Beachcombing doesn't require a college degree to be an enjoyable experience, but when it comes to publishing guidebooks on the subject, experience as a biologist does help.
“The New Beachcomber's Guide to the Pacific Northwest,” written by biologist J. Duane Sept, hit shelves as an expanded third edition on July 13.
The 410-page reference book now features an illustrated guide to various types of shells and expanded to include Southeast Alaska, in addition to Oregon, Washington and British Columbia. The new edition also has over 500 entries, while the prior edition had only 274. In addition to the newly updated entries, the guide also includes full-color photographs — curated mostly from Sept's own archives — and an illustrated glossary.
Sept, who was “always interested in nature and wildlife,” graduated from the University of Alberta with a Bachelor of Science degree in zoology.
Before writing the book, Sept worked a variety of jobs.
After a stint as an environmental consultant, Sept became a warden for national parks in Alberta and throughout Canada. He also worked for two seasons aboard cruise ships as an “interpretative naturalist.” His work with cruise lines brought him through Juneau, Petersburg, Sitka and Ketchikan.
Sept went on to visit Ketchikan several more times, his most recent visit being a two-week stay in 2013.
In a recent interview with the Ketchikan Daily News, Sept said he was inspired to write the original edition of the book when he relocated with his wife from Alberta – where he had been a lifelong resident – to a coastal area of British Columbia. Sept explained that Alberta was landlocked, so he had to do research upon arriving in the area.
“Being from the interior, I had no idea what was on the seashore,” Sept said about his start in beachcombing.
Sept said he had “no references” when he began beachcombing, as he found much of the coastal wildlife appeared completely different from guidebook pictures when they were out of the water.
After deciding it was time to “put together a book” to combat this, Sept estimated it took him two years write the guide.
“That's just the writing of it,” Sept explained. “The whole writing of the book — and research — I guess (it took) 20 years.”
When he had completed the research and writing process, Sept approached Harbour Publishing, an independent publisher catering to Pacific Northwest authors. The first edition of “The New Beachcomber's Guide to the Pacific Northwest” was published in 1999. The second edition was released in 2009.
Sept has written over 20 books about wildlife. “The New's Beachcomber's Guide to the Pacific Northwest” is not the first of his books to be updated.
In the future, Sept said he would consider doing another update to his newly expanded Pacific Northwest guidebook.
“I may do an update, but updates change so quickly. It's amazing the number of changes that are approved,” Sept said, explaining how species categorization requirements are constantly changing and make updates difficult.
For Sept, the best part of beachcombing is discovery.
“The most enjoyable part of combing the beach for creatures is you never know what you will discover,” Sept said. “Each and every trip is unique. There can be thousands of some species on the beach after a storm, or perhaps one very special individual waiting for the tides to turn.”
“There's so much out there that you don't appreciate until you start to learn. We have so much more to learn,” he said.