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