Thursday, February 16, 2017

A day in the life of a WCC AmeriCorps member

Washington Conservation Corps (WCC) is seeking young adults ages 18-25 and military veterans for six-month positions on our crews across the state! The WCC, an AmeriCorps program run by Ecology, provides opportunities for young adults and veterans to gain hands-on environmental experience, field skills, formal training and funds for education.


But don’t take it from us! Learn what a WCC position is like from our current WCC AmeriCorps member Steven Quick:


My first few months in WCC

I’ve been interested in Washington Conservation Corps positions for a long time. WCC seemed like a great opportunity to be outdoors, learn about environmental careers and grow professionally. So, late last year I was thrilled by the opportunity to join a spike crew supervised by Junior Fuimaono as a 12-month WCC AmeriCorps member. So far, we have served mostly on planting and wetland rehabilitation projects for Dash Point, the city of DuPont and the city of Orting. We’ve also participated in eight-day service spikes for the Kitsap Conservation District (KCD).

Wait, what is a “spike?”

There are a number of different WCC crews throughout Washington state. A spike crew is intended to support short-term projects where a sponsor needs extra hands on deck or fill in if the normal crew is deployed on disaster response.

We’ve only spiked at KCD so far, planting tree plugs and live stakes. During spikes we are allotted money for meals, and lodging is arranged by the WCC program. During our KCD spikes we stayed at a local, family-owned inn in Poulsbo that offered breakfast every morning. I’m told the experience will be a lot different when we spike at places like Mt. Adams or Mt. Rainier as we’re likely to be roughing it in the backcountry.

What’s a typical week like? 

For every spike week so far, we arrive at our crew base in Tacoma at 7 a.m. like any other day and pack up the truck with tools based on what services we’ll be providing (planting, falling trees, etc). Tools could include a chainsaw, Pulaskis, rock bars, stake pounders, loppers and shovels. Then we head out to the project site together in a WCC truck to meet the sponsor, put in a good day’s worth of service, and get groceries before checking into the hotel or other lodging accommodations for the evening. I like to try to enjoy the local scenery or art if possible after a day in the field, but the crew normally brings a board game or something that occupies our time as well.

The services we undertake in the city are just as valuable to our personal enrichment as our spike assignments. Serving in the city of DuPont was an extremely enlightening week because it was the first week of the crew year, and it broke every single standard I had set. It was something to get used to, considering I’ve never had a position this laborious, but I adapted quickly. It was fun to mingle with other public service workers, make connections and create relationships for the future. Junior said on our first day, “Treat these people well, they could be your future employers.” After meeting so many different people through the projects we’ve accomplished, I’m already delighted by the idea of working with them more one day!


What else does the program offer?

I’ll never forget orientation week at Cispus Learning Center. It was a tremendous learning experience and a great chance to meet hundreds of other WCC AmeriCorps members from all walks of life. Orientation training involved a four-day spike week in the woods near Mt. Rainier, where we received the rundown on AmeriCorps expectations and attended additional courses to prepare us for our year in the WCC.

We go back to Cispus Learning Center again in March and June for extracurricular training courses on environmental topics for resume enrichment, which everyone is really excited for. Orientation, though, was particularly fascinating to me because of the sheer diversity of people and the chance to network and hear ideas.

WCC is already teaching me lessons for life

Ultimately, the lesson I’ve learned during my application process and over the last three months is to prepare and persevere. My supervisor, Junior, told me to take advantage of the networking opportunities this position offers. I encourage prospective applicants to do the same, even if they haven’t been interviewed yet. Find someone willing to share about the program and answer your questions!

Before WCC, I met two corps members that offered their recommendation, I spent time researching online to piece together what the next year would look like, and I spoke to people about what else I could do to put my best foot forward. I volunteered, wrote and researched. I think anyone can really grow in this program; it is what you make of it.


By: Steven Quick, WCC Pierce County spike crew AmeriCorps member




Do you want to help the environment, meet great people and make a real difference? Join Ecology's Washington Conservation Corps, an AmeriCorps Program consisting of three subprograms: the core WCC, Veteran Conservation Corps and Puget SoundCorps.

See photos of the types of projects WCC members support during their service in our WCC Projects Flickr set and WCC Featured Projects Story Map. Learn more and apply online today to become a member of WCC:

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Montesano and Raymond changing shoreline management practices


Public asked to review and comment on new shoreline programs


Montesano's new Shoreline Master Program affects
the Chehalis and Wynoochie Rivers, Sylvia Lake and
Sylvia Creek.
Two Southwest Washington cities have proposed comprehensive updates to their Shoreline Master Programs. The Washington Department of Ecology is asking the public to review and comment on the proposals before taking action to either approve the programs as submitted or require changes.
Raymond's new Shoreline Master Program affects 20 miles
of shorelines, including Skidmore and Ellis Sloughs, the
Willapa River and the South Fork Willapa River.

The City of Montesano’s proposal would replace its 34-year-old program and address uses along five miles of freshwater shoreline, including the Chehalis and Wynoochee Rivers, Sylvia Lake and Sylvia Creek.

The City of Raymond is replacing its 33-year-old shoreline plan with a proposed master program that will guide uses along 20 miles of river shorelines that includes Skidmore and Ellis sloughs, the Willapa River and the South Fork Willapa River.

The public has until 5 p.m. March 1 to comment on Montesano’s program. The comment period on Raymond’s program ends at 5 p.m. March 9.

Ecology will compare each cities' proposed program to the requirements of the Shoreline Management Act and the Shoreline Master Program Guidelines. Based on the comparison and the comments it receives, Ecology will decide whether to approve the program or ask for changes.

Both cities’ proposed master programs include locally tailored shoreline policies, encourage restoration and provide improved habitat protection measures.

Montesano’s and Raymond’s proposed Shoreline Master Programs can be viewed online. Paper copies can be viewed at Ecology’s Southwest Regional Office, 300 Desmond Dr., Lacey, WA 98577. The cities’ proposals are also available to view at their respective city halls: Montesano, 112 North Main St., Montesano, WA 98563; and Raymond, 300 First St., Raymond, WA 98577.

Comments should be addressed to Ecology’s Kim Van Zwalenburg. Here’s how to submit them:

Mail:      Southwest Regional Office
              PO Box 47775
              Olympia, WA 98504-7775
Email:    kim.vanzwalenburg@ecy.wa.gov
Phone:   360-407-6520

By Dave Bennett, Southwest Region communications

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Eyes Under Puget Sound: Critter of the Month – The Heart Urchin

Happy Valentine's Day from this
adult specimen of Brisaster latifrons
collected from Puget Sound.
Be still, my heart (urchin)! During the time of year when candies and valentines are everywhere you look, it is only fitting that we present to you the most romantic creature in Puget Sound as February’s critter: the Heart Urchin.

The shape of my heart

Heart urchins are a type of sea urchin, which are in the phylum Echinodermata (meaning “spiny skin”), along with sea stars and sea cucumbers. Unlike most sea urchins, which are round, heart urchins appear heart-shaped because their bodies are elongate, with a small depression for the mouth at one end.

A living heart urchin is brownish in color, with its many spines giving it a furry appearance. Once the animal dies, however, the spines fall off, leaving the smooth white external shell, or test, exposed. The heart urchin test is made up of hundreds of hard interlocking plates, but it is actually quite brittle in dead specimens, which is why you will hardly ever find one washed up on the beach.

Different views of Brisaster latifrons missing a majority of its spines and revealing its white test.
Photo courtesy of Linda Schroeder (PNW Shell Club).



 

How deep is your love?

Brisaster latifrons, freshly collected by our team
from Puget Sound sediments.
Only one species of heart urchin, Brisaster latifrons, occurs in Puget Sound, and it is also the most common sea urchin we encounter during our sediment monitoring. B. latifrons can be found from Alaska to southern California, inhabiting soft muddy bottoms in deeper water depths of 51-1,166 meters (although Puget Sound depths only reach about 300 meters).

Growing up to 73 mm, the heart urchin is a fun and welcome sight in our sediment grabs. We just have to handle their fragile outer shells carefully – we don’t want to break any hearts!

This juvenile Brisaster latifrons displays the five
petals of the ambulacra on its dorsal (top) surface.

Flower power

Heart urchins have little in common with flowers, but they do have some surprisingly flower-like features. For example, underneath their spines are five flower petal-shaped outlines called the ambulacra.

The pedicillariae are another type of flower-like appendage that stick out of the test. They have serrated claw-like pincers that open and close at the end of their long stalks. They use these pincers for a variety of functions like defense, capturing food, parasite removal and more! When the pincers are open, they resemble flower blossoms, and when closed, they look like tulips. Now that’s a bouquet I’d like to give to my ex-boyfriend.


Close-up of the pedicillariae showing the
claw-like pincers closed (left) and open (right).

 

Eat your heart out

Top: Tube feet come out of the pores
that make up the ambulacra petal outline.
Bottom: Close-up of the tube feet.

Like other sea urchins, heart urchins have tube feet - slender tubes with suction cups on the ends that extend from pores in the ambulacra petals. These amazing feet serve multiple functions:
  • Feeding: As the urchin burrows slowly through the mud, it ingests sediment and delicious organic matter along the way (this is called “deposit feeding”). The tube feet help by delivering food particles to the mouth.
  • Locomotion: Thousands of tube feet work together at the same time to move the heart urchin wherever it needs to go. As the urchin moves along, the tube feet act like feelers or antennae to sense its surroundings.
  • Respiration: Heart urchins primarily live in the mud. Modified tube feet that stick out above the mud’s surface act as a kind of snorkel to allow the urchins to obtain oxygen.

We hope after reading this blog, you too have fallen in love with the heart urchins.

By: Dany Burgess & Angela Eagleston, Environmental Assessment Program


Brisaster latifrons classification guide

Critter of the Month

Our benthic taxonomists, Dany and Angela, are scientists who identify and count the benthic (sediment-dwelling) organisms in our samples as part of our Marine Sediment Monitoring Program. We are tracking the numbers and types of species we see in order to understand the health of Puget Sound and to detect any changes over time.

Dany and Angela share their discoveries by bringing us a Benthic Critter of the Month. These posts will give you a peek into the life of Puget Sound’s least-known inhabitants. We’ll share details on identification, habitat, life history, and the role each critter plays in the sediment community. Can't get enough benthos? See photos from our Eyes Under Puget Sound collection on Flickr.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Fecal Matters: Fay Bainbridge Park and Indianola Dock are CLOSED to Water Recreation, Kitsap County

BEACH Program Update


On 2/09/2017, Kitsap Public Health District issued a no-contact advisory for Fay Bainbridge Park beach and Indianola Park beach due to a large sewage spill from the West Point Treatment Plant near Discovery Park in Seattle. The public is advised to avoid contact with the water in the affected area until further notice.

Contact with fecal contaminated waters can result in gastroenteritis, skin rashes, upper respiratory infections, and other illnesses. Children and the elderly may be more vulnerable to waterborne illnesses.

Stay updated about water quality at your beaches by keeping up with us on our blog Fecal Matters, on Facebook, or join our listserv.

Julianne Ruffner, our BEACH Program Manager, is available at 360-407-6154 or julianne.ruffner@ecy.wa.gov for questions.

Fecal Matters: Dyes Inlet CLOSED to Water Recreation, Kitsap County

BEACH Program Update


On 2/09/2017, Kitsap Public Health District issued a no-contact advisory for Dyes Inlet through Thursday, February 16th due to a combined sewer overflow (CSO) that discharged into the inlet. This advisory includes Silverdale Waterfront Park. The public is advised to avoid contact with the water in the affected area.

Contact with fecal contaminated waters can result in gastroenteritis, skin rashes, upper respiratory infections, and other illnesses. Children and the elderly may be more vulnerable to waterborne illnesses.

Stay updated about water quality at your beaches by keeping up with us on our blog Fecal Matters, on Facebook, or join our listserv.

Julianne Ruffner, our BEACH Program Manager, is available at 360-407-6154 or julianne.ruffner@ecy.wa.gov for questions.

Fecal Matters: Marine Beaches from Golden Gardens to Alki Beach Park are CLOSED to Swimming, King County

BEACH Program Update


On 2/9/2017, King County Public Health issued a closure to swimming and wading for marine beaches from Golden Gardens to Alki Beach Park. This closure is due to an ongoing sewage discharge from the West Point Treatment Plant in Seattle. Signs are being posted at public access points. Once the discharge as stopped, water quality samples will be taken. When fecal bacteria levels show to be in the safe range, King County will reopen the beaches. The public is advised to avoid contact with the water in the affected area until further notice.

Contact with fecal contaminated waters can result in gastroenteritis, skin rashes, upper respiratory infections, and other illnesses. Children and the elderly may be more vulnerable to waterborne illnesses.

Stay updated about water quality at your beaches by keeping up with us on our blog Fecal Matters, on Facebook, or join our listserv.

Julianne Ruffner, our BEACH Program Manager, is available at 360-407-6154 or julianne.ruffner@ecy.wa.gov for questions.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Fecal Matters: Port Washington Narrows and Sinclair Inlet are CLOSED to Water Recreation, Kitsap County

BEACH Program Update


On 2/6/2017, Kitsap Public Health District issued a "no-contact" advisory for Port Washington Narrows and Sinclair Inlet due to a 23,000 gallon combined sewer overflow (CSO) that occurred when pumps failed to turn on during a power surge. The no-contact advisory will be in place through February 16th. Signs are being posted at public access points including Lions Field. The public is advised to avoid contact with the water in the affected area.

Contact with fecal contaminated waters can result in gastroenteritis, skin rashes, upper respiratory infections, and other illnesses. Children and the elderly may be more vulnerable to waterborne illnesses.

Stay updated about water quality at your beaches by keeping up with us on our blog Fecal Matters, on Facebook, or join our listserv.

Julianne Ruffner, our BEACH Program Manager, is available at 360-407-6154 or julianne.ruffner@ecy.wa.gov for questions.