The Aquatics program at the WA Department of Natural Resources is seeking a master’s student to take on the shoreline monitoring of a DNR-funded restoration site (assessing the impacts of shoreline armor removal at Still Harbor on McNeil Island)

DNR would provide project funding by means of reimbursement for travel to/from McNeil Island.
DNR would provide all of the equipment needed for sampling.

There is a sampling protocol in place and two years of baseline data that has already been collected. Monitoring would focus on changes to beach profile, sediment size, vegetation, wrack and log accumulation, and forage fish spawning.

Data collection would occur once in the winter, specifically for forage fish, and a few days in the summer for everything else.

DNR is seeking to get a student onboarded now to look at current data and to get prepared for summer data collection.

The summer fieldwork, in addition to the current data that would be analyzed, should be a strong base for the development of an independent thesis.

Contact Kirsten Miller for more information:, 360-584-8103

Still Harbor Monitoring Plan
Still Harbor is a highly altered system on McNeil Island where development has occurred over that last 150 years, resulting in changes to the natural shoreline. Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) are partnering together to remove existing relict structures and debris along the shoreline and restore the beaches to a more natural state. The goal of this monitoring plan is to guide the assessment of physical and biological conditions before and after removal of relict structures and debris along Still Harbor’s shoreline.

McNeil Island is located in South Puget Sound, northwest of the town of Steilacoom. The island is currently managed for wildlife conservation use by DFW and correctional uses under Department of Corrections (DOC).

Access to McNeil Island is restricted due to the correctional use on the island. A large percentage of McNeil Island’s shorelines are pristine, allowing for bluff-backed beaches, depositional beaches, spits, lagoons, and salt marshes. These well-preserved shorelines provide quality habitat for cormorant, auklet, pigeon guillemot, blue heron, bald eagle, California sea lion, harbor seal, geoduck, kelp, eelgrass, surf smelt, Pacific sand lance, and migrating salmon. However, the historical uses along the shoreline have resulted in a few highly impacted areas. In 2015, DNR, DFW, and DOC came together with a shared goal to reduce derelict shoreline infrastructure and restore as much of the shoreline to its natural condition.

DNR manages a majority of the tidelands surrounding McNeil Island. The southern portion of McNeil Island is located within Nisqually Reach Aquatic Reserve. A boundary expansion of the Aquatic Reserve is currently under review. If approved, all state-owned aquatic lands surrounding McNeil Island would be included within the Reserve. The restoration work along McNeil Island shorelines would fit the Reserves mission to protect and restore the function of natural processes of nearshore ecosystems.

Still Harbor, located on the northeastern side of McNeil Island, includes approximately 1.4 kilometers highly impacted, human-disturbed shoreline. A considerable amount of development occurred in the late 1800’s and continued with the conversion of the island to a federal and state penitentiary. These uses have resulted in a highly altered shoreline.

Project description
Department of Natural Resources staff along with DNR’s Puget Sound Corps will be conducting the biological monitoring at the Still Harbor restoration sites. Ecosystem changes overtime will be monitored using established DFW and Washington Sea Grant’s Shoreline Monitoring Toolbox sampling and processing protocols.

Monitoring will occur two times a year – in both the summer and winter months at Still Harbor. Monitoring will occur at three treatment areas (at the outfall, the torpedo net bulkhead, and northwest shoreline) and two reference sites (natural shorelines that are in close proximity and within the same drift cell as the treatment sites) (Figure 4).

Sampling prior to restoration actions will demonstrate pre-disturbance baseline data, and sampling after the restoration will monitor ecosystem changes once derelict structures are removed.

Monitoring Schedule
Monitoring for this project will span over approximately eight years, and will be monitored for two to three years pre-restoration and for five years post-restoration. The sites will be visited in the summer and winter each year prior to the restoration actions and post-restoration (Table 1).

Sediment size and beach profile will be sampled in July. Sampling will occur at daytime low tides.

Wrack and riparian vegetation will be sampled in September, a period of high wrack accumulation and the end of the vegetation growing season. These samples will be taken at a low time, when +6 MLLW and above is exposed.

Forage fish sampling will be conducted at least one each winter between November to February by District and Puget SoundCorps staff.

Survey methods
Field data will be collected to measure changes in sediment size, beach profile, beach wrack, logs and riparian vegetation, and forage fish eggs over time. All field measurements follow standard and widely used protocols.

Surveys will be conducted during daylight hours, during the lowest tide possible. Survey elevation will be determined by measuring the distance from the transect to an identified landmark, such as upland toe of the beach, the last high tide mark, or the water’s edge.

Analysis will compare treatment transects (dependent variables) to natural transects (independent variables) before and after shoreline restoration activities. Each site will be analyzed individually as well as averaged between sites.

Data will be shared with DFW and stored in the shoreline monitoring toolbox database.

For more information

Contact Kirsten Miller for more information:
Aquatic Land Manager | Mason County and Marine Waters of Thurston County
Aquatic Resources Division
Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR)