FIDALGO BAY — Conway School eighth-graders shared Friday what they learned this spring during the first Kids on the Beach program sponsored by the Skagit Marine Resources Committee.
Under the leadership of environmental scientist Mira Lutz, Conway School teacher Ron Haywood and dozens of volunteers, the students counted fish and fish eggs at five sites April 18 along the beach at the Fidalgo Bay RV Resort.
That stretch of Fidalgo Bay beach is Samish Indian Nation property and the site of ongoing research to determine how shoreline restoration affects the types and quantities of marine life found along the beach.
On Friday, the students were eager to share what they learned, with several dozen taking turns during a public presentation held to discuss the work they did on the beach.
The students said the biggest takeaway is that it takes a lot more than one day’s worth of data to draw conclusions about a complex marine ecosystem.
“To get a better idea of fish diversity and abundance, we recommend getting more data during more of the year,” eighth-grader Kaylee Cherry said.
Students also discussed what they did during visits to the five beach sites that are at different stages of restoration.
Some students used a seine net to catch fish in the shallow water along the shoreline at those sites. They then counted the number of fish and how many different types they found.
“We learned how to use a seine net hands-on and how to properly handle marine life,” Cherry said.
Other students collected samples on the beach in search of surf smelt eggs about the size of a pinhead.
The students said Friday they had expected that the longer a site had been in the process of being restored, the more fish, more types of fish and more fish eggs they would find. Those were the hypotheses they set in the classroom.
They found, however, that their snapshots of data from April 18 did not support their expectations.
Lutz said the program was a success, and the partners who organized it plan to make it an annual occurrence.
“I think it’s really important that people at this age do real research in order to truly understand the scientific process,” she said.
While there weren’t many surf smelt eggs on the beach April 18, the students got to see hundreds Friday before returning to their classrooms.
“It looks like somebody took a salt shaker and just sprinkled them out there,” said Skagit Marine Resources Committee member Pete Haase.