Sunday, April 6, 2008

Week 2: Marine Naturalist Training

Binoculars ~ On the Ferry

As someone who rarely leaves Friday Harbor it was a treat to go to Orcas today for the second session of this spring’s Marine Naturalist Training. At the Orcas library our first lecturer Joe Gaydos cleared up a long-standing confusion of mine by explaining the difference between river otters and sea otters. River otters are smaller with long tails and they come out of the water. They travel in salt water, fresh water and on land. Never mind that we don’t have rivers around here we do have river otters. We have sea otters too. Sea otters are bigger, have short tails, stay in the sea and strike that iconic otter pose floating on their backs nibbling on sea urchins (or some other specialty). River otters prefer fish and eat right side up.

Speaker Kathy Fletcher from People for Puget Sound made the point that Puget Sound has just as complex an ecosystem as the more typically glamorized tropical rainforests and that ours is an invertebrate rich ecosystem. I thought she had the quote of the day with, “Invertebrates are the backbone of the ecosystem.” In a discussion about how to get people engaged in environmental issues one woman mentioned that she liked the approach of including humans in the equation as part of the ecosystem. I asked quietly, but not quietly enough for Cindy to miss, “aren’t we one of those invasive species that needs to be eradicated?” Science charts agree; as human population goes up, biodiversity goes down. Using your canvas shopping bag is all well and good but beware the pitter-patter of little carbon footprints. When it comes to motherhood and apple pie, just stick with the pie.

Mike O’Connell ~ Long Live the Kings ~ Orcas

We ended this week’s training with Mike O’Connell giving us a tour of Glenwood Springs Salmon Hatchery. Ideally situated where a creek empties into a bay the hatchery carefully mimics natural systems. The hatchery is a partnered with Long Live the Kings a private, nonprofit organization committed to restoring wild salmon to the Pacific Northwest.

A Girl and Her ipod ~ On the Ferry


  1. It's not really a river, but we do have a stream that is frequently visited by at least river otter. I've seen the otter scurry acroll our road between the pond and the stream. This very same otter is the suspected culprit in cleaning our pond out of its entire bass population.

    I believe that once this stream had salmon in it. Today, it empties into Zylstra Lake which eventually empties into False Bay.


  2. Anita,

    Thanks, now I know that yours would be a River Otter because a Sea Otter would not be on land or fresh water. Sea Otters are more rare and seen off the West Side and River Otter prefer a diet of fish, hence that was very kind of you to supply them with bass.

    Thank you for pointing out that yes, we do have fresh water systems if not actual rivers on San Juan Island. We have little creeks or streams, some that dry up in the summer. There is at least one feeding Trout lake, one on the Labs property, one that comes out at Deadmans Bay and one at Fish Creek at Cape San Juan.