Beach Watch bug!

So this daily sketchbook habit has been brilliant in many ways.  But the one I'm noticing and cherishing lately is how it has reconnected me to what I find important.  The best example I have of this - since I now carry the sketchbook with me everywhere, and love going to the beach and seeing what critters, rocks, trees, and so on are out there in their ever-changing glory, I've been able to do some little nature studies.  
I've posted just a few pages of these.

Well, the day I went out there and found the skeleton of some kind of ray was a great reminder of how much I used to love my Beach Watch volunteer gig.  Beach Watch is a program through the National Marine Sanctuary and enlists volunteers to monitor beaches and report back data on human use, bird species spotted and so on.  

One of the super-geeky things I loved doing as a Beach Watch person was figuring out what species a bird was when we'd find a skeleton on our beach.

In fact, that's really how it all began.  In 1993, I started my first real non-profit fundraising job at the Point Reyes Bird Observatory (now renamed Point Blue).  I had just returned to the Bay Area to finish my 800-year undergrad program (or so it seemed) and had taken a summer class to fulfill the dreaded "lab science" requirement which was otherwise very difficult to squeeze into the schedule of someone working full-time.  I picked the class solely for that reason and the fact that I could meet the requirement with this 6-day camping trip to the Sierra Nevada.  I didn't know a thing about birds and didn't think I really cared either.  But the teacher of that class, Dave Shuford, (known affectionately as "Shuf") had such a gift with sharing his passion for birds that I got hooked quickly.  Plus these "birder" people (my fellow students) were smart, down-to-earth, not too loud or braggy, and kind.  So I wanted to hang with them more.

So when I spotted this "Want Ad" (in a real paper newspaper, kids) for an Administrative Assistant / Membership Coordinator for Point Reyes Bird Observatory, I called them immediately and asked,

"Is this the same place where Dave Shuford works?"  They responded yes.

"Then I really want this job," I said, "so I'm driving over there right now to hand you my resume."

"You do realize," cautioned the nice lady at PRBO, "that we are way over Mount Tamalpais near Stinson Beach?"

"Yes!  No problem!  You really want to hire me, I promise!"  And jumped in my car and eventually snagged that ridiculously low-paying but massively fascinating job.

So, one morning, in the serene wooded cabin that served as our office, David Ainley, an esteemed ornithologist, came into our front office to ask me a favor.

He was due to provide an update to his book about beached bird identification but had lost the original disc with the first edition.  Would I possibly be willing to type the first edition into the computer again so he could create the next edition?  I agreed and began learning things I never would have expected to learn, and got more and more fascinated as I typed my way along.

I found out that this book was used by the Farallones Marine Sanctuary's Beach Watch volunteers and eventually signed up to be one myself.  I had to laugh at my strange head-start on that part of the training!  (In fact, Dr. Ainley even gave me a thank you - probably the only time I'm going to get a publication credit so let's all enjoy my 15 minutes of fame!)

I've now signed up for Beach Watch again and am eagerly anticipating the October training.  (It's been so many years so I need a big refresher.)  Looks like I'll be able to get "my beach" assignment shortly after that.

I find it very fascinating how the "sketchbook bug" has turned into the "Beach Watch bug" - how tuning into a daily practice helps surface what I really want to spend my time and energy doing.


  1. I love reading this story and remembering the times you were out in Bolinas. What a journey you have been on and will continue to walk. I can't wait for the next chapter!


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