Saturday, March 12, 2011

Friday Harbor Labs Open House - May 14

The public is enthusiastically invited to participate in the 2011 FHL Open House. This event offers a splendid opportunity to meet scientists and students at the Labs and check out the research and teaching facilities. From 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., the Labs will be open for self-guided tours. Scientists and students will showcase their marine science research, answer questions and provide demonstrations. There will be posters, marine plants and animals, microscopes, plankton sampling and observations, and activities for visitors of all ages. Kids are particularly encouraged to attend.

Bruce Hall's Beach Blog

Please check out Bruce Hall's blog (BW Class of 2009) at
Bruce has great photos of his beach on Orcas, information about what he is doing to monitor his beach, as well as on eel grass, geology, marine life etc.
Thanks, Bruce.

Report on the Ways of Whales Workshop on Jan. 29, 2011

This was a very informative workshop organized by the Orca Network. Speakers included Brad Hanson, NOAA Northwest Fisheries, who presented the case for satellite tagging of six orcas in the Southern Resident pods. Air guns will be used to attach the tags to mature males and post-reproductive females. Two whales from each pod will be tagged. Brad presented data from the successful tagging of other whale and dolphin species. The goal is to determine where the orcas forage in the “off” season and whether they are traveling through potentially dangerous waters, such as designated military testing areas off the coasts of Washington and Oregon. The tags could transmit data from two weeks to three months.

Currently, acoustic recorders operating off the coast (Cape Flattery, Grays Harbor, and the Strait of Juan de Fuca) provide the only means of tracking the Southern Residents. However, data is often sparse and not reliable as to which pod is traveling through the area.

John Calambokidis, Cascadia Research Collective, gave a worldwide overview of the various whale species population. The largest whale in the world, the Blue whale, is severely endangered – numbering only about 4,000. The number of ship strikes is increasing, especially among Blue whales. Most strikes happen at night when the whales are on the surface.

About 1,000 grays whales have been photo identified. Two distinct populations of gray whales exist in the US—the Eastern and Western North Pacific Gray whales. The Eastern group, which migrates from the Gulf of California to Alaska in the spring (coming very close to our coastline), numbers approximately 20,000. However, only about 150 Western gray whales remain and are found around Sakhalin Island, the Chukchi Sea and well as the Okhotsk Sea. It was thought these whales migrated to China to breed. However, one member of this group has been tagged and is now off the coast of British Columbia heading south. You can monitor its progress at a sight hosted by the Oregon State University Marine Mammal Institute -

Monika Wieland gave an interesting tutorial on how to identify the Southern Residents’ calls. Dialects are based upon social and cultural divisions not geographic. Different dialects can exist in a clan, a community, a pod, or a matrilineal line. If you would like to purchase a CD that identifies the various calls of the three pods, checkout her website at: Tracking of the Northern Resident pods can be found at

Carol Ray was a trainer at SeaWorld for three years. After leaving SeaWorld, she began working with a group of ex-trainers to expose the dismal conditions at the marine parks. The longevity of a captive whale is but 7 years – 8 years if you factor in Lolita’s years in captivity. In captivity, females give birth at 7 years and become pregnant every two years. Interbreeding among these close family members is allowed at the parks resulting in many stillbirths. Another website – gives information on captive whales.

Suzanne Chisholm, director of the documentary about Luna (L98), announced that the film would be released in the US finally. The documentary has been slightly remade to include actor Ryan Reynolds as the narrator. Ryan and actress Scarlett Johansson have also signed on as producers. The documentary with a new title – The Whale – will be released in June. Suzanne spoke of the young whale captured off the Netherlands and named Morgan, who may now spend the rest of its life in captivity. The website or has more information.

Barbara Bentley, New San Juan County MRC Member

Barbara Bentley, a member of the 2009 BW class from Orcas Island, is the newest member of the San Juan County Marine Resource Committee. Congratulations!

People for Puget Sound Works Parties on Orcas

People for Puget Sound will be partnering with local landowners Bob and Meg Connor to conduct three work parties in March 2011 at the Cayou Valley Lagoon in Deer Harbor. The workshops are scheduled for:

Wednesday, March 16: 10 am - 2 pm
Saturday, March 19: 10 am - 2 pm
Sunday, March 27: 1 pm - ­4 pm

Volunteers are needed to install native plants, remove invasive weeds, and clean up litter at the largest estuary on Orcas Island. Come and be a part of this local habitat restoration project! Work is underway to remove fish passage barriers and restore the shoreline of the Cayou Valley Lagoon. This site is private property, so take advantage of the opportunity to see this beautiful estuary and help bring it back to health. To sign up or ask questions, contact Rachel Benbrook at or phone: 360-230-1353. For more information about People for Puget Sound events, including environmental education workshops, April 6 annual luncheon and Round the Sound voyages in May and June, go to

There's Still Time to Register for the 2011 WSU Beach Watcher Class!

Have you read through the schedule for this year’s Beach Watcher class? A number of new trips are planned (Cypress Island, Patos, and an overnight to Vancouver Island among them!) along with the always-excellent lectures by our local environmental experts and outings to the special places on each of our islands. Registration is open until Mar 25, with the first class to be held on Lopez on Mar. 30. Encourage your friends and neighbors to enroll! (A downloadable application is available on the Beach Watcher website. ) And don’t forget that Shann is offering graduate Beach Watchers the opportunity to re-take the class as a “refresher” for only $25. Contact Shann soon for details.

"Day for the Bay" April 2, Woodman Hall on Lopez

To inaugurate the second season of the Fisherman Bay Marine Health Observatory project, Kwiaht and Beach Watcher participants are planning a family-oriented event on Sat., April 2 from 9:30 to early afternoon, to share with the community what we’re learning about the ecology of the bay. Come to Woodman Hall on Fisherman Bay Road at 9:30 am, find out about various activities scheduled for the morning (for all ages!) and then explore different “stations” around Fisherman Bay to learn more about its geology, plants and birds. Follow up the field trips with a free lunch at Woodman Hall at noon, where you will also have the opportunity explore various displays, hear a presentation about the MHO project by Russel Barsh, and view specially-designed artwork by Lopez artist Layne Nichols and photographer Peter Cavanagh, (with items for sale.) A good day to visit Lopez! The members of the 2011 Beach Watcher Class will also attend the event as part of their class that day. For more information contact

"Procession of the Species" - Lopez Village Parade: April 30, 4 pm

Seventeen years ago, folks in Olympia had the idea for a “Procession of the Species” parade to raise people’s awareness of their connections to the natural world. Now an annual tradition in our capital, the parade also takes place all over the world, as people march through the streets in colorful and elaborate costumes of their favorite animals. A quick google search will turn up hundreds of photos and descriptions of past events. This year the “Procession” will be held on Lopez for the first time, and everyone is invited to participate. (No age limits!) There will also be other activities that afternoon. Look for more information as the date gets closer, and start planning your costume!

Island Clean-up Days in April

Join San Juan Island’s Great Island Clean-up on Saturday, April 9 from 10 to 2. Donna Riley, organizer of the event, is hoping there will be a Beach Watcher Team. Contact her at by March 15. Or if you’d just like to volunteer as an individual, sign up is between April 1 and 8.

April 23 (Earth Day) will be the Beach Clean-up Day on Lopez, also approximately from 10 to 2. Nick Teague, Bureau of Land Management Steward for the islands, will advertise details as the date gets closer.

Micro-Plastics Sampling Season

During the week of March 21st, Orcas and Lopez Beach Watchers will again gather on several island beaches with buckets and sieves to determine the quantity and types of small plastics that are mingled with the sand along our shorelines. The sifted and sorted samples will be forwarded as usual to the The Port Townsend Marine Science Center for analysis and data entry – but this will be the last time. Grants which have funded this project for several years are coming to an end. If you’ve taken part in this project previously, your help is still needed, and if you’re volunteering for the first time, it’s easy and interesting. (Jen Kingfisher, Project Director in Port Townsend, has pledged ongoing help with sample sorting from Eastsound’s plastic-laden beaches!)

Lopez sampling will take place Wed. Mar 23 at 10 am at Odlin Park, and Fri. Mar 25 at 1 pm at Otis Perkins. On Orcas, contact Kim Secunda: for times and locations.

For more information about the project, check the Marine Science Center’s website at: