Category Archives: Continuing Education

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!

Mussel Watch presentation by Jennifer Lanksbury-WDFW at Whidbey monthly meeting 9/8/14 in Freeland

The 2nd Monday Whidbey Beach Watchers meeting on 8 Sept 2014 guest speaker was Jennifer Lanksbury, a fish & wildlife biologist from Washington Dept. of Fish & Wildlife and with the    Puget Sound Ecosystem Monitoring Program (PSEMP).

Her excellent presentation [link below, includes 58 slides] on the Mussel Watch Program includes

  • High praise for Island County Beach Watchers (Quoting Jennifer: The Beach Watchers were SUCH a huge help in getting this study to be a success, I really don’t think we could have done it without them.
  • Mussels as indicators of nearshore contamination
  • Purpose , assumptions and methods of study
  • Results of study. See slide 46 for Conclusions.

MusselWatchProgram presentation WhidbeyIslandBeachWatchers 9-8-2014