As campers arrive at Casey, the first thing they’ll notice is breathtaking views of Puget Sound. Most, however, aren’t aware of the diverse and complex habitat hidden below the waterline. While most campers who come to Casey for retreats, sports camps, special events, and outdoor education will most likely take a walk on the beach or enjoy the view, only campers partaking in the sea lab or beach seine programs will get a chance to uncover the mystery of the depths.
The sea lab and beach seine programs offer students and guests a rare look at the sea life that permeates Puget Sound just off the shores of Whidbey Island.
The lab features up to a dozen aquariums that house sea urchin, sea stars, sea cucumbers, and other fascinating creatures. Participating in a beach seine offers hands-on experience collecting marine specimens for the lab. What better joy than seeing the surprise on the students’ faces when they hold a hermit crab in the palms of their hands and learn that, unlike free-living crabs, their abdomens aren’t covered in a hard exoskeleton but rather a thin, soft one. And here is a head-scratcher: Ochre Sea Stars are the most commonly seen member of their group in many Pacific Northwest coastal areas. Most of them are either orange (ochre) or purple, quite a dramatic difference, and there is still no sound hypothesis to explain this color polymorphism. Bewilderment sets in when finding out that purple Ochre Sea Stars are the more commonly found in Puget Sound.
Interested in gaining a greater understanding of the marine life that make its home in Puget Sound? If your group is coming to Casey in the spring, ask about our sea lab and beach seine programs. And be sure to follow our Facebook page (@gocampcasey). We will be posting a Puget Sound Marine Life Knowledge quiz once a week, where you can not only test your knowledge, but learn fun facts about our local marine wildlife and conservation.
The Sea Lab program at Camp Casey includes a one-hour class, limited to 35 students, with a lecture, lab tour of the aquarium, and a time for questions and answers. The sea lab is only open in the spring, so class space and reservations are limited.