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Want to Be a Beach Naturalist?

forests and meadows, and from its margins the horizons hold mountain peaks above vast glistening waters, but its most remarkable views may be secret spaces hidden in plain view along its 50 miles of shoreline.  Have you strolled a Vashon beach and wondered about the kingdom of critters adorning every boulder and cobble?  Have you asked yourself “Is it good to eat?”  Or maybe, “Will it hurt me?”

Some of us who have dug littlenecks or butter clams, or who have fished from a dock, have found ourselves marveling at the beauty of a purple and rose sunflower star, or the elegantly scalloped carapace of a Dungeness crab.  Questions come up:  What does it eat?  Where does it hide?  What do its babies look like, and where are they cared for?  When you see a great blue heron standing in shallow water, and extending its long neck out to grab lunch, do you wonder what menu attracts it to the sugar kelp?  Or have you ever found yourself admiring a shallow water garden of waving pink and green anemone tentacles and suddenly been startled to see a crab claw extending out of one? What is the crab is doing there?  And how has the anemone managed to encompass the hard pointy legs and carapace of the crab inside of its own soft body? What are those small finny fish that dart between rocks under the little bridge at  KVI beach? Have you ever seen a frilly translucent nudibranch and been amazed that their soft bodies can survive among the sharp barnacles on wave-pounded rocks?

The more you look, the more there is to wonder about.  If you are interested in learning answers and sharing them with others, then you may find the Vashon Beach Naturalists to be of interest. They are an informal group of volunteers who offer occasional courses to recruit new members, so that they can offer free public beach events.

Their next free course is coming up in late March. The four indoor classes will meet Wednesday evenings March 23, April 6 and 20, and May 4.  The four beach field trips, all on Vashon, fall on weekends: April 9 and 23, and May 7 and 22.  The first big volunteer event will be Low Tide Celebration on Sunday, June 5, at Point Robinson.  The classes are free, but there is a materials cost of $50 or less, and a requirement that you give back by volunteering at six or more VBN events or providing at least 20 hours of VBN time. Registration  forms are available at (then click “What We Do” and “Naturalist Training”). The class is limited to 15 students, first come first served.