What We Do

What We Do

Sound Water Stewards programs fall under three primary pillars: education, citizen science and stewardship. Below you can find examples of activities in each. 

Also, see the News page for newsletters featuring recent volunteer opportunities, pictures and reports.

Citizen Science

  • Birds
    • We monitor pigeon guillemot burrows, behaviors, and populations at many sites around Whidbey Island in conjunction with the Salish Sea Guillemot Network and Whidbey Audubon.
    • In support of the COASST program of the University of Washington, volunteers walk our beaches monthly on the lookout for beached birds, to help document changes in seabird populations.
    • We participate in a variety of other bird counting efforts – Christmas Bird Count, eBird, Breeding Bird Survey, and more
  • Crabs
    • We monitor several sites on Camano and Whidbey, taking measurements of crab populations, and we are ever on the lookout for the invasive European Green Crab – using protocols from, and reporting data to WA Sea Grant’s Crab Team.
  • Eelgrass
    • We use aerial photography to measure eelgrass beds. The work is supported by the Northwest Straits Commission, managed by the Island County Marine Resources Committee and collaborated with WA Department of Natural Resources. (read more)
  • Fish
    • Forage Fish Spawning Survey – we gather forage fish egg samples at local beaches, winnow the gathered material, and tally eggs. Managed by Island County Marine Resources Committee – in conjunction with WA Department of Fish and Wildlife. (read more)
    • Estuary Seining for salmon smolt – In 2005, we (as Beach Watchers) began “seining” for salmon smolt (netting the smolt, identifying the species, measuring, counting and returning unharmed) at various key shorelines around our islands, under the watchful eye of NOAA. In 2009 Cornet Bay became our major site, collecting data for pre- and post- restoration. After 8 years, enough data has been collected for their studies. Most recently, the Marine Resources Committee (who provides the needed NOAA permits) and the Island County Salmon Recovery team have been leading seining monitoring with SWS assistants.
    • Smolt Count – each May we help monitor the smolts as they head downstream – in conjunction with Whidbey Watershed Stewards and WA Dept of Fish and Wildlife.
  • Kelp Survey – we use a kayak based protocol to monitor the health of kelp beds during the summer when kelp is actively growing. Read more at nwstraits.org
  • Intertidal Fauna & Flora – extreme low tide days find us out on the beaches – monitoring the marine life to accumulate baseline data-over-time on invertebrates, seaweeds and beach conditions. (read more)
  • Shellfish
    • Collect shellfish samples, and ship to WA Dept of Health for biotoxin testing; the results help drive their Shellfish Safety map.
    • Freeland County Park – counting shellfish harvesters at exact low tide for WA Department of Fish and Wildlife – to help them determine harvest season for following year.
    • Mussel Watch (monitoring for toxins) – every other year – bag up Penn Cove mussels for deployment at monitoring sites throughout Puget Sound; we also deploy at one site in Island County. In conjunction with WA DFW and Puget Sound Ecosystem Monitoring Program. (read more)
  • Storm Surge Monitoring – documenting shoreline and beach conditions and storm surge impacts at various sites throughout Camano and Whidbey Islands – pre and post storm event. In conjunction with Island County Marine Resources Committee and USGS.
  • Water
    • Water Quality Monitoring @ Deception Pass State Park – volunteers are monitoring both physical and chemical parameters at Cranberry Lake and Pass Lake near Deception Pass. The physical parameters are monitored every two weeks. These parameters include dissolved oxygen, temperature and water transparency. Chemical parameters include total phosphorus, total nitrogen, turbidity, and chlorophyll A. They are sampled every 2 months. The goal of the sampling is to gain knowledge of current water quality in Cranberry and Pass Lakes that may affect harmful algal blooms.
    • Water Resources Advisory Committee – several volunteers serve on this Island County advisory team whose mission is to ensure that the water resources of Island County are managed and protected in such a way as to ensure sustainable use, while protecting habitat, environmental and human health.

Education & Outreach

  • Birds – lead birding field trips and classes – in conjunction with Audubon.
  • Digging for Dinner – each summer we teach families to safely, effectively, and sustainably dig for clams on our island beaches.
  • EZID website – we maintain this web-based resource for learning about intertidal animals, seagrasses, seaweeds and shore plants. And there’s an addictive game version as well.
  • Facebook – we post articles and videos of interest
  • Fairs and Festivals – we bring interactive activities and informative displays to many public events – Penn Cove Water Festival, Snow Goose Festival, Ways of Whales, Arlington-Stillaguamish EagleFest, Camano 101 and many more.
  • Fauna and Flora – we serve as docents, naturalists, teachers, …
    • Coupeville Wharf marine display
    • Low Tide Beach Walks – Camano and Whidbey
    • Nature Discovery Days – two days each May – in conjunction with the Friends of Camano Island Parks (read more)
    • Outdoor Classroom – in conjunction with Whidbey Watershed Stewards.
    • Rosario Tidepools – in conjunction with WA State Parks
    • Forest and native plant walks at several of our 10 state parks on Camano and Whidbey.
  • Island History – we guide lighthouse tours at Fort Casey, and serve as docents at Ebey House
  • Marine Mammals
    • we organize a Gray Whale Cruise each spring, and serve as naturalists on summer whale cruises
    • with Central Puget Sound Marine Mammal Stranding Network – we assess/monitor live marine mammals hauled out on the beach, measure and record dead marine mammals found, and report all findings to NOAA and WDFW stranding databases.
    • Orca Recovery Day Eco-Challenge
    • with Orca Network
      • serve as Langley Whale Center docents
      • assist with the Ways of Whales seminar each January
  • Monthly Member Meetings on Camano and Whidbey – updates on current issues and environmental topics, and a guest speaker – open to the public.
  • Public Education – on Camano Island in the past we hosted an evening Speaker Series, usually the 4th Wednesday monthly at Camano Library, on topics of environmental importance; now on hold since the library is not open to the public due to Covid
  • Sound Waters University is an annual ‘one day university for all’ – held each year on the first Saturday of February (read more)
  • State Parks – many varied special events and educational activities


  • Beach Cleanup – on our own or with community scheduled cleanups supported by Island County Public Health and WA Department of Ecology, we help protect our restore our pristine beaches in Island County.
  • Monofilament Fishing Line Recycling – since 2008, we have been installing special containers at popular fishing beaches to collect monofilament fishing line – to ensure it is not entangling fish, fowl, or marine mammals and to ensure that it is recycled properly. (read more)
  • In partnership with the Friends of Camano Island Parks, Whidbey Camano Land Trust, Whidbey Watershed Stewards, Snohomish and Island County Conservation Districts and others, we perform trail maintenance, pulling noxious weeds and planting native species.