Plenty of possibilities proffered at Sound Waters University

— Created January 6, 2021 by Kathy Reed

By Kathy Reed

Like so many events over the past several months, Sound Waters University has had to jump on the virtual bandwagon for its 2021 “one day university on all things Puget Sound.” While going virtual this year has limited the number of courses offered, there are still plenty of educational opportunities taking place Feb. 6. Registration is now underway and those who sign up by Jan. 15 will save money on fees.

The virtual SWU is still interactive, giving attendees the ability to ask questions and explore the topics presented. But they will also have access to all classes after the event, meaning instead of just choosing/attending three classes as in years past, the ticket price covers all 12 sessions.

“It’s the same Sound Waters University as in the past, it’s just being presented a little differently,” said Anne Cushing Post, who is in charge of publicity for the Sound Water Stewards’ event.

“All sessions, with the exception of a presentation by the Tulalip tribe, are being recorded, so people can attend three live sessions and will then have access to every session after the event,” Cushing Post continued. “We have slightly reduced the admission price this year, but attendees will get a lot of content for their purchase.” Interested in learning more about the Asian Giant Hornet? There’s a session on it. How about the endangered Tufted Puffins? A session on conserving the seabirds of the Salish Sea may be of interest. Learn about some of Puget Sound’s largest inhabitants – whales – as well as some of the smallest – plankton.  Sessions on tides and currents, earthquake hazards and climate change are but a few of the other offerings. (A full list of courses can be found at

Depending on how one looks at it, it could be seen as a “less is more” kind of thing.

“It’s less choices, but in some cases, it’s really more,” Cushing Post said. “We wanted to give a high-quality experience for everyone, so we’ve taken 12 exciting classes and made them available to everyone. This year, if someone wants to do both the whales and the river otters or the climate change and puffins sessions (which are offered at the same time) they can attend the live/interactive sessions of their choice and then watch the other sessions at their leisure. It gives people a lot of options to have a great day.”

As always, SWU will kick off with a live keynote address everyone may attend. This year’s speaker is Peter Ross, vice president of research and executive director of the Coastal Ocean Research Institute, whose presentation is entitled “Sea of Trouble – Taking Action on Plastic Pollution.”

“We’re excited about our keynote speaker,” said Cushing Post. “Peter Ross is well known in the area of plastics pollution. Our mission is to turn education into action, so we try to make each presentation have an action-oriented portion. Our keynote speaker is very interested in motivating people to become agents of change in our own back yards. I think we’re very lucky to get him.”

While this year may look a little different in terms of the number of classes and how they will be presented, Cushing Post said the new format does open up future possibilities for the organization.

“I look forward to finding an impactful way to deliver a new educational product that may allow us to do more in the future,” she said. “People have a real hunger and thirst and interest in that knowledge. We have been unable to meet that need in the past. This new virtual format allows us to augment our existing programs, so we hope to have more events like these in the future.

“It won’t ever replace the in-person Sound Waters University,” Cushing Post continued. “I think a lot of us are disappointed not to be meeting everyone in February because we love our community, but at the same time, it has given us the opportunity to be more creative about our educational program.”

Cushing Post said the new format could be used to increase programming throughout the year and to expand SWU’s borders.

“Virtual programming is not geographically limited, so it’s an opportunity to spread our mission to a broader base of people,” she said. “We can continue to educate people about the Salish Sea beyond these physical boundaries. That is the upside. It’s a new way of thinking and a new way to allow participation.”

SWU is known for featuring an exhibition hall at its in-person day of learning. In keeping with that tradition, there will be a virtual exhibit hall featuring local nonprofits, associations, and companies. Participating groups will share resources and information about their organizations, projects, and services.

Tickets purchased before Jan. 15 cost $45; all tickets include access to all virtual content, including post event recordings. A full list of classes and registration information is available at

Information on becoming a Sound Water Steward volunteer can be found online at