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FBARCSC, STEM, and the Next Generation of Citizen Scientists

By Wayne Huseby

It all started with a simple email in late February from my good friend Vicki Stowe asking if our group, the Fidalgo Bay Aquatic Reserve Citizen Stewardship Committee (FBARCSC), would consider hosting a “STEM Sampler” workshop. Vicki is a wife, mother, and a passionate champion for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education in our local schools. Besides leading efforts to raise thousands of dollars for STEM programs, Vicki volunteers her time to organize and manage STEM activities for our kids. One of those programs is called “STEM Sampler”. The goal of the program is to engage each Middle School student in a hands-on, workshop oriented activity that exposes them to STEM subjects that they would otherwise not have time for in their regular school schedule. The hope is to stimulate some students to consider taking STEM courses that could lead to a rewarding and fulfilling career.

In late March, Vicki, Pete Haase (FBARCSC President), and I met for coffee to discuss a possible workshop. We decided that engaging students in one of our citizen science-based forage fish surveys (surf smelt eggs) would be a perfect fit. It would demonstrating how STEM can lead to new knowledge about a very important species of our marine ecosystems. One of the primary missions of the FBARCSC is to engage the community and provide educational programs about the Fidalgo Bay Aquatic Reserve (FBAR). We had no idea how we were going to do it, but agreed to host a workshop in mid-June.

What were we thinking! These were Middle Schoolers!

Vicki is a very persuasive woman.

Once we realized what we had done, Pete and I solicited the assistance of Erica Bleke, Aquatic Reserves Program, Washington Department of Natural Resources, to help us plan and organize how we would actually pull off the workshop. Erica had been a teacher so she had some experience working with kids, especially in a field environment. Thank goodness for that! Over the next several weeks, Pete, Erica, and I met a few times to work out a plan knowing full well that things would probably not go as planned. They didn’t!

This year’s STEM Sampler , the third annual, had 23 workshops for students to choose from over the two day event. Each “workshop location” conducted four (4) workshops, two workshops each day for two days, each lasting approximately two hours, one in the morning and one in the early afternoon. For “offsite” workshops like ours, students were bused to/from the Middle School. I must admit, it was a terrifying sight when that first busload of students arrived at the Fidalgo Bay Resort and we all realized it was “showtime”! We survived.

Despite some horrendous mid-June weather, our team of experienced volunteers did a fabulous job of explaining the what, how, and why of a forage fish surveys. Fortunately, the target, surf smelt eggs, were fairly abundant during our surveys so most students stayed engaged (not all!). The highlight for many students was putting their respective team’s sample of eggs under a microscope which was displayed on a large TV screen. The “oohs and aahs” from the students when they realized that some of the eggs actually had little embryonic fish inside of them with tiny eyeballs was telling! For many, it was the first time they had ever seen something like that. Discovering nature can be an exciting thing!

Although it was a lot of work to plan and organize the workshop, the expectation is that FBARCSC will likely be persuaded to participate again next year. As I said, Vicki is very persuasive. Besides, we can apply lessons learned and make it even better next year! The kids we had on the beach those two days back in June will soon be entering into adulthood. Having an opportunity to work with them and possibly influence a career choice is extremely rewarding. Even if none of them ever pursues a STEM career, our hope is that they all came away with a greater appreciation of our natural world.

Hosting a successful STEM Sampler would not have been possible without our dedicated volunteers. Following are some thoughts that a couple of them shared with me about their experiences:

“What was most impressive to me about the STEM Sampler was the level of involvement and community collaboration that went on in order to provide this unique opportunity. From my perspective, it is vital to get community members, especially local students, into Fidalgo Bay Aquatic Reserve to learn about what the Reserve is and why its protection is critical to the overall health of the Salish Sea."
There are only eight Aquatic Reserves in the entire state of Washington and it’s a pretty fantastic thing for Anacortes students to have one in their backyard. To see students realize that their local beaches are not just a great place to walk, but are actually teeming with life that supports the greater Salish Sea ecosystem was a great thing to be a part of.
We’re more powerful together when we work as a team in order to raise awareness of our local resources and provide opportunities to get out to enjoy them. It was inspiring to see so many different agencies, non-profits, and organizations come together to help provide this type of hands-on, minds-on science opportunity for local students and I’m looking forward to doing my part to make sure it happens more often!” – Erica Bleke, Aquatic Reserves Program, Washington Department of Natural Resources

“The second day of the STEM Forage Fish program shaped up to be a beautiful morning, especially after a week of early-summer rain and wind. I volunteered for the program only two weeks into my new job, and had no idea what to expect. I checked in and was quickly introduced to the rest of the volunteers. By the end of the day, I was gobsmacked by the variety of organizations that were represented in the room. It began to dawn on me how replete my new home is with kind, collaborative, science-minded people. I worked with two different groups of kids, the first one was a very rambunctious group of younger boys, and the second had some kind and unassuming older girls. By the end of each of their programs, both groups were excited and proud to see the smelt eggs they had collected up on the screen! One boy liked it so much that he actually came back a second day”. - Keighley Lane, Intern, Pacific Biodiversity Institute

“As I had not done field work in a couple of years, assisting with the STEM workshop was very enlightening. It was an opportunity for me to learn, as well as pass along any knowledge that I might have to potential budding ecologists. The day was unfortunately, a bit blustery and cold, but conditions were ripe for learning. Each team was shown how to create a transect, collect samples, clean those samples, and then process the samples under a microscope. The most fascinating part was ‘seeing’ what had been collected, using the microscope. I think the science of what we were doing did not become real until the students were given the opportunity to view what was collected in this fashion. I believe we were all fascinated when we detected the various species by seeing ‘eyes’ in egg sacs. Various oohs and ahhs from the audience made this apparent. Though that could have been coming from the adults!

All in all, I believe the students had a good time this day. I think had the day been a bit warmer and not as rainy, they may have been a bit more engaged. I confess to being cold and a little distracted myself. However, I am extremely grateful for all the collected experts from this area that had far more knowledge than I did, as I personally, learned a lot. I’m happy that I was able to attend and assist in any way that I could." - Heather Conkerton, Intern, Pacific Biodiversity Institute

The FBARCSC is a small group making a big difference in our community and region. We are seeking new committee members who are interested in ways to promote, protect and restore the Fidalgo Bay Aquatic Reserve.It is not necessary to have a marine environmental background, only a strong desire for preserving the health of our fragile marine ecosystems. There are a many ways you can participate, be it citizen science, public outreach, or regulatory watchdog. Whatever your skills or interests, if stewardship of our marine environment is important to you, we would like to talk. For more information, contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit us at our website - Puget Sound Aquatic Reserves

2018 Lecture Series is in the Works!


The project planning team for our annual lecture series is hard at work figuring out the details for the 2018 lectures! This includes the all-important task of selecting four exceptional speakers to present during the upcoming season. The team has had several planning meetings already, even though the series doesn’t start until January 2018.

We’re in the process of whittling down a starting list of 49 candidate topics to the final 4. Even though sorting through that many options can seem daunting, Matt Kerschbaum makes the process fun. They started with 49 sheets of paper on the table and thoughtful discussion immediately removed 24 leaving a shorter list of 25 for the second cut round. Each team member was given 12 pennies to place on the remaining 25 sheets of paper to select their top 12. This enabled the group to shave the list to 13 candidates. 



Team members (l – r) Sue Ehler, Matt Kerschbaum, Barbara Lechner, and Gina Johnson

Now the more formal voting process, involving lists and Excel spreadsheets, will sort the list to identify the top candidates. At that point the team will get busy contacting and confirming potential speakers. We hope to have that done by early October and have the four topics ready to start the next phase of work – advertising the lectures that will be presented on the dates listed below at the NW Educational Services District Building, 1601 R Avenue, Anacortes.

2018 Lecture Schedule: Friday evenings on January 19th, February 16th, March 16th, and April 20.

Mark your calendar and we’ll have the coffee and cookies ready when you get there.

 

Trail Tales Shoreline: Forage Fish Station in Action

“WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE SOME FISH EGGS?”


This is what Michelle and Barbara have been saying over 1000 times to captivate the interest of the general public since the inception of the forage fish interpretive station only two years ago.

During that time the forage fish interpretive station has followed the citizen scientist forage fish egg surveyors onto the beaches of Fidalgo Island, participated in educational events such as Fidalgo Bay Day and the Salmon Festival, and presented an interactive program to junior ecologists at Padilla Bay and elementary classrooms.

Our mission is to educate our visitors about – (1) what are forage fish, (2) why are forage fish so important to warrant this much effort, (3) what constitutes a healthy beach for Surf Smelt egg spawning?

If you are interested in learning the answers to these and many more questions please look for us on the beach!

 

The Fascinating Enchantress

By Regan Weeks

Do you remember the mighty 120-foot derelict tug, the Enchantress, that sunk in the mud off of the east end of 34th St in the early 2000s? Here is her lurid tale!


Rick Carnes, of Sedro Woolley, owned the Enchantress and several other tugs. Carnes appeared to be a fast talker and scammed a number of folks (some say everyone he met) – boat towing companies, skippers, engineers, dock owners, and at last, a boat buyer.

On the same day in June 2000, Carnes towed the Enchantress and brought the Ronnie S under her own power to Anacortes. The Enchantress was moored in Fidalgo Bay to the burnt pilings of the Custom Plywood Mill; the Ronnie S was tied to Curtis Wharf for a while, then moved to Shannon Point Seafood, owned by Samsung.Apparently the Ronnie S began taking on water pretty soon after mooring. Carnes made himself scarce in Anacortes; both tugs were essentially abandoned.

Carnes was part of an even bigger scam with another tug in Everett. He convinced Rick Taylor of Hamilton to sell his house and use part of the money to finance Carnes’ Everett tug. By September 2001, Carnes owed Taylor $60,000 and perhaps by that time, Taylor understood what kind of man Carnes was. On September7, 2001, Taylor shot Carnes dead outside his home. Taylor then killed himself in the woods near Day Creek.

See, that’s the lurid part.

Now, consider what happens next:

  • Eventually the Coast Guard had to remove the fuel and hazardous waste off both boats at a cost of $142,000. It was a difficult prospect with the owner dead and the estate in probate.
  • Samsung was eventually forced to take legal control of the Ronnie S (inadequately moored at their dock) and pay to have it demolished. After asbestos was found onboard, the cost was estimated at the time to be about $40,000.
  • There was no state law (yet) to address derelict boats. The Enchantress was one of many reasons that Rep. Phil Rockefeller, D-Bainbridge, offered legislation to address the snarls that usually stalled the removal of derelicts. Thanks to him and our legislature, the Department of Natural Resources Derelict Vessel Removal Program was enacted in 2002.
  • In 2008 the state proposed to remove the Enchantress from Fidalgo Bay as a part of the Puget Sound Initiative cleanup of the Custom Plywood Mill site cleanup (video link, CPM), part of the Department of Ecology Toxics Cleanup Program’s Anacortes Baywide Cleanup (video link, ABC). The tug was well sunk in the mud by that time. Treated wood, asbestos, lead, PCBs, and mercury were all cited as concerns, as well as the safety issue of the boat rotting and breaking apart.

Over the years, Anacortesians had come to love the Enchantress. Bill Mitchell, our wonderful town muralist, and many others wanted to keep her - whether that meant for her to stay put or move her elsewhere - and started a petition, looking for grants to address the associated high costs. Unfortunately, while the Enchantress was once a beautiful 1940s Miki-class US Army tug, she was used and altered during her long life (she was known as the Leslie Foss for many years) and therefore could not be considered for historic status. Other of her Miki sisters were at the time better preserved.

Preserving the Enchantress at the end of her life was too difficult and expensive, and she was removed before the start of the Baywide cleanup. However, if you want to see a small part of the Enchantress, look up in the loft of the Port’s Transit Shed. Her nameplate is still there.

 

Sources: old Anacortes American articles, one The Olympian article (2/9/2002)