Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Author of Flotsametrics to speak at the Orcas Center

Crossroads Lecture ‘The Undiscovered Ocean: The Sea Surface Hidden in Plain View’ on May 23

“Plastic is far more deadly than oil,” says Curtis Ebbesmeyer, a world-renowned oceanographer with forty years of experience in the oil industry.
Ebbesmeyer will share his thoughts on the recent Gulf spill, and what the press isn’t saying, at a CrossRoads lecture Sunday, May 23, 2 p.m. at Orcas Center.
“They’re using one gallon of dispersant per ten gallons of oil,” he said. “What chemicals are in the dispersants? I don’t think the media is asking the hard questions.”
Based on historical data on ocean currents, Ebbesmeyer will predict where the oil will spread. And though crude oil can be devastating, he will explain why petroleum-derived plastics are a far larger threat to the world’s oceans.
Ebbesmeyer will talk about the circulation of ocean gyres and the wind-blown Great Pacific Garbage patch that bumped up against the west coast this March, dumping 50-year-old debris on area beaches.
His most perplexing recent mysteries include a 500-pound floating chunk of iron slag and a 25-year old survival suit with a complete human skeleton inside.
Ebbesmeyer welcomes questions, so if you want to know about the garbage-filled whale that washed up in West Seattle or what floating shoes with human feet still laced inside have to do with the 2,400 missing persons in British Columbia, ask away.
An oceanography PhD and author of Flotsametrics and the Floating World: How One Man’s Obsession with Runaway Sneakers and Rubber Ducks Revolutionized Ocean Science, Ebbesmeyer has studied flotsam spilled from cargo ships throughout his career, founding the Beachcombers’ and Oceanographers’ International Association in 1996.
Ebbesmeyer’s talk, “The Undiscovered Ocean: The Sea Surface Hidden in Plain View,” will conclude the spring lecture series. Tickets are $10 at Darvill’s Bookstore or the Orcas library, or at Advance purchase is recommended. For complimentary tickets, inquire at the Library or Senior Center.

By MEREDITH GRIFFITHIslands Sounder Reporter

Graduates of the 2010 WSU Beach Watchers Class!

Last Thursday, May 13, sixteen members of the 2010 Class completed their training and were welcomed into the Beach Watcher community. After a low-tide walk in the morning on the beach at the U.W. Friday Harbor labs to learn more about algae, the group and several visitors shared a potluck lunch, followed by several very interesting student presentations. Shann, as Instructor and Beach Watcher Coordinator, along with Tom Schulz, WSU Extension Director, congratulated the class members and gave them their graduation certificates. They're a talented and enthusiastic group, some of whom are already involved in research and monitoring projects. Members of the Class are:

from San Juan Island:
Peter Goddu, Margaret Langlie,
Paulette Brunner, Margaret Johnson,
Steve Porten, Chris Curtin

from Orcas:
Win Rhodes, Sarah Wixon,
Ron Kinner, Cynthia (Rusty) Johnson

from Lopez:
Kitty Dolan, Josef Blanc-Ridings,
Ann Goss, Alexandra (Dandy) Porter,
Ernie Clifton, Kay Keeler,

A warm welcome to each of you!

Seaweed Ramble at Camp Orkila Jun 14

Dr. Ryan Drum, "a professional wildcrafter, herbal educator, and practicing medical herbalist" living on Waldron Island, will return to Camp Orkila on Monday, June 14 for a "Seaweed Ramble" from 10 am to 2 pm. Beach Watcher Marcia Spees, who attended this event last year, said that it was "wildly interesting," and that Ryan "is a walking encyclopedia of all things seaweed from edibles to remedies to cosmetics."

The group is limited to 16 people, with a cost of $30.00. Call Laura Gibbons at 376-4066 to register.

(Those involved with the Marine Health Observatory project will note that the time of the ramble overlaps with a field research day at Indian Island, since both will be taking advantage of the low tide.)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Shoreline Management Act

The Department of Ecology plans to revise parts of the Shoreline Management Act rules and needs your input. The changes include adjustments to rules on limited and comprehensive amendments to local shoreline programs. Send your comments by Saturday, June 5, to have input on Ecology’s early draft. For more information click on

Dept. of Ecology's Stormwater Monitoring & Assessment Strategy

The Department of Ecology recently released its draft stormwater monitoring and assessment strategy for Puget Sound. If you would like to comment on the plan, your comments are due by Friday, May 28.

Click on for more information.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Displays from Micro-Plastics Conference

SJI Beach Watchers Attend Micro-Plastics Conference in Port Townsend

Nancy Alboucq, Susan Muckle, Shirley Zyph, Margot Shaw, Molly Coxe,
Marcia Spees, Kim Secunda and her son Desmond
at the Port Townsend Marine Science Center Conference

Last October, and again in March, volunteers on San Juan, Orcas and Lopez collected and sorted micro-plastics from local beaches and sent them to the Marine Science Center in Port Townsend for analysis. The sampling program is part of an on-going research project at the Center, which includes samples from beaches in all the Washington counties around the Salish Sea. The program directors invited all the volunteer participants to attend a conference in Port Townsend this past weekend to hear about and discuss what has been learned so far.

The above group of Beach Watchers and friends were part of the group of over 100 volunteers who spent Friday night and all day Saturday at Fort Worden in various conference sessions. It was an enjoyable and informative weekend. Because the data collection is in its early stages, conclusions are still preliminary, but the quantity, variety and persistence of small plastic particles on the beaches of the Salish Sea was obvious and sobering to all of us. There are seasonal and other variations, and beaches that face the prevailing south winds, and especially those where the waves can build up over a long distance, tend to have noticeably higher concentrations of plastic. Fishing Bay on Orcas, which meets both of these criteria, topped the list for quantity of plastic particles.

We had the opportunity during the weekend to meet and learn from Beach Watchers and other volunteers from different counties, as well as to hear presentations by several of the researchers. Exhibits at the meetings included some very creative plastic art creations. and a display showing the exponential increase in the number of plastic water bottles in the past decade. An eleven-year-old budding scientists exhibited the results of her research into the contents of seagull boluses, which almost all now include some quantity of plastic.

The Marine Science Center hosted the conference participants at no charge, and added benefits of the weekend included the spectacular views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca from our dormitory, and Fort Worden's long sandy beaches and beautiful rhododendron bushes in full bloom.

We hope to add more beaches and more volunteers to our micro-plastic sampling project in the next year. Join the fun, and look forward to participating in next year's conference.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Learn about the biology and management of crabs

Puget Sound Crab: Biology and Fisheries Management

Recreational crabbing season opens in the San Juans on July 14. Everyone can learn more about the biology and management of crabs in the Puget Sound in a free public workshop to be held Thursday, May 20 from 7:00-9:00 pm at the Orcas Senior Center. Presentations on Dungeness and Red Rock crab science and policy will be provided by experts from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

This is a great opportunity to find out how the state sets the seasons and allocations for crab harvest and to talk directly with state shellfish managers. Bring questions, concerns and ideas!
This workshop is being presented by the San Juan County Marine Resources Committee . For more information call Mary Knackstedt, Marine Resources Committee Coordinator at 378-7592.

Beachwalkers and Birders Wanted

On Orcas and San Juan Islands

Saturday, May 15 2010
Orcas Island Library
500 Rose Street, Eastsound

Sunday May 16 2010
Friday Harbor Labs-Common room
620 University Road, Friday Harbor

Volunteer with Coasst and help make a difference for the environment! COASST volunteers collect data on beach-cast carcasses of marine birds on a monthly basis to establish the baseline pattern of bird mortality on North Pacific beaches. Data collected helps address important marine conservation issues and protect marine resources.
Reserve your training spot by calling COASST at 206-221-6893 or emailing

For more information on COASST, go to:

BLM Needs Our Input on Management of San Juan Lands

The Bureau of Land Management is in the process of creating a Resource Management Plan that will review the management of the 1000+ acres it holds in San Juan County. Historical landmarks Turn Point and Patos Light are among their holdings, as well as many ecologically significant and beautiful areas, including Iceberg Point, Watmough, and small reefs and rocks that provide nesting and resting sites for wildlife.

BLM manages different properties for different uses, ranging from ecological and cultural preservation to livestock grazing or energy development. Although so far they have focused on ecological protection of their San Juan holdings, the level of protection is not permanent and doesn't cover all their properties.

The management plan review process, currently underway, offers a unique opportunity for SJI citizens to have input into the writing of the plan. It is important that we educate ourselves on the location and nature of these significant properties, and particularly that we let BLM know that we want their preservation focus to be continued and strengthened.

As part of the review process, a public "scoping" meeting will take place on Saturday, June 5, at the Friday Harbor Mullis Center, from 12 4 p.m. This is a "drop-in" meeting - come when you can during the afternoon and share your enthusiasm for these properties with BLM regional and national staff. This is your opportunity to tell the BLM what you value in these lands and how you would like to see them protected and conserved for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations.

A series of five articles, currently appearing in our local papers, provides more information. The BLM Spokane Office website further explains the process and timetable, and includes contact information for you to write to them. Letters are important! The deadline for public comment is June 25, 2010.

Nick Teague, BLM Manager for the islands, has worked tirelessly to maintain and protect these areas that we all love and appreciate. But the management plan decisions will be made by others, and a show of support for their preservation is critical during the next several weeks.

The final newspaper article, which will appear in next week's papers, discusses the desirability of bestowing "NCA" status on these lands. This stands for National Conservation Area, and is a way of protecting the areas more securely than the current status. The request for NCA status has to come from the public, and requires an act of Congress. But this is something that most people interested in protecting the BLM properties feel can be done. Educate yourself on the process, and add your voice to a grass-roots effort to accomplish this goal.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Discovering the Island Marble Butterfly

Sun, May 16, 2010 Outing: "Discovering the Island Marble Butterfly"

The San Juan Preservation Trust is partnering with the National Park Service to provide this educational opportunity. The public is invited to join the National Park Service staff biologist on an informative outing at the San Juan Island National Historic Park's American Camp prairie, one of the last strongholds for this endemic species. Island Marble ecology and current research efforts will be discussed while searching for the butterflies.
Meet at the American Camp visitor center at 1 pm. Bring shoes and clothing suitable for walking and binoculars. The walk will last until approximately 3 pm.
This event is free to the public, but space is limited to 20 participants. Please contact Kathleen Foley at 378-2461 to reserve a spot.

Friday Harbor Labs Open House-May 8

Tomorrow, Saturday, May 8, FH Labs is holding an open house from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Come to see exhibits, demos and marine animals and hear lecturers.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Low tides bring people out to Indian Island to explore the fabulous marine life

Last Thursday the 2010 WSU Beach Watchers class explored Indian Island with Russel Barsh, learning about what lives on the island and about the Indian Island Marine Health Observatory project.

Friday was a research day. Russel, Marta Branch and her science students, along with WSU Beach Watchers, Margot Shaw, Marcia Spees and Nancy Alboucq did an intertidal survey, a terrestrial survey and a beach seine.

We saw some amazing sea life including: juvenile and adult Porcelain Crab, White Glove Leather, Red Sponge Nudibranch, Lemon Nudibranch..some were mating and some were laying ribbons of eggs, many orange Sea Cucumber and a little Red Octopus. The Octopus gave us quite a show. We saved it from where it was found on the rocky shore. We gently put it back into the water and it immediately camouflaged itself by changing it's color and texture. Then it let us know it was pretty mad by releasing it's ink to make itself difficult to see. I hope to add a picture of the Octopus to this post as soon as I can. I did not have my camera, so if anyone got a good shot, please send it to:

There were 2 Oyster Catchers flying overhead and making lots of noise. They were upset with the Canada Geese that are nesting on the island. There are 6-7 nests on the island with eggs.

The wild flowers on the island were in full glory. The Camus, Pacific Sanicle, Chocolate Lily and Sea Blush were all blooming. Note: lots of invasive ivy as well.

We were treated to catching dozens of Pipefish, of many different ages when we did our beach seine.

On Sunday, Russel and Madrona lead an I.I. beach walk in conjunction with the San Juan Sustainability Fair held on Saturday in Eastsound and as part of the public outreach portion of the IIMHO project. There were approximately 20 hardy souls who endured the blustery, wet, cold afternoon to enjoy the treasures of the Island.

There have been several articles and blog comments written about the Indian Island Marine Health Observatory recently. Please use links below to view the articles. (the Island's Sounder online)

Monday, May 3, 2010

Fisherman Bay Marine Health Observatory Project is Officially Underway

The Dana Lyons concert on Lopez last Friday helped to launch Kwiaht's third "Marine Health Observatory" project in the Islands - this one focused on Lopez Island's Fisherman Bay. Dana, who has been performing all week in the San Juans, entertained a relatively small but enthusiastic crowd with his environmental songs and commentary throughout the evening. During the intermission, Russel Barsh showed slides of Fisherman Bay, and described the marine life found in the bay and on its shores, and also the fish, birds and other marine specimens that are no longer part of its ecosystem. For a number of the attendees, Russel's assessment that Fisherman Bay is in a less healthy condition than its larger and more developed counterparts - Fishing Bay and the Port of Friday Harbor - came as a surprise. Russel noted the the flushing action Lopez's harbor needs has not been possible since the flow of seawater over the tombolo was cut off when the level of the road to the peninsula was raised a number of years ago. The bay is gradually silting up, and the contaminants that enter it have no place to go. Among the signs that the quality of the bay is deteriorating are the disappearance of eelgrass beds, and the fact that the diving ducks who used to fish there, have been largely replaced by their dabbling cousins.

Russel outlined ideas for the Fisherman Bay project, beginning with an inventory of its seabirds and other marine creatures this summer, followed by baseline monitoring projects similar to the work going on in Eastsound and Friday Harbor. He is looking forward to working with Lopez Beach Watchers, Lopez school students, and other interested volunteers.

Stay tuned for further updates!

WSU Beach Watchers Booth at the Sustainable San Juans Fair

It was a beautiful day for the Sustainable San Juans Fair and the first Farmers Market of the season in Eastsound.

The WSU Beach Watcher booth had a steady stream of curious people who seemed truly open to our programs and various messages (mainly “Salish Sea”, “IIMHO” and “Marine Micro-Plastics” on this day). The micro-plastics demo sure did draw them in along with Ulanah’s gorgeous (as in “gorgeous ugly”) large plastic beach litter displays.

Marcia Spees did an outstanding job of organizing the booth and the volunteers to help educate the fair goers.
Susan Muckle was interviewed by Didier Gincig and did a stand-out job of explaining the WSUBW program. To view the video, click on link below:

Russel Barsh announced the Marine Health Observatory Projects on the main stage at the Fair. His remarks about the Indian Island Marine Health Observatory can be seen here:

Russel nicely attributed WSUBWSJ for our role in the Indian Island MHO, the Friday Harbor MHO and the Fisherman's Bay MHO.

Julie Loyd, a member of the 2007 Beach Watchers Class, received the annual award for Individual Stewardship . Julie was recognized for her grass roots work, along with her husband David, on Waldron Island. Julie has also been instrumental in establishing a citizen science program in the Waldron community. The group has worked with Russel Barsh and Kwiaht on a number of scientific studies. Julie has also interviewed a number of the elder citizens on Waldron on what the marine environment was like 50 or more years ago. After receiving her award, Julie read samples from their observations, and all spoke of the abundance of herring, orcas, and puffins, whose populations are much diminished today. Congratulations to Julie for her award, and especially for her dedicated efforts to protect and raise awareness of the Waldron marine environment.

View the award presentation and her inspiring acceptance speech here:

For a full re-cap of the fair, go to and search for 'Orcas Island Sustainability Fair 2010'.
There are 75 short video interviews with islanders talking to Didier Gincig about sustainability in the islands.