Anacortes is a town of approximately 15,000 residents located on Fidalgo Island in Skagit County, Washington, USA. The island is connected to the mainland by a bridge over the Swinomish Channel. Within the town of Anacortes, there are approximately 12 miles of marine shoreline, four freshwater lakes, and over 3000 acres of forestlands and parks. About 2 million visitors pass through Anacortes each year en route to the San Juan Islands and Sidney, BC via the Washington State Ferries.
The Marine Center's 78 acre wooded campus is covered in a mature Pacific lowland forest that is dominated by Douglas fir. The campus is a biological reserve that protects sizeable small mammal and bird populations, with a freshwater pond located on the campus expanding the considerable diversity of wildlife present.
The inland marine waters of western Washington are characterized by remarkably diverse habitats that include islands, protected lagoons, sandy and rocky beaches, and extensive wetlands and seagrass beds. This diversity of habitats supports a diverse marine biota that includes numerous species of macroalgae, cnidarians, crustaceans, echinoderms and molluscs as well as other invertebrates and finfish. There are also many protected birds and marine mammals inhabiting the local waters and shores.
The local watersheds are generally small and rapidly transition from fresh to saltwater. Watersheds feeding the nearby Padilla Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR) are intensively farmed, providing opportunities for research on nutrient cycling and sediment transport from local rivers to the ocean. The 11,000 acres of wetland area in and around Padilla Bay is unusually large for the Pacific coast, being second in size only to similar habitats in Alaska. Other nearby watersheds are subject to the impacts of urban areas, logging, and aluminum and petroleum refining. Although runoff from the Fraser River in British Columbia dominates the flow and composition of local waters for much of the year, the system is also strongly influenced by tidal flows, which connect local waters to off-shore oceanographic processes. Please review the local study sites for additional information.