Monthly Archives: July 2011

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Express your inner scientist

  • Get home from a day’s labor, crack a beer, sit on the porch and appreciate a butterfly nectaring on a nearby flower and the evening summer sun that makes a dragonfly glow while it hunts with incredible speed and precision, eating on the fly.
  • Is that bush blooming already?
  • You just won a tough case and you’re doing your best Leonardo DiCaprio against the forward fence of the ferry observation deck, a smile on your face, the wind rushing by. You look into the water… SMACK! (no, not sea gull poop to the side of the head or a disgruntled defendant… we’re talkin’ jellies!).

What do these scenarios have in common? Citizen scientists. Elements of science may remain in an ivory tower, but in ever-increasing numbers and in very accessible ways, scientists and managers are harnessing the interests and time of every Tom, Dick and Jane to explore difficult issues like climate change, water quality and habitat loss. We can also add to the understanding of the what, where and when for our favorite groups of critters in ways we were never able to in the past.

All fair game for easy reporting by citizen scientists. Clockwise from top left: lion's mane jelly, hermit thrush, small magpie moth (non-native) and common whitetail dragonfly. Photos: Jeff Adams

There are lots of opportunities out there, but I’ll highlight a few of my favorites. Under the unofficial category of “report what you see, where you see it, when you want to”…

Don’t have experience in identifying critters? No worries. Some programs simply require you to know/report on a single species or, in the case of Sound Citizen, to collect and return a sample. For butterflies, birds, dragonflies and jellies, there are excellent physical and online guides and identification resources available. On top of that, people like me love to get the email with a subject line “what’s this?”.

I recently posted a YouTube video that should help with common jellyfish ID’s. With all the ferry riders, dock and beach visitors, boaters, divers, harvesters, anglers and shoreline homeowners in the Puget Sound and Salish Sea… we should be able to help scientists at jellywatch.org better understand jellies and blooms in our region. It’s an area of increasing interest as our climate and ocean activities evolve.

The opportunistic reporting of the list above can give a scientist valuable information in part by sheer volume of data. Volunteers willing and able to put in more time can get involved in a project that typically includes some form of training and standardized protocols and reporting. Some excellent examples in our region include…

Bainbridge Beach Naturalists (part of the Kitsap Beach Naturalist program) conduct a profile assessment of the beach slope, substrate, plants and animals. Amazing what you see when you look close! Photo: Jeff Adams

Other programs like  Nature Mapping are geared toward schools, but also give individuals an opportunity to report findings. You can even explore lots of potential projects on your own at sites like scienceforcitizens.net and citizensciencecentral.org or like citsci.org for projects geared specifically toward invasive species.

Washington Sea Grant will go live with a Washington-specific citizen science clearinghouse some time in the next year. Or you can just contact local organizations to explore opportunities. In Kitsap you might start with me at Washington Sea Grant (contact info below), or with organizations such WSU Beach Watchers or the Stillwaters Environmental Education Center.

The best of the citizen science networks provide something in return for our efforts. No, not a key chain or a shopping tote (although some provide those as well). We get maps and checklists and image collections and newsletters and data analysis and publications… All of which reflect our contributions to scientific exploration and the greater body of scientific knowledge. None of which would have happened without our participation.

COASST is an excellent example of providing feedback to volunteers. In return for their dead bird surveys, COASST volunteers receive a newsletter explaining some of the trends in the data and featuring natural history information about sea and shoreline birds. … Plus, volunteers get cool bird postcards (pictures tend to be of the live birds and a bit more attractive then the dead ones). A free COASST training will be hosted by Washington Sea Grant and WSU Kitsap Extension in Bremerton on July 28th (RSVP to info@coasst.org). Other dates and opportunities are available on the COASST calendar.

Thanks for your interest in contributing to the body of scientific knowledge that we need to make informed decisions and to effectively care for the Puget Sound, Salish Sea and beyond. … Oh, gotta go… I need to chase down a dragonfly!

Jeff Adams is a Washington Sea Grant Marine Water Quality Specialist, affiliated with the University of Washington’s College of the Environment, and based in Bremerton. You can follow his Sea Life blog, SalishSeaLife tweets and videos, email to jaws@uw.edu or call at 360-337-4619.

Terrific Tides and Getting Crab Crazy!

Pulling a crab pot can require some muscle. Photo: Jeff Adams

Dust off the crab pots (both the one with holes and the one with boiling water), it’s crab season! The long awaited day has arrived (as of 7:00am today, 7/1), and many will feast on freshly caught crabs for the holiday. After all, Dungeness crabs are as Northwest’erican as espresso and apple pie. Don’t forget the red rock crab though. It’s tougher to crack, but abundant and mighty tasty.

Chris Dunagan shared a story on the recreational harvest this crab season, and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has a one stop recreational crabbing website with a 4 minute video, regulatory, harvesting, cleaning and cooking tips and more. A few things to note…

- A fishing license and crab endorsement are required. (Don’t forget you need to pay to get into Washington State Parks now.)
- You can keep up to 11 crabs a day!

  • 5 hard-shelled, male Dungeness crabs and
  • 6 hard shelled red rock crabs (male or female).

- Use pots (with degradable cords to prevent ghost fishing) or collect by hand.
- Don’t forget to RECORD AND REPORT your catch! (Says the guy who’s committed to doing his part for the fishery… and to not paying the $10 penalty again this year.)

While your on your way to or from your favorite destination, check out some of these excellent holiday weekend beach walks and events. Have a crabby day! JEff

A barnacle encrusted red rock crab. If you get a crab like this, you might as well eat the barnacles too... taste a bit like shrimp. Photo: Jeff Adams

This week’s minus tides for the Central Puget Sound (remember you may need to add up to an hour or more for out of the way fingers like Dyes Inlet, and much of South Puget Sound)…

  • 7/1 Fri; -2.6 ~11:30am
  • 7/2 Sat; -2.7 ~12:15pm
  • 7/3 Sun; -2.4 ~1:00pm
  • 7/4 Mon; -1.8 ~1:40pm
  • 7/5 Tues; -0.7 ~2:15pm

Kitsap Beach Naturalists
- Silverdale Waterfront Park, one of my favorite urban Kitsap beaches, Saturday July 2nd from 12:30-2:30pm
- Scenic Beach State Park, Seabeck, WA, July 2, Noon-2:00pm
- Fay Bainbridge Park, Bainbridge Island, WA, July 3, Noon-2:00pm

Harbor WildWatch (Gig Harbor and the south of Kitsap Peninsula)
- Kopachuck and Penrose State Parks, July 1, 10:30am-2:30pm
- Penrose and Joemma State Parks, July 2, 11am-3pm
- Kopachuck and Penrose State Parks and Narrows Park, July 3, 11:30am-3:30pm
- Kopachuck and Penrose State Parks, July 4, 12:30pm-4:30pm

Celebrate Oakland Bay – Family Fun with the Stars (site with link to flyer)
- Walker County Park, Shelton, July 3, 11am-4pm

Vashon Low Tide Festival
- Point Robinson Light Station and Park, July 2, 10am-3pm

South Sound Beach Naturalists
- Priest Point Park, June 2, 12:15pm – 3:15pm.
- Burfoot and Tolmie State Parks, June 3, 12:30pm – 3:30pm

Seattle Aquarium Beach Naturalists are on a variety of east Sound Beaches
- Richmond Beach, Carkeek Park, Golden Gardens, South Alki, Lincoln Park, Seahurst and Des Moines Beach Park, July 2, 11-2:30; July 3, 11:30-3; July 4, 12:30-3:30

I’m sure there’s more! Please share other opportunities through comments.

Jeff Adams is a Washington Sea Grant Marine Water Quality Specialist, affiliated with the University of Washington’s College of the Environment, and based in Bremerton. You can follow his Sea Life blog, SalishSeaLife tweets and videos, email to jaws@uw.edu or call at 360-337-4619.