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Heroes, Community Partnership

Posted by | March 19, 2008

WSU Beach Watchers Named “Environmental Heroes”

Salmon recovery efforts in the Whidbey Basin of northwestern Washington are more strategic thanks to a team led by two Washington State University Extension Beach Watchers who have been named “Environmental Heroes” by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration for their efforts.

NOAA annually distributes just 10 “Environmental Hero Awards” throughout the United States. This year, two of those go to Beach Watcher volunteers Bob Buck of Langley and Jim Somers of Oak Harbor. They are part of a team that monitors how juvenile salmon use pocket estuaries in the Whidbey Basin; the data they collect helps county planners develop salmon recovery strategies.

“This national award recognizes something we’ve known all along – WSU Extension Beach Watchers are the environmental heroes of the Puget Sound area,” said Linda Kirk Fox, associate vice president and dean of WSU Extension. “The science-based training these volunteers receive makes them invaluable partners in preserving the health and well-being of the sound and surrounding water systems.”

Don Meehan, director of WSU Extension in Island County and founder of the Beach Watcher program in Washington, agreed. “Bob and Jim represent the high caliber of individuals in the WSU Beach Watcher program. This work their team is doing is fundamental to communities valuing Puget Sound and protecting its natural resources,” he said.

Meehan also credited the Island County Marine Resources Committee, a partner that provided funding for equipment used in the project. “They are key supporters of this work and the Beach Watcher program in general.”

Buck and Somers emphasized that every person of their 12-member team should be considered an environmental hero. “It really is a team award,” Buck said. “Even though we’ve been singled out, it is a team effort. We couldn’t do it on our own.”

Buck and Somers are among more than 688 Beach Watcher volunteers working in all of the northern Puget Sound counties. Professionally trained, these volunteers work to provide marine science, stewardship and education throughout the Puget Sound region.

Beachwatchers Are Environmental Heroes

Environmental heroes.

Extension-CCE Partnership Connects Students with the State

Finding what you need in Colville, Wash., just got a bit easier, thanks to students at Washington State University.

This past semester, Monica Lotzgesell and a few of her classmates in Christine Oakley’s Sociology 433 class at Washington State University pitched in to create a resource directory for the Colville area.

Their effort was part of a service learning project linking WSU students with rural communities through the WSU Extension-managed Horizons community leadership project.

“We talked with different people in the community to get a feeling for what they wanted,” said the Monroe senior.

A resource directory was high on their agenda and something the students could do. The net result is a blog that links users with community resources, such as the Food Bank, Meals on Wheels, and the Northeast Washington Rural Resources Center as well as to resources outside the community, including links to the admissions offices of various colleges and veterans affairs.

“One of our guys is in the military,” Lotzgesell said. “He provided some information about veteran’s affairs because one of the reasons a lot of people don’t go to school is because they don’t have the money for it. We felt if we could provide them with the resources where they could find money, such as a military scholarship or something like that, then they would be more apt to go to college.”

Extension and WSU’s Center for Civic Engagement have partnered to provide students with meaningful service learning experiences for six years, starting with a pilot project involving 60 students in Lisa Shipley’s introductory wildlife management course.

In that project, Extension educators in Whitman, Pierce and Stevens counties arranged on-site visits with private land owners for the students. The students learned about wildlife issues concerning landowners and later wrote extension bulletins that were published on the Natural Resource Extension Web site.

The experience helped the students gain a better understanding of wildlife management issues and develop critical thinking skills.

Since that pilot project, hundreds more students have found meaningful service learning experiences with Extension. Last semester alone, Extension hosted some 27 service learning projects across the state.

“WSU Extension seeks to connect the university to communities throughout the state,” said John Winder, associate dean and associate director of WSU Extension. “Our partnership with the Center for Civic Engagement brings a whole new dimension to this process – engaging WSU students to extend the university to these communities.”

“Our partnership with Extension has helped us to see that students can engage with communities in a variety of ways, face-to-face and at a distance,” said Kim Freir, CCE assistant director.

Read more about Extension’s Partnership with the CCE in the current issue of Extension Today online at

Monica Lotzgesell and student.