What are your plans for celebrating Earth Day this month?
During a recent education class held at Camp Casey, we had the opportunity to meet Kelly Zupich and Mary Jo Ada of Sound Water Stewards. They presented their plankton tow program to a group of 4th and 5th graders from the Tahoma School District. What would you possibly want to learn about plankton? Well, if you are like us, lots. You might already know that most plankton are too small to be individually seen with the naked eye, which is where microscopes and overhead displays come in handy. But did you know it is estimated that 50-85 percent of the world’s oxygen is produced via phytoplankton photosynthesis? Kelly said the most memorable quote of the day was one girl saying she really wanted to catch a phytoplankton because it was her favorite! That’s not a comment one tends to hear from a 4th grade child.
For Sound Water Stewards (formerly Beach Watchers), whose trained volunteers number more than 560 in Island County, efforts are endless:
· Monitoring our beaches and near-shore flora/fauna, eelgrass, and kelp beds.
· Restoring wetlands and pulling noxious weeds.
· Gathering data for government and university scientists.
In addition to their tireless efforts in and around the Sound, they host the annual One Day University. If you missed this year’s event, be sure to put it on your calendar for 2017. Open to the general public, the university typically offers more than 60 classes. 2016’s class leaders and topics included Brian Atwater, a UW geologist and research professor, who discussed Cascadian Subduction Zones; Joy Johnson, a local bird photographer, who co-wrote Our Pacific Northwest Birds & Habitat ; and Cliff Mass, UW Professor of Atmospheric Sciences and renowned Seattle weather personality, who spoke on Climate Change.
Volunteers also educate the public at large formal events, in local schools and outdoor classrooms, in parks (they’ll be co-located at Ft. Ebey this year), at festivals such as the Penn Cove Mussel Fest, and in one-to-one around tide pools and healthy beach environments, such as the night-time viewing class of the tide pools at Rosario Beach.
Interested in volunteering – it will take a commitment of your time. Volunteers attend several days of classroom instruction and are asked to contribute 100 hours in exchange. But your efforts in and around Camano and Whidbey Islands will help create a healthy, sustainable Puget Sound environment.