The members of Whidbey ECONet are doing social research for a good cause. Whidbey Island’s shores are prized continuously for its spectacular views, the opportunity to watch the island’s great marine wildlife and take a walk, the chance to dig clams, and the special habitat it offers for wild salmon. To keep Whidbey Island’s shores clean, productive, and beautiful, the members of ECONet have joined forces in order to set up various projects.
One of these projects was a survey by Whidbey Watershed Stewards targeted to discover what the Whidbey population thinks important, what they care about, and in what way the organization’s service for the people of Whidbey can be improved. ECONet’s partner organizations additionally learned much about social research during the project and great help was offered by researchers of Applied Research Northwest and the people from Puget Sound Partnership.
First, focus groups were set up to get an idea of what exactly the people understand and think about when it comes to water quality and the island’s marine shorelines. The follow-up was an extensive survey among a few hundred Whidbey resident. This research was geared toward the island’s retired population, and there were some interesting findings regarding what Whidbey residents were caring about most:
- Retirees love to move here or stay permanently because they appreciate the island’s natural beauty and rural environment, in particular being so close to the sea.
- Most people mentioned that being near water of the sea was far better than being close to freshwater rivers or lakes. They especially liked the dynamic nature and constant changes of the waters of the sea.
- The residents of Whidbey Island are concerned with their drinking water’s quality as well as the quality of marine waters, though they are not really aware of the dangers that the island’s marine waters are exposed to.
- All participants of the survey recognized that they are collectively responsible for the quality of water but point to local government regulations, specifically Island County Department of Health.
- Whidbey Island residents want to be sure that food on the island, particularly fish and shellfish from the island’s beaches, are perfectly safe to eat.
The Whidbey Island Conservation District and Whidbey Watershed Stewards present at Farmer’s Markets
We all love food, especially when it is free food! Whidbey Island’s shores provide phenomenal tide water resources that are healthy and available at no cost to of the island’s residents. But there is a catch – if we don’t keep the environment healthy, we’re in trouble. The health of Whidbey Island’s shores, just like anywhere else, is dependent on upland stewardship. At local farmer’s markets, the members of ECONet provide lots of information about how water is moving through the soils and aquifers, how shellfish develop, and about specific water quality issues that may cause problems around the island. The members brought plankton samples from the Whidbey waters and explained issues concerning aquatic life vital for shellfish in the area.