Share the wonders of the sea in Edmonds

  • Wed May 28th, 2014 6:44pm
  • News

By Noah Haglund Herald Writer

EDMONDS — For Nathan Gifford, the best part of last summer was spending weekends teaching visitors about life on the beach.

During two-hour shifts, Gifford stood by an aquarium where people can touch anemones, sea stars and other creatures you’re apt to find in nearby tidal pools.

He’s returning this summer for Edmonds’ volunteer Beach Docent program.

“Adults, kids, it doesn’t matter,” Gifford said. “To see the curiosity and delight and their interest in something that’s new to them is just a delight.”

You can join him, if you’d like.

The city of Edmonds is accepting applications for beach docents until June 16. In exchange for a few hours of training on June 19, volunteers commit to spend at least 10 hours interacting with the public and sharing what they know.

Docents, this summer, will work two-and-a-half-hour shifts at the Olympic Beach Visitor Station near the Edmonds Fishing Pier.

The station opens from noon to 5 p.m. on weekends. It may operate on weekdays, if staffing allows. City park rangers help keep it going.

Edmonds recruits docents from local schools, but the program is open to “anybody else who’s interested in marine biology and doing some community service,” said Sally Lider, the city’s environmental education coordinator.

They need up to 20 volunteers to work shifts through the Labor Day weekend, Lider said. Applicants must be 14 years old by June 1. A criminal background check is required.

For each of the past few summers, about 5,000 people have stopped by to check out the tank.

The program started in the mid-1990s.

“We wanted the visitors as the beach to learn about marine life, to make it a more educational experience when they’re there,” Lider said.

At first, they used a Plexiglas tub to house the animals. Things expanded about 10 years ago when the city used grant money to buy a 75-gallon aquarium. That created a need for more volunteers.

“With our staff of five rangers, who are just part time, we wanted to have some more help,” Lider said.

Enter Gifford and his fellow docents.

The 30-year-old has fond memories of visiting Edmonds as a youngster to comb the beach and fish at the pier.

He grew up mostly in Bothell and later earned a bachelor’s degree in environmental science and resource management. He now lives in Seattle.

While Gifford’s day job is in property management, volunteering in Edmonds rekindles his love of marine biology and his passion for teaching.

“I very much have a commitment to community and service,” Gifford said. “I became a beach docent last summer and it was just the highlight of my summer.”

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465;

Want to volunteer on the waterfront?

Edmonds Parks &Recreation is recruiting beach docents to volunteer this summer at the Olympic Beach Visitor Station.

The application deadline is June 16. Training begins June 19.

For more info, contact Sally Lider, Edmonds environmental education coordinator: 425-771-0227, or