by Margie Doyle
“My windowsills and journals are filled with rocks, bones, wood, and shells. I realized if I joined the Beach Watchers, I’d have a chance to see more,” says Julia Loyd of Waldron Island, a recent graduate of the Beach Watcher program offered through the WSU Extension program.
In March, a new series of Beach Watcher classes will be offered. The class format is structured around the successful Master Gardeners program, whereby class “graduate” volunteers receive 100 hours of training in marine stewardship and give back 100 hours of service over the following two years.
The next training series begins March 4. Classes will be held on Tuesdays and Thursdays in March and April, primarily on San Juan and Orcas Islands. Beach Watchers coordinator Shann Weston hopes to recruit class members from Orcas and Lopez Islands, and has arranged the five-hour classes to coordinate with the inter-island ferry schedule so all ferry-served islanders can attend.
About 20 county islanders are active Beach Watchers, says Weston, “a small but very active group” that coordinates with KWIAHT, the Lopez Island-based Center for the Historical Ecology of the Salish Sea, researching juvenile salmon population and diet, with funding through the Salmon Enhancement Recovery Board, and other partners such as the San Juan County Marine Resources Committee, the Marine Mammals Stranding Network, the Whale Museum in Friday Harbor, and the SeaDoc Society.
Beach Watcher volunteers receive university-level training, including watersheds, intertidal ecology, oil spill response, fish biology, native cultural resources, marine birds and mammals, oceanography and tides, invasive species, and human impacts. The curriculum is based on the publication “State of the Sound” that is issued by the State Governor’s office. Weston works with the county Marine Resources Committee to keep “county priorities strongly in mind,” she says.
All of San Juan County is now designated as a Marine Stewardship Area. According to the Beach Watchers website, “there is an urgent need to educate residents about the fragile ecology of our beautiful islands’ shoreline and nearshore environment.”
“We don’t actually have to stare at a beach to be conscientious Beach Watchers. Doing anything that furthers marine stewardship in the County is okay.” Loyd spends about 20 volunteer hours a month on Beach Watcher projects.
To download an application from the website or request an application (due Feb. 25) go to http://sanjuan.wsu.edu or contact Shann Weston at firstname.lastname@example.org or (360) 370-7666.
WSU San Juan County Extension is located at 221 Weber Way Suite LL, Friday Harbor, WA 98250.