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Volunteers to do sanctuary exchange

February 15, 2010
Patty Ramus

Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary volunteer Chuck Wiesen has an interest in what volunteers at other sanctuaries in the marine sanctuary program do and how they operate.

Now he'll get his chance to find out.

Wiesen is one of the Thunder Bay sanctuary volunteers who are signed up to take a trip to the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary as part of a volunteer exchange program between the two sanctuaries. Thunder Bay volunteers will travel to the sanctuary in July to get a taste of what Olympic Coast has to offer.

Wiesen, who has volunteered at Thunder Bay since 2005, said he is interested in speaking to volunteers to learn how Olympic Coast recruits, trains, orients and recognizes its volunteers. He's also seeking to learn about how the sanctuary works with other agencies and universities along with other administrative aspects.

"I really am interested in the whole notion of how the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary has integrated itself into the broader community that is Seattle and Tacoma," he said.

According to the Olympic Coast sanctuary's Web site, the sanctuary is located about 150 miles west of the Puget Sound cities of Seattle and Tacoma, Wash. It borders 135 miles of rugged coastline of Washington's Olympic Peninsula and covers an area comparable to the states of Delaware and Rhode Island combined. The sanctuary is home to a variety of marine life from microscopic organisms to 29 marine mammals that migrate through or reside in the area.

Thunder Bay Superintendent Jeff Gray said he has had discussions with other sanctuaries about doing something like the exchange program with some of the different sites. Last year, the decision was made to make the program a reality for Thunder Bay.

The sanctuaries want to create an opportunity for learning about the different issues they face. Olympic Coast will serve as the host site this year for Thunder Bay's volunteers and Thunder Bay hopes to host Olympic Coast volunteers during the summer of 2011.

"I think it will be a great experience for the volunteers to go out there and really get a sense of this national program we're a part of," Gray said.

Olympic Coast became interested in becoming a host site because it had the experience of sending some of its volunteers to the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary in March 2007, said Janet Lamont, Olympic Coast Discovery Center coordinator.

"When we were there we were kept busy literally 24 hours a day. It was a very rich experience," she said. "We came back really excited about doing this exchange program with other sanctuaries."

With the exchange program, outgoing volunteers cover their own travel costs and the host sanctuary's volunteers provide housing arrangements and local transportation. There's no cost incurred to either sanctuary other than the time a staff person spends to help organize the details. A Thunder Bay staff person will accompany the volunteers to Olympic Coast. At this time the trip is scheduled to take place July 14-22, said Sarah Waters, Thunder Bay visitor experience coordinator.

Lamont said Thunder Bay volunteers will have a chance to do tide pool exploration, learn about the Olympic National Park's work to restore the Elwha River Valley, go to a temperate rain forest and attend Paddle Journey, a large cultural event involving native people. This year's host tribe at the Paddle Journey is the Makah Nation, one of the sanctuary's partners.

Thunder Bay volunteers Diane Nelson of Ossineke and her daughter, Maggie, are planning to take the trip. Diane Nelson said she's hoping to learn different techniques they can bring back and use at the sanctuary. She also has an interest in natural resources and is eager to see some of the natural features in the area.

"I'm looking forward to checking out the rain forest and going out and seeing the tide pools. I think it's a wonderful opportunity," she said.

Maggie Nelson, a senior at Alpena High School, said she wants to go because she's involved with science and it's a chance after she graduates for her to get a handle on what the Olympic Coast sanctuary does. She wants to learn about how the sanctuary works with the Native American culture, tide pools and the biology of the rain forest.

"It's just going to be a good hands on experience for me and (will) give me a broader spectrum of what I want to do when I get older, about the types of jobs out there," she said.

Patty Ramus can be reached via e-mail at or by phone at 358-5687.



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