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Liberty Bay Foundation hopes to dig up support

POULSBO — The Liberty Bay Foundation is giving community members the opportunity to play in the mud and help science at the same time.

The Liberty Bay Nearshore Project will be conducting benthic invertebrate samplings in Liberty and Ne-Si-Ka bays Oct. 22-23 as part of the non-profit’s ongoing monitoring program to track the health of Liberty Bay.

But they can’t do it alone.

Organizers Luis Barrantes and Kathy Byrne-Barrantes said a minimum of 54 volunteers are needed over the course of two days. Barrantes said one of the main reasons why he’s hoping for a large amount of public participation to support is the large investment of money. Three benthic tests will be conducted in the next year, costing about $12,000 per testing period.

“This hasn’t been done and we’re the only public volunteer group doing this,” Byrne-Barrantes said.

The testing is performed by plotting out a small section of tideland at low tide, digging up the dirt in that section and sifting through it.

Prospective volunteers are encouraged to wear old clothes and boots and to dress for the weather. The Liberty Bay Foundation will be providing gloves and shovels for the activity. A few digital cameras are also needed.

“And wear a good sense of humor,” Barrantes joked.

“It’s very messy. It’s in the mud at the lowest tide,” Byrne-Barrantes said.

Besides being ready for some muddy work, the Liberty Bay Foundation said the testing is appropriate for any age and should be a good learning experience for community members.

“We’ve always encouraged people to bring their kids and I think parents will be able to judge how far they can go out,” Barrantes said, adding that he encourages anyone interested in taking part to call and talk to him ahead of time. He said some testing areas are less muddy than others and if he’s aware of parents bringing young children, he can assign them to easier terrains.

And of course, the more the merrier.

“This is a public education opportunity, we can always have as many onlookers as we want,” Byrne-Barrantes commented.

About 18 sites will be tested — nine each day. Samples from each site will be analyzed by Howard Jones, an EPA approved specialist with Marine Taxonomic Services in Corvalis, Ore. Three replicate samples will be taken at each site this fall, in early spring and then in late summer.

“All these will be used as a base line so every year we can get an idea of whether we’re improving or not,” Byrne-Barrantes explained.

The project is funded in large part by a grants from the Environmental Protection Agency Fund 319 — Nonpoint Pollution Fund, administered by the Washington State Department of Ecology Water Quality Program. Under the Clean Water Act, benthic invertebrate testing is one of a number of biological indicators the EPA has approved to help set protection and restoration goals for waterways.

The Oct. 22 and 23 benthic invertebrate testing begins at 8 a.m. at Oyster Plant Park in Poulsbo and should conclude by 11 a.m.

For more information, or to volunteer, call Luis Barrantes at (360) 697-5815 or e-mail volunteer@libertybayfoundation.com.

Volunteers can also register Online by going to www.libertybayfoundation.com and clicking on the workshops icon.

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