The quest for Sound Waters continues at annual seminar


Official registration may be closed, but there is still space for walk-ins at Sound Waters University, to be held Saturday at South Whidbey High School in Langley.

There are literally dozens of classes on the schedule for this year’s environmental education extravaganza.

Photos courtesy of Sound Water Stewards

Photos courtesy of Sound Water Stewards

“There’s classes on everything from septic systems to gardening with native plants to a class on forage fish,” said Anne Baum, chairman of Sound Water Stewards. “Who would think that Whidbey Island plays an important role in our salmon population? But it does. Those forage fish are what salmon go after.”

Sound Water Stewards of Island County has been around for years, going by the name of Island County Beach Watchers and operating under the umbrella of the University of Washington Extension. The group is now an independent nonprofit, but its mission to educate and train volunteers is unchanged.

“It’s new to be on our own and have to find sponsors,” Baum said. “But we continue to train volunteers to work in and around Island County teaching people how to care for our island and its waters.”

Baum said over the years they have educated thousands of people through its annual one-day university and they have trained more than 500 volunteers.

“Those are the people who go out and do the work,” she said. “For instance, we test the water in Penn Cove. People depend on us to do the testing because we’re good at it.”

Presenter.5696.756Keynote speaker this year is Brian Atwater, a research geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey. He works, quite literally, with mud.

“By examining mud, Brian was able to determine when the last “big one” was on the Cascadia fault, which was June 26, 1700,” said Baum. “He will describe how he sleuthed out this information and how they can use it to try to predict when the next big event might be.”

While the goal is not to scare people, said Baum, it’s a good opportunity to help people be prepared.

“We’ll have 55 exhibitors as well and they can help show how to prepare for an emergency like that,” said Baum. “They can help you prepare a bug-out bag, as they’re called.”

Baum hopes Sound Waters University will also translate into people taking up the group’s volunteer training, which is scheduled to begin in March.

Sound 1“There is a $100 fee for the training, which takes place in two parts,” Baum said. “There are six weeks in March and six weeks in the fall, or about 100 hours overall. When people have finished the training, all we ask is they put in 100 volunteer hours over the next two years.”

Baum said she is always impressed with how many people on Whidbey Island recognize the importance of and want to learn how to care for the island.

“We have an extraordinary group of people from all walks of life,” she said. “I am always stunned by the education and commitment of our volunteers. People care about this place we call home.”

For more information on Sound Waters University and/or volunteer training, click here.


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