

We will discuss the project, the process and our findings.

 Yellow-Billed LoonCommon Murres

C.13 The Giant Pacific Octopus

Picture of Giant Pacific OctopusGiant Pacific octopuses, or GPOs, are iconic residents of the Puget Sound and the North Pacific, and are the largest species of octopus in the world.

This class will cover the basics of GPO biology and ecology, explore GPO intelligence and behavior, and touch on citizen science efforts to learn more about the GPO population in the Puget Sound.

C.14 The Salish Sea: Three Bodies of Water Seen as One

Map of the Salish SeaLearn about the origin of the Salish Sea as a single body of water and what we can do to protect and preserve the natural qualities of its water.

"The name Salish Sea goes beyond the romance of the sea that seems to fuel popular branding campaigns. It is used by scientists to describe the shared natural resources of the marine environment off the coast of western Washington and British Columbia. The Salish Sea – and the life that depends on it – doesn’t respect political borders. It drifts over and through them.

'When you start looking at how the science of it works, and how the fresh water that enters into these bodies of water mixes with the salt water, you realize that there is one ecosystem that ties them all together. And that one ecosystem is a basis for much of the riches of the resources we all enjoy,' says Canadian-born, Bert Webber, a professor emeritus of geography and environmental social studies from Huxley College, at Western Washington University in Bellingham."

(From Bellamy Pailthorp, KNXX Public Radio)

C.15 Tsunamis in the Salish Sea: Hazards, Sources, Recurrence

Modeled Cascadia tsunami in the Salish SeaIn this class, we will learn about geologic evidence forTsunami deposits at Discovery Bay, WA past tsunamis, and explore some of the locations along the coastlines of the Salish Sea where paleotsunami deposits have been studied.

We will consider potential sources of tsunamis, including the Cascadia subduction zone, local faults such as the Seattle fault and South Whidbey Island fault, and also landslides, both subaerial and submarine.

We will look at tsunami modeling results for several Salish Sea sites, and the chronology of past tsunami events determined by radiocarbon dating.

Most importantly, we will discuss the hazards associated with tsunamis in the Salish Sea and what to do in the event of a tsunami.

C.16 Update on Orca Tribes of the Salish Sea

Orca breechingAll around Whidbey Island, the San Juan Islands and throughout the Salish Sea we often see "resident" orcas and "transient" orcas. They look very similar, but their behavior is completely different.

Breeching Orca



We'll look at the natural history of the species, how and where field research is being done to find out more about them, and the resulting picture of diverse orca populations worldwide. The Endangered Southern Resident orcas have restricted their diet to mostly chinook salmon for millenia, but those king salmon are scarce these days. Now down to only 74 members, the orcas are barely surviving. We'll also talk about Governor Inslee's Orca Recovery Executive Order, and the resulting Task Force process to find solutions.

For more information, see:

C.17 Upstream Land Use and Its Impacts On Our Shoreline and Oceans

Picture of Glendale Creek and ParkWhat we do at the highest elevations in a watershed affects the bottom of the Salish Sea. Even though we may not live on the beach or near a stream or river, almost every drop of water in the Salish Sea and Western Cascades ends up right back into the Salish Sea one way or another.

Development in our area is at an all-time high. With more people there are more cars, more buildings, more concrete, and more seen and unseen relationships across the wildland-urban interface.

Picture of Glendale creekFrom livestock and fertilizer use to clearing and grading, this class will discuss the effects of human development on the Salish Sea, including chemical and biological changes on the shoreline and in our coastal waters. Increases in contaminants of emerging concern and changes in wildlife will also be reviewed. This class will present actions we can take  to mitigate changes in land use to protect this region, including low impact development, best management practices, and good urban planning.  Finally, we will review zoning codes, land use changes, and relevant updates to the regulatory side of the equation.

C.18 What Marine Mussels Can Reveal About Legacy Contaminants, Fossil Fuels, and Pharmaceutical Drugs Along Washington's Salish Sea Coastline

Team Monitoring Mussels

Since 2012 the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has been using transplanted mussels to monitor contaminants in the nearshore areas of Washington's Salish Sea. This cooperative monitoring program is funded in part by Puget Sound's Stormwater Action Monitoring (SAM) program, and by various state, county, and city agencies, tribes, ports, and other local groups. 

Picture of mussel cageThe biennial deployment and retrieval of mussels in cages is accomplished almost entirely through citizen science volunteers. 

This talk will highlight findings from three rounds of Salish Sea nearshore contaminant surveys (2012/13, 2015/16, 2017/8).  It will include details about legacy contaminants in the nearshore, where and how fossil fuels are making their way into local marine waters, and which chemicals of emerging concern (pharmaceuticals and personal care products) we are finding.

C.19 Wildlife Photography

Bart Rulon photographAn award-winning wildlife photographer reveals the techniques and stories behind samples of his work. Bart describes equipment, locations, and techniques for getting better photos of our local wildlife.

*This is an intermediate session offering in-depth, technical information beyond the basics.



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