Citizen science involves people of all ages and abilities in active research projects—whether it be trees, salmon, sea stars or birds—your observations help build our island nature data bank.
These projects form the core of our work at Vashon Nature Center. We collaborate with scientists to design simple, elegant projects that put your eyes, hands, feet, ears, measuring tapes, and cameras out into the wilds to gather vital data that we couldn’t collect alone. We believe that science is not just the realm for experts, but rather a learning process open to all, which can inspire a sense of wonder as we discover together the nature of these islands.
“Those who dwell, as scientists or laymen, among the beauties and mysteries of the earth, are never alone or weary of life.” —Rachel Carson
As a citizen scientist, you will work with our network of expert scientists and naturalists to add to a treasure trove of communal nature information. Many of our projects stem from the initial observations of life-long islanders, and previous generations. We are grateful to these original citizen scientists for providing this foundatin of knowledge. Become a citizen scientist and join what we consider to be the world’s best research team!
Read on to learn about our projects and contact us to sign up.
Biodiversity is life’s richness—the variety inherent in genes, individuals, species, populations, ecosystems, and biomes, which gives life its creative and adaptive force.
Vashon Nature Center’s annual Bioblitz is a 24-hour species count marathon! By discovering every organism we can in one full day, we build on a growing record of island biodiversity. Each year we focus on one island park or preserve to create a base record—a seasonal snapshot—of life there. Teams of community members work alongside experts and scour the area to find, photograph, identify, and record as many plants, animals, and others as possible. Got eyes? We can use you! Visit our Bioblitz page for more information and to sign up!
To learn more, watch the video, browse our albums (Bioblitz 2013, Bioblitz 2012), explore our Bioblitz species lists, purchase our laminated field guide, An introduction to Local Biodiversityor visit our online field guide, Life on Vashon.
Streams are the life-blood of island habitats, connecting forested uplands to marine environments through their ever-moving waters. In our stream programs, we monitor two critical biological indicators of stream health: salmon and aquatic macroinvertebrates.
Aquatic Macroinvertebrate monitoring: Aquatic macroinvertebrates are stream bugs that you can see with the naked eye. Each fall, volunteers help us collect invertebrate samples at island creeks. Through investigating which species are present and absent, we can form hypotheses about stream impacts. We also use invertebrates to track whether stream restoration projects are working. Get to know the tiny denizens of our creeks.
Salmon Monitoring: From September to January of each year, island creeks are the realm of volunteer Salmon Watchers who visit a specific spot on a local creek for 15 minutes twice a week to monitor returning salmon. We provide training on salmon identification and protocols. Watch the Salmon watcher slideshow.
Visit our Salmonwatcher page for current season’s observations and information for Salmonwatcher volunteers.
For reports on what we’ve learned about our creeks through these programs, visit our Research page.
Forests are the lungs of Vashon-Maury (providing air for their inhabitants!), and the most prominent and widespread island habitat.
Forest History: Through studying forest characterization, Vashon Nature Center documents the complex histories of our forests so that we can better understand their current state, the role they play in the health of local watersheds, and how best to care for them. How much did our forests once depend on salmon for their nutrients? What did our forests look like before loggers arrived? How can we successfully regenerate madrona forests? Historically, how were people and forests connected? These are a few of the questions we seek to answer.
Notable trees:Vashon Nature Center is building on a former Vashon-Maury Island Audubon Society effort to record individual stand-out trees selected for their size, age, variety, or cultural importance. Help us document, or submit a tree for notable status.
Together, Vashon and Maury Islands contain close to half the total King County shoreline, making our island edges strongly integral to the health of the entire Puget Sound. Shorelines provide forage fish habitat, salmon nursing grounds, and food and shelter for wintering ducks, among other important benefits. But surprisingly little is known about the presence of many important indicator species on our shores. Vashon Nature Center partners regularly with Vashon Beach Naturalists to survey beaches during Bioblitz events, monitor sea star populations recently hit by a fatal wasting syndrome, and document changes in kelp and eel grass distribution. Walk the beaches with us.
Vashon and Maury have experienced a long and varied history of human use, and long-term damage to island ecosystems. Streams have less woody debris, fewer pools, and faster flows than in pre-logging days. Scotch broom, ivy, and blackberry alter nutrient dynamics, change forest regrowth, and decrease food-source diversity for pollinators and other wildlife. Restoration is vital to addressing environmental legacies on our lands and in our waters.
But, restoration is a learning process. Ecosystems are complex and restoration effort results can vary from one location to the next, even within a few meters along the same stream. Does adding logs to streams create more pools, or just trap sediments and create unwanted channels? If we remove blackberry and scotch broom on sunny Maury Island, what native plants will replace them? Does amending the soil help plants survive, or does it create ”soft” plants that thrive at first and then die prematurely? Our volunteers are helping to answer these important questions.
Vashon Nature Center restoration monitoring programs help land managers nip potential problems in the bud. Our volunteers report feelings of hope as they witness more fish, budding native plants, and active native bees.
What have we learned so far? Check out our Research page.
“The only constant is change.”—Heraclitus
We cannot fully understand the nature of any living system without addressing the issue of change. Tracking how species and ecosystems respond to change, and how they have responded in the past, helps us learn how to manage future changes. We need to develop baselines for change so that we can tell what is within normal parameters, and what may indicate riskier consequences for wildlife and human health. Change in nature is contained within cycles, like daily tidal shifts, and seasonal migrations. Today, global warming influences standard cycles to alter life’s intricate timing. What are the consequences?
Understanding past changes: Vashon Nature Center and Vashon Heritage Society are conducting natural history interviews with long-time islanders. We are video-documenting what islanders remember about changes to wildlife and habitats over the last 90 years. Are you a long-time islander, or do you know someone who could share their memories? Let us know.
Understanding present and future changes: Vashon Nature Center is a partner in the National Phenology Network, a global, online database that tracks life’s timing. Help us record things like first bud burst, first butterfly on the wing, and first Wilson’s Warbler. This data will increase our understanding of how island seasons are changing through time, and help researchers worldwide track the effects of global climate change. Keep note of nature.
(Featured photo by Susie Fitzough)