Large woody debris provides a buffer to the backshore at Keystone Spit. Photo: Pedersen
Volunteer of the Year

Volunteer of the Year

Now Accepting Nominations for 2021 Volunteer of the Year

Do you know someone whose volunteer efforts contribute to the protection and/or restoration of the marine waters and coastal resources of Island County? Highlight their service by nominating them for the 2021 Jan Holmes Island County Coastal Volunteer of the Year Award!

This award is open to any volunteer, regardless of membership to any one organization or institution, participating in or supporting science and outreach efforts that protect or restore the coastal resources of Island County.

Online nomination forms are available here, and must be received by 4:30 PM Thursday, December 31, 2020.

If you have any questions or issues filling out the form, contact Anna Toledo.

Nicole Luce - 2020 Jan Holmes Island County Coastal Volunteer of the Year

Nicole Luce accepts award.

In a marine-based environmental organization like Sound Water Stewards, it is important to have strong leaders who can provide science-based activities for which volunteers can take part.  It is just as important to have leaders who can bring volunteers together in social settings and activities to make the organization more of an extended family of caring friends who enjoy each other’s company. Nicole Luce is such a leader, for many years being the heart and soul of Sound Water Stewards (SWS), and Beach Watchers before that.

Since taking WSU Beach Watchers training in 1997, Nicole has volunteered around 6400 hours on a great number of projects, not only those of Beach Watchers and Sound Water Stewards, but those of associated partners. Some of those include being on the Beach Watcher Advisory Council, doing Computer Tech work for SWS, being a big part of Sound Waters University, and being on the SWS Training Committee. 

You could find her on the beach watching pigeon guillemots as part of a project with Island County Marine Resources Committee and Whidbey Audubon Society, recording dead shorebirds for the Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team (COASST), assisting with the Marine Mammal Stranding Network, or simply cleaning up beach litter while walking along the shoreline. She has been a big part of K-12 Environmental Education, WSU Waste Wise activities, and fundraising for Sound Water Stewards and the Lighthouse Environmental Programs. This is just a small sample of some of her many activities. And if there is a SWS social activity taking place, whether it’s a picnic, holiday party, retreat at Fort Worden, or any other celebration in which volunteers can enjoy themselves and have a good time, you know that Nicole was likely behind it in some way. 

Nicole is dedicated to our environment in her volunteer life as well as in her personal life. She truly walks the talk when it comes to the environment, and lives in a “green” home that demonstrates just how sustainable home life can be. She is a volunteer who is willing to do anything that is needed, from taking lead on projects to making a great cup of coffee, and always with a positive attitude and a smile. She is a can-do-it type of person that has made volunteering and working with her an absolute pleasure. Nicole does an amazing job on anything she touches. She is a great leader and efficient worker bee, and has been a backbone of the SWS community, contributing to the health of our Island County shorelines.

Nicole was awarded the 2020 Jan Holmes Island County Coastal Volunteer or the Year award on Saturday, February 1, before a crowd of over 600 attendees at Sound Waters University. The award is hosted by Island County Marine Resources Committee, Sound Water Stewards, and Washington State University Extension – Island County, and awarded annually to a volunteer who has demonstrated exceptional volunteer service relating to the health of Island County’s marine environment. Preceding Luce as winners of the Coastal Volunteer Award were Barbara Brock, Sammye Kempbell, Phyllis Kind, Jill Hein, Ken Urstad, Bob Gentz, Connie Clark, Sandy Dubpernell, and Craig and Joy Johnson. 


The Jan Holmes Island County Coastal Volunteer of the Year Award is named to honor the memory of Jan Holmes, an Island County resident and WSU Island County Beach Watcher who was an exemplary marine scientist, educator and champion for stewardship of the marine environment.

In recognition of the continuing need for volunteers to carry on this important cause, the Jan Holmes Island County Coastal Volunteer of the Year Award is presented annually to one individual engaged in service, science or outreach relating to the health of Island County’s marine environment and whose work adds to knowledge about and/or protection of county marine waters and coastal resources.

Nominations are open to anyone, regardless of organization or affiliation. The intent of the award is to encourage and recognize the achievements of volunteers who work to understand, protect and restore the marine waters and coastal resources of Island County.

The award is sponsored by the Island County Marine Resources Committee (MRC), Sound Water Stewards (SWS), and Washington State University (WSU) Island County Extension. A committee representing the three sponsoring organizations selects one winner. The award is presented during the opening ceremonies of Sound Waters, an annual one-day university held on the first Saturday in February.


Every year, hundreds of volunteers contribute thousands of hours of service, science and outreach in support of Island County's marine environment. They do so as members of various organizations and, in some cases, as citizens unaffiliated with any group. In September 2010, the MRC and WSU Beach Watchers partnered to establish an award to recognize this contribution of volunteer service and leadership. They created the annual Island County Coastal Volunteer of the Year Award, open to any citizen of Island County regardless of affiliation.

To identify the winner, a joint committee of the MRC and WSU Beach Watchers review nominations submitted by the public. One individual is chosen and the award is presented in February before an audience of some 600 people attending the annual Sound Waters University.

No one better embodied the spirit of such service in Island County than Jan Holmes, a long-time WSU Beach Watcher and early member of the MRC. Her death in December of 2011 was a great loss to members, friends and volunteers in both organizations. In recognition of her leadership, the MRC voted unanimously in January 2012 to rename the award in her honor, The Jan Holmes Island County Coastal Volunteer of the Year.

Holmes and her husband, Steve, moved to Whidbey Island after completing careers in the airline industry. In 1990, Holmes received training as a WSU Beach Watcher. She found such joy and wonder in the nearshore environment that she went back to school at Western Washington University and obtained a degree in marine science. She became a leader in the Beach Watcher organization, inspiring fellow volunteers, adults and children with her infectious enthusiasm as a teacher and mentor.

As a scientist Holmes set high standards, developing rigorous protocols for the Beach Watchers intertidal monitoring program and later creating an innovative eelgrass research project that has revolutionized the gathering of eelgrass data by citizen volunteers at a fraction of the traditional cost. She collaborated closely with the MRC while attracting talented volunteers to the project.

In 2010, Holmes was honored for her community service with the prestigious Cox Conserves Heroes Award for Western Washington, in competition with volunteers from other areas of the state. The award is given by KIRO TV and The Trust for Public Land.

Craig and Joy Johnson: 2019
Sandy Dubpernell: 2018
Connie Clark: 2017
Bob Gentz: 2016
Ken Urstad: 2015
Jill Hein: 2014
Phyllis Kind: 2013
Sammye Kempbell: 2012
Barbara Brock: 2011
Volunteer of the Year