This summer I was very lucky to spend my free time volunteering for the city of Edmonds at the Olympic Beach Ranger Station. My time there was spent educating people about the ocean and it’s various creatures, learning about marine conservation, and exploring the world of intertidal invertebrates. It was a wonderful time and a very good opportunity, and I’m proud to have been able to call the place home for a brief time.

The star of the show was the Touch Tank, a slice of Puget Sound brought indoors and put on display for the public to explore. People of all ages and walks of life came in and were able to ask questions, explore, touch, and otherwise learn about the creatures that share the shorelines with humanity. Watching a child’s eyes light up when they got to hold a hermit crab, or to answer the questions of a curious adult and see their face when understanding hit home was a wonderful reminder of why I do what I do. It was amazingly satisfying to be able to teach people about the ocean world.

The creatures in the tank ranged from anemones, to tube worms, to sea slugs, and sponges. There were two species of fish, multiple types of crabs, and dorids to be seen. The most popular creatures with the children was almost universally the Feather Duster Tube Worm, with it’s long, black and red gills that sway in the current. Among the adults, sponges and anemones were the most interesting, and many a person squealed in surprise when the stinging cells of the Painted Anemones latched onto their fingers.

The tank was maintained daily by a dedicated staff of Ranger Naturalists, of which there were several. Susan, a woman of british origin was passionate about education in a way I’ve never seen. Kylie was the local bird expert, and her gentle nature was wonderful when dealing with children. Karen was a born educator, and her mild manner and factual approach to the job made for a wonderful conversation and many learning opportunities. Hannah was the spunky, energetic youth with bouncing brunette curls and bright smiling eyes, eager to share her passion with any who would listen. And finally there was Rachel, the marine mammal specialist whose calm demeanor and easy wit lured many unsuspecting listeners into a very educational conversation. I’m proud to have worked with them all.

My fellow docents were no-less passionate and caring, and each brought their own strengths to the table. Sondra had a wealth of stories to share, while Jade had youthful exuberance and a fresh outlook. There are too many to name in this production, but as with the rangers, I was honored to be able to work with them all.

My experience with the City of Edmonds and the Olympic Beach Ranger Station was one of the best challenges I’ve ever experienced, and it’s one I hope to repeat next year. So if you’re in Edmonds come Memorial Day, drop in and say hello! There will always be a knowledgeable person there to educate and entertain, along with the myriad creatures that call the place home for the summer. Come and explore, inquire, and learn something about our marine world. You’ll leave with a better knowledge of our environment and an enlightened perspective. I know I did.

-The Bald Fish Guy

Hello, my fellow swimmers!

It’s been some time since my last post, but I’ve not been idle! Research and conservation efforts continue in the background, and life continues to roll on. I’ve been volunteering at the Olympic Beach Ranger Station in Edmonds, WA, and let me tell you it’s amazing. There is so much opportunity for education here, and while the facility is small, there is an amazing touch tank that has many of the local species contained within. Included are a few of the more interesting pictures I’ve been able to take! We’ll be open from 12:00pm to 5:00pm on weekends, all the way until labor day.

One of the things about this opportunity that is surprising to me is that I’ve learned much more than I expected. From Featherduster Tube Worms, to Clown Nudibranchs, to Painted Anemones, there has been a lot for me to learn. I encourage any and all of you to come down to the station and check it out! Everything is free to explore, and the rangers and docents are knowledgeable and friendly. You can even stop for Ice Cream at the nearby cafe, and if you’re lucky, you might see a baby seal hauled out on the beach!

It’s been an amazing summer. Come down to the beach and explore and learn how you can make a difference for our precious waterways. And meet the Bald Fish Guy as an added bonus! I’ll be posting pics of some of the cooler things I’ve seen in days to come.

The Kingston ferry, visible directly from the ranger station.

The Bald Fish Guy in his natural habitat, with his wonderful co-volunteer Sondra.

Come and see us! Also, as always, remember to Keep Swimming.

porpoiseToday I spent my morning at Washington Park, the crown jewel of the City of Anacortes. Washington Park has an extensive trail system with sweeping vistas of the Rosario Straight and Burrows Bay.

My wife and I found ourselves perched on a rock face some 200-300 feet above the Burrow Straight watching as seagulls wheeled about, boats motored by, and swallows darted back and forth skimming the grass in search of insects. But what held our attention most raptly was in the waters below. A small shoal of Harbor Porpoises were playing in the current below us, with what appeared to be a young one in tow. The three creatures swam through passing boats wakes, wheeled about in corkscrew motions under the water, and even breached the surface, letting their bodies hit the water with a great splash.

It’s one of the most incredible things I’ve ever seen, and all I had to do was sit back and watch. I highly recommend that, if in Anacortes, you explore the beaches and vistas of Washington Park. Life abounds, from chitons and crab on the rocky shores, to Harbor Porpoises in the waters beyond and I hope you get a chance to explore it!

Keep swimming!

P.S.: Click here to learn more about the Harbor Porpoise!

Photo Credit: Erik Christensen

Nights at the Port of Edmonds are one of my favorite experiences. I enjoy walking along the dock, listening to the marine winds blow through the rigging of moored sailboats, and peering into the waters below to watch the local fauna exist. From crabs scrounging for scraps, to anemones waving in the current, to mussels filtering the particulates out of the water, the area is a treasure trove of life.

My most recent foray on the pier found me at the guest docks, looking into the waters at an extremely low tide. Fish darted in and out of the rocks, there were crabs harassing each other, and most surprisingly, Sea Stars. Cruising among the rocks were many Sea Stars.

I was elated! To know that there are survivors of the Sea Star Wasting syndrome at my local hangout was very heartening. They were large, orange creatures that were scouring the rocks, their 5 limbs probing for interesting creatures to eat.

The Sea Stars have survived, bruised, but not beaten. I wonder what the consequences of the Wasting Disease will be. Hopefully, Sea Stars will recover quickly. I personally will be rooting for them. And, like myself and my readers, I will ever hope for their ability to Keep Swimming.

-The Bald Fish Guy