Category Archives: Continuing Education

Getting to the Water’s Edge

Available at local stores! Scroll down for store list, or order the book from SWS to be sent to you via US mail.

Getting to the Water’s Edge on Whidbey and Camano Islands, the premier field guide book to beaches in Island County was released as a Third Edition in July 2020. Now is the perfect time to get this book, since the coronavirus means we are all looking for outdoor places close to home.

Getting to the Water's Edge bookGTWE, as we affectionately call this spiral-bound field guide, describes 69 public beaches including amenities such as boat and kayak launches, trails, fishing, clamming, bird-watching, picnic tables/shelters, restrooms, overnight accommodations, accessibility for people with mobility challenges and much more. Yellow box essays cover human and natural history such as place names, stewardship, animals, plants, geology, streams and estuaries.

Getting to the Water’s Edge retails for $20. See a list of stores below. Or buy online directly from Sound Water Stewards

The 2020 edition was two years in the making by 67 Sound Water Stewards and community resource people who gave more than 1,500 hours to bring it forth with meticulous fact-checking, writing, designing and editing. The printing costs were paid entirely by sponsoring businesses, non-profits and SWS members. Proceeds from book sales support Sound Water Stewards programs. 

This book is available now for $20 by mail-order directly from SWS or at book stores, gift shops and hardware stores on Whidbey and Camano as well as in Stanwood, Everett, LaConner and Bellingham. ISBN 978-1-7343529-0-0.

Find Getting to the Water’s Edge at these locations:

Camano Island

  • Ace Hardware
  • Cama Beach State Park Welcome Center
  • Camano Commons Marketplace
  • Elger Bay Grocery & Gifts
  • Kristoferson Farm Stand & Gift Shop


  • Picnic Pantry
  • Studio 271


  • 3 Sisters Market – Coupeville
  • Ace Hardware – Freeland & Oak Harbor
  • Bayview Farm & Garden – Langley
  • Coupeville Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center
  • Greenbank Farm Wine Shop – Greenbank
  • Kingfisher Books – Coupeville
  • Langley Whale Center – Langley
  • Linds on Whidbey – Freeland
  • Madrona Supply Co – Clinton
  • Moonraker Books – Langley
  • Naval Air Station Whidbey Island Exchange – Oak Harbor NAS
  • Wind & Tide Bookshop – Oak Harbor
  • Wild Birds Unlimited – Freeland


  • Alley Cat Antiques
  • Marine Supply & Hardware

LaConner and Fir Island

  • SeaPort Books


  • J. Matheson Gifts, Kitchen and Gourmet


  • Hilton & Co. Gift Shop


  • Village Books & Paper Dreams


  • Edmonds BookShop

Lynnwood – Bellevue – Seattle

  • Made in WA Stores

Learn More


“This book…captures the beauty of these truly stunning places while offering detailed descriptions of habitats and wildlife you are likely to encounter. The book lays out the floor plan to these sites so you will find your way and experience island magic. A ‘must read’ for anyone determined to experience the beauty of the region.” 
–Florian Graner, Ph.D. Marine Biology specializing in Marine Mammals, certified research diver, internationally-known cinematographer of sea life and owner of the family-operated Sealife Productions which has done work for BBC, National Geographic, Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, Netflix, Monterrey Aquarium and more.
“This user-friendly handbook is brimming with information and beautiful photos… feels akin to having a local friend by your side to share their favorite spots, tips and fun facts… sure to become a well-loved staple…”
–Anna Toledo, Island County Marine Resources Committee

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!