Padilla Bay newsletter

Our e-newsletter is published quarterly with current events, articles, and program information.

New Padilla Bay AmeriCorps staff, Madi McKay, Izzi Lavallee, and Holly Young

New humans at Padilla Bay

We’re always excited to spot rare wildlife at Padilla Bay, but we’re even more excited to welcome three energetic humans to Padilla Bay’s staff. Introducing our new AmeriCorps staff:

Madi McKay

Hi there! My name is Madi McKay and I am the natural resource steward assistant. I just graduated from Western Washington University (WWU) in June with a B.S. in Ecology, Evolutionary and Organismal Biology. At WWU, I was very involved in research, studying harbor seal hunting behavior and the community structure of algae in snowy alpine environments. I love doing anything by the water or in the mountains. After graduation, I had the opportunity to be the summer natural resource assistant at Padilla Bay, which lead to my current position! I currently work on organizing citizen science and volunteer events, maintaining and controlling invasive species, and helping care for the animals in our aquarium. My main interest right now is our new study on the non-native Asian mud snail, Batillaria (estimates of 2.77 billion in Padilla Bay alone). I am particularly interested in how they might potentially affect the population of diatoms (microscopic plant-like organisms) living on the mud surface. Besides this, I enjoy hanging out with our Pacific ruby octopus, Ocho!

Izzi Lavallee

Izzi Lavallee’s niche in the Padilla Bay community is teaching people about estuaries both in the interpretive center and on the beach. Izzi enjoys making and eating soups, tortillas, breakfast foods and pickled kelp. The wild Izzi can be found free-diving and swimming in the Salish Sea (with whomever wants to join), romping around forested mountains or riversides with a plant ID book, painting, writing, or reading good stories all while listening to majestic music, most likely, the Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter soundtracks. :) They also have a B.A. in Coastal Marine Watershed Resilience.

Holly Young

Holly Young has always been fascinated by aquatic ecosystems, especially estuaries. She received her B.S. in Environmental Science from Western Washington University, Huxley College of the Environment. This is her second year serving as an AmeriCorps member. Last year, she worked with the Department of Ecology’s Marine Monitoring Unit and helped sample water, sediment, and critters throughout the Puget Sound. “When I’m outdoors, I’m in my element and I feel very fortunate that my office is also a boat deck or seagrass meadow.” Outside of work, Holly enjoys hiking in the North Cascades or surveying streams as a Skagit Fisheries Enhancement Group volunteer. Welcome onboard!

Who is the cutest fish in the Salish Sea?

By Izzi Lavallee

Say hello to Pipsqueak (“Pip” for short) the Pacific spiny lumpsucker! Pip is the newest member of our Padilla Bay Reserve aquarium family. He measures in at a whopping 15 millimeters (about the size of your thumbnail) and will likely grow no bigger than a golf ball. Pip flaunts a tangerine coat covered with small, lumpy bumps. If he was a “she,” he’d likely be bluish-green.

Lumpsuckers are notoriously clumsy swimmers, which adds to their cuteness. Abandoning a “normal” fish body plan, these unique suckers have evolved a suction cup disk on their belly to attach to various rocks and algae.

Shockingly, Pacific spiny lumpsuckers can be found at depths of up to 500 feet! So how did we find him? A bumblebee-sized blob, Pip was scooped up in a net by the Watershed Master class of 2019 right off of Bay View State Park. In fact, he was likely born and raised right here in Padilla Bay’s vast eelgrass meadow. Pacific spiny lumpsuckers swim up to shallow waters to breed during the summer months. Rocky reefs, docks, kelp forests, and eelgrass meadows provide protective habitat for them to mate and nurture their eggs.

In lumpsucker land, the dads are superheroes. The males guard the young by aggressively fending off predators and fanning delicious oxygen-rich water over the eggs with the wave of their little-but-mighty fin.

We were very lucky to find our new friend. It turns out that the Salish Sea is the farthest southern point in this species' range, while they are frequently found farther north in the Bering and Chukchi Seas. This reminds us to keep the Salish Sea nice and cool so Pip’s relatives can continue to visit our bays to spawn. How can we do that? We can cool surface water entering the Salish Sea by shading streams and rivers and reducing impervious surfaces like concrete and asphalt. And we can stop burning fossil fuels like oil, gas, and coal to reduce heat-trapping carbon dioxide.

Today, young Pipsqueak enjoys eating amphipods (aka beach hoppers) and chillin’ with the other baby fish in our nursery tank. We have great expectations that Pip will grow up to be a gentleman – that is, a protective, paternal figure for many adorable Pacific spiny lumpsuckers to come.

Sylvia Yang and Shauna Bjornson study eelgrass growth rates in Padilla Bay

photo credit: Western Washington University

Padilla Bay welcomes our new research coordinator, Sylvia Yang 

We are excited to announce that after a lengthy national search, Dr. Sylvia Yang has joined the Padilla Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve team as the new Research Coordinator. Sylvia is a seagrass ecologist and has worked in estuarine habitats of Washington for 14 years. Most recently she worked at Western Washington University as a marine scientist at the Shannon Point Marine Center (Anacortes, WA) and as the director of the SEA Discovery Center (Poulsbo, WA). Padilla Bay has been a consistent part of Syliva’s research and educational work. We're pleased that we can officially bring her into the Padilla Bay and Dept. of Ecology family.  Sylvia holds a Ph.D. in Biology from the University of Washington and was a post-doctoral researcher at the University of California (Davis, CA) studying saltmarsh ecology. She also brings her enthusiasm for integrating authentic scientific investigation into educational settings and engaging community members in environmental science. Sylvia can be reached at Padilla Bay at 360-428-1089 or at