Nurturing a new generation of eco-activists and scientists

Programs like these can change a young person’s life, introducing them to new experiences, preparing them for future careers, and giving them a deeper sense of pride and responsibility for their local ecologies,” said Vashon Nature Center Director Bianca Perla.

As Vashon Nature Center (VNC) nears its 10th anniversary on Vashon, it recently held a graduation ceremony for its first-ever cohort of high school interns.

From May 15 to Aug. 15, VNC hosted 11 enthusiastic, thoughtful, and hard-working interns through a busy summer of marine science surveys, the 2022 Bioblitz, and the nonprofit’s week-long Natural Wonders bi-lingual summer camp.

Interns specialized in three different tracts or groups: watershed restoration, science communication, and marine science.

“Having interns join us this summer was monumental, and was possible because of the last 10 years of Vashon Nature Center’s work that has created solid research programs, relationships with local scientists and organizations like the Land Trust, Audubon and VCA — and brought in financial support through King County and Rose Foundation grants and the local community, said VNC Director Bianca Perla.

Marine science interns worked on various beaches across Vashon conducting shoreline monitoring, snorkel surveys for fish use and seabird breeding surveys. Data that they collected are shared with wider research networks such as the University of Washington and the Salish Sea Pigeon Guillemot Network to better document the ecology and health of this marine region.

“Working with Vashon Nature Center was such an amazing internship experience,” said Marine Science intern Amanda Kyles. “I had lots of fun, learned a lot about Vashon’s ecosystem, and gained meaningful experiences working in the marine biology field. Everyone associated with the Nature Center was extraordinary, knowledgeable in their work, and kind.”

The watershed restoration interns worked jointly to combat invasive species and plant native plants at Vashon Center for the Arts’ Heron Meadow, and with Land Trust intern crews at various Land Trust preserves. Science communications interns, many of whom were bi-lingual, worked with VNC staff mentor Valeria Martinez Espinoza to run a bilingual summer camp for 6-10-year-olds, conduct outreach on the “Natural Wonder” natural history exhibit at Vashon Heritage Museum and created a bi-lingual interpretive nature walk around Fisher Pond for the 2022 Bioblitz event.

“Programs like these can change a young person’s life, introducing them to new experiences, preparing them for future careers, and giving them a deeper sense of pride and responsibility for their local ecologies,” said Perla. “I should know! I was one of these students once — it means a lot to me that we are able to offer this experience to this next generation in our 10th year as an organization. We’re all proud of these students. They were a stellar founding cohort and fun to work with. I am deeply grateful to our community for supporting Vashon Nature Center’s mission in this way.”

Vashon Nature Center began 10 years ago with the grassroots support of the Vashon-Maury community, running community science programs like the BioBlitz. Its mission, exemplified in the work the interns engaged in this summer, is creating transformative nature experiences through community science, research, and education for the benefit of our island and the Salish Sea.

Many of the interns applied to the program this summer because of previous experiences they had during school programs with Vashon Nature Center educators. These internships will be offered annually as summer opportunities for island high school students to build experience and skills for future careers.

To highlight achievements such as the internship program and more, Vashon Nature Center will host a 10th Anniversary Celebration from 3 to 6 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 11, in a private garden on the edge of one of the island’s largest ravines. All the elements of a gala party will be included in the afternoon — light appetizers, desserts, libations, live music, and games.

Get tickets at, and find out more about the work of the nonprofit at

The website includes a lively blog with contributions by noted local activists and authors detailing environmental issues on Vashon.