Thursday, April 23, 2009

Indian Island, Sea Stars and little Porcelain Crabs and all the little Tide Creatures

Well, I have said this before, it looks as though spring has finally sprung. Spring excites me in more ways than one. It not only marks the time of deciduous trees coming out of their long slumber, and birds actively feeding at feeders, it also marks the time of new beginnings. April for me has always been a time when I let the old fizzle away, which in turn brings new and exciting opportunities. I simply relish in all the glory and rebirth of this time of year. Over the course of winter, I have allowed myself to retreat to my cave, and find time to reflect on the past, and focus on the new. It is a time of quieting the mind and chatter, and allowing whatever creativity is to harvest, and simply surrender it does just what it needs to do. It seems after many months of stillness and low activity that all sorts of new opportunities knock at your door and I begin to get excited about all the possibilities. For the past two years I have been blessed with living in an Island Community that is surrounded by beauty, everywhere you look. Evergreens that reach up to the sky, little brown bunnies playing in the grass, and graceful Deer that graze everywhere you turn. communities also have their challenges. Even with all the beauty everywhere, Living in an Island community can still have it's pitfalls.

Being involved in various projects and volunteer work is always very rewarding for me and I enjoy being able to help the environment in my own way. Here on Orcas I became involved with Washington State Universities Beachwatcher Program. Offered as an extension course they provide you with 100 hours of comprehensive Conservation Education taught at University Level and then upon graduating you contribute 100 hours of volunteer commitment to pay back. The San Juan Islands offer multiple opportunities involving stewardship, and other ways of contributing. This year along with BLM and Kwiath (a Salish Indian term for Sense of Place) The organization is also known as Center for Historical Ecology of the Salish Sea, which is involved with several research projects throughout the San Juan Islands. Russel Barsh who heads the programs is amazing, and this summer we are monitoring Indian Island a small intertidal Island facing the town of Eastsound. The island is easily accessible at Low tides and in the high season visitors walk out to the Island which has a footpath from town. With regards to the fragile intertidal life that inhabits the Island, We are doing a long term project which will be looking at the impact of an urban town and its effects on the island environmentally. Today we set up buoys, and markers in the eelgrass habitat to determine types of sediment and any changes in the eelgrass throughout the summer. Also, large boxes which will catch sediment and intertidal creatures which we will examine to see how they are effected by any tidal changes and so forth. Later in the summer there will also be water testing to see the level of various toxins in the water. When walking out there, I feel rather invasive in regards to walking on such fragile life. Today, there was an abundant amount of Sea Stars, Ochre Stars, which are brightly colored oranges to purples and even some smaller Blood stars with their crimson shade of red. Sea Cucumbers and small Porcelain crabs also inhabit the Island. At low tide everything becomes so visible, so walking out there I am very aware of where I am walking. The Island is also perfect habitat for nesting Black Oystercatchers, although when I did my monitor walk I did not locate a nest. They are very sensitive Birds and do their best I am sure to nest far from the people and the Canada Geese. All in all I hope for this project to be very worthwhile and reveal the impact that we are or are not creating on this ecosystem. I encourage everyone in their communities to get involved in similar projects. Not only does it give you a sense of giving back, it is also a wonderful learning experience. I learn better hands on, as opposed to book study, so this for me was very worthwhile. Eelgrass is important for the Marine Ecosystem for many reasons. Not only does it provide a home for the many creatures that live within it, it is also an Important nutrient for various sealife as well. The eelgrass communities of the Pacific Northwest are a concern for Conservationists as their numbers are declining. The effects of Urban developement, and people building private docks can effect them greatly. This is one of the reasons are group is looking at the overall health of the Eelgrass communities and can come up with some positive ways we can help it.

Overall I feel as a concerned environmentalist that anyway I can contribute that will help is a good thing. We can all make a diffference simply by changing our own personal habits. Those habits can be small things, such as elevating plastic, using stainless steel for our water bottles and coffee mugs, pick up debris when you walk on the beach, use less power and water. Change some of your eating habits and switch to Organic. All these things can get into the system by runoffs and our own personal usage. Cleaning products that we use which are toxic to the environment and not only effects us, yet also all the life in the ocean. Simple household things such as Baking Soda, Vinegar are easy alternatives to the products that we use.

So for yourself and the health of our oceans and planet, make a simple change today.

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