Sound Waters: “One-Day” University of All That Surrounds Us

Posted in Community, Feature, More Stories

BY DEB CRAGER
Whidbey Life Magazine Contributor
February 3, 2016

Want to learn more about kayaking around Whidbey Island? Perhaps you’d like to join a research study involving the invasive green crab? Prepare for the big one? See beautiful underwater photography?

We know what beauty surrounds us and, on Saturday, Feb. 6, we have the opportunity to learn how to preserve and enjoy it on a whole new level. Sound Waters, a local “one-day university” about all things environmental and beautiful, offers more than 60 classes that anyone can attend.

Brian Atwater, a University of Washington geologist and research professor, will give the keynote address, discussing the “Cascadian Subduction Zone” where we live, and the site of a possible 9.0 quake. He’ll discuss how the earth’s layers—large tectonic plates—bounce back and forth, creating movement that can result in earthquakes. In the Pacific Northwest, the last large earthquake was in the 1700s, and there are strong indications that another one could occur in the near future.

Some of last year’s audience, arriving for the morning’s keynote address (photo by Jill Hein)

Last year’s audience, arriving for the morning’s keynote address (photo by Jill Hein)

But the keynote address is just the beginning of the Sound Waters day.

After the keynote, you can choose your day of classes—specific areas that you’re interested in, such as climate change, bluffs and beaches, the history of the Salish Sea or Ebey’s Reserve, or how the tides work. Of the 60 classes available, 40 are new offerings this year.

Although Sound Waters has been operating as an extension of the WSU program for the last 26 years, it’s now independent and presenting its 22nd conference. “This is our first year as an independent organization called the Sound Water Stewards,” said Anne Baum, this year’s chair. The program is successful, she said, because all team members know their jobs, and it’s very well organized. “All who work here are volunteers, including the speakers, ” Baum said, “and all of them pay their own way into the conference.”

Through the Sound Waters programs, the Sound Water Stewards organization (formerly Beach Watchers) has supported the creation of citizen scientists, as Baum described it, who assist in many ways, including taking part in research studies and observing water quality.

Val Hillers, who was originally from Eastern Washington, has been coming to the conference for the last 11 years. When she moved here, she was interested in the area where she and her husband settled. Once she found the Sound Waters program, she has attended every year since. Hillers said it’s a time to spend the day with those who feel the same about the environment; there’s camaraderie and the speakers have always been incredible.

“There are always new things to learn,” she said. “And I’m still learning.”

Volunteers Connie Clark, Penny Harger and Cheryl Lowe, at last year’s Sound Waters, are prepared to welcome and register walk-in attendees. (photo by Jill Hein)

Volunteers Connie Clark, Penny Harger and Cheryl Lowe, at last year’s Sound Waters, are prepared to welcome and register walk-in attendees.  (photo by Jill Hein)

Attendance is expected to be more than 600 people, but because there are so many classes, you may only notice that many in the keynote address. The 50-plus exhibitors are more varied this year, according to Baum, and there will be a select group of commercial businesses that are involved in environmental issues and concerns such as earthquake preparation and energy savings.

Although the online registration period has closed, people who are interested can still attend as “walk-ins.” Check out the Sound Waters webpage: http://soundwaterstewards.org/sw/2016/?q=htm.information-for-2016-walkins for further information. The walk-in price of $58 includes the keynote presentation and classes all day; notice that class sign-ups will be on a “first come-first served” basis. If you wish to purchase a lunch, it’s an extra $14, with a variety of food choices, including vegetarian, in environmentally friendly packaging.

Deb Crager is originally from the Midwest but has lived on the island for 25 years. She wrote the book “101 Things to do on Whidbey Island: for a Day, a Weekend, or a Lifetime” available on iPad and Kindle Fire, with older copies in print from Amazon and e-bay.

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