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Get a sound education on Western Washington ecology at one-day university

Educational exhibits viewable throughout the day during Sound Waters offer information on “anything you ever wanted to know about our environment,” said Julie Ward, member of the Sound Waters Planning Committee.  - Mary Hulbert photo
Educational exhibits viewable throughout the day during Sound Waters offer information on “anything you ever wanted to know about our environment,” said Julie Ward, member of the Sound Waters Planning Committee.
— image credit: Mary Hulbert photo

From crabbing to cold water sharks to the effects of personal care products on the environment, a one-day university in Oak Harbor will teach a variety of topics relating to Puget Sound and its health.

After a few years on South Whidbey, this year Sound Waters is moving to Oak Harbor High School. Classes take place Saturday, Feb. 2. Registration begins at 8 a.m.

This is Sound Waters’ 18th year offering a day of classes to those passionate about the Puget Sound environment. For the past few years, Sound Waters has seen 500 to 600 attendees per year, said Julie Ward, member of the Sound Waters Planning Committee.

In 2012, Sound Waters earned the Puget Sound Champion award from Puget Sound Partnership. The award recognized “outstanding local partners for their contributions to the ecosystem recovery effort,” according to the agency’s website.

At past Sound Waters, Ward said participants were positive about their experiences.

“One thing they comment on is it’s an exciting day to be with 500 people who are passionate about what you’re passionate about. It’s really good energy,” Ward said.

The day begins with keynote speaker Cliff Mass, a weather expert who will talk about global warming.

“He’ll separate the facts from the hype,” Ward said. “He’s going to examine global climate change and impacts on our region.”

He will discuss the differences between weather forecasts and climate forecasts, Ward added.

Mass, professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington, has a weekly weather information segment on KPLU radio, writes a blog and is the author of “The Weather of the Pacific Northwest.”

Sixty-five classes offer variety

Next, attendees will take part in their first class of the day, followed by lunch and then two more classes. There are 65 classes available this year, two-thirds of which are new. From a class on the sinking of the Hood Canal Bridge to ocean acoustics and pigeon guillemots, the classes focus on tides, earthquakes, animals, sustainable programs, Native life, legislation affecting environmental policy, underwater photography, kayaking, salmon recovery and more.

Septic systems 101 is “always popular,” Ward said. A video tour beneath the Salish Sea also joins the list of classes. The complete list of classes can be found at www.beachwatchers.net/sw_2013/?q=classes.

Washington state certified teachers can earn five clock hours by participating in Sound Waters.

Exhibits can be viewed throughout the day, beginning an hour before the keynote speaker address in the morning. Lunch is a good time to view exhibits by the Marine Mammal Stranding Network, Island County Planning and Public Health, Orca Network and many more, Ward said.

“There’s anything you ever wanted to know about our environment,” she added.

The cost to attend is $40 for adults, or $25 for students or military. Coffee, tea and snacks will be available throughout the day.

Hot lunch costs $8 or attendees can bring their own bag lunch.

Island County Beach Watchers volunteers, part of WSU Extension, put on Sound Waters each year. Beach Watchers volunteers take 100 hours of classes and give back through a variety of volunteer efforts.

“So a lot of hard work, a lot of talent goes into it,” Ward said.

To register, visit beachwatchers.net/soundwaters. For more information, call 360-678-7837.

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