Padilla Bay newsletter

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

Message from the Padilla Bay Foundation

Summer 2019

The Padilla Bay Foundation would like to give a heartfelt thank you to six dedicated Foundation board members who have stepped off the board this year. Combined they have served nearly 45 years! Our hats are off to Ed Gastellum (28 years), Deb Canon (20 years), Glenda Alm (10 years), Andrew Entrikin (3 years), Katrina Poppe (3 years), and Hollie Del Vecchio (6 mos).
Their shoes are hard to fill, but the board has recently added three outstanding new interim board directors. We are pleased to welcome Leah Rice, retired K-12 teacher; Linda Tyler, Port of Skagit County’s Community Outreach Administrator; and Brad Smith, retired university geology professor. At the Annual Membership Meeting on Oct. 5, 2019, the membership will have the opportunity to vote to officially accept each of them as new directors.
We continue to seek additional candidates who would like to enhance Padilla Bay NERR through service on the board. We also have several committees and task forces on which community members are welcome to serve. If you or someone you know would be interested in becoming a board member or serving on one of our committees or task forces, please contact the Foundation's office.
More exciting news. The Foundation has fully funded the seasonal education assistant position again this year and has hired Holli Watne. Holli held an education assistant position in 2017 with Ecology, so she is well prepared. She has been on board since April and has already taught dozens of youth programs. Additionally, Anna Bailey, a student at Western Washington University will start as education intern late June and serve through mid-Sept. In the research department, we have funded a Graduate Research Assistantship position, and applications are currently being solicited.
With our long term board Treasurer, Deb Canon stepping away from the board in Feb. we have decided to contract with Renee Relin of The Roving CFO to handle the Foundation’s financial books. We started working with her in April and she is doing a fabulous job. And, our sincere thanks to Deb for volunteering her accounting/CPA services the last 20 years!
The next Taste of Padilla Bay Dinner & Auction will be held in summer of 2020, and we hope you will join us to celebrate the Reserve’s 40th anniversary.
The Padilla Bay Foundation currently has 200+ valuable members. Grassroots involvement is the core of Padilla Bay Foundation’s commitment to protecting our estuaries and supporting the Padilla Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. Members of the Padilla Bay Foundation contribute directly to environmental education and research at Washington State’s only National Estuarine Research Reserve - one of 29 in the nation. To find out how you can be involved and become a foundation member, visit the Padilla Bay Foundation website.
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Flotsam not jettisoned

Has anyone ever returned something valuable to you that you didn’t know you'd lost? Well, with a stroke of luck, some keen eyes, and a bit of detective work, a 2-inch temperature data recorder made an unplanned trip from Padilla Bay to the Dungeness Spit, only to be found and returned for the holidays.

During the past few years, research staff have been studying the variability of water temperatures in Padilla Bay eelgrass beds to better understand the growth conditions of our two eelgrass species, Zostera marina and Zostera japonica. We place dozens of small temperature recorders throughout the bay where the devices record temperatures every 15 minutes all year long. Padilla Bay researchers walk out during low tides to put devices in the intertidal beds, and use divers in subtidal locations. The recorders are fastened with zip ties to small screw-type anchors or PVC pipes, and left out to collect data for an entire year. Then they’re collected and brought back to the lab for analysis.

Predictably, critters sometimes stumble across these instruments and “investigate” them too aggressively. The zip tie that held this recorder to its anchor was twisted and gnarled in a way that suggests a large crab was the probably the vandal behind this release. Whatever the suspected creature’s motivation, sometime in late November 2018, the temperature recorder was set adrift from the subtidal eelgrass beds of Padilla Bay.

Unbeknown to the research staff, the recorder floated from Padilla Bay and washed up some 65 miles away on the shoreline of Dungeness Spit in Sequim, WA, where it was collected by a volunteer during a beach cleanup. Placed in a pile of discarded plastics and marine debris, the tiny red flashing light on the temperature logger caught the eye of a staff member from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and was plucked out of the waste pile. Another staff member recognized the little device, including its significance, and called the manufacturer to see if they could track down where it came from. The serial number of the temperature recording device was just visible enough through the milky plastic housing to track down who purchased the device, and the mystery was solved!

On Dec. 12, 2018, one of our research staff received a call: “Hello. This might sound weird, but I have the contact information from an individual who…” (PAUSE: Could any conversation opener be more exciting and anxiety-making?) Padilla Bay Researcher: “Umm, I’m sorry, could you please repeat that?”
Caller: “This might sound weird, but I have the contact information from an individual who has found a data recorder that I traced to you.”

Onset, the company who manufactures the data recorders, put Padilla Bay staff in contact with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge and the recorder was on its way back home, this time by mail. Case solved!
Student examining surf smelt eggs under microscope

Examining surf smelt eggs

Kids on the Beach

As a member of the Padilla Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve education team, I never wonder if the work I do matters. However, I am sometimes curious if I’m making positive change in the community. This spring, I had such an experience. I was fortunate enough be part of a hands-on science education program known as Kids on the Beach (KOTB). Padilla Bay is one of 10 collaborating organizations behind the program, funded through the Skagit Marine Resource Committee and coordinated with the SeaDoc Society.

Through KOTB, roughly 100 eighth-grade students conducted  research with guidance from local experts, citizen scientists, tribal elders, and educators. Students from two school districts participated: those from La Conner Middle School studied the effects of pocket estuary preservation on fish populations and water quality at Lone Tree Point while middle school students from Conway School District in Mount Vernon studied the effects of beach enhancement on fish populations at Fidalgo Bay.

I've been involved in quite a few hands-on science programs, and I can say that KOTB is truly special. For one thing, the project does not frame science as the only tool for learning about a place. On the day I met with KOTB students, we compared a scientific study  with indigenous ways of knowing. We discussed the strengths and weaknesses of each approach. Later, as students met on tribal land to collect their data, the work started only after an elder from the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community spoke to the group of La Conner students and an elder from the Samish Indian Nation talked to the Conway School students. Each elder shared a personal story about the importance of the place the students would be studying. In my experience, it is regretfully rare for science programs to include cultural components.

The second thing that  impressed me about KOTB is the program gives students an introduction to the scientific process that is as genuine as possible. In just three weeks, the students went from creating research proposals to presenting their findings to their peers and members of the scientific community. The students took leadership roles through every step in the process. They designed the experiments, complete with their own budgets and questions to be studied. Each class was asked to submit several experiment proposals, which were graded by a panel to see which ones would be awarded  resources to conduct the research. Students then collected the data, interpreted it, and presented their findings in a symposium.

This is a lot to ask of the eighth-graders, especially when they also happen to be studying for their state tests. But the students met the challenge. During the symposium, they talked about the quality of their data and the implications of what it means in their community. It was clear some were thinking like scientists and enjoying it. Even the students who sometimes struggled were proud of their achievements. KOTB students got a real taste of field biology and learned lessons about the importance of collaboration and biodiversity. For many participants, the program was likely a formative experience. Perhaps they don’t see it now, but in looking back, I think many are going to be thankful for the experience.