The weather is getting frightful, but citizen science remains delightful! Vashon Nature Center volunteers are contributing to some amazing projects. See below for a short photo summary of winter activities so far:
VNC Salmonwatchers: November brought the first photo documented record of Chum salmon using Fisher Creek! Thanks to Salmonwatcher Mary Shackleford for spotting the fish and Salmonwatch coordinator Kelly Keenan for obtaining the video footage to confirm. Jill Andrews also helped document more chum coming up after the initial sighting! Our photo documented data will be used to update King County records of fish use in Vashon streams and will increase the known spawning habitats in these creeks considerably.
VNC Puget Sound Mussel Monitoring: VNC is participating in a program that has just deployed 94 mussel cages throughout Puget Sound to monitor for a variety of pollutants including heavy metals and some pesticides. This program made the news! Thanks to Hooper Havekotte for ferrying the mussels across to Vashon and helping deploy the mussel cage late at night in the pouring rain a few weeks ago! 2015/2016 results
VNC BeachNET: our BeachNET team just got back from a lovely night combing the beach for forage fish eggs, finding Pacific herring, and stopping to gaze periodically at the Geminid meteor shower and learn some astrology. Thanks to Kat, Adria and Alex for a wonderful survey night! Here Kat holds a herring she found and Alex, Adria, and Kat string out the survey line.
Thank you to all 33 BeachNET volunteers who are helping us monitor island beaches for forage fish spawning and monitor changes to the beach ecosystem as a result of bulkhead removal. This research is in partnership with King County, Washington Department of Natural Resources, University of Washington and graduate student Kirsten Miller of Evergreen college. Vashon-Maury Island Land Trust is our fiscal sponsor for this project and Vashon High School students in the AP Environmental Science class are helping us with surveys as well!
Nature Lounge: We had a nice turn out for our most recent Nature Lounge at Snapdragon where islander and Pt. Defiance Senior aquarist, Chad Widmer, spun fascinating stories about his research subject– jellyfish! The discussion was lively and entertaining and touched on jellyfish life cycles, jellyfish and climate change, and even whether jellyfish can learn. Thank you Chad for a really great night. We can’t wait to visit Pt. Defiance when the new exhibits open this summer! Stay tuned.
Don’t miss the upcoming events: Full moon beachwalk, VNC Naturalist workshop on Nature Observation, and the March Nature Lounge on Green crabs with Jeff Adams from UW Seagrant! More info on our Events page.
Contact us to get involved in any of these citizen science activities.
Happy Winter everyone!
Six years ago, I met Vashon Nature Center’s director Bianca Perla at Vashon Tea Shop. I had read about the center in an article in The Beachcomber and I wanted to learn more. I was looking for a new volunteer venture and as a longtime naturalist, the organization’s goals spoke to me. After we introduced ourselves, Bianca dove right into the task at hand: She wanted to hold a BioBlitz the following June—just a few months away. I had heard about these 24-hour species counts, and loved the idea of helping to launch one close to home. I scribbled notes as we sipped our tea, and I left that day with a to-do list. We were going to make this happen!
That first Vashon Nature Center BioBlitz in 2012, held at Neill Point on the south-end of Vashon, was more fun that I ever expected. From finding the first (and only butterfly) species
of the day with my 13-year-old—a Western Tiger Swallowtail— to viewing for the first time the transparent sci-fi-esque body of a skeleton shrimp. Though our ages ranged from 2 to 82, we were all like kids that day—playing in the woods and on the beach, discovering pond bugs that breathe by holding little bubble packets to their faces and that chipmunks thrive in certain island forests.
It seemed ridiculous that we were having so much fun and still doing the work of real science—witnessing and recording the diverse wildness that shares this island with us. Even Homo sapiens was counted—not above, but right alongside the finger-nail sized pond snail and the Bald Eagle. Our slogan of “Everyone counts” perfectly held the event’s delightful double entendre—at a BioBlitz, everyone counts and every one is counted.
For four more years we repeated the fun, growing our team of volunteers and supporters—and recording a total of 1,134 (and counting!) species at five different island locations.
This month we celebrated and shared the accomplishments of this community-driven citizen-science effort at an open house held in the Land Trust’s Heron Room. The “show” will be up for another few weeks, and we invite you to come view hundreds of photos of our island neighbors—web-footed, winged and shelled. Take time to read the posters to learn about the BioBlitz mysteries solved and not. Perhaps you hold one of the answers?
We will begin another BioBlitz series in 2018, and invite you to join us as we continue our quest to record—and in this way honor—as many island species as possible. At this time on Earth—on the edge of what is being called the sixth extinction—it feels more urgent than ever to recognize the brilliant, vital existence of every single being and blade of grass. Every one counts!
–In Ellis, despite what looked like a good water level, a cursory look at the samples seemed to indicate very low levels of life. This was puzzling. We will see if this is true as we go through the samples more closely.