Category Archives: Beach Log

Green Crab Team: Summer 2020 Report


The 2020 members of the Elger Bay Invasive European Green Crab team include: Junji Yamamoto, Pat Foss, Kathy McNally, Jim McNally and John Mathis (Team Lead). Originally Tom and Kristina Trowbridge enrolled in the 2020 training and planned to volunteer at the Elger bay site.  However, the 2020 training was canceled because of COVID-19. Therefore, we asked Jim and Kathy McNally, who had been trained and were volunteering at another site, to join the Elger Bay team. Thankfully they agreed to double their Green Crab monitoring responsibilities and have become vital members of the Elger Bay team.

The Elger Bay Invasive Green Crab monitoring team will complete the six month 2020 monitoring season during the first week of September. So far we have trapped, counted and safely released over 2,150 crab; 95% of the crab we have found are Hairy Shore Crab, followed by Purple Shore Crab, Red Rock Crab, and Dungeness Crab. A few sculpin have also found their way into our traps. Luckily, for the fourth year in a row, we have found no Invasive European Green Crab at the Elger Bay site!!

Unfortunately, other Salish Sea sites have found Invasive Green Crab during the same four year time period including: Samish Bay, Lummi Bay, Kala Point, Dungeness Spit, Chuckanut Bay, Drayton Harbor and Westcott Bay. When green crab are found, Sea Grant staff/volunteers, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), and Tribal biologists/volunteers deploy the “rapid response” trapping protocol. Our regular detection trapping requires the use of six traps per site. The rapid response team deploys hundreds of traps and expands the area the traps are set when a green crab is found. In this way, they hope to trap out this invasive species before a reproductive population can be established. To date this effort has been successful. 

The COVID-19 pandemic presented a number of challenges for the Sea Grant staff and the hundreds of volunteers around the Salish Sea and on coastal waters. As you know many volunteer activities were canceled this year because of the “Stay at Home-Stay Healthy” order. However, the University of Washington designated Invasive Green Crab Monitoring a “critical service.” Each volunteer a received a memo in May outlining the guidelines and recommendations for volunteering. As the monitoring season has progressed, other safety measures for volunteers have been added.

Each Elger Bay team member wears a mask, gloves, and remains 6 feet apart. In addition, we have sanitary wipes/hand sanitizer and a digital forehead thermometer on site. Before each monitoring cycle our volunteers submit an electronic form to Sea Grant attesting that they are not experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms. Following these simple procedures makes each member feel safe, while being able to enjoy the company of others and completing an important (critical) volunteer activity.

photos by Kathy McNally, article by John Mathis

Sound Waters University 2020 Sets Records

A collective sigh of relief, exhaustion, and satisfaction of a job well done was heard the evening of February 1 as Sound Water Stewards (SWS) volunteers finished putting away tables and chairs, removed signage,  set classrooms back in order, cleaned up, and walked out the door of South Whidbey High School, concluding the 26th Annual Sound Waters University (SWU). This was the final act of a nine-month process of creative planning and team work of dedicated SWS volunteers, class and keynote presenters, and incredible community support.  An analogy of gestation and a labor of love is unavoidable!

SWU is the largest and most longstanding education and outreach activity of SWS. During its 26-year history, this event has been hosted at various locations on Whidbey Island in Oak Harbor, Coupeville and Langley. It has outgrown previous venues and has been hosted at South Whidbey High School the past six years, thanks to an agreement with the South Whidbey School District and support from Island County and many other local business sponsors. 

Residents of Island County and the Puget Sound region attend this one-day university to learn about our natural environment and its inhabitants, our role and impacts, and how we as individuals may take action to care for this place we call home. The day of SWU is initiated with a rousing keynote address, followed by 60 different classes offered throughout the day by local experts who volunteer their time and expertise!

The popularity of SWU has grown over the years and SWU 2020 enjoyed a record participation of nearly 680 registrants, over 50 exhibitors, and countless volunteers who worked behind the scene to make this event another success. With reliance on bring your own coffee cup or water bottle and onsite lunch sold in recyclable or compostable containers, and assistance from WSU Waste Wise, the whole event resulted in 6.6 pounds (3 kg) of trash.   

SWU also is the primary fundraising activity for the SWS organization, supporting its trained volunteers working for a healthy, sustainable Puget Sound environment through education, community outreach, stewardship and citizen science. The net revenue from SWU 2020 was a record breaking $40,000! SWU income helps provide the underpinning of our nonprofit organization’s ability to meet our growing needs and help us meet our mission!

South Whidbey High School has been reserved for Saturday, February 6, 2021. Planning  starts this month, April 2020. Stay tuned for emails informing you about our progress and invitations to join us! We will be reaching out to all SWS members, including new recruits, to join the scores of volunteers who dedicate their time and experience to host SWU. We are a fun group and get excited to have members joining our SWU Steering Committee!

 For more information, please feel free to email Sue Salveson or Anne Baum (find their contact details within the members-only pages or contact a coordinator).

Coordinators Joan and Allie tabling at SWU 2020


New Beachcomber Guide

Book Review by Jeanie McElwain, Class of 2003


The New Beachcomber’s Guide to the Pacific Northwest revised and expanded in 2019 by J. Duane Sept is “a stunning new resource for identifying the invertebrates and algae who live on our Island shores” says Jeanie McElwain of Whidbey Island in this book review.

Those who have used Sept’s previous editions know that they, along with Rick M. Harbro’s Whelks to Whales: Coastal Marine Life of the Pacific Northwest, are the take-to-the- beach defaults for anyone who wants to know the many species which aren’t on our Common Intertidal Invertebrates EZ-ID cards.

Is it worth upgrading to Sept’s new work if you already have his previous editions? Absolutely! The book has dozens of additional species. Some pictures have been upgraded. And, to make ID easier, an Illustrated Glossary now identifies the body parts of commonly-found invertebrates.

At the front, 15 pages of shell photos, four to six shells per page, make it easy to compare many shells at once as we try to distinguish between species.

Sept has broken out the visually-confusing array of shield and finger limpets into forms based on the locations in which they are found. For the shield limpet, for example, he describes “all,” “rock,” “mussel,” “turban snail,” “feather boa” and “eelgrass” forms. For those of us who have despaired of ever being sure of our limpet ID skills, this is helpful and reassuring.

Another major change are the current and updated names of many species. This can be unsettling for those of us who love and remember some of our scientific names for the sheer beauty of the words. A point in case is the Painted Anemone, previously known as Urticina crassicornis and now renamed Urticina grebelnyi.

This is good because as citizen scientists, we need to be up-to-date, but also challenging, because making the shift is hard as our brains need to adjust for both old and new names.

The book is $26.95 and is sold at several local bookstores. Warning: it is over twice the size of the previous edition and roughly 3/4 inch larger in height and width. This makes it too big for most pockets, but well-worth the inconvenience for all the richness it adds to our ID adventures. I still take may take my old, smaller edition down to the beach, but this version is waiting in the car for me to check as soon as I leave the beach!

Sea Level Rise – sponsored by Island County Marine Resources Committee

Sponsored by the Island County Marine Resources Committee (MRC), Ian Miller PhD of University of Washington presented to capacity crowds on both Camano and Whidbey Island explaining the causes and possible consequences of sea level rise due to climate change. One source of added water in the oceans is the melting ice above ground that is visible from year-after-year photos of Antarctica and Greenland. When this ice melts, since it wasn’t part of the ocean to start with, it adds volume. Furthermore, rising ocean temperatures mean the water is expanding.

Dr. Miller explained the uncertainty related to making predictions about the impacts, both in terms of when and by how much. For Washington waters, “There is a 50% assessed likelihood that sea level will be 2.1 feet or higher relative to present by 2100 if emissions track RCP 8.5.” RCP 8.5 refers to a ‘business as usual’(we make no changes) global scenario for Representative Concentration Pathway. Dr. Miller then compared that to RCP 4.5 (a pathway in which the world takes actions to reduce carbon emissions) for Island County which shows 50% assessed likelihood that sea level rise will be 1.8 feet.

After reviewing probability tables with the group, we then had the opportunity to look at possible scenarios for ourselves. MRC had outfitted the room with seven laptops, one for each table of participants. We viewed our local neighborhoods and beaches using the sliding scale on the left to see what was under water at 1 foot, at 2 feet of sea level rise and so on. [The Camano group noticed portions of Highway 532 in Stanwood would be under water at 1 foot of sea level rise.]

You too can use the Sea Level Rise online tool to see how the low areas get covered as sea levels rise. It is on a website managed by NOAA Office of Coastal Management.  When you arrive at the website you need to launch the application then put in a zipcode or street address. I encourage you to check it out.

Dr. Miller’s research is part of a coastal communities regional resilience project to help inform people who live on the shores. Sea level rise can contribute to coastal flooding (higher surges, more frequent flooding), habitat loss (loss of mudflats, marshes), salinity change which could affect wells and groundwater) and shoreline erosion. You can find Dr. Miller’s presentation slides and additional materials and links online at