Free class on local ecology and conservation

  • Wed Jan 10th, 2018 9:44am
  • Life

Submitted by Kwiaht

It may still be dark and dreary, but Orcas islanders can prepare to enjoy another summer of hiking, boating and gardening by attending five free presentations on local ecology presented by Kwiaht director Russel Barsh, with contributions by botanist Madrona Murphy, ornithologists Kim Middleton and Joe Behnke, and herpetologist Christian Oldham. Slideshow presentations at the library will be followed by short field trips to special places on Orcas.

Adults with children are welcome, but seating and field trip group size are limited. You can save your place by emailing for registration and a detailed schedule. Class dates are Jan. 28, Feb. 4 and 25, and March 4 and 18.

Presentations will range from bedrock geology and soil biology to local marine and upland food webs as well as identifying and understanding the ecological functions of a wide variety of plants and animals that are characteristic of Orcas Island ecosystems — and in some cases, rarely seen elsewhere in the Salish Sea. Special attention will be given to the island’s bats and other small native mammals; birds, bees, butterflies and moths; amphibians and reptiles including local snakes, lizards and turtles; and our native trees, wildflowers and fungi. If you have ever wondered “what’s that?” when walking Orcas Island’s woods and meadows, “Orcas Island Ecosystems 101” is the course for you.

In addition, presenters will share tips on farming, gardening, landscaping and building for promoting native plants, pollinators, birds, reptiles and amphibians.

“Backyard conservations is a cross-cutting theme of this course,” Barsh said. “A modest amount of attention to hedgerows, choice of shrubs and garden flowers, careful use of outdoor spray products, and leaving wet spots and some woody debris undisturbed, and the variety of birds, bees and other wildlife you see will increase considerably.”

Kwiaht is best known on Orcas for its program of stewardship of Indian Island and Fishing Bay, but Kwiaht scientists also study native wildflowers and wildlife such as bats and pollinators on the island, working closely with local students and volunteers. A major survey of amphibians and reptiles is planned for later this year, and a special STEM project for Orcas elementary school students on these animals (appropriately called “Sssslithery”) is coming this spring.

Orcas Island Ecosystems 101 is made possible by a generous gift of Norman and Robin Shurtleff Coates and by the Orcas Island Community Foundation.